Musicians already know well this feeling of expressing with an instrument what words cannot. The open Omniphone instrument does that for some of the people who may desire it most – but who are too often left at the sidelines of music technology.

A regular drum we like to bang (as it were) is the idea that making instruments more accessible expands possibilities for everyone. Arvid & Marie are here with a project they developed in collaboration with a care institute for people with disabilities, for use in music therapy. The instruments are used in jam sessions, as bonding activities – to aid in expression, emotional articulation, even when words fail. And what are any of us doing in music, if not that?

These designs for music therapy collaboration do make new demands to better remove restrictions present on other instruments. That bulbous shape makes the objects playful and encourages touch. Capacitive sensors make it responsive – with light and vibration feedback. The Teensy, a powerful and friendly inexpensive embeddable platform, powers the brains.

There’s a tone/timbre knob – that detail’s even a bit borrowed from Lev Termen, actually – plus modes for playing through harmonies, melodies, and rhythms. They say that while it is immediately approachable, it is also something anyone – even an experienced musician – might spend time with and master. (See the manual, though I think you’d have to try it in person! What’s most interesting is that the documentation actually suggests group play / jam ideas. I had to ask what a snoezelruimte is, where they suggest you play. Apparently it’s a “multisensory room, usually for relaxation.”)

A live jam session.

There’s also a sustainability angle, as well. It’s 3D printed entirely out of recycled PETG filament – and other materials, like bio plastics or ecologically friendly wood could also work, they say. And the whole project is open and Creative Commons-licensed, with DIY documentation so you could build it yourself.

Full details on their site:

Arvid&Marie aka Arvid Jense and Marie Caye I know fairly well, as friends and because I had the great good luck of having Arvid show up as an intern on the MeeBlip once. These questions around accessibility and sustainability are not a one-off notion they had overnight; they’ve been working on them year after year, prototype after prototype.

Lots of their other projects here:

But of course, this is not the first time the topic has come up – and some of you do also work in this context. So please, don’t be shy. I know that other CDMers and Arvid&Marie would greatly appreciate feedback on this idea – whether you want to build one yourself, or if you have other ideas for what these contexts need.

See also their previous project, Toonpad:

See a full document on Dutch Design Week – and check out 27 minutes in for a wild Arvid&Marie performance!