Johann Diedrick
Luisa Pereira Hors
Monica Bate Vidal


Halfway between instrument and sculpture, Strings invites participants to play, hear and move within a space, becoming part of a musical instrument.

Cabinets of Wonder,Introduction to Physical Computing

Strands of thread are tensed in oblique planes –from ceiling to floor, from wall to wall–, defining an architectural space that invites visitors in. Once inside, they become performers, moving through the space to find different ranges of pitch and timbres in the instrument that surrounds them. The sounds are generated synthetically, but, as is the case with traditional acoustic instruments, the experience includes texture, space, color and movement.

During this project we researched different kinds of conductive and resistive materials, how sensors work and how to make them (potentiometers, capacitive proximity sensors, switches), looked for examples of sculptural installations made with threads, and studied the viability of implementing 3D sound. We mocked up different circuits that afforded different kinds of interactions –using chains of human bodies as variable resistors, using the ground as ground–, layouts in space that created different paths, and looked into color palettes.

Strings is made of threads –normal and conductive–, that function as switches connected to Arduino and, through Processing, to Ableton Live. In designing the user experience, we considered the aesthetic components to be as important as the technical ones. Strings was designed to allow for both individual and group interaction, to encourage movement of the whole body.

We learned that increasing the scale of this piece increases the installation effort in a non-linear way: we spent two full days installing threads, and the insulating problems we had in the first version were more difficult to solve now that we had four times more strings. This was true of the physical part of the installation but not of the software part: adapting the software to the new scale took only a few hours.

The change of scale did have the effect we expected on the experience, expanding the range of gestures players used to play the instrument. The technology we used in this version, however, did not allow us to fully translate this expressiveness into the sound.