Dining Controllers
The JavaMug, Fillup Glass, P-Ray's Cafe

Perry Cook

The JavaMug was designed for a transcontinental MIDI jam session held in 1997 between Tokyo and Columbia University. Being one of the author's favorite objects, the coffee mug fits comfortably into the hand, and pressure sensors beneath the fingers, a tilt sensor, a pot and two buttons allow control of an algorithmic techno-latin band. The principle of "Instant music, subtlety later" is dominant in this instrument. Simply picking up the JavaMug and squeezing it yields attractive and (fairly) deterministic music, because algorithmic randomness is increased by decreasing pressure on the sensors. After playing the instrument for a while, neophytes grow to more expert levels by realizing that the music gets more varied and interesting if they experiment with the relative pressures and tilts. Note that this is also an example of the "Smart instruments are often not smart" principle, in that the instrument doesn't change at all, but rather trains the user to use more gentle and subtle manipulations of the sensors. Other kitchen-related interfaces include "Fillup Glass," which plays minimalist music loops (via MIDI) controlled by sensors in a water glass, and "P-Ray's Cafe", which allows the control of a melodic percussion group by movement of common table-top items (sugar, salt shaker, etc) over the surface of a small table. These objects showed that "Everyday object suggest amusing controllers."

Download Java Mug MOVIE

Download Fillup Glass MOVIE

The newest kitchen based controller is the Digital Spoon created for the Electronic Dholak (EDholak). Two musicians play the EDholak, the first striking both heads of the double-sided drum, and the second keeping time with a “Digital Spoon” and manipulating the sounds of the first player with custom built controls on the barrel of the drum and in software.

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