Blocs is a playful, digital music interface intended for single users or small groups. Placing blocks in an 8x8 grid, users interact with a number of digital agents. Agents move independently but react to the world users create for them, bumping into blocks and making notes. Thus a dialogue between user and agent begins as the user assumes the role of pseudo-conductor, attempting to guide the agents and crafting a piece of music while also responding to the agents movements.
The interface explores the dichotomy that exists between a sound toy and a 'legitimate' music instrument; particularly playing with how much control can be taken away from users before they lose their creative agency.
The presentation of the instrument is inspired by both children’s block toys and traditional acoustic instruments. This design encourages interaction and play while looking familiar: the deeper mechanics of the interface as well as knowledge of musical theory is abstracted by the interface to encourage participation while still maintaining a creatively engaging process. Under the hood, Blocs employs a number of creative coding frameworks and hardware platforms: specifically Arduino as the control surface, Raspberry Pi as the main processor, openFrameworks as the core program, and Pure Data to handle the audio synthesis.
Andrew Thompson is a music technologist and creative coder from Surrey, currently exploring the role technology plays in music performance and creation. Using a combination of physical interfaces and programming, Andrew creates tangible performance instruments and playful musical interfaces for non-musicians.
His work is centred around the dichotomy of work and play, and how that manifests itself in instrument and interaction design; paying particular attention to the notion of sound toys and how the boundary of what that entails can be pushed. Past work includes ‘BitBox’, a hackable barebones synthesiser powered by a single ATmega328 chip and ‘Soundfuck’, a musical live coding environment based on the esoteric programming language Brainfuck.