6 music devices that appeal to the ear and eye
Six sculptural audio devices that could open up new ways to listen to music.
Furniture is actually the focus of the Milan Design Week. But this time my attention was also drawn to novel music players - some of them still prototypes. And that's because they appealed to a broader sense.
The speakers "Sound Geometry New Era Speakers".
What does a cube sound like? Or the golden ratio? Well, if you want, soon like Billie Eilish or Elton John. Jacopo Gonzato designed three speakers with unexpected geometric shapes because he wanted to know "what if there are relationships between the spatialization of sound, proportions and geometry." Sounds as abstract to me as the devices look. They could be in an art gallery, but were exhibited by Rossana Orlandi at the Milan Furniture Fair. Below, a 20-sided cube that spins and seems to float. How the illusion is created remains a mystery. And how it sounds to me, unfortunately: on site, the speakers were just out of order when I passed by. Nevertheless, I ask how the designs were created.
In the process, the trained architect explored how sound technology can reveal itself differently. And also how sound propagates differently than from the classic point and cone output sources. "I set out to conduct research that is free and intuitive, but at the same time methodical and scientific, in order to discover new frontiers in sound propagation," he explains. "I intend to give my speakers the value of a musical instrument". It was important to the architect to look at the sound and give it an aesthetic appearance. And what better way to do that than with the epitome of visual tranquility: the golden ratio?
The audio devices "Sound Machines
We listen to different music, but mostly in the same, ordinary way: With clunky speakers or small headphones that constantly threaten to fly out of our ears. ECAL students in the master's program in product design have documented and questioned the status quo and sought other ways to listen to music. In collaboration with the Japanese company Yamaha, this has resulted in so-called "Sound Machines", which I saw at Milan Design Week at Spazio d'Orso and which you can hear in this video. Framed by thick yellow velvet curtains, three of the sound machines, all still prototypes, stood out especially with their design.
"ASMR Instruments": for blissful shivers down the spine.
Perhaps the ASMR wave on YouTube, in which videos are supposed to evoke a relaxed feeling in you through pleasant images and gentle sounds, has so far sloshed past you. But now, at the latest, it's worth taking a look. At least on suitable instruments: Ka Yin Cheung has developed a series of instruments for the trend that could also stand in a museum.
The sound machines are made of metal stands and wafer-thin wires shaped into a circle or a kind of scale, among other things. Both designs gently resonate with the sounds and are meant to soothe you like a mobile.
"Sound Frame: For nostalgic moments
Songs or objects evoke memories in us. What if a memory could be attached to both? That's what Jisan Chung thought and developed the "Sound Frame" that "frames" both. Instead of a CD or a record, for example, you select a stone or a shell to play music. The sound machine, made of wood and fabric, only runs when you place an object in it.
Once you place an object in the sound frame, the AI camera under the top board recognizes it and plays the music or playlist you assigned to the object in advance via an app. "The speaker visually frames the objects while the music emotionally surrounds them," says Jisan Chung, "The combination enhances the feeling of nostalgia." And she encourages hardware to come across as softer than usual: the wooden frame is decorative and the speaker's fabric is understated in color.
"Vertical Player": For vinyl love.
Upside down and yet right. This is how the "Vertical Player" by Jonas Villiger looks at first glance. The record player tilts the sound carrier so that it stands vertically. At the same time, it lifts it onto a pedestal made of plain metal profiles and a cylindrical stone base. The design study really brings out the classic circular shape of the vinyl. The designer once again emphasizes its timeless character. After all, the vinyl record trend continues: in 2021, sales of vinyl records have surpassed those of CDs in the USA. In Switzerland, CDs still make the bigger sales, but according to the industry association IFPI, the lead is dwindling fast.
Like all of the project's six prototypes, the coming months will tell whether the "Vertical Player" makes it to market. "The COVID-19 pandemic has also drastically changed our values and lifestyles, and the rate at which things are changing is expected to accelerate," shares the Yamaha Design Laboratory. With this in mind, I hope that ECAL students and the Japanese company will also speed up the product development process and we can hear more beautiful quickly.
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