urushi musical interface all images courtesy of yuri suzuki

japanese designer and electronic musician, yuri suzuki, developed the ‘urushi musical interface’ project for the exhibition ‘collacqueration: designed in the UK – lacquered in japan’. organized by emiko oki, the initiative brings young UK-based designers including julia lohmann, gero grundmann, max lamb and yamaha with the lacquer craftsmen of wajima, in ishikawa prefecture, japan together.

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface urushi musical interface in off mode

wajima in ishikawa prefecture, lies at the tip of the noto peninsula which juts into the sea of japan, and the lacquer of wajima is an important intangible cultural property of japan. it is made using original techniques consisting of at least 20 and sometimes more than 100 processes, giving it extra durability. wajima lacquer is also known for its highly decorative features, such as makie, whereby metal or colored powder is sprinkled on the lacquer, and chinkin, which involves scoring a pattern of lines on the lacquer and then rubbing gold powder into these areas.

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface demonstration of the urushi musical interface

urushi is a natural material prepared from the toxic sap of the lacquer tree extant throughout east asia. it is one of the most durable natural adhesives and varnishes known. penetrating and sealing porous surfaces, its application is used to increase the utility of materials such as wood, bamboo, textiles and paper as well as coating the interiors of temples and shrines. the decorative appeal of lacquer is also greatly admired with both opaque or highly polished, lustrous finishes. as a result of numerous separate applications of lacquer, the surface veneer can be thick enough to allow it to be incised or carved.

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface demonstration of the interface is to be played

in his exploration of the lacquer of wajima technique, yuri suzuki has collaborated with british composer and musician matthew rogers on ‘urushi musical interface’, a touch panel style instrument which uses the principle of gold inlay. it is a musical instrument in which the two worked together to produce a logically functional circle patterned keyboard. the circular format allows one to understand musical codes very easily.

for example: if you touch the C, G, E keys, the interface will play the C major code. if you touch the C, G, E flat keys you can play the C minor code. in terms of engineering, each gold inlay line is hooked up to a touch switch board and then connected to contact the MIDI interface, allowing one to connect any MIDI electronic musical instruments and controls from this keyboard.

‘urushi musical interface’ was developed in collaboration with wajim lacquer craftsman takashi wakamiya.

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface the black lacquered surface of the instrument is contrasted by the gold inlay lines of the actual interface using the chinkin technique

‘when I got involved in this collaboration with the wajima lacquer craftsman, I was amazed at how fine and beautiful a pattern one can produce on the surface of glossy black lacquer pain through the gold inlay technique. then I became interested in making an electronic musical interface which uses this technique. I also decided the
project should be fulfilled both something as a beauty of aesthetic and of functionality. the gold inlay is a
conductive surface, so when one touches it, the instrument will be switched on.’ – yuri suzuki

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface final interface and arrangement of keys

Urushi Musical Interface from Yuri Suzuki on Vimeo. film model: yuki inoue (clear edition and gallery / affice) photo credit: daniel katz

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface rendering of the final interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface rendering of the final interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface rendering of the final interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface outlining the musical code combinations

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface organizing the musical codes

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface testing the spacing of keys

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface vertical streaming of codes

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface paper mock-up of the urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface paper mock-up of the urushi musical interface top view

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface paper mock-up of the urushi musical interface 3/4 view

explorations in form for the urushi musical interface:

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

‘collacqueration: designed in the UK – lacquered in japan’ is on show until november 30th, 2010 at the embassy of japan in london.