yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface
yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface
nov 29, 2010

yuri suzuki: urushi musical interface

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

rendering of the final interface

rendering of the final interface

rendering of the final interface

outlining the musical code combinations

organizing the musical codes

testing the spacing of keys

vertical streaming of codes

paper mock-up of the urushi musical interface

paper mock-up of the urushi musical interface top view

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

explorations in form for the 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.

  • Looks like you could fry an egg on it.

    To be honest I think I’d stick to a piano keyboard. I don’t understand the logic in the layout or perhaps I’m just ignorant…

    Dr. Design says:
  • @Dr. Design… sounds about right. Only kidding, the point is just to create a new interface. Your approach to music should change with it.

    Mr. Reed says:
  • very beautifull !!!
    , but imho, too expensif & … useless.
    lots of ipad apps are created in that way and some are just looking good & not practimusical at all…
    but again it’s a nice piece of craft.

    kinet says:
  • Yeah, I don’t think this was written by a musician.

    “for example: if you touch the C, G, E keys, the interface will play the G major code. ”

    C G and E would indicate C Major.

    Clay Vernon says:
  • re: clay vernon
    you’re right.
    it was a typo on my part that designer yuri suzuki also pointed out and we have corrected, thanks.

    andrea / designboom says:
  • I love it!
    Not only beautiful but also sounds neat

    Adi says:

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