Sound Prism – building a music box to inspire interaction

Posted on August 8, 2013

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Interactive design is at the heart of the best music synthesizers, just take a look at the Korg Kaossilator Pro with its multi-coloured glow pad – easy to programme and create loops even if you are a total beginner. The message is ‘music should be fun’ and that is the starting point for Dustin Roxborough’s Sound Prism.

Music box: Sound Prism is an interactive synthesizer in three parts.

Music box: Sound Prism is an interactive synthesizer in three parts.

Sound Prism is Dustin’s response to bedroom boffins and studio musicians who keep their sound experiments tightly sealed and overworked to perfection before presenting them to the audience. It is a single unit consisting of a central pyramid that folds down into three separate instruments: drum pads, keyboard and synthesizer. Three people can play at the same time and feed off the others’ playing style or just simply make a racket.

Sound Prism synthesizer

Sound Prism synthesizer

The Prism is the second stage of a project built by Dustin entitled ‘Music Box’, again designed as a cheap instrument for multiple players. At the heart of the instrument is an Arduino control board – one for each panel. “I considered the Raspberry Pi and came into problems trying to set it up and programme in Linux,” admits Dustin. “An Arduino is attached to a musical instrument shield that contains the MIDI instruments for the drum pad and the keyboard. For the synthesizer the Arduino is housed under the control box and that is all based on a Tone Library.

“I like jazz music and this idea of improvisation and the collaborative nature of that music, you see where one person is going and feed off that, throwing your own idea into the mix. Modern recording techniques can mean you are shut off in your own cubicle, you get the right sound and then everything is put together later. This would bring it all together.”

Sound Prism 3s

Taking inspiration from the late, great Miles Davis and Scandinavian jazz hipsters the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Dustin’s riff on modern improv is if nothing else a step in the master’s footsteps, he hopes to refine the components, tweak the speakers and take it to the next stage.


Foundry project, the Dough Globe

Foundry project, the Dough Globe


First up though for Dustin is London and a stab at being accepted as a participant at Mint Digital’s ‘Foundry’ – a project-based placement for up and coming designers. Last year’s Foundry objet design was the ‘Doughglobe’ and associated game, made to help budding bakers sustain their interest in a lump of sourdough by gamifying cookery based around the health of their loaf. Unlikely fun but fascinating and the ideal proving ground for a promising young designer.

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