Musical devices for all from Human Instruments – Vahakn
Vahakn Matossian observed that most of the assistance offered to the disabled focus only on performing basic, daily activities. Adapted public transport, accessible automatic teller machines, buildings without physical obstacles...no one would question the need for all of the above, but, what about music? What about art? In Matossian´s view, the lack of adapted and accessible musical instruments represents an additional handicap – one which should not exist, he adds.
To address the situation, this 3D design graduate from Brighton University (United Kingdom) with a Master´s degree in Product Design from the Royal Academy of Arts in London (both located in the United Kingdom), has launched Human Instruments. His objective? To design and produce accessible instruments which allow anyone to create, feel and express themselves through music.
"Imagine that your favorite music didn´t exist," says Matossian. "What would you do to get it back?" According to this young designer, who has been recognized as one of MIT Technology Review, Spanish edition´s Innovators Under 35 Europe 2017, the key resides in providing the opportunity to not only play music, but also to feel like a musician.
With this mentality, Matossian began to design new, electronic hardware: Hi Note and Touch Chord were his first two instruments. Both are controlled through the user´s breathing: the user blows into a tube, something they can do with varying degrees of force according to the desired effect. Hi Note targets people with paralyzed limbs who can move their head. Touch Chord, on the other hand, targets people who have limited strength in their arms, but are still able to move them. The device is comprised of two boards, one of which acts like a piano while the other contains control buttons. The instrument processes all activity performed on its surfaces and transmits them to any standard digital synthesizer, something which helps to keep the pool of potential users as broad as possible.
Today, the creator of Human Instruments, who is a musician himself, is seeking financing and new partners in order to reach more people, familiarize them with his instruments and collect their feedback in order to continue to improve their design. Unlike other initiatives, Human Instruments does not aim to limit music to therapeutic uses. That is why, as its creator explains, these instruments must be tested, experimented with and their design informed by disabled musicians - even by those who have never had the opportunity to learn what music is and how it completes us. In the United Kingdom alone, at the start of 2016 there were 1.2 million students with special needs who might find a key support in music creation, and could even go on to become professional musicians. Because, no matter who you are, one thing is clear: no one should have to live without music.