Holophonor: Designing the Visual Music Instruments of the Future

Holophonor: Designing the Visual Music Instruments of the Future

Jonathan Weinel (Glyndŵr University, UK), Stuart Cunningham (Glyndŵr University, UK), Richard Picking (Glyndŵr University, UK) and Lyall Williams (Glyndŵr University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7284-0.ch009
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This chapter considers the technological feasibility of the Holophonor, a fictional audio-visual instrument from the science fiction cartoon Futurama. Through an extended discussion of the progression of visual music towards interactive models, it was proposed that the Holophonor is an example of an ideal visual music instrument and could be constructed in the near future. This chapter recapitulates the key features of the fictional instrument. An evaluation of the technological feasibility of building a real-world version of the Holophonor is then given, with reference to existing technologies. In particular, it is proposed that the Holophonor's ability to respond to the emotional state of the performer may be facilitated by drawing on approaches from HCI and affective computing. Following this, a possible architecture for the Holophonor is proposed.
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Technological Feasibility

In this section, the feasibility of the Holophonor is considered, based on an analysis of existing technologies and those in development or in early stages of research. This enables us to consider how a Holophonor-like device could be developed, and identify areas where further research may be required. Table 1 recapitulates the key features of the Holophonor.

Table 1.
Key features of the Holophonor
Holophonor FeatureDescription
SoundsThe Holophonor appears to be a reed instrument similar to an Oboe. The performer blows into the instrument and presses keys to produce a sound. The sounds produced encompass a range of traditional orchestral sounds and synthetic electroacoustic sounds.
VisualsWhen melodies are performed on the Holophonor, visual images are produced. These are representational in quality, but can include surrealist or dream-like elements, similar to Fantasia (Disney et al., 1940). Morph transitions can occur between visual scenes.
ProjectionVisual images are holographically projected in the space of performance. The projection is able to rescale to fit the size of the venue. In some instances, images can escape beyond the venue.
EmotionalityThe sounds and visual images respond to the emotion of the performer. It is necessary for the performer to feel certain emotions in order to perform successfully with the instrument.
PortabilityThe device is portable and can be transported in an instrument case and played anywhere, similar to existing horns and reed instruments.
AccessibilityAnyone can attempt to play the Holophonor, but full mastery requires a lot practice. Virtuoso performance is possible.

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