Yann Seznec : The Book of Knowledge of Impractical Musical Devices
The Book of Knowledge of Impractical Musical Devices [ ★ ]
Three instruments that each take fundamental limitations to their natural conclusions. It is fully open source, both technically and conceptually with all code available for download and a series of essays which describe the background for each one.
Instruments that don't work the way they should.
Scotland/USA
There are three instruments: A rhythm machine that is different each day that you play it; a location-dependent synthesizer that sounds different depending on where you are in the world; and an auto-destructive listening device that slowly and permanently destroys the sound you listen to as you listen to it.
This is a project loosely inspired by the early 13th century Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices by Ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari (commonly known as al-Jazari).
It is formed of three instruments that each challenge our understanding of musical control in different ways, and by doing so open up questions about memory and the illusory power of digital media.
Each instruments exists as a physical object, and has an accompanying illustrated essay to read on this website which describes the conceptual thinking behind the design, as well as instructions and code for making one yourself.
Side Story
The Book of Knowledge of Impractical Musical Devices is a project about building musical instruments that don’t work the way they should.

On the surface it’s a set of 3 new musical instruments (Volumes), each with an unusual, problematic, or, dare I say, impractical design. But the project as a whole is bigger than that – it’s fully open-source, both technically and conceptually. That means each volume is accompanied by an illustrated essay describing the reasoning behind the instrument, as well as a video, audio examples, images, and all of the code and technical information that you would need to make one yourself. It now also exists as a (currently sold out) physical book.

The three Volumes are:
Volume 1: A Day That Will Never Happen Again – A rhythm generator that uses recordings from a single day, and each day that you use it they will sound different.
Volume 2: Here You Are, You Are Here – A GPS-dependent synthesiser that sounds different depending on where you are.
Volume 3: Everything You Love Will One Day Be Taken From You – A listening device that slowly and permanently destroys a sound every time it plays back.

Please visit the project website to read the essays, watch videos, and learn more about the project as a whole.
Awards
★ Nick Normal
Yann Seznec : Artist
The maker Yann Seznec
Baltimore, MD
I'm a sound artist. I make devices that make noise in unexpected ways, often drawing from game design and musical performance techniques.
Connect with Yann Seznec
How I can help you:
I'm happy to give more information on how I made these instruments or guide anyone who wants to build their own.
How you can help me:
Build your own impractical devices!