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The Bowlophone is an “interactive music” interface. It consists of eleven switches that control a piece of music that is being generated in real time. The interface connects to a PC running custom software built around Microsoft’s DirectX Audio technology. The piece is essentially a collaborative jam between the original composer of the various segments, the random choices of the computer and the input of the public.

     The goals of this project

· To not create a straightforward compositional device. The control must be limited. The music is reacting to the input from the user, but the user is never totally in control. The piece is a collaboration between the original composer of the segments, the random choices of the computer and the input from the viewing public.
· To make the user experiment and explore the device. The switch functions are not explained or made obvious.
· That all switches will have a clearly audible and noticeable effect on the music when pressed.
· That the music will keep playing and progressing even when no one is interacting.
· To create music without an overall structural frame. The player can try to bring order to the piece, but the software never allows quite enough control to really do so.
· To examine the roles of the creator and the listener/player in “interactive music.”

     The creation of a Bowlophone


The music was written inside the DirectMusic Producer environment. The individual segments were put together working in a fairly standard sequencer fashion, played in on a MIDI keyboard and edited on a piano roll display.

Original DLS sound banks were created for each segment. Source sounds were created in various softsynths or recorded live.


Scripting for the musical performance was done in DirectMusic Producer. A simple console C++ program was written to load and play the DirectMusic content, and to call the necessary routines upon key presses.



· 1 x medium sized mixing bowl.

· 1 x old computer keyboard with “SP/ST” style switches that can be de-soldered.

· 1 x 1-2 metres of ribbon cable.

· A drill.

· A soldering iron.

1. Completely disassemble the keyboard. De-solder the keys from the circuit board.
2. Remove the keypads from the switches. You should be able to just pull them off.
3. Drill 10 evenly spaced holes around the rim of the mixing bowl, and another hole in the centre of the base. These holes need to be large enough to fit the switching component through.
4. Solder 11 strands of the ribbon cable onto the circuit board as shown in the picture below.
5. Solder the other end of the strands to the switches.
6. Attach the switches to the inside of the mixing bowl. I used masking tape and Blu-Tak, but there are probably better ways to do this.
7. Cook in pre-heated oven at 180 °C for two hours.
8. You now have a Bowlophone. It connects to the computer as a regular keyboard.


Check out these 30 second samples of the Bowlophone in action.
[SND] bowlophone sample1.mp3                                             667k
[SND] bowlophone sample2.mp3                                             667k


Download the software behind the Bowlophone. You can play using a standard keyboard. The switches around the rim have been mapped to the number keys (1234567890), and the reset button is mapped to the space bar.

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, DirectX 8.1 or higher, 800mhz CPU or higher.
[SND] Bowlophone-winrar.exe                             			16.2M


David Worrall: Ideas, assistance and guidance.

Josh Chaffey: Guitar sounds, interface assistance.