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Peer Review

Intuitive instruments for improvisers



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.25 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Jun 13, 2007 by Music
Overview: This site documents the efforts of the author to build instruments that facilitate musical improvisation without specialized instrumental knowledge. The site includes tools for discovery: each virtual instrument presented begs the question "what is the logic behind the layout of this instrument?" Symmetries of instruments and the geographical connection of the instrument to music theory play a significant role. The author has built theory systems based on the instruments which, although unique, are logically ("intuitively") obvious.
Type of Material: Interactive Flash Objects, Theoretical Exploration of tuning systems, links to experimental musical devices. Thumbnail pics of various instruments with audio clips of applicable tuning systems.
Recommended Uses: Provides unconventional approach to music making and tuning. Vendor information for persons interested in alternative instruments. Opens window for people who may have a traditional sense of musical instruments and music theory. Discussing nature of creativity.
Technical Requirements: Multimedia Browser, Flash Player
Identify Major Learning Goals: Students will consider the geographical connection of an instrument to music theory. Students will study how the author has built theory systems based on the virtual instruments presented. Students will deconstruct a physical/musical schema in order to solve a problem.
Target Student Population: Grade Levels: Middle School and above. Existing knowledge of music theory is helpful. Target subjects might include music theory, acoustics, creativity, and human user interface design.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: Content is accurate; graphics are excellent; the site explores new theoretical space.
Concerns: Navigation of the site is somewhat bumpy. Links are not provided for seamless access. Narrative content is needed to provide user some focus and direction. Site goals need to be formulated and clearly stated.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The site is designed to encourage students to break out of traditional models of thinking and design. The site author notes: "At first I was only dimly aware of my life plan, which was to be able to play whatever came into my head on whatever instrument came to hand. I wanted to be able to improvise without worrying about what key I was in, like singing in the bath.? This site will be most effective with students who have a working knowledge of existing music theory concepts.
Concerns: Again, it is somewhat difficult to determine the purpose of the site other than to provide a user with information on how and where to acquire the alternative instruments.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Objects are easy to use and require no special configuration.
Concerns: Navigation is entirely icon-based and may not be intuitively evident to all users.

Other Issues and Comments: The site is self-reflective: it raises as many good questions as it answers.