Sebastian Viering graduated from the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design with a diploma in industrial design. In his thesis he explored how sound is produced through interaction between people and objects, using his insights to create new electronic instruments. His innovative work earned him a place as one of 5 finalists for the title “German Design Awards Newcomer 2020“.
We asked Sebastian Viering three questions about his project “Interaction with sound“, which combines technology and individual creativity in a special way.
Mr Viering, as part of your thesis “Interaction with Sound“, you created a system for sound production. Could you tell us a little bit about your project?
I have designed a kit to transform various soundboxes into new electronic musical instruments. A soundbox could be, for example, a bucket, a window or even an acoustic instrument. The central hub with its structure-borne sound speaker is attached to the soundbox, along with one or more input devices, depending on the effect you want to achieve. You can choose between pad controllers that can be magnetically chained in any number you want, a breath controller, or a piano controller that allows you to play finely nuanced semitones on its silicone surface. You can exploit the full freedom of sound production that is enabled by connecting both digital and analogue synthesisers to the resonant soundbox. As a result, you can produce new sounds on acoustic instruments – or turn ordinary, everyday objects into musical instruments.
How did you come up with the idea for this project? What is it about the scope for interaction between people and objects that you find so fascinating?
Music has always played a big role in my life. Myself, I play the guitar and violin, among other things. But at the same time, I’ve always been very drawn to anything to do with technology and electronics. Electronic musical instruments have an incredibly large potential – free from the physical constraints that limit acoustic instruments, they can generate a myriad of sounds.
But as a musician – and as a designer – I was often frustrated by the way we interact with these sounds. While if you truly master an acoustic instrument it can come to feel like an extension of your own body, this feeling is rarely achieved with electronic musical instruments. In most cases, there is a clear separation between the physical input and the sound output. But when you play an acoustic instrument, you don’t just hear the note, you also feel it in your fingers – which is a completely different sensation. So my first approach was to try to transfer this feeling of being “close“ to the sound to the experience of playing an electronic musical instrument.
My first approach was to try to transfer the feeling of being “close“ to the sound to the experience of playing an electronic musical instrument.
What is special about your project? How would do you rate the degree of innovation and usefulness of your work?
What is special is that it forms a bridge between acoustic and electronic sound production. The sound itself is produced electronically, but then it is influenced by the unique character of whatever you are using as a soundbox. For example, a tin bucket adds a metallic aspect to the sound, while a wooden guitar adds warmth to the tone. Since the input devices are placed directly on the resonating object, this increases the feeling of “closeness to the sound“ I just mentioned. The vibrations of the soundbox allow the musician to feel every sound, and develop a very natural way of playing. The result is a product that opens up a particularly playful approach to electronic music, while at the same time bringing to life new instruments that have their own temperament and playability; something rarely experienced with electronic instruments.
Sebastian Viering was born on 21 April 1992 in Malsch. In 2019 he received his diploma in Industrial Design from the State Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart. During his studies, which included a semester abroad at Tokyo University of the Arts, he designed a wide variety of objects – often with a focus on technology and its potential to enrich everyday life. He combined his fascination for the interaction between man and object with his passion for music in his diploma thesis by designing a kit for the creation of new musical instruments. Sebastian Viering has been working as a freelance industrial designer since 2019.
Image: © Martin Diepold/Grand Visions