Designing Japan: A Future Built on Aesthetics

“Designing Japan: A Future Built on Aesthetics” describes the vision of the renowned designer Kenya Hara of a Japan of the future, the design of which is based on a unique philosophy of beauty and wisdom from all over the world. To realize this vision, the book travels back to the beginnings of professional Japanese design in the 16th century and tells its story up to the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011.

In order to connect Japan’s past with its future, Hara is investigating phenomena that the island nation will have to face in the future. He draws on three decades of experience as a designer and curator. Hara meets challenges such as an aging population, a changing industry or the rapid advances in technology with solution-oriented design that accompanies his explanations with illustrations.

Less and More

Less and More

The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

This is Dieter Rams’s 808-page book about his work, back in print in its original form with a PVC softcover and slipcase. The relevance of famous Braun designer Dieter Rams in modern design remains unbroken.

In his more than 40 years at Braun, Rams established himself as one of the most influential designers of the twentieth century. True to the principle of “less but better” his elegantly clear visual language not only defined product design for generations, but also our fundamental understanding of what design is and what it can and should do. Less and More offers boundless inspiration for anyone interested in the aesthetic and functional aspects of applied design.

The editors of Less and More are Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp and Keiko Ueki-Polet. As one of the leading experts in the field of product design, who has known Dieter Rams for many years, Klaus Klemp knows his work like almost no other. Keiko Ueki-Polet is one of the most renowned design curators in Japan and is very familiar with the design scene in both East and West.

Physical Modelling pt. 2

There are several reasons why we should use this technique instead of just playing real musical instruments.

For example, for people who build instruments, they could simulate various changes in an instrument (shape, material etc …), to already know how it would sound, without actually building it. This would reduce costs and production times.

Therefore, it is also possible to simulate something that is not possible in the real physical word, but it would lead to unique and interesting sounds!

Even just doing tests to see if our physical modeled instruments really sound like a physical (real) version is a great motivation to explore this topic. This also leads to a better understanding of the instrument itself.

This also opens up the possibility of playing instruments with slowly changing parameters. We could also do a real Morphing between instruments, not only in the studio, but also during a live performance. Obviously this will lose the realistic part of the instrument itself, but it could work perfectly for an experimental performance (and not only).

What exactly is modeled?

Real instruments are “broken down” into their components such as string, sounding board, tube, mouthpiece, hammer and so on, in order to model them all separately.

It is also important to add some non-linear components (such as diodes, transistors, inductors and iron core transformers), as most tools contain them, but they are really difficult to manage analytically. A bit of randomness is also a really important part, as if we had total control of all parameters, we would lose the reality of the instrument. (there is always a small percentage of randomness in the real word!)

This is the first commercial physical modelled synthesizer (1994), it calculates model of wood instruments:

Sample oder Physical Modelling?

Here are some other examples (VST):

Based on physically modeled acoustic resonators

Piano

Strings

Drums

References

Wikipedia – Physical Modelling

Physical Modelling – Seminar Klanganalyse und Synthese, TU-Berlin, 2001

Physical Modelling pt. 1

You may have heard this two words of it before, especially if you have already been confronted with some engineering project or some synthesizer.

But what is it about?

In summary, physical modeling is a way to model and simulate systems made up of real physical components. It is a simplified material representation, usually on a small scale, of an object or phenomenon, for analyzing it.

But why? This model can be used to simulate the physical conditions involved (temperature, speed, etc.) and to predict the particular constraints of the situation. These constraints can be considered and tested and solutions implemented before the final stages of a project.

It is used in various fields, for example in aeronautics, urban planning, construction but also for sound synthesis.

In the field of design, its main goal is to test aspects of a product against user requirements. Physical modeling not only allows designers to explore and test their ideas, but also to present them to others.

In the sound field, physical modeling seeks to recreate a musical instrument using a model and the laws of physics and to simulate its behavior. The algorithms are then simulated on a computer and the data stored or played as sound in real time.

We will go deeper into the theme of sound in the next part.

Resources



Futura-Science – Physical model

MathWorks – Physical Modeling

DesTechWiki – Modelling

Afrikanische Integration in Deutschland durch Musik und Tanz

In diesem Artikel von Inken Carstensen-Egwuom (2011) geht es darum, wie sich Afrikaner aus Subsahara-Afrika in Chemnitz als Musiker präsentieren. Es wird untersucht, welchen Zweck die Musik- und Tanzdarbietungen aus Subsahara-Afrika sowohl für die Mehrheitsgesellschaft als auch für die Einwanderer als Einzelpersonen und als Gemeinschaft erfüllen. Ihre Analyse zeigt, wie die Netzwerke oder Vereinigungen von Einwanderern mit den Erwartungen und Zuschreibungen von “Authentizität” in einer Kleinstadt zusammenhängen.

Wenn eine Person oder eine Gruppe nicht von anderen in der Gesellschaft abhängig ist, ist eine kontinuierliche Selbstdarstellung nicht notwendig. Aber in Wettbewerbssituationen, sei es wegen Finanzen, öffentlicher Anerkennung oder privater Bestätigung, besteht ein erhöhter Bedarf an Selbstdarstellung, und diese Darstellung wird von sozialen Normen geleitet (Holly, 2010).

Je schwächer die Machtposition der betreffenden Person oder Gruppe ist, desto mehr muss sie sich den Erwartungen der Gesellschaft anpassen. Auf diese Weise wird das stereotype Bild des “geborenen afrikanischen Musikers” gestärkt und die in diesem Artikel diskutierten Widerstände gegen dieses Bild bleiben mehr oder weniger verborgen.  

Inken Carstensen-Egwuom (2011) zeigt, dass Musik- und Tanzaufführungen in hohem Maße vom lokalen Kontext und von lokalen wie globalen Machtstrukturen abhängig sind.  

Die Musik- und Tanzdarbietungen verändern ihren Sinn und Zweck, wenn sie von Migranten im Kontext ihrer Ankunft genutzt werden: In diesem Fall helfen Musik und Tanz den Mitgliedern des nigerianischen Vereins, sich in die lokale interkulturelle Szene zu integrieren und sich den Erwartungen der Mehrheitsgesellschaft anzupassen.

Diese Integration erfolgt jedoch nicht in der Weise, dass sie nicht mehr als Ausländer erkennbar sind. Um sich zu integrieren und ein anerkannter Teil der Stadtbevölkerung zu werden, zelebrieren sie vielmehr ihre Fremdheit und verstärken sie sogar noch, indem sie sie aufführen: In diesem Fall nutzten sie eine afrikanische Musik- und Tanzaufführung, den Ajegule-Tanz, der die Einheit inmitten der ethnischen Vielfalt in seinem Herkunftskontext feiert. Im Rahmen des interkulturellen Festivals verändert er sich, um das Anderssein, das Afrikanischsein der Darsteller zu betonen.

Die Musik- und Tanzdarbietungen ermöglichen es den nigerianischen Vereinsmitgliedern, als “öffentliche Fremde” (Glick Schiller, et al., 2004) zu agieren und die Ausländer als kulturell anders als die Deutschen darzustellen. Kulturelle Differenz wird so zu einem wichtigen Aspekt der Eingliederung.

Literatur:

Carstensen-Egwuom, I. (2011). Representing an „Authentic Ethnis Identity”: Experiences of Sub-Saharan African Musicians in an Eastern German City. Music &. Arts in Action. Vol 3/3 Bremen

Glick Schiller, N. and A. Caglar. (2009) “Towards a comparative theory of locality in migrationstudies: Migrant incorporation and city scale”. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2: 177–202.

Holly, W. (2010) “Politische kommunikation – Perspektiven der medienlinguistik. Am beispieleines selbstdarstellungsvideos von guido westerwelle“. In C. Dürscheid, and K.S. Roth (eds), Wahl der Wörter – Wahl der Waffen? Sprache und Politikin der Schweiz. Bremen: Hempen.

Sound Communities / Klanggemeinschaften

Könnte eine musikalischere Art des Seins, Denkens, Sprechens und Handelns zu einer humaneren und effektiveren (im zweiten Sinne klangvollen) Welt beitragen? Mit anderen Worten: Welche Bedeutung hat das Stichwort “Klanggemeinschaften” für Musik in der Friedensförderung? In dem Artikel von Marcia Ostashewski (2020) setzt Sie sich mit der Bedeutung von Sound Communities auseinander und geht auf die verschiedenen Forschungsansätze unterschiedlicher Disziplinen ein. Im Folgenden wird auf einige der Forschungsansätze eingegangen.

Das Wort jedoch “Klanggemeinschaften” ist im Plural zu verstehen, womit von vornherein ein Gefühl der Vielfalt und Pluralität von Erfahrungen, abweichenden Standpunkten und Interessen innerhalb von Gemeinschaften vermittelt wird. Zum Beispiel kann ein einziger Ort mehrere Gemeinschaften beherbergen, Gemeinschaften können sich über mehrere Orte erstrecken und Gemeinschaften sind keine monolithischen Gebilde. (Walsh und High, 1999, S. 257)

“Praxisgemeinschaften sind Gruppen von Menschen, die ein Anliegen, eine Reihe von Problemen oder eine Leidenschaft für ein Thema teilen und die ihr Wissen und ihre Fachkenntnisse in diesem Bereich durch kontinuierliche Interaktion vertiefen.” (Wenger et al., 2002, S. 4).

Wenger zufolge gestalten sowohl Anfänger als auch Erfahrene durch gemeinsames Üben die Praktiken ihrer Gemeinschaften ständig neu, indem sie die Bedeutung dessen, was sie gemeinsam tun, überprüfen und aushandeln. Gemeinsam erschaffen die Mitglieder der Gemeinschaft kontinuierlich die Identitäten der Gemeinschaft und der einzelnen Praktiker neu. (Wenger in Morley, 2016, S. 161).

Titon beschreibt Klanggemeinschaften als etwas, das im Grunde “durch akustische Kommunikation entsteht und aufrechterhalten wird” (2015, S. 23). Titon legt in seiner Definition den Schwerpunkt auf die Arbeit, die der Klang leistet, um Gemeinschaft zu schaffen und zu erhalten – er dient der Kommunikation. Titons Definition von Gemeinschaft umfasst potenziell alles Leben, einschließlich Pflanzen und Tiere. Titon erkennt das Potenzial für ein Verständnis das durch indigenes Wissen in ein Thema eingebracht wird, das oft Beziehungen beinhaltet, die mehr als nur Menschen umfassen. Titons Einbeziehung anderer als menschlicher Wesen in die Gemeinschaft resultiert zu einem großen Teil aus seiner eigenen interdisziplinären intellektuellen Geschichte und seiner Sensibilität als Ökomusikwissenschaftler (Titon, 2014; Titon und Ostashewski, 2014).  Er erwähnt, dass die aufkeimende wissenschaftliche Forschung, die Informationen ans Licht bringt, wie die Tatsache, dass Pflanzen kommunizieren (Gagliano, 2012), sein Denken in diesem Bereich beeinflusst.

Literatur

Titon, J.T. (2014). Flight call. MUSICultures, 41(2), pp.162-169.

Titon, J.T. (2015). Exhibiting music in a sound community. Ethnologies, 37(1), pp. 23-41.

Marcia Ostashewski (2020). Sound Communities. Music and Arts in Action. Vol 7

Morley, D. (2016). Applying Wenger’s communities of practice theory to placement learning. Nurse Education Today,39, pp. 161-162.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge.Boston: Harvard Business School, McGraw-Hill Distributer.

Walsh, J. C. and High, S. (1999). Rethinking the concept of community. Social History, 32(64), pp. 255-273.

The Use of Sound for Healing Purposes

Music/sound has always been a big part of the human experience. It has been used in a wide variety of purposes- from religion to entertainment. However, there is one more aspect that has become more prevalent in the modern times- sound healing. This article will discuss the following aspects of this field:

  • The impact of low frequency sound (including infrasound) on our bodies
  • The psychological aspect behind sound healing
  • Exotic instruments that are widely used in sound therapy and are commonly referred to as “healing instruments”

Low Frequency Sounds

One of the machines used for Vibroacoustic therapy. All parts are explained

When talking about low frequency sounds, the focus is on sounds at 250 Hz and below. Special attention should also be paid to infrasounds (1-16 Hz). A study titled “Possible Mechanisms for the Effects of Sound Vibration on Human Health” (Bartel, Mosabbir) mentions which mechanisms sound vibration impacts. These include: stimulation of endothelial cells and vibropercussion; of neurological effects including protein kinases activation, nerve stimulation (specifically vibratory analgesia) and oscillatory coherence; of musculoskeletal effects including muscle stretch reflex, bone cell progenitor fate, vibration effects on bone ossification and resorption, and anabolic effects on spine and intervertebral discs.  The conclusion points to the complexity of the field of vibrational medicine and calls for specific comparative research on type of vibration delivery, amount of body or surface being stimulated, effect of specific frequencies and intensities to specific mechanisms, and to greater interdisciplinary cooperation and focus. Based on my own anecdotal experience, I would say that all the above-mentioned mechanisms do get targeted with prolonged and regular exposure to sound vibrations. It is most effective when these sounds are used in a calming meditative atmosphere after a short warm-up meditation.

The Psychology Behind Sound Healing

Sound healing session with different instruments

In the context of psychology, it is important to mention that sound healing doesn’t only focus on hearing, but it is also a tactile and visual experience. Music is also impacted by the type and shape of space it is played in. This is why architecture is also important in the perception of sound. Sound healing has ancient roots in cultures all over the world, including Australian aboriginal tribes who used the didgeridoo as a sound healing instrument for over 40,000 years to ancient such as Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowl spiritual ceremonies. Sound meditation is a form of focused awareness type of meditation. One kind that has become more popular is called “sound baths,” which uses Tibetan singing bowls, quartz bowls, and bells to guide the listener. These practices highlight themes of how the experience of sound manifests not only through hearing but through tactile physical vibrations and frequencies. A review of 400 published scientific articles on music as medicine found strong evidence that music has mental and physical health benefits in improving mood and reducing stress. In fact, rhythm in particular (over melody) can provide physical pain relief.

Sound Healing Instruments

Singing Bowls/Crystal Bowls

Singing Bowls are made from metal and crystal ones are made from pure Quartz. Crystal bowls might be more interesting to talk about because our body has a natural affinity to quartz. On a molecular level, our cells contains silica, which balances our electromagnetic energies. Crystal acts as an oscillator, magnifying and transmitting pure tone. As the sound affects brainwave activity one can enter into an altered state of consciousness. As different parts of the brain are affected, it is probable that they release different hormones and neuro-chemicals. Both regular and singing bowls produce sustained pure vibrating tones that induce a state of trance and physical relaxation. Singing bowls began their journey in the ancient time of Buddhism. It is believed that singing bowls were an integral part of practicing Buddhism. Notwithstanding these origins, sound therapy has traveled across many religions and cultures throughout their history

Didgeridoo

The Didgeridoo is a wooden BRASS instrument thought to have originated in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. Researchers have suggested it may be the world’s oldest musical instrument, The oldest cave painting were dated 3000 to 5000 years old. It can be over 40,000 years old. There is a little evidence of the didgeridoo being used as far south as the Alice Springs region of Australia, but traditionally never in the southern three quarters of the country. It has been suggested that the Didgeridoo was an adaptation of traded instruments from India and/or Asia, this is possibly why it was mainly used by coastal tribes of the far North of Australia.  Traditionally didgeridoos were made from eucalyptus tree trunks and limbs hollowed out, while still living, by termites, (a small insect like an ant but a relative of the cockroach) or from bamboo in the far north of Australia. Traditionally the termite hollowed Didgeridoo was cut to an average length of 130 to 160cm and cleaned out with a stick or sapling. Today didgeridoos are made from a large variety of materials such as Glass, Leather, Hemp Fibre, Ceramic, Plastic, Fibreglass, Carbon Fibre, solid timbers carved out, logs drilled out, dried/hollowed Agave cactus stems, Aluminium and other metals and just about any material which can be formed into a hollow tube! The didgeridoo was traditionally used as an accompaniment along with chants, singers with Bilma (Tapping sticks) and dancers, often in ceremonies. Today the didgeridoo is heard in almost every style of music, rock, jazz, blues, pop, hip hop, electronic, techno, funk, punk, rap etc. There are truly no limits to the use of this awesome instrument. In a few aboriginal groups in certain ceremonies men only played the didgeridoo, but in many groups, outside of ceremony, men, women and children played it. In the same way the guitar originating in Europe, is now owned, made and played by people across the world, the Australian didgeridoo is now owned, made and played by many people all around the globe.

Handpan/ Hang Drum

There are many different types of handpands, with prices ranging from a few hundred to an astounding few thousand dollars (the latter would be for the original PanArt Hang Drum). These instruments are similarly made of curved metal, like the steel drum from Jamaica. This is a relatively new instrument originating from 2001. At first, the Hang was sold by only a few select distributors around the world.  Acquiring an early version of the instrument required someone to get into contact with these distributors, and it was not uncommon for them to sell out quickly.  Years passed, and eventually PANArt only sold the Hang from their workshop.  An in-person visit to the PANArt workshop was required to retrieve the Hang, and it was invitation only. Eventually, the allure of the Hang took hold, and demand for the instrument skyrocketed.  Other steel pan builders saw this new demand and focused their efforts on creating something similar. As the term ‘Hang’ is a registered trademark of PANArt, these other companies had to come up with a universal term for this hand-played steel instrument.  There has been much debate in what term should be used, but now the most commonly used word is “handpan”, a term introduced by the company “Pantheon Steel” who makes the Halo handpan. PANArt has said, on many occasions, that the hang is not a handpan.  Their reasoning is that the hang is crafted using techniques not seen in the steelpan and handpan world.  Specifically, it has to do with the structure of the notes themselves, and how the tone fields are formed and tuned.  The Iskra sound sculpture, made by Symphonic Steel, is based upon these unique forming and tuning methods devised by PANArt.

Frame Drum/Shaman Drum

The shaman drum is another very old instrument used for ritual and healing purposes. Some of the oldest known ritual burials were of female shamans or priestesses, in areas as far apart as Germany and Israel, dated from 8,000-12,000 years ago. … Ritual drums were often painted red to depict menstrual blood, had symbols of the vulva, and rituals centered around fertility. Continuous fast drumming, using a hand held frame drum, at the rate of 180-250 bpms is traditionally the most common method of eliciting a trance state which allows the participant to experience “non-ordinary reality”. This predates every other form of religious ritual and has a common methodology across cultures and continents, based on the findings of archaeologists and anthropologists around the world. Similarities in ritual forms, ritual implements like drums and rattles, costumes of the shaman and descriptions of the non-ordinary reality during trance states are remarkably consistent in indigenous peoples from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and the Americas. Many of these traditions still survive and are currently practiced.

Resources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8157227/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201907/the-healing-power-sound-meditation

https://www.shantibowl.com/blogs/blog/the-definitive-guide-to-crystal-singing-bowls

https://www.symphonicsteel.com/handpan-history/

Contemporary adaptations and applications of philosophical concepts

Right after the last meeting with Orhan Kipcak, I unpacked a freebie I got from the nutritional supplements company Biogena. It was a DIY kit to plant some seeds and grow your own plants, accompanied by the following text: One is never too little to be great. Sounds familiar? It reminded me a bit of the initial saying everything you need is already inside you that’s the conceptual background for my animation project and has its roots in ancient philosophy.

So One is never too little to be great would as well be derived from the same philosophical roots, whether Biogena chose that consciously or not. But not only the text has the same origin, but also the floral metaphor is a key element to this freebie. The correlation between the text and the action itself (planting seeds and watching them grow / become great) is nothing less than “plants symbolize humans”, a metaphor that’s not only used in my animation project, but also the core to the symbolic hybrids I wrote about in the first blog posts.

This demonstrates that symbolic hybrids as well as philosophical concepts in general not only find applications and modern adaptations in animation, but also in contemporary media and brand marketing.

Now why is this important? At first I thought I’d focus solely on human-nature-hybrids in animation and my own animation of course. But after we talked about being “off-topic” in today’s meeting (“Die Schilderung einer Abschweifung”), I thought why not wandering off a bit from the focus of my master thesis as well, and why not also including some contemporary examples of human-nature-hybrids. While the focus stills remains in animation, giving short examples outside that field would provide a sense of context for these animation hybrids in our current contemporary culture.

But I might ditch that idea again later. Then this whole blog post was just yet another digression.

Theoretical approaches to a practical project

For the practical part of the master thesis, I’m working on an animated short film. Before diving into the specific visual and technical execution, I’d like to give some insights into the thought processes and theoretical approaches to its concept.

Initially, I planned the concept based on the saying “everything you need is already inside you”. From the early beginning on, I wanted to include floral elements, their growth and bloom motions, and having all that as a visual metaphor for us humans.

When I talked to my family about the concept, my cousin (who is quite into philosophy) told be about that philosophical idea where in every seed lies the power to become the most beautiful flower. That saying is a translation of the philosophical concept coming from the nicomachean ethics by Aristotele and the broader idea of eudaimonia.

Eudaimonia as a term translates to “good spirit” and describes the highest good one can reach in life. It’s about doing and living “well”, striving for excellence and living up to one’s unique potentials. In other words: becoming the best version of yourself – or the most beautiful flower.

He gifted me two books (Nicomachean Ethics and De Anima from Aristotele), which I’m currently reading (it’s quite difficult to read even the translations to english). However I did some extensive research online where the ideas are described in an easier digestible way.

With all that new knowledge I could not only broaden my own horizon, but also the background of my animated film, and finally articulate more clearly what it’s about in the most recent synopsis:

The animation film from within pays homage to one’s own, inner strength or the belief in it. With abstract storytelling, it invites on a multifaceted, visual journey.

A journey that shows that a single seed can become the most magnificent flower. A journey that impresses with the most diverse flowers and plants. A journey that might make you wonder whether it this is still just about plants or whether the plants could be symbols of something human. A journey that reminds you once more: everything you need is already inside you.

The animation film from within can be understood in many different ways, but in one way for sure: as a call for optimism.

On a personal note: Having just very limited knowledge in philosophy myself, I was quite astonished that the concept for my animated short from within could be described with nothing less than one of the most fundamental ideas in philosophy. While I only had one sentence (“everything you need is already inside you”), I learned that I actually have a whole philosophical concept as a background for my animation project.

One final thought that surely isn’t relevant, but came across my mind at some point because it stretches the whole philosophical background across the philosophy in my film’s concept itself: Could it be that this initial sentence translates to the seed and that the philosophical background translates to the most beautiful flower?

Unusual Storytelling with Animation

Through a wide variety of digital tools, there are seemingly endless possibilities to present one’s stories, messages and brands in a strong way. On the one hand, this means that today almost every company uses these tools and there is an ever-growing sea of content. Many wonder how they can still stand out.  

On the other hand, it also means that you can create your own trend through creative and innovative use of these tools. While this is a constant challenge for designers, I don’t think it should be equated with constantly having to reinvent yourself. After watching countless tutorials from animation artists, videographers, and creatives, one message stood out to me: find your own style. And that comes with time.

To create a new trend and stand out from the crowd, sometimes you have to break the rules. Push aside the conventional, the classic, and follow your own path. 

That’s why I would like to show a few examples of unusual storytelling. It’s always about an animation that stands out because of the style and the deliberate unusual use of the artist in any case.

Text as a Character

This animation shows perfectly, how text doesn’t only tell a story, but can become a character or the protagonist itself. It plays with the visual and informative parts of text. I really love the minimalism in it. 

Words by Ende Li & Liz Xiong

Surreal Animation

Since Salvador Dali at the latest, surrealism has developed into a dynamic substance. It wants to blow our minds with incompatible combinations in a surprising context – as we can see from this example. 

Controlled Substance by Jay Sprogell

Reversibel Prose

A beautiful example that there are always two sides of a story. 

Lost Generation by Jon Reed

Sources:

https://medium.muz.li/from-unusual-storytelling-to-new-minimalism-6-innovative-animation-trends-2eced0c18a80

https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/reversable-prose-lost-generation-video-portrays-different-storyline-forward