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Alternative Music Interfaces

Music has evolved with the way it’s made and the way it’s consumed by us with technology. If we look at the timeline of how we consumed music, we’ve evolved from a digital to a physical relationship with it. We have access to more music today than we’ve ever been able to have and we can listen to whatever we want whenever we want but where does this leave our relationship with music, have we evolved? Has it become more positive because of the level of access we have today?

Where has the ability to change a song on an instant or listen to music in any given space and the level of choices and features we have leave us?

Major Studio 1

December, 2021

MFA Design & Technology Parsons School of Design

Context : How do we Consume Music today?

Dealing with online streaming, we’re experiencing a shift in paradigm. No longer are consumers concerned with ownership. Rather, they’re concerned with access. 


User Research

"Choosing what to see or listen to at the end of the day when we are tired can be a tortuous process"

"Although there are recommendations, I end up re-consuming the same music/shows that I previously liked"

"There are too many streaming platforms and an overall “subscription fatigue”

Artists vs Customers

Streaming focuses on consumers, labels focus on artists.

How do we view the relationship between musicians and consumers today? How do we form a more intimate connection?

Entertainment Timeline
Music Devices

Here we can see how hands feel things and how hands manipulate things when we had physical objects with dedicated musical function.

Design Statement

Exploring the physical attributes and abstractness of the way we consume music, one of the things I personally felt is having a physical object that we interact with gives us a sense of ownership and personal touch to it.

Tactile Interfaces

Associating shape with music function , The analog artefact aspect of instruments that played music, had an impact on the way we consume it. In today’s world, we have one device for everything and everything works similarly. I do feel that I can creatively approach the way we approach these functions, thinking beyond buttons and knobs.. Can also take place in the form of an NFT unique and custom made for an artist and their audience.

Physical Prototyping

I wanted to add playful elements and a tangible way of prototyping interactive media. The stair case represents  an array of songs a user can move across, the spring structure is for users to play or pause a song and the circular element is for controlling the volume of the song that’s playing.

I wanted to use sense and touch with our fingers playing with shapes as an interaction. I built a physical interface.

Things Used:


Conducting tape 

Conductive wires






Shape and Function

Visually distinctive shapes for each function the user can learn and similar functions can be grouped by either shape or colour. Solid shapes, physical functions unique to a song or an artist. This can be a personalised for a particular Album or EP connecting an artist to an audience. Customising and personalising interactions.


1. Volume Control - Squish

2. Play/Pause - Press

3. Previous/Next Song - Move across a staircase

4. Moving across a playlist

Based on my research and the problems I’m trying to address it’s important for me to dive deep into the proposed problem statement reflecting on my prototype. I can completely address the physical aspects of objects making it restrictive rather than leveraging Spotify for a tangible interface. I was thinking more along the lines of  a custom  mix-tape with a custom composition and interactivity of shapes bringing more emotional value to a product or rather a playlist that a user can physically keep with them with their customised interactions.

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