Urushi Musical Interface
in collaboration with Takashi Wakamiya and Matt Rogers
Wajima in ishikawa prefecture, lies at the tip of the noto peninsula which juts into the sea
of japan, and the lacquer of Wajima is an important intangible cultural property of japan.
It is made using original techniques consisting of at least 20 and sometimes more
than 100 processes, giving it extra durability. wajima lacquer is also known for its
highly decorative features, such as makie, whereby metal or colored powder is sprinkled
on the lacquer, and chinkin, which involves scoring a pattern of lines on the lacquer
and then rubbing gold powder into these areas. urushi is a natural material prepared
from the toxic sap of the lacquer tree extant throughout east asia. it is one of the most
durable natural adhesives and varnishes known. Penetrating and sealing porous
surfaces, its application is used to increase the utility of materials such as wood,
bamboo, textiles and paper as well as coating the interiors of temples and shrines.
The decorative appeal of lacquer is also greatly admired with both opaque or highly
polished, lustrous finishes. as a result of numerous separate applications of lacquer,
the surface veneer can be thick enough to allow it to be incised or carved.
Black lacquered surface of the instrument is contrasted by the gold inlay lines of the actual
interface using the chinkin technique ‘when I got involved in this collaboration with the wajima
lacquer craftsman, I was amazed at how fine and beautiful a pattern one can produce on the
surface of glossy black lacquer pain through the gold inlay technique. then I became interested
in making an electronic musical interface which uses this technique. I also decided the project
should be fulfilled both something as a beauty of aesthetic and of functionality.
the gold inlay is a conductive surface, so when one touches it, the instrument will be switched on.
Collaborated with british composer and musician matthew rogers on ‘urushi musical interface’,
a touch panel style instrument which uses the principle of gold inlay. it is a musical instrument
in which the two worked together to produce a logically functional circle patterned keyboard.
the circular format allows one to understand musical codes very easily. for example:
if you touch the C, G, E keys, the interface will play the C major code. if you touch the C, G, E flat
keys you can play the C minor code. in terms of engineering, each gold inlay line is hooked up to
a touch switch board and then connected to contact the MIDI interface, allowing one to connect
any MIDI electronic musical instruments and controls from this keyboard.