Project : Musica Fantasma
My Role: Concept Developement
Client: Final Project

Musica Fantasma is an installation that allows children to create music with the use of their shadows, composed of two modules: A light source and a tracking device. The interference with the light generates shadows that are detected by the second module. This input is used to control sound by activating audible samples

Developement

The research for this project started around the topic of learning trough playing. 
From the beginning the main question has been: How can we cultivate creativity and imagination trough playing?

Playing has decisive role in the child’s growth and is a powerful tool for learning, it encourages the child to experiment and why not to make mistakes. At the end playing means to experiment, learn, fail and try again, with each time a different outcome.
The first part of the research started with the book “ A new culture of learning, cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change”. The whole books point out of that the traditional system of education has to move toward a more creative and play based system of learning, how they point out “play can be defined as the tension between the rules of the game and the freedom to act between those rules”. This mindset will allow children to ask better questions to the future, which is in the writer’s opinion more relevant, even more than the common knowledge. 

“Creativity will allow children to ask better questions: about the society, the new discoveries and the unknown.” 
Sir Ken Robinson.

During some observation done at the National Museum, the Botanical Garden and Bjørns Internationale Skole, I looked at  children's perception of reality. They see connection that we are no more capable of looking at, because of all the principles we learned while growing up. Furthermore talking with an expert in creativity helped me to understand that the real goals is to make the child appreciate his creativity; the process of creating new ideas that have value. 

Since 2008 and the advent of Apps, lost of effort has been put into the development of screen based solution for children, but creativity can be visual, abstract, in form of thoughts, movements and sound. This is why my goal has been to develop a tangible object that helps a 5 to 8 years old to empower his creativity trough exploration and play.

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After a few brainstormings sessions and more discussions with experts in matter of children’s education I was guided into the use of shadows connected to music. The shadows allows children to express and learn about themselves and in the space. Moreover shadows play a huge role into improving the child’s ability in matter of storytelling. We all remember from our childhood, of playing with lights sources, trying to recreate known shapes.
The benefit of music in kids at this young age is limitless. Music helps the child in developing his intellectual, motor, language, social and emotional skills and last and not least it affect the children’s mood, adding usually joy to it.

But is it even possible to track shadows?

Yes it is

The next steps were focused on analyzing and understanding the perception that children have with shadows and music itself. How are they going to behave? Will the activity make them think enough? Are they going to improve the given tool? How will they use it?

The first prototypes were focused on the musical aspect, a children's movement was able to trigger random sounds. The musical aspect was quite interesting for them, but the connection between their movement and the sound was biased by the screen I was using. What I was missing was right balance between rules and freedom. Too much freedom has the same effect as too many rules, creativity gets lost.

Stepping away from the screen made the whole experience more interesting for them. The focus was on their action and how they could use them to manipulate the sounds and the rhythm. The end goal differed for each child. Some were creating a rhythm by dancing in front of the light, other were manipulating the light source, with different lenses, creating more or less pleasant sounds. For one child the main goal was to be disruptive, to create noise and to activate as many sounds as he could, this is why, after first using his body he picked a second light source and multiplied his shadow. Starting from my initial input which was “ If you hit this area you trigger a sound”, it was interesting to observe how, all of them, were developing their creative thinking, without worrying about a right or wrong use of the tool. 

Further explorations where also made with adults and the outcome was even more interesting. The same creative process, used by the child to play with Musica Fantasma, was used by adults to create beats, by themselves or with the help of friends and strangers.

Musica Fantasma definitely answers my initial design challenge, It develops lateral thinking, both in adults and children, thanks to a new set of interactions. The limit of Musica Fantasma is defined by the imagination of the players involved.