[Technology Exploration] The instrument that does not make the desired sounds


Instruments are tools that help performers make the sound as they want. Isak Han’s nUFO does not play the sound we want. That is why all performers are equal in front of nUFO. 


Collaboration between the instrument and human

The performer practices the instrument without rest to get the desired sound. There is no tool that is working as one’s desires from the very first. When the performer can handle the tool as he wants, he will get the title of professional graduating from amateur. Isak Han had doubts about the boundaries between the professional and amateur which is distinguished by proficiency.

So, he created the instrument of “Airborne Instruments nUFO” that can never be mastered. The discus-shaped instrument has a total of 16 buttons, ranging from 8 analog buttons to set sound and playing modes, and 8 touch buttons to improvise sounds. nUFO responds to the performer’s movements and makes a sound. It also produces unpredictable sounds intertwined with numerous sounds set on the instrument, a combination of different buttons, and the movement of the performer. It is almost impossible to play the instrument that responds to various variables as the performer’s desires. If the performer puts so much effort into practicing, he might be able to ‘get’ a few patterns. The instrument that cannot make desired sounds feels as if it has free will. People asked Isak Han who played with nUFO, ‘How was the performance today?’ and he said, ‘The little bird didn’t cry for me’ indicating that he was not satisfied with the performance.  Only the performer knows if the performance was successful.

Isak Han will also exhibit installation works that react to nUFO through Zer01ne. Multiple sculptures receive signals about the buttons and movements of nUFO and make each input sound. Although they not living creatures, each sculpture is also an active machine with autonomic intentions. They receive data like nUFO and make different sounds at any time.


How to erase boundaries

The world we live in generally pays for the accomplishments we have achieved through our efforts. It is a basic mechanism in which the society develops and advances. These separated professionals and amateurs also form hierarchical relationships. The sincere effort depends on an individual’s will. But, there are various opportunities that trigger the will. You can be a great pianist with your sweat and tears, but not everyone can get the opportunity to be affectionate about the piano. The nUFO, the instrument that no one can master, makes us think about horizontal relationships.

Isak Han believes that one of the best advantages we get from the advancement of digital is the horizontal relationship. The digital has made the world easy to live in. (compared to the past) It allows people to easily challenge music and to easily draw images that people have in their minds. The creative works with various technical restrictions have become simple and convenient. Besides, the opportunities to be motivated are getting equitable.


To collect the sounds of nature: Microphone

One of the musical benefits of advances in digital technology is real-time interaction. Isak Han collects sounds through the microphone and digitally synthesizes or converts them to the output. All of this process is done in real-time.  Also, the sounds collected from the performing hall can be used for performances.  The sounds of nature that are not produced in advance lead to different results every time. Isak Han uses different types of microphones. From the sensitive microphone that detects sounds that cannot be heard by human ears, to the microphone that detects audible signals, he collects all sounds in the spaces to use in music.


The small computers where anyone can be a developer: Arduino & Raspberry pi

Arduino and Raspberry are small computers that allow anyone to easily build electromagnetic devices. They are mostly used for education purpose. The user can create the customized one by attaching a variety of sensors to the small computer and simple coding. Even if the user is not familiar with the programming language, he can also create it using open sources on the Internet. It is even  operated by alow power of less than 5V. The era has come where anyone can create digital devices as necessary without having to learn program development and electronics.  nUFO was also created in combination with Arduino and open sources shared on the Internet.


Minimal devices to connect with reality: REM Babyface Pro & Faderfox UC4

Even if nUFO is highly autonomic, the performer wants to control sounds perfectly. nUFO, the only instrument in the world needs to collaborate with ready-made products to make a sound. For example, computers and speakers work with nUFO. Midi controllers are the minimal links between nUFO and the performer, and between reality and the audience.


About the Artist

Isak Han is a sound artist, composer, improviser, and experimental electronic instrument developer working based in Berlin. He studied product design and generative/compute art at UdK Berlin University and researched intensively on the physical and bodily approaches to electronic music. He developed the Airborne instruments nUFO, the instrument that allows intuitive improvisation through direct musical interactions with these individual technologies.