XOXX Composer in Action Creating Digital Music

XOXX Composer in Action Creating Digital Music

The XOXX Composer is poised to be a hit for creator Axel Bluhme, a 2016 Bill Moggridge Award recipient.

There is booming interest from consumers and corporations alike for his winning project, a “sound sample instrument that uses magnets to create digital music in a playful and visual way,” according to Bluhme’s website. It is a plug-and-play hardware and desktop app that helps compose everything from 80s to hip hop beats by snapping magnets into place on eight rotating discs.

Those discs enable sound samples to be played “dynamically” with one another at the same time, Bluhme explained on his site. Each disc is quantized into 16 steps, with potential to create complex rhythmical patterns. Below each disc is an interface for pitch tuning and volume output.

When Bluhme, a Swedish interaction design student, discovered this unique project won a Bill Moggridge Award, his response was even rhythmic.

“You feel like your skin starts vibrating because you're so happy,” said Bluhme, who studied at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London and got the news while showcasing the XOXX Composer during the school’s annual design show.

Feeling validated by the win, Bluhme said the award money will enable him to fund and further the XOXX Composer’s capabilities. He’s experimenting with making discs that have different types of “quantisations,” or step divisions. This means the user is able to make polyrhythmic compositions, something that can become complex and experimental.

He’s also working on ways to change the rhythmical swing and beat offsets, improve the software, add new features to the app, and play around with auxiliary tools for the machine.

Amid these refinements, Bluhme is interviewing for jobs and contacting media to raise awareness about his project. He’s visiting companies focused on technology, including Kano and ROLI.

“The award has been very helpful in establishing contact with companies I am particularly interested in,” Bluhme said.

He’s gotten positive feedback from Kickstarter about putting the XOXX Composer on its platform. And he’s preparing for the November KIKK Festival in Belgium where he can demonstrate his project alongside other music hardware innovations.

Like other Bill Moggridge Award winners, Bluhme said he was heavily influenced by the late designer and IDEO co-founder after reading his book, “Designing Interactions.” While Bluhme’s background is in classic industrial design, he felt compelled to pursue interaction design at RCA. While studying there, he chose to be on the platform, “Object Mediated Interaction,” in the design products program where Durrell Bishop, who knew the late Moggridge and is interviewed in the book, teaches.

Photo of Winning Project

Photo of Winning Project

Bluhme said his studies enabled him to focus on the relationship between “people and things,” and in particular, the relationship between “physical things and digital things.”

“In my work, I really want to highlight actual mechanisms and how they relate to digital functions, and trying to make this really as cognitive as it can be,” Bluhme said. He strives “to make the product as self-evident as it can be just to create harmony between people and technology. I feel like there is a lot of friction between those two things.”

Bluhme’s hope is that the XOXX Composer will reverberate with more people all over the world, and that he’ll be recognized for contributions that harmonize people and digital products. Since the RCA show, interest in the composer is growing, he said.

So much so, he’s considering collaborating with at least two more design professionals to co-found a company that manufactures the XOXX Composer and makes more products.

“My hope for the future is to further improve it and to get it manufactured and in the hands of people,” he said. “I would love to hear the music people would make with the machine and how they integrate it into their workflow. Hopefully, XOXX Composer could convince people who do not feel they are musically talented to dive into the world of rhythm. Making music is a deeply fulfilling activity and I think more people should engage in it.”

To learn more about Axel and his work or to contact him directly, please visit his website