Yuri Suzuki Makes Music Tangible

Ever turned a banana into a musical instrument? Or, for that matter, a spoon or glass of water? For designer and sound artist Yuri Suzuki, generating music from ordinary objects is just another day at the office. OTOTO, his DIY musical synthesizer developed at Teenage Engineering, utilizes a circuit board and sensors that turn objects into playthings; and it encapsulates much of his child-like genius.

Yuri Suzuki

Artist Yuri Suzuki in his office. Photo by Mark Cocksedge

“It doesn’t require computing or programming or anything,” he says. Much like the inherent fun of OTOTO, his artwork gravitates towards creating simple and inherently tactile objects. “That’s kind of fundamental to my interests. Most of my work has very clear communication.”

OTOTO Circuit Board

OTOTO image courtesy of Dentaku

“Sonic Bloom,” an entangled structure of colorful horns seemingly torn from the pages of Dr. Seuss, is a great example of that approachable design. The interactive installation in London’s Mayfair area amplifies city noises floating in the air and encourages passersby to speak into the tubes, helping to break down communication barriers. “I don’t want to create a wall between people and the artwork,” he says. The idea is evident across his collaborations, ranging from Disney to Korg, and with famous musicians like OK Go and Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO.

Sonic Bloom in London

Sonic Bloom is located in London's Mayfair area. Photo by Alberto Balazs

Most recently, Suzuki developed “Pyramidi” with will.i.am. Over a two-and-a-half-year period, the two had philosophical conversations about the future of the digital landscape of music and physical media, e.g. the vinyl record comeback, and this increasing focus on live concerts. So, will.i.am and Suzuki dreamt up an instrument that mimics musicians, drawing inspiration from Afrofuturism and modeling it after Egyptian pyramids. The result is a robotic orchestra that’s a wonder to hear.

Next on his list is a collaboration with Moog Synthesizers and Roland. You can discover more of Suzuki’s incredible work by following him on Instagram @yurisuzukilondon.

Words by David MacNeal

"Pyramidi" photo by Akio Fukushima