ABS, aluminum, LEDs, and electronics
8 1/8 x 8 1/8 x 1 5/16" (20.5 x 20.5 x 3.4 cm)
Yamaha Corporation, Japan
Tenori-on means “sound in your palm” in Japanese; the device named for it is a handheld step sequencer that creates synthesized sound and light patterns, fusing the sequential and layering logic of electronic music with dynamic visual display. A 16-by-16" LED screen lights up and emits preprogrammed sounds; each LED pixel is also a switch that, when pressed, activates a sound. Two speakers are located at the top of the screen, and buttons that determine the type of sound and beats per minute are arranged along the sides. Users program a specific sequence of sounds, which are activated, with bursts of light, by an illuminated vertical line that crosses the screen from left to right. These patterns can be stored in the device and used during performance. Artist Toshio Iwai notes that “in days gone by, a musical instrument had to have a beauty, of shape as well as of sound. . . . Modern electronic instruments don’t have this inevitable relationship between the shape, the sound, and the player. What I have done is to try to bring back these. . . elements and build them [into] a true musical instrument for the digital age.” Tenori-on’s versatility and ease make it suitable for both serious musicians and beginners. The instrument is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art.