This is a concept toy car I designed to help teach beginner singers and wind players about the importance of controlled breathing. It replicates exercises familiar to many music teachers, and puts them in the context of a car steering game.

The project was part of my final MA work at the Royal College of Art, which looked at new approaches to music education through games, toys and play.

Breath Control Car Breath Control Car

The player blows into a mouthpiece to control the car’s steering. Blow gradually harder (a crescendo) and it steers to the right; blow gradually softer (a diminuendo) and it steers to the left. The object of the game is to complete a three point turn.

Breath Control Car

I built the car using a Yamaha BC3 breath controller, which fed MIDI data into Max/MSP, which then sent serial data over Bluetooth to a servo steering the car. Fiddly stuff in these pre-Arduino days! As per tradition at the RCA Degree Show, I think it broke pretty quickly.

Accompanying ‘sheet music’
Since the movement of the car can be described using musical notation (ie using only tempo and dynamics), I also made a book of musical studies which looked at the potential shapes and patterns of other types of steering movements, and what the corresponding sheet music would look like.

If you can describe a three point turn with music notation, what happens when you try the opposite? What if you wrote the Silverstone Grand Prix track as a piece of notation?

  What a figure of eight looks like when notated

And what happens when you take the dynamic markings from an existing piece of music? What kind of track layout would you get?

These MA projects formed the beginning of my interest in bashing together music, technology, toys, play and learning in exploratory, experimental ways – a practice that continues today.