Breadboarding as a Musical Practice




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


Breadboarding is an essential part of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) electronic music. It is often used to investigate, test or refine a design prior to the construction of a finished instrument. It is part of a well-established design process that is often regarded as a stepping-stone or means to an end, and breadboard-based prototypes are generally not viewed as practical or complete instruments in their own right. Instead, they are viewed as fiddly and imprecise, with their intermittent connections and delicately mounted controls. Despite these, and other shortcomings, breadboard-based instruments have a number of features and affordances that make them worthy of exploration as legitimate musical instruments. Furthermore, the practice of breadboarding can be seen as an act of musical composition or performance.

This thesis sets out to define and defend a domain that I will refer to as breadboard music. I will also present an appropriate framework or set of strategies, including the underpinning logic and philosophy behind them. The research undertaken is practice-related and uses empirical and iterative processes to derive new knowledge and understanding of breadboard music and DIY electronic music. I refer to the research as practice-related because it is both practice-based and practice-led; as well as presenting a framework developed through the practice of creative breadboarding, I will also present a series of original artefacts in the form of creative works.

To conclude, I explore the limitations of black box devices and the importance of breadboarding and experimentation as a means to combat the shortcomings of such designs. I postulate that despite advancements in technology, breadboarding will continue to remain relevant as a creative musical practice.





Research Institute