Take a good, long look at your computer screen.
Now imagine you can’t see it.
That’s the reality Mandy Matz is facing. At age 36, she’s losing her vision to glaucoma.
The musician and multimedia artist makes some beautiful, ethereal music, having cut her teeth on Buzz. Listen to the haunting “Alpha Waves,” her first song.
And now, because sight is so deeply connected to the way in which music developers map your brain to software, losing her vision could mean losing her ability to work with digital tools.
It shouldn’t be this way. As Paul Lamere, who is collaborating with Mandy on this project, writes:
Anyone who has been to a Music Hack Day has seen the wide range of non-traditional music interfaces that we create. We’ve made Music gloves, leap-motion-based mixers and orchestras, invisible violins made with iphones, remixing tools that use makey-makey, music controllers made out of kinects, arduinos, webcams and even neckties and coat racks. We build things that make music. With a little guidance we should be able to build things that will help the visually impaired make music too.
If sometimes the projects covered on this site, and in hack days, seem a little strange, remember: these experiments are inquiries into the way you connect thoughts and feelings to software. That means thinking beyond the normal expectations about which senses, which gestures to use.
Now, with that experience, the community that has worked with musical interfaces is uniquely prepared for the possibility that any of us may lose senses or motor skills we take for granted.
The notion Mandy and Paul propose: #hackblindness. Mandy has started a blog, with the hopes of dedicating a track at some future Music Hack Days to the topic. This question comes up on CDM a lot, though, so those hack days could be just the beginning.
Worked yourself on this problem? Have some ideas you’d like to try? Actually, something I really don’t know – are you a blind person who reads CDM? (I definitely hope I haven’t screwed up accessibility settings and the like.) We’d love to hear from you. And check out Mandy and Paul’s work:
Hacking Blindness [Music Machinery, Paul's blog]
Mandy’s new blog, covering her experiences and ideas: Hack Blindness @ Tumblr