— Yousif Abdulghani

The bench is an everyday functional and familiar object. It satisfies variable needs and provides a platform for human communication. Although it can accommodate multiple occupants with a close proximity, it has been observed that people rarely connect to each other in the public spaces. Yousif Abdulghani created Bencharmony to investigate the ability of collaborative music making to demolish barriers, and stimulate connectivity between strangers in the public spaces. With its minimal and accessible interface design, it allows occupants to explore and create musical patterns and textures collaboratively, which results in various levels of human connections with unpredictable outputs and interactions. Bencharmony has been exhibited in Culture Lab, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK in summer 2015. usifaghani.com

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Download link 

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  • knobs will be moved to the sides of each participant to make it more convenient to control.
  • FSR sensors will be added under each participant to track the total weight and transfer the data into changes in the patterns, tempo and Resolution.
  • In order to cope with day/night light changes, one more photoresistor will be added to the bench to change the threshold of other photoresistors automatically.
  • Wooden pieces will be painted and varnished.
  • All electronic components will be soldered and installed on a separate board so they can be fixed and removed easily.
  • Small boxes will be designed to hold the lights and sensors.
  • Foil material will be used to increase the reflection of the lights.
  • The speaker’s box will contain some shelves for the laptop and other components.
  • All pieces will be assembled together.
  • Ready to install!
  • Find a place to install!
  • Document the experience.
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This test was done with a group of students at Newcastle University. It aims to observe how people might interact with the bench in natural settings. Therefore, explanations were not provided to participants, but they were encouraged to explore it by themselves. A discussion with participants provided valuable feedback that will help in improving the final piece development. In this stage all the sensors were operating in the prototype except the FSR sensors which weren’t available at that time. To cover the absence of the FSRs, a metro object have been created in PD to change the pattern every minute.

Observations and Feedback:

– Women’s long clothes covers the knob when they sit, which makes them unable to use it.
– Women close their legs when they sit. The position of the knob is not appropriate for them
– Screwing between legs in the public is an awkward act.
– Tall people have to bend down little bit to control the knob.
– Most people recognize the use of the knob after a while.
– One of them said that he thought that the knobs were for controlling volume
– Some said that they will feel more relaxed if the knob was on the side.
– They start with changing their positions to figure out different patterns.
– Most people used their hands to activate other patterns.
– One of the participants showed another way of using the bench by laying on to take a rest.
– Most of them said that they are willing to participate with strangers.
– Most of them said that they feel a non-verbal connection with other participants.
– One said that he felt that he was musically connected, but he also might give a comment with others.
– Some said that it makes them cross boundaries and close the space people normally leave between each other.
– One said that if a stranger came and sat next to him he will definitely stay more.
– One said that it would be more interesting if it had more visuals.
– Some of them said the lights will help them identify their sounds more easily.
– Some said it has the potential for one person to perform.
– One said that he will use it in another way if he was with fiends. They might lay down on one side of the bench.
– One said that he will accept it being installed for up to one month.
– Each participant differs in terms of the time he/she will spend on the bench.
– Some participants said that they find the experience relaxing and meditating.

After finishing the prototype test, an insurance test have been done by keeping the system working for two days, and the result after two days showed that it was still working.

Group Test 2

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The PD patch consists of:

  • Arduino to PD communication.
  • A loop of bangs.
  • Photoresistors banging mechanism.
  • Eight sets of patterns, each set consists of four unique patterns.
  • FSR Mechanism for choosing the set of patterns
  • Potentiometer control of midi values.
  • LED messages.
  • MIDI communication with Reason.

When the loop is running and a participant sets on the bench (a photoresistor is activated):

  • Based on the total weight of participants, a set of patterns will be selected, and the tempo will change.
  • Rhythmic bangs defined by the pattern will be sent with MIDI messages to Reason.
  • Those MIDI values are defined by participants through potentiometers.

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Materials wood

Materials Aclyric

Wooden pieces have been cut, holes have been made for the sensors and the lights. Laser cut machine was used to cut the acrylics which will cover the sensors and lights.

IMG_0912 IMG_0913

This have been done before finishing my prototype test, as It was the only time i’m allowed to access the fine art workshop in the university due to their busy schedule in September. Therefore, I’ve only made the major cuts and kept the rest for a later stage when I finish testing my prototype.

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I have been trying to find somewhere to install my work in an outdoor place in Newcastle since the early stages of my work on this project. Several places in the city center and in the university were suitable for my work. My first attempt was through contacting the Student Union to install the bench in the university. My intention was to install it in the new students welcome week or in the freshers week as it will be a fertile ground for my bench to create connections between the new strangers (which is what the freshers week is all about). I have suggested several places in university such as the green space opposite to the student union which is a dynamic area that remains busy all the day. I have presented the concept and showed them some visuals. They were excited about the idea, however, they informed me that by the time of our degree show there will be no students in the campus as new students will start arriving from after one day of the show opening. The second option was to contact Newcastle Council in order to install it in Northumberland Street. So I did email them through NICAP administrator and they have replied that they consider this kind of work as an event which needs to be arranged at least 3 months earlier. I have also tried to get permissions to install it in Eldon Square but they referred me back to the council again.

In the coming days I will keep trying to get permissions for installing in an appropriate location. If i didn’t find any, then I might be forced to install it in the Culture Lab’s indoor space.

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Sit and Stand

One of the intended movements as part of the interaction with the interface was to sit and stand repeatedly to manipulate the pattern. After having some discussions about the prototype, It has been agreed that the “Sit and Stand” interaction with interface is somehow socially embarrassing.

Changing Positions

Another intended interaction was to move between different positions across the bench(s). This idea was developed at the early stages of the design process as the main intended interaction between participants and the interface, and between participants themselves to create connectivity. I would expect this concept to work very well in the four benches version and create lots of possibilities for interaction between participants. However, if I’m going to make one bench, the capacity will be much smaller and the space of interaction will be linear, therefore it wouldn’t work due to the inconvenience of movement and the possibility of having accidents.

Activating Sounds 

By sitting on the holes of the bench (which is inevitable) photoresistors will activate the musical pattern of each participant.


A hidden affordance of the bench that works as an alternative way of creating patterns and changing tempo based on calculating the total weight of participants.

Turning Knobs

Knob is a familiar object that affords turning. One knob will be available in each specified seating location to allow each participant to tune his/her musical pattern and to work collaboratively with other participants to create different rhythmic chords. Knobs will be the most explicit controls of the musical output and the rest will be hidden to extend participants’ curiosity in their interaction with the bench.

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I have tried different pre-sampled sound palettes, created original samples from the sounds of the public, but still not convinced about the current output. I find it quite restricted as it offers limited choice of predictable sound materials.

The interface design has been restricted to offer accessibility and make it easy-to-learn and I would like to balance that with expressive sound materials.

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