As a luthier's apprentice, I learnt that design and fabrication of traditional instruments like the Thai Sloh and Cambodian Saw U fiddles have remained unchanged for centuries. Western instruments however, undergo continuous innovation. Inspired by recent 3D printed violins and modular guitars, I wanted to reimagine traditional instruments with these new technologies and address the changing needs of today's musicians and consumers from my home country, Thailand, and across Asia.
UNIQUE PROPERTIES / PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
A cross cultural, modular system designed for traditional bowed fiddles across Asia and the Middle East. Whereas traditional fiddles have permanently bonded components, Fidular enables instant disassembly and interchangeability of chamber, strings and shaft across different fiddles with unprecedented cross compatibility. Functioning with both traditional and novel digitally fabricated chambers, Fidular allows players to customize timbre by "mixing and matching" fiddle parts on the fly.
OPERATION / FLOW / INTERACTION:
The user unclips the bottom string holder and pulls the shaft out of the sound chamber. Without needing a luthier, timbre is altered by changing chamber, shaft or strings of different materials. The culture-neutral appearance is modified using parts with cultural motifs or personal designs. The desired shaft and strings are re-attached to the chosen chamber via magnetic prongs. After a quick tuning, the new fiddle is ready to play. The transformation takes only minutes. (Opt Image 1 and Video 1)
PROJECT DURATION AND LOCATION:
All in Thailand during 2015-2016: my apprenticeship in a northern village Mae Jai with Mr. Khet Chaikham lasted August to September. Fidular development started September and ended January. Luthiers from Vietnam and S. Korea were interviewed on-site in November. Fidular was unveiled in my SEASAC conference keynote (January 22). The project featured in invited talks at NECTEC (March 15) and Ladkrabang Institute of Technology (August 5), as well as the Chiang Mai Maker Faire (January 30).
PRODUCTION / REALIZATION TECHNOLOGY:
Shaft and tuning pegs were made from teak for strength using a carpenter's lathe and hand tools. Complex geometries of the shaft base, tuning buns and plastic chamber were designed on CAD software and 3D printed with PLA. Double prongs are aluminum rods. The Sloh chamber was made from chopped dried coconuts glued to a wooden panel. Other chambers were purchased from respective luthiers. Panel materials range from calf (Thailand), lizard (Vietnam), cat (Japan), fish (Iran) and snake (China).
SPECIFICATIONS / TECHNICAL PROPERTIES:
Fidular: Width 90mm x Depth 160mm x Height 720mm Weight 102g
Shaft only: Width 40mm x Depth 130mm x Height 600mm Weight 62g
Chamber only (average): Width 90mm x Depth 140mm x Height 110mm Weight 40g
Traditional instruments, Modular fiddle, 3D Printing, Culture-aware technology
Fidular manifests my vision of culture aware technology, a convergence of future and traditional technologies, engineered for cross cultural fluidity. The design fuses modern acoustics and digital fabrication with traditional craftsmanship. Fidular inspired new horizons and reimaginations of culture from fresh perspectives in design and science. Emerging plans to commercialize Fidular can propel industries where craftsmen, engineers and consumers merge across generations and technologies.
Engineering modular connections like those between chamber and shaft was a challenge. The mechanism must be rigid, compatible with chambers of various geometries, retain acoustic phenomena and respect traditional fiddle aesthetics. The design had to appeal to older, conservative musicians and luthiers whilst sparking excitement for "millennial generation" consumers. Manufacturing must leverage the best of parallel worlds still found in developing nations: handmade methods and Industry 4.0.
TEAM MEMBERS (1) :
Main Image 1 Photographer Lamtharn Hantrakul, Fidular Splash, 2016
Optional Image 1 Photographer and Illustrator Lamtharn Hantrakul, Fidular Transformation, 2015.
Optional Image 2 Photographer and Illustrator Lamtharn Hantrakul, Fidular Blowup, 2015
Optional Image 3 Photographer and Illustrator Lamtharn Hantrakul, Fidular Live, 2015
Optional Image 4 Photographer and Illustrator Lamtharn Hantrakul, Fidular Performance, 2015
Pat. Pending 1601000261. Hantrakul, L. “A shape-shifting waveguide and interchangeable front-panel system for Asian and Middle Eastern Fiddles” Filed 20/1/2016 Department of Intellectual Property, Bangkok, Thailand.
Pat. Pending 1501005900. Hantrakul, L. “A magnetic and modular system for Asian fiddles” Filed 29/9/2015. Department of Intellectual Property, Thailand.
Unless noted on image, Copyrights to all photographs, blueprints and illustrations belong to Lamtharn Hantrakul, 2015.