Book of Knowledge of Impractical Musical Devices


I wish you to compose for me a book which assembles what you have created separately, and brings together a selection of individual items and pictures.

al-Jazari, quoting Nasir al-Din

This is a project loosely inspired by the early 13th century Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices by Ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari (commonly known as al-Jazari).

It is formed of three instruments that each challenge our understanding of musical control in different ways, and by doing so open up questions about memory and the illusory power of digital media.

Book of Knowledge of Impractical Musical Devices

Each instrument exists as a physical object, and has an accompanying illustrated essay to read on this website which describes the conceptual thinking behind the design, as well as instructions and code for making one yourself (under “Resources”).

By Yann Seznec. Design by Tommy Perman. Photography by Chris Scott.

The instruments were fabricated and printed by Eastern Exhibition & Display in Musselburgh, Scotland. Many thanks to Janet and Anna for doing such a fantastic job and understanding the project from the beginning.

The videos were filmed by Bonnie Brae Production at the offices of Agency of None in Dundee.

Produced with support from Creative Scotland, through an Open Project Fund award. You can download and read the successful funding application here.