“Instant City”, the music building game automat

Instant city” is an installation, developed by Sibylle Hauert and Daniel Reichmuth and Volker Böhm, that allows players at a table to create architecture using semi-transparent building blocks and in the process make different modular compositions audible.


A spot light hangs over the table and under the glass game board are light sensors. Each arrangement of the building blocks establishes a filter dimming down the intensity of the spotlight. The resulting variations are registered by the sensor field under the glass plate. Each of these gray scale values corresponds to a particular parameter of the selected “instant city” composition. However, what is heard depends upon where the building blocks are placed, how high they are, how many are on the table, and the sequence in which they are used.

So far, eight musicians have produced special compositions which serve as the basic music building kits of instant city.

Since the game doesn’t have an aim or goal which one can follow, every action becomes a demonstration of the playing personality. With every block that the player plays, he betrays something about himself: some feel overwhelmed by the limitless possibilities; mathematically oriented players will try to proceed strategically while esthetes might want to build elegant constructions, etc.

And as more players gather around the table, it becomes something like a social game: leaders might want to build up high, saboteur want to disrupt or destroy, etc.

First spotted in the fabulous aminima.