Marie Caye is a French design researcher, experience designer and artist who’s currently studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. For one of her latest projects, the Pigstrument, she’s researching what the possible musical culture of pigs could be.
To know what sort of music culture and instrument would fit the pig way of life, she spent a lot of time finding out what it is like to be a pig. She made a Pig Empathy Suit to be able to live between pigs for a day. From their farmer, Marie found out that the pigs seemed to enjoy spitting stones on the metal fences because of the sound it created. To get the most out of the instrument she worked together with experience designer Arvid Jense, who sound designed the tubular bells on the instrument.
The instrument Marie created seems a logical choice: it can tumble and fall over and will still function, is suited for multiple “players”, and doesn’t rely on anything electronic. On her blog she writes, early on in the project: “One big question is, how to make the instrument affordances suited to pig behavior? I have seen that they will push relentlessly any object. I was thinking of trying to prevent the object to be turned around by pigs when my teacher Wieteke pointed out, it’s better to use this attitude of the pig in the way of playing the instrument.” I think the fact Marie documented her process so well adds to the viability of the project.
I like Marie’s idea to actually try and live like you’re in the skin of another species, to experience what might be an ideal music instrument. Her research blog got me interested in music for cats, “virtual reality” free range chickens and more. Very interesting and mostly untapped design areas. We might never know what the pigs actually think of it, although looking at the footage, it seems like they really enjoy it.