This paper explores the differences in the design and performance of acoustic and new digital musical instruments, arguing that with the latter there is an increased encapsulation of musical theory. The point of departure is the phenomenology of musical instruments, which leads to the exploration of designed artefacts as extensions of human cognition – as scaffolding onto which we delegate parts of our cognitive processes. The paper succinctly emphasises the pronounced epistemic dimension of digital instruments when compared to acoustic instruments. Through the analysis of material epistemologies it is possible to describe the digital instrument as an epistemic tool: a designed tool with such a high degree of symbolic pertinence that it becomes a system of knowledge and thinking in its own terms. In conclusion, the paper rounds up the phenomenological and epistemological arguments, and points at issues in the design of digital musical instruments that are germane due to their strong aesthetic implications for musical culture.
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