Exploration is an intrinsic element of designing and engaging with acoustic as well as digital musical instruments. This paper reports on the ongoing development of an explorative virtual-acoustic instrument based on simulation of the vibrations of a string coupled nonlinearly to a plate. The performer drives the model by tactile interaction with a string-board controller fitted with piezo-electric sensors. The string-plate model is formulated in a way that prioritises its parametric explorability. Where the roles of creating performance gestures and designing instruments are traditionally separated, such a design provides a continuum across these domains, with retainment of instrument physicality. The string-plate model, its real-time implementation, and the control interface are described, and the system is preliminarily evaluated through informal observations of how musicians engage with the system.
The system was made available for a few hours to four musicians of varying background and experience, each of whom produced a short piece of music.