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  • Writer's pictureAinsley Carter

Music Building Blocks

If you've looked through my site, perhaps you saw my Music Building Blocks in the "craft" section of my Explorations page. In this post, I'll walk through my process with creating this piece.


This is a piece from the 3D: Form Versus Function course at CCA, taught by Elin Christopherson. I was challenged to create a piece out of reused materials, but aside from that, I could do anything as long as it met that requirement.

I decided to visit a local thrift shop just to get some inspiration. I ended up discovering a huge bin of cassette tapes of all different kinds of music in myriad languages, even some home recordings as well. As a music lover in the very culturally rich and diverse city of Oakland, CA, I thought that somehow, these would be perfect for this assignment.


I bought about 80 cassettes for $5 or $10 total and started sketching. I had lots of cassettes to choose from, so I opted for ones that had unique attributes to them as much as I could; I looked for things like colorful or clear plastic instead of black, things with text in various scripts and languages, tapes with recognizable titles or logos, and tapes with hand writing on them.

I wanted whatever I made to be functional, not just a viewable art piece, and it just so happened that I was really in need of a new lamp at the time. This is the concept that my ideas centered around.

I ended up scrapping a lot of my sketches when a classmate pointed out that the tape inside the cassettes might be flammable around a light bulb and cords... but it was okay, because I had a new idea!

I wanted whatever I made to be functional, not just a viewable art piece . . .

As a kid, I always loved building block toys. Around that time, when looking for toys to gift a young family member, I had come across children's building blocks with a twist: instead of the usual alphabet theme, these were periodic table themed so as to encourage a love of science.

As I messed around with my dozens of cassette tapes, I started to see the ways that they could be arranged to create shapes. This inspired my new direction: using adhesive to make cassette tape building blocks. I wanted to create an interactive piece that can be customized by the user while encouraging a love for music.


I used an adhesive to glue cassettes together, and I took inspiration from the classic Tetris block formations to guide me as I chose shapes to create.

I then bought small color-changing LED lights with a remote control, and I glued one into each set of blocks. This creates another avenue for customization of the user experience, with the user being able to stack new structures as well as changing the colors as they please.

There are six blocks in total, all different shapes. I wanted the piece to have a functional, playful, and aesthetic purpose – they can light the room, be an interesting decorative piece, and be stacked and rearranged in myriad patterns, all while showcasing a selection of music from a past generation and from around the world.

This piece was selected to be shown in The New Aesthetics Exhibition in Oakland, California's Oliver Art Gallery in February 2019.


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