As a jazz guitarist, I spend most of my playing time sitting down (partly because I simply prefer to sit while playing, partly because most jazz guitars aren’t designed for use with straps). Show up at a gig with bad chairs, though, and it can ruin the night. (I usually bring my own for just that reason.) David Brothers, an assistant professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology, is pushing for a new chair design standard to better serve seated musicians, with a focus on the varied needs of an orchestra full of different instrumentalists.
“As a furniture designer, I found it odd that performers from all three of those orchestral sections sat in identical chairs when what they are doing seems so fundamentally different,” Brothers said. “The study addresses the question of whether the specific physical requirements of playing an instrument could lead to a unique chair design. I see this research as the beginning of a long-term effort to design, fabricate and test a series of chairs with working musicians to assess the viability of the proposed strategies in a real-world application.” Brothers was also interested in addressing the aesthetics of the chairs, although he didn’t find a lot of support in that area.
I hope Brothers can make it happen—and that in the end, he does take the aesthetics into consideration, even if—inconceivably, to me—a majority of musicians don’t seem to care:
“Only a tiny percentage of musicians indicated that they cared about what their chairs looked like,” he said. “As a designer who cares about my visual environment I found this surprising! Musicians buy the best instruments they can afford, wear nicely tailored, formal attire, and play in elegant venues that have been specifically designed to enhance the acoustics of the music. The only other visual variable is the chair they sit in and it is given little to no thought.”
(I also can’t help but notice how the shadow in the concept illustration forms a classic design tool: the compass.)