Inflatable Instruments – Bouncehouse Bagpipe

Inflatable Instruments is an analog experience letting the user create music using whole body physical movement. The final product is envisioned as a large bounce house environment with each inflatable area playing a different note. It would take multiple people jumping to create chords and some fantastic jump synchronization to play a whole song. People are encouraged to experiment with what is usually considered violent or very physical actions as adults in a modern take on a childhood favorite. The enclosure of breathe, sound and air becomes something outside the body to be interacted with your full bod.

The current prototype stage is a sound emitting inflatable sumo suit. The wearer will be able to run into walls, receive bear hugs, and roll down hills creating beautiful audible scales and snippets of songs. A jacket of Cordura nylon filled with upholstery foam is being made to play a full scale of reed organ reeds. Further research into air sealing the seams and how to replace the sound increasing effects of the wooden box surrounding the reed in the organ is on the slate for the near future. Homemade inflatable kayak websites have been the primary area of inflatable research as they are also building airtight inflatables that withstand heavy weights and impact. Multiple methods of construction are being considered to figure out the best way to create modular elements to hold each key so that different songs may be played.


The earliest prototypes were to test how to create a self inflating sound device that is not reliant on the electricity required by traditional blower powered bounce houses. The blowers are very loud and require a lot of electricity. Terry Riley’s In C performed by The Industry used carpeted sound muffling wooden boxes to dampen the sound created by electronic blowers for their inflatable tube men. While this is an inspiring development, this project aims to not be reliant on being near power sources to operate.

The first tests were run on balloon animal balloons and reeds made of thin shaved plastic sheeting attached to sanded down PVC pipes. These proved to both be terrible materials as the balloons made more sound popping and there was not enough air to power these homemade reeds more than a slight hum. It is possible the reeds were not shaved quite thin enough or tied on tightly enough. Oboe reeds were considered next.

After some research, it was discovered that an instrument from almost two hundred years ago, the reed organ, contains metal reeds that take much less air to play and are much sturdier. Upholstery foam is placed inside of thick vinyl thundersticks to allow the instrument to self inflate, replacing the loud blower of other inflatables. The reeds only make sound when deflated and inflate silently. The cube is the next prototype made of a waterproof, ripstop nylon called Cordura that is proving to be fairly air proof. Research is continuing into whether the material should be completely airtight so that the inflatable can be refilled faster.

Many thanks go out to the various musical experts who have contributed to this project with their knowledge of reed and wind instruments.