Designed by Montreal studio Daily tous les jours, Mesa Musical Shadows is a public installation that turns the sidewalk of Arizona’s Mesa Arts Center into a super-sized dance pad which reacts to the shadows of passersby with the sounds of singing.
Shadows cast on different tiles trigger different voices, all while singing in harmony. Length of shadow is dependent upon the season, the time of day and the weather; meaning, a visitor may never quite cast the same shadow twice. The sounds themselves also change with the angle of the sun, which makes interacting with the installation a dynamic experience in the morning, midday, evening, and in the middle of the night. As the day turns into night, the tracks shift from upbeat, Pitch Perfect-like acapella to creepier, ominous tones. (more…)
What do you get when you combine 64 floppy drives, eight hard disks, and two scanners? An incredible computer hardware orchestra that can rock out like Kurt Cobain. Created by Pawel Zadrozniak, the Floppotron is not only capable of covering ‘90s hits like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirt,” but can play other tunes ranging from Darth Vader’s Imperial March to the theme song of the TV series “Hawaii Five-O.”
As for how the old-school tech synthesizes such tunes, Zadrozniak explains:
Every device with an electric motor is able to generate a sound. Scanners and floppy drives use stepper motors to move the head with sensors which scans the image or performs read/write operations on a magnetic disk. The sound generated by a motor depends on driving speed. The higher the frequency, the greater the pitch. Hard disks use a magnet and a coil to tilt the head. When voltage is supplied for long enough, the head speeds up and hits the bound making the “drum hit” sound. The disk head coil can also be used as a speaker to play tones or even music, but… that would be too easy and too obvious.
Every column of eight floppy drives is connected to one 8-channel controller built on ATmega16 microcontroller. One controller acts as one voice with envelope simulation – the higher the volume, the more drives are playing. This allows to make ADSR-like shape and simulate a musical instrument, like a piano (exponential decay) or string instrument (sine, “vibrato”). The boards which were made a few years ago, were designed as a standalone “players” with optional USB-to-UART bridge and was not intended to be chained. My goal was to re-use old stuff and get the job done as fast as possible, so I used the on-board ISP (which in fact is a SPI interface) connector to link 8 drivers in a SPI chain. Long SPI chain with unidirectional communication is not an example good and reliable design, but it did not require any hardware modification and took a minute to build a controller network, so let’s call it… good enough for this kind of project.
Scanner and disk head controllers share the same base with floppy controllers, but have a different “instrument interface.” For driving the coils, I used two push-pull outputs (H-bridge) built with discrete SMD MOSFETs. Scanner head controllers were built using of-the-shelf boards – an Arduino Uno (firmware also builds for ATmega328) and L298 breakout to save time needed to draw and etch the boards. PC interface (another Arduino board) receives the data over UART (USB-UART), buffers the messages and keeps the timings while passing packets to “musical instruments” over SPI interface, so a Windows hiccup will not affect the playback. It can also be driven by anything else like Raspberry Pi, Android smartphone (with USB-UART or UART-over-Bluetooth adapter) or another microcontroller.
Russian artist ::vtol:: is no stranger to the Arduino blog. His latest project–which was designed for the Polytechnic Museum Moscow and Ars Electronica Linz–is an autonomous light-music installation called “Divider.” The wall-mounted soundscape consists of seven lasers that send rays horizontally through 42 PC cooling fans, acting as divider-modulators, to turn the light signals into rhythmic impulses. Seven photo sensors on the end monitor the presence or absence of light, while four Arduino Mega boards control the system. (more…)
German composer Oskar Schuster recently uploaded a YouTube video showing off a new project he is working on: an Arduino-controlled upright piano. Called Utopiano, it’s described as an electro-mechanical device that replaces the traditional mechanical piano action and enables him to control the 100-year-old instrument with a computer keyboard. Amazing!
Electronic musical instruments are fun for Makers. With some cheap tools, know-how and passion, anyone can become a real synth geek. Just ask software developer Liam Lacey, who happens to also be a sound coder and freelance hacker. He recently won element14’s Open Source Music Tech design challenge for his Vintage Toy Synthesizer project — it’s an acoustic wooden toy piano converted into an open-source, standalone polyphonic digital synthesizer running on a BeagleBone Black and an Arduino Pro Mini.
To help promote the TBS show America’s Greatest Makers, YouTuber/plumber/stuntman/inventor Colin Furze recently took on the challenge of building a Mad Max-like flamethrowing electric guitar with a Genuino 101. Because after all, there’s nothing more metal than fire bursting as a rockstar shreds on-stage.
To bring this project life, Fruze added a pair of modified blowtorches to the neck of the guitar and sawed off part of the instrument’s base to fit in the firing mechanisms. As you can see in his tutorial video below, the body is equipped with a gas reservoir on top, a solenoid valve, a few pipes, and an igniter, among some other components.
Nick Demopoulos is a guitarist, sound designer and musician. He is also a Maker and the creator of the “SMOMID” — an Arduino Mega-based MIDI instrument that resembles a touch-sensitive guitar with several joysticks and other sensors. Not only does it just look cool, it can even flash LEDs in sync with the music being played for some wild effects and visual feedback for the performer. (more…)
Calvin Cherry has created a wearable instrument programmed to respond to body movement. The Maker, who is a grad student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, calls his device “Music from Motion,” or “mFM.” It consists of small electronic sensors Velcro-ed onto his wrists and ankles that, with every move, alter a synthesized track playing on a loop over a set of speakers.
Various motions correspond to different sounds. For instance, increasing the pace with his left foot adds more drum. Picking up the movement with his right foot throws in a cymbal. When he rotates his right hand, it makes the track a bit woozier through an audio mixing process called flanging. When he moves his left hand, it prompts a wah-wah effect. (more…)
Whereas most musicians would prefer to program their beats on a computer, Koka Nikoladze has elected to take a different approach. The Norway-based violinist/composer/tech developer is the inventor of handmade analog beat making machines that use springs, coils, wood and metal to create sounds. (more…)
Nowadays, it seems like instruments come in all different shapes and sizes. Take Jon Bumstead’s an electronic harp, for example, that plays music by blocking laser beams — similar to how a musician would pluck a stick on the real thing.
The project consists of a laser diode, an Arduino, a galvo, several mirrors to reflect the beams, 13 photoresistors and a couple 3D-printed components for the mounts. The harp’s large frame is made up of three wooden parts that can be folded with a few hinges and held in place with 18 bolts, while the electronics are secured in a box with the galvo mounted at the top.