We are working with our friend Mr Jaune on a series of experimental events that play with the flavours, scents, memories, and rituals that surround food.
The most recent (and ongoing) events are the Food Sessions: a silent disco for your tongue. It’s a pop-up installation, soon to be at a food truck or special event near you. Bring your stories and your appetite, you will eat with your ears and your heart.
The pop-up store for littleBits is open. Part shop, part lab, it is a place where we invite anyone to invent anything and buy what they create.
If in New York City, come by 355 West Broadway! There will also be all sorts of events and workshops, more info here.
Read more about the store in this article by PSFK, who said “The littleBits store feels like everything RadioShack could have been.”
There were many partners in crime for this, notably:
Mister Jaune, SSSVLL, Pilote.
The daily creative team went to Pier 9 for a 2-week residency in preparation for the Market Street Prototyping Festival and I brought along a research idea: exploring the possibilities of storing music on surfaces. Asking if we can give objects a hidden layer of sounds that can be played by anyone, with any tool. Could we transform everyday street infrastructure into potential instruments or secret sound storage devices (similar to how greyworld hid “The Girl from Ipanema” on railings)?
What I had in mind would use a similar mechanism to a record player (phonograph) needle translating physical bumps on the vinyl surface into airwaves. I wanted to use the digital-fabrication goodness at Pier 9 to create engraved patterns on surfaces that can be turned into sounds mechanically. And instead of needing a special tool (=record needle) to play the sound, I wanted everyone to be able to “release the sound” with a pen, a fingernail or a coin.
Engraving a regular pattern into a surface, and then running a stick alongside it, produces a certain pitch that is caused by the rate at which your stick bumps against the grooves of your pattern. If you run the stick alongside it a bit faster, it’ll hit the bumps faster and produce a higher pitch.
The instrument that gets closest to this idea is the Güiro / Rasps / Scraper / Raspel / Raspadora / Scratcher which usually consists of an engraved resonant body which you scrape along with a stick. But while these instruments are mainly used for creating “rasp” percussion effects, I wanted to explore their potential for pitch variation.
So I started with a bunch of pitch calculations. The C4 (Middle C) note emerges from something vibrating at ~262 oscillations per second. If we assume we can activated our engraved surface at a speed of 500 mm/sec (arm swiping speed), we’d have to position our engraved bumps at a distance of 1.9 mm each. An E4 demands a bump-distance of 1.5 mm, while a G4 calls for 1.3 mm. The math formula being: speed of activation / frequency of oscillation = distance between bumps.
Then I turned to the machines and started lasering stuff! I worked mainly with acrylic and wood, on the Epilog 36EXT Lasercutter. After a first proof of concept that different groove patterns indeed produced different pitches, I turned to explore rhythms. Leaving larger gaps between “notes” also improved the sound perception, by giving the airwaves time to spread, without being interrupted by the instrument’s natural “raspiness”. Empty spaces are always important.
After having “mastered” pitch and rhythm, I turned to melodies. As I was limited in the length of boards I could laser-cut, the melody had to be short. And after spending way too much time trying to transcribe Kraftwerk’s The Robots base melody, I finally selected something that is short and well known. And – as it turns out – endlessly annoying for everyone around you: Charge (Fanfare).
The 6-note melody can be seen in musical notation above, and what it looks like translated to an engraving pattern below:
I then set out to test the same pattern on the different machines Pier 9 has to offer. Besides laser-engraving on acrylic and wood (working 2d with Inkscape), I printed a three-dimensional version on the Objet 500 Connex 3D printer (using OpenSCAD for some simple parametric .stl production) and cut a metal version with the Omax Waterjet 60120.
Now, please judge the auditory results for yourself:
Melissa and Mouna’s talk for the Eyeo Festival at the Walker Art Center is now online. They share their learnings in making people dance together in public spaces – how technology can help (or not), and the importance of having collaborators (who can dance). Also, memorable quotes from Molière and Men Without Hats. Enjoy the stories, enjoy the moves!
La conférence We Can Dance de Mouna et Melissa au Eyeo Festival est en ligne. Elles y racontent leurs dernières aventures à faire danser les gens ensemble dans l’espace public. On y découvre comment la technologie participe (ou pas) et l’importance d’avoir des collaborateurs (qui savent danser). Aussi, des citations mémorables de Molière et Men Without Hats. Bon dimanche!
Eyeo has a great line-up of artists, coders, designers working at the intersection of data, art & technology, check out all the talks here.
Eyeo est un réseau inspirant qui réunit artistes, programmeurs, designers oeuvrant à l’intersection du data, de l’art et de la technologie, toutes les conférences sont à voir ici.