Objects, Processing, Sound
comments 14

An Instrument for the Sonification of Everyday Things

smr-001 copy

Created by Dennis P Paul, An Instrument for the Sonification of Everday Things is a “serious musical instrument” which rotates everyday things, scans their surfaces, and transforms them into audible frequencies.

A variety of everyday objects can be mounted into the instrument. Their silhouettes define loops, melodies and rhythms. Thus mundane things are reinterpreted as musical notation. Playing the instrument is a mixture of practice, anticipation, and serendipity.

The instrument was built from aluminum tubes, white POM, black acrylic glass, a high precision distance measuring laser (with the kind support of micro-epsilon), a stepper motor, and a few bits and bobs – Dennis writes. A custom programmed translator and controller module was written in Processing and using JSYN, transforms the measured distance values into audible frequencies, notes, and scales (minor, major, pentatonic, … ). It also precisely controls the stepper-motor’s speed to sync with other instruments and musicians.

Project Page | Dennis P Paul

  • dumdumdumd

    pure BS, just got some fancy photos

  • Guest

    Though I may have worded it differently, I tend to agree. The ‘everyday objects’ in this case are arbitrary scores for arbitrary generated synths. Hardly the sonification of those objects, at best the use of objects for alternative scores.

  • I think it’s important to consider this work in the form of a process rather than product. There is a tendency on CAN to understand this kind of work as final output which it isn’t. Rather if this is the beginning of understanding the sound landscape of objects and where new iterations may suggest something more, refined, designed.

  • Anais Paws

    A vision of things and ideas deserved to be seen

  • Finally, I can find out what rotisserie chicken sounds like.

  • caymanrob

    Fantastic. Great Stuff. Previous commentor obviously another computer retard. In addition to playing the clip here you can check out his project page.

  • dpp

    filip, i agree and it appears to be important to point this out again and again. in this case, the object is exactly what it is supposed to be: a working prototype or proof-of-concept. nothing more but also nothing less. having spend several hours playing with the instrument and different everyday objects ( in my world lego == everyday ;) ) i was able to seriously ‘play along’ with other instruments or tracks ( the stepper motor is incredibly precise and the instrument let s you fine tune the tones ). i was able to ‘investigate and learn’ different objects. for example: in a gust of emergent interaction i started making marks on the aluminum rails to be able to get back to nice baselines later. as stated in the text, it is very much about serendipity but also about evaluation of those findings. still i would always argue that it is much more than just browsing through randomness. after all there might be a chicken spinning on stage at some point …

  • Line Kernel

    i always wonder how people use laser for distance sensing , and i still think but i am not sure , that the laser is just for visual feedback , and the system use a IR sensor for the sensing , am i right ?

  • dpp

    as far as i understand it there a multiple ways to use lasers for distance sensing. this sensor uses the laser triangulation method, which means that the laser is used as a light source and and an optical sensor measures the position of the reflected light. for further reading: this is the sensor i used [ http://goo.gl/9CSq2 ] and this is wikipedia explaining it better [ http://goo.gl/HdTyY ] (german).

  • anonomynus

    Let me put it that way. It´s build out of pre-manufactured parts. It includes aluminum, an copper coil in the stepper motor, its automated via an RS232 interface, got an fancy housing. And it´s core function is based on a high-precision sensor which consumes a certain ammount of engery… which bundled light beam hopefully isn´t above the Class 2 Laser Norm of less than 1mW. Red seems to be not a harm to the eye, as 950nm of light is in our natural spectrum of vision.

    For me, either if i put it that way or another. The arbitrarily scanned silhouttes. Does not generate aesthetical sounds for every listener. In other words. It´s a question of the subjective perception of an object. The reader might be confused already, as I am are.

    But why am I confused ?

    I can tell you. My low-cost turntable needle is scratching my vinyl. So I have to take care of the vinyl as well as of the needle.

    This non-purpose object has an purpose. An purpose to think about it. So did I. And I can tell.

    To much high-tech involved.
    On the other hand it´s build to resist.

    So. We´ve got an dilemma here.

    Anyway. In my point of view it´s just an barrel organ. High-tech effectiveness we are advertised with every single day. New, fancy. Everything has to be glossy. Let´s throw away everything we had beforehand, bury it. And never ever dig for it again. You could stumble upon something which could be refereed to as an working, effective and sucessful design.

    Let me conclude finally.

    It isn´t an perpetuum mobile. It doesn´t works out of the box. You´ve to control it on your own.

    Imitate it. And if you´re lucky. You perpetuum mobile might work out of the box.

  • arno nomy nuss again

    In the end… you can´t even hear the noise of the stepper matter which is the identifiable footprint of this object. Why ? Because you can only listen to the digitized output which was post-processed for the image video clip.

    Doesn´t the presenting guy looks a little stressed, distracted or even nervous to you ? Or am I the only one with that impression ?

    Someone should tell him that he needs an acoustically isolated housing for his object to get rid of the techs, innatural noises. Too bad that he can´t change his record then.

    Up till then we should donate him some honours. In the form of ohropax eventually.

  • I would say that, for me at least, bringing the phrase “the sonification of objects” to life, even though it is not in fact a complete purely sonic representation of that object (whatever that could possibly mean) is an experience that satisfies most of my definitions of art: inquiry, delight, and a new way of looking at things in the world. The generated synths are simple, but would it be that much different if they were more sophisticated?

  • fred

    I’m strangely unmoved by an arbitrary shape/profile being transformed into sound. In principle (if you use a suitably complex transform) you could make a teacup play Beethoven’s 5th. Or Anarchy in the UK. It’s all in the transform. Is tone proportional to distance, or inversely proportional? If you place the reference point far away enough it’s a basically a monotone. Too close – and most of the sound becomes inaudible to humans due to pitch being too high or too low.

    I’m going to have to pass on this one – I don’t see the value

  • Line Kernel

    hi , thanks for the answer , i was wondering what made you choose this tech particularly , between all the viable options (ir , ultrasound , laser) ?