Arduino, Sound
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Rasper, Mutor and Rippler – Mechatronic sound-sculptures by Mo H. Zareei


Created by Mo H. Zareei, Rasper, Mutor and Rippler are three mechatronic sound-sculptures inspired by Brutalist architecture. The instruments are grouped into three different categories, based on the material and sound production mechanism they employ.

In aestheticizing the normally mundane sonic byproducts of urban industrial life, they employ non-musical objects such as DC motors and actuators, remove them from their everyday context – where they are tools to help run our machines and their noise is sheer sonic byproduct – and turn them into a medium for sonic expression. This contextual transmutation is accomplished through an apparatus combining mechatronic techniques and microcontroller programming that is used to control their noise on rigidly grid-based patterns, where loops, pulses, and metric rhythms form a strict platform through which noise is structured. As in the Brutalist buildings, these sculptures fully expose the materiality and bodily existence of their components in austerely geometric structures and repetitive modules. In order to boost the visceral and sensory experience, every single noise pulse is highlighted in synchronous bursts of fluorescent light, preserving the work’s confrontational, cold, and Brutalist aesthetics.

Rasper’s sound-generating mechanism is based on surface friction between a sharp piece of spring steel and a plastic disk rotated by a DC motor, while the contact between the two is made using a linear actuator. In Rippler, the actuation noise of the linear actuator is amplified and transduced using a thin sheet of steel, whereas in Mutor, the sonic output is the noise of a DC motor, modulated in terms of timbre and amplitude.

The instruments are driven using a custom-built driver board that has been designed as an Arduino Mega shield. The Arduino board itself is converted into a MIDI device using the HIDUINO protocol, and the communication is done using MIDI messages from software. The circuit was designed using Altium Designer. All instruments were designed in SolidWorks and the enclosures were laser-cut from sheets of clear acrylic.

See also Mo H. Zareei’s latest work entitled “machine brut(e)” – a compilation of ten sound-installation pieces.

Project PageMo H. Zareei