The Maker Fair Organ
Making music with the sonic melee that is Maker Fair!
Project Name: The Maker Fair Organ.
I propose to take the sounds of the Maker Fair and turn them into a playable instrument: the Maker Fair Organ. Here's how it works:
- Start with the basic principle of a brass or woodwind instrument: a chaotic sound source is filtered by passing it through a long tube which amplifies frequencies related to the resonant frequency of the tube.
- Now reverse that: place a tuned tube in a noisy environment with a microphone at the closed end of the tube. The sounds that relate to the resonant frequency of the tube are picked up by the microphone. Other sounds are filtered out.
- The Organ is then a set of tuned tubes placed together in a row. Each tube "hears" the portion of the sonic melee that is the Maker Fair that matches its tuning.
- Hook a keyboard up to the tubes to turn on and off each tube's microphone, so when you press the C key, the microphone for the C tube is turned on, and when you release it, that microphone is turned off.
- Now you have a playable instrument. Feed the sound from the microphones that are on to an amplifier and speakers. The tubes hear the sounds from the amp, and further amplify them in a tuned feedback loop that grows into an organ-like sound.
- See figure 1 for the basic layout of the instrument.
Interaction:The instrument will be played in 4 modes:
Anybody can sit down at the keyboard and start playing a tune with the sounds of Maker Fair!
- canned music:
The instrument will be played by sending midi files to the controller, thus playing familiar tunes.
small performances with other musicians can be planned or impromptu. Perhaps clowns or juggler will drop by.
- generative music:
A more ambitious plan will be to write a generative music algorithm that listens to the ambient sounds, detects notes, and composes a musical soundscape that is then played using those same sounds. This is a similar concept to my piece from 2 years ago, Haunted Garden. An added twist will be to take the parameters to the music generation algorithm, think of them as a genome, with a mutation function, and run artificial evolution on the composition. The fitness function would be the listeners preferences: there will be big "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons that rate the results of mutating the genomes. Sets of parameters that make music that pleases the makers get to breed and send their genes to the next generation, thus evolving the musical landscape.
Some technical details:Figure 2 illustrates the tuning of the tubes: a tube closed at one end resonates at 1/4 wavelength (the fundamental), 3/4 wavelength (the first harmonic), and so on.
Frequency = SpeedofSound / Wavelength Wavelength = SpeedofSound / Frequency SpeedOfSound = 1130 ft/second in air at 20 degrees C. Length = 1/4 Wavelength Length = 1/4 * SpeedOfSound /Frequency.
- So for a concert A pitch of 440 hz:
Length = 1/4 * 1130 ft/s / 440 hz = .642 feet
- An A pitch one octave lower is 220 Hz:
Length = 1/4 * 1130 ft/s / 220 hz = 1.28 feet
- Middle C: (261.6Hz):
Length = 1/4 * 1130 ft/s / 261.6 hz = 1.087ft
- C2 (an octave below middle C): (130.813Hz):
Length = 1/4 * 1130 ft/s / 130.8 hz = 2.16ft
My typical modus operandi is to make quiet sound art that runs the risk of getting drowned out in a noisy environment like the Maker Fair. (One of the taglines for my art is "So Subtle No One Noticed" :).
This installation is a clear departure from that aesthetic. It requires a noisy space to even operate, and it feeds sound back into the space.
The installation will need a fiarly open area where people can gather around to listen, as well as walk up to it and start playing with it. A little bit of space around it for musicians to play along would be helpful as well.
The system will be run with electronics that will be somewhat sensitive to the weather, though they will be enclosed. I can provide an "easy-up" canopy for the installation. And, finally, it will require standard AC power.