Music machine gets sound from everyday objects

Got some crumpled paper laying around? Put it into the Instrument for the Sonification of Everyday Things and see what it has to say.

Dennis Paul

What does a cardboard box sound like? A lot like a weird clown head, it turns out.

Actually, most of the items that get sonified by designer Dennis Paul's "Instrument for the Sonification of Everyday Things" end up sounding pretty similar, but that's not really the point. The point is that Paul squeezes sound out of cardboard boxes and weird clown heads!

The machine rotates objects, repeatedly scans their surfaces, and translates the measured distance values into audible frequencies, notes, and scales using a custom-programmed translator and controller module. Silhouettes of the goods define the loops.

Paul, a professor of interaction and space at HFK Bremen in Germany, built his instrument from aluminum tubes, plastic, acrylic glass, a high-precision distance measuring laser, a motor, and a "few bits and bobs." (But first he built a Lego prototype.)

He says playing the theramin-like instrument is a "mixture of practice, anticipation, and serendipity." Let the rave begin.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.


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