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Instrument reads tattoos as sheet music

An experimental musical instrument works by reading and playing a tattoo on its creator's arm.

(Credit: Dmitry Morozov)

An experimental musical instrument works by reading and playing a tattoo on its creator's arm.

Musical instruments, by design, usually require a human agent in order to work (player pianos and robotic bands notwithstanding). Usually, though, this involves some kind of active intervention, such as pressing keys, plucking strings or blowing.

"Reading my body" by Moscow-based artist, musician and engineer Dmitry Morozov is a little different: the human becomes partially passive, the instrument active, in a strange, personal symbiosis. The instrument can only play when it reads and plays a tattoo on Morozov's arm, much as a human would read and play a score.

"This is a special instrument that combines human body and robotic system into a single entity that is designed to automate creative process in an attempt to represent the artist and his instrument as a creative hybrid," Morozov wrote of his project. "The device consists of a railing with comfortable hand holders and two parallel, but offset from each other black lines' sensors that move along the arm using a stepper motor. It is equipped with a 3-dimensional Wii remote controller that uses the OSC protocol in order to give a possibility of additional expression achieved by moving hand in space."

The tattoo was designed by Morozov to contain the maximum number of variable time slots between triggers. By moving his arm, Morozov can control the speed and step length of the sensors, resulting in an infinite number of patterns — and therefore compositions that can be produced. However, the instrument can also be programmed to operate autonomously.

The result is a soundscape that sounds alien — like a cross between the theremin sounds so popular in sci-fi films of the 60s with the voice of a computer.

This is not the first time Morozov has played around with translating unusual signals into sounds. His work "post code" was an installation that converted bar codes into glitchy music.

We really hope someone figures out a way to combine Morozov's instrument with Hieronymus Bosch's Buttmusik...

::vtol:: "reading my body" from ::vtol:: on Vimeo.