Saturday, October 17, 2009
Design project - of a sort...
For our first design project, we were required to make something that wanted to be touched. I immediately know what I wanted to do - I'd seen some sorority girls wearing these funny antennae headpieces, and I wanted to do something similar that would also have sonification.
I decided on balls perched on top of bass guitar strings. Why that? Because I'd always liked the action of bass strings, and I thought that ball could provide an interesting bouncing action. My first prototype used little "superballs", with the bass strings poked into an eraser as a temporary base. It bounced around interestingly, but the superballs didn't really provide any sort of interesting sound.
What I really thought I would like is ping-pong balls, but wasn't sure how I would perch them on top of the bass strings. Finally, I found an answer using my Dremel tool and a steady hand. The balls made a nice popping sound when impacted, and they also made an interesting swishing sound when they rubbed together.
The base was the harder part. I wanted something that would transmit the sound well, but that I could manage to work with limited tools. Initially, I tried different types of tile, but they were almost impossible to drill mounting holes into. Finally, I settled on a sandwich of two cedar closet hangers. This was easy to work, and provided a way to route them to place the pickup and run the cable.
I tried a number of transducers, and settled on using a mini-speaker as a microphone. This picked up the sound transported by the cedar base, and I ran that into a mini-amp for amplification. I also made a little Max patch to create an augemented sound. The whole thing is called "Cloud Formation", with a weather-like audio output from the Max patch. It may look kind of crude, but it is really cool.