The goal for final project:
My project should incorporate 2D and 3D design, additive and subtractive fabrication processes, electronics design and production, microcontroller interfacing and programming, system integration and packaging. Where possible, I should make rather than buy the parts of your project. Projects can be separate or joint, but need to show individual mastery of the skills, and be independently operable.
It is an visual-audio instrument that takes graphic/drawing as input and translate it into sound/music output.
This project is inspired by the Oramics machine created by Daphne Oram in the 1960s. The Oramics machine is one of the first electronic synthezisers and music instruments that turned drawn shapes into sound. It is by the time a new method of music composition and performance. By drawing wave forms or graphic scores on multipule tracks of clear 35mm film and let the stripes go through the scanner, the composer or performer can produce relevant sounds with the hardware.
Interesting thoughts on electronic music and documentation for how the machine works can be found in Daphne Oram's book "An individual note to music sound and electronics".
More recent development of Oramics machine is the Mini Oramics constructed by Tom Richards after 40 years since Daphne Oram's original convention.
The video below is a live performance recording of Mini Oramics at Camden Arts Centre.
Since the Oramics Machine is at large scale, fragile and requires maintenance, it is not generally accessible. Other than seeing the machine at museums, one can now download phone and tablet Apps that run Oramics Machine’s operation on a touch screen :D Users can adjust waveforms, modify different parameters to create unique sound pieces.
Screenshots above come from this video The Oramics Optical Synthesizer App, Demo for iPad or iPhone
Base on the principle and machanics of the Oramics Machine, I will design a similar drawing music instrument that allows user to draw graphics by freehand as input and have instrument produce sound accordingly.
This instrument will be built at a small desktop scale for individual use. It will be portable and can be brought to different situations for entertainment or live performance. Other than one-time live drawing live sound making, the instrument can also run previously drawn scores with recorded settings, just like playing a music tape or vinyl. The drawings will be made on a whole sheet of plastic or arylic boards other than seperate film tracks, and can be presereved as an art piece by itself.
While keeping or retriving the fun of making physical drawing, I will update the digital application with modern technology :D The electronics part functions as the Oramics Machine. The drawing blocks light casted onto the sensors; sensors react to the interruption and send signals to MCU. With the help of powerful audio-visual applications like Max, I can turn the signals into digital sound forms. Thus the instrument will be able to read the graphics according to programmed rules, however, randomness is embraced :D The emphasis is placed more on the the fun process of creating sound than producing precise music notes here.
Since I have only limited amount of time but a big plan, I break the project down into parts, from core to will-be-cool-if-I-can-have, in the idea of spiral development:
Here are two sketches I made for the machine, same idea different forms. I like the sketch below better because it will be cool to produce acrylic "vinyls" that the drawings on the surface actually affect sound :D
Electronics: (mostly from taobao, some from lab stock)