German Art Laser Turns Random Desktop Crap Into Exotic Musical Instruments

Using a distance measuring laser and a stepper motor, designer Dennis P Paul turns everyday stuff into audio loops.

The Sonification of Everyday Things

via Dennis P. Paul

Dennis P Paul, "gestalter" and instructor at the University of the Arts Bremen in Germany, is turning everyday objects into looping sounds, blending "practice, anticipation, and serendipity" (he writes on his project page) into a unique kind of musical instrument. He calls it "an instrument for the sonification of everyday things." And it's pretty awesome.

Built from white POM (that's polyoxymethylene, or more simply a kind of thermoplastic), aluminum tubes, black acrylic glass, a stepper motor, and a precision distance measuring laser (as well as "a few bits and bobs"), the setup basically rotates objects--any object you can think to stick in there--and uses the distance values generated by the laser pointed up at the object to create audible frequencies. As the motor rotates the object, those frequencies create a loop. The laser can be slid laterally to impact different parts of the object, so each object can create various audio loops.

This is all better explained in the video below. The same software that generates the audio from the measurement values also controls the speed of the stepper motor, so the audio loop stays in time with the background track. Set to prerecorded drum loop and enjoy.