May 8, 2014
Making Music From Tattoos And Vegetables
First we had scientists, then food scientists, and now music scientists. Musicians have always looked for ways to innovate, and currently some people are looking to the very source, ditching traditional instruments and coaxing sounds out of things around us or even inside us; things that we may never even know made sounds. Give it up for the carrot player and the man on the tattoo.
PolicyMic describes “a whole new world of instruments that could completely change how we interact with our surroundings.” They feature Dmitry Morozov, a man who plays his own tattoo using an instrument he designed from a black line sensor and a Nintendo Wii remote. He creates tones that “can range anywhere from light piano notes to grinding synth sounds” but the site describes the result as “not particularly pleasant.” Personally, I think the sounds are engaging in a haunting sort of way, if clearly unconventional. Morozov’s next ambition is to “allow musicians to generate electronic music in real time through the movement of their bodies.”
It is surprising that I liked the tattoo sounds, really, given that I am quite a traditionalist when it comes to music. I tend to think that a lot of experimentation is done for its own sake, and that innovation is not necessarily something that is as important in music as it is in other areas of life. I think too much emphasis is placed on originality, which is attached to the idea of wanting people to be impressed more than entertained or moved. Music is something that is of the earth, organic, and can forever be enjoyed in its purest forms, just like nature can. Raw nature is usually more moving than a cultivated garden, impressive though they can be.
But I suppose the experimentation talked about on PolicyMic is a combination of the best of both worlds. It uses modern technology and creative ideas to harness the organic sounds of nature. The next guy featured, Greg Fox, is able to make music from the rhythms of the human heart, using a program created by Jazz musician Milford Graves, who found that the action of the heart could be matched to notes on the Western music scale. The result is lovely as well as being rhythmically fascinating. The system is also useful to doctors, who are able to hear irregularities in the sounds.
Things deteriorate slightly from then on, as we are shown how sensors can pick up the electric signals passing through our skin and into fruit, which are then turned into ‘music’ by computers. The result is described by the site as “beautiful” – I would describe it as “almost pointless,” except for at a ‘hands on’ museum for kids with novelty attractions that are interesting for about four minutes before you start wondering where the cafeteria and gift shop are. The sight of a carrot spinning round on a turntable did amuse me a disproportionate amount, though. It is from a project called Makey Makey, which is part of an MIT graduate program and uses alligator clips to connect a simple switchboard to a user and to an object, such as the various fruits and vegetables we are shown being bought in a supermarket first.
The last examples with the vegetables did draw from me the reaction “it doesn’t even really sounds like music,” which I realize is what naysayers often came out with in relation to the music revolution of the 60s and 70s (very important to me). I don’t think I am against the idea of musical progress, as long as the ultimate aim is the music produced, not the experiment itself.
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