Posted on October 14, 2017Independent Study
During the meeting with Michael Montanaro this week, we started brainstorming about some sculptural and mechanical ideas that I have about the piece I am building. During my research on mechanical instruments, I thought of the felt hammers that pianos have to dampen the strings sound. It inspired me so that maybe the strings of the sculpture are always vibrating, and that a mechanism could move a felt hammer and mute a string.
Our conversation went further into a combination of multiple mechanisms.
In the concept above, the logic of guitar amplification and natural amplification would be mixed: each arm of the structure has a string, a pickup and a signal generator.
The trunk would be hollow, a bit like a wind instrument, and where the arms touch the trunk would be a loudspeaker outputting the sound of the vibrated string. Sound would travel upwards and be projected on the ceiling.
Each arm would be attached to the trunk with a hinge and a string. When pulled, the arm’s string would bring the arm’s end closer to the trunk, removing the loudspeaker from the trunk, and thus altering the sound output slightly.
The whole structure would sit on something similar to an organ’s keyboard, and the audience interaction would affect different mechanisms—felt hammer, arm’s hinge.
I am not completely sold on the whole complex idea, but there are interesting nuggets of ideas in there for sure.
Progress on the pickup flatworks is going good. I obtained 4-40 screws which will serve to sandwich the top and bottom parts. Earlier I mentioned I would get rivets, but it turns out that rivets that small were not easily available, so I actually ordered eyelets which will do perfectly. The diagrams above show what I need to laser cut, and I reserved time at the DigiFab Lab at Concordia, but sadly this will have to wait until mid November…
Still, I am looking forward. In order to wind the coil wire around the magnet, I saw some people hack a sewing machine, or create some sort of bit to use with a drill. The latter option seems more appropriate for my needs and time. I started sketching what I would do, as you can see above.
Once the coil is installed, it will act as a microphone, picking up way more than just electromagnetic vibrations. In order to avoid this, air has to be removed from between the coil wires, and that is done by wrapping the pickup in wax. This process is called “potting the pickup.”
Pickup signal generator
I started exploring how to recreate the Ebow. I found what seems to be the US patent, in which it is called a “guitar pickup signal generator.” I am not convinced yet this patent is the proper one, as I believe the Ebow is much older than 1994, when the patent was filed.
In any case, I found a few instructions on how to reproduce the circuit and the necessary components. At this time I am missing a few capacitors. I will elaborate more in this part of the project as it moves forward.
Architecture and music
In another context, it was suggested to me that I look into Canadian artists such as William Robinson. Aside from a common appreciation of a minimalist and organized website, it seems that Robinson was a step ahead of me in thinking of music and Brutalism.
The work show above, Brutalist Song I – Confederation Centre of the Arts, was presented at Rock Show: At the Intersection of Art + Music at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax in 2014.
Robinson presented a second iteration in 2016:
Brutalist Song II – Killam Memorial Library Building is the second iteration in an ongoing series of projects that attempt to reinterpret and convey the historically concrete and constructed austere physical records of Brutalist structures through music and related art objects.
While I was thinking of using Brutalism to inform how I could build my sculpture, Robinson was inspired to write music in reaction to Brutalism.
Architecture and music have been linked often before, and there is a whole chapter about the meeting of these disciplines in Audiovisuology Compendium. From how Pythagorean theory of harmony inspired architects to the, to musique concrète and the Philips Pavilion, there is much to unpack with this subject.