The Sound of the Electro-Magnetic Smog

A 2 days workshop by Wolfgang Spahn

Can you imagine to create a sound composition out of electro-magnetic pollution?

Every motor, solenoid and coil produces an electro-magnetic field. These fields exist inside as well as outside of these devices, although the latter would not be necessary to ensure their function. Yet, we can detect them there. Sometimes we even experience this electro-magnetic pollution because it is disturbing our telephones, stereos or radios.

One can intentionally record these fields, amplify them and make them audible. That sound is awesome! And one can tune them, too! They change their appearance with the speed and revolution of the motors.

In his manifest “The Art of Noise” (1913) the Futurist, painter and composer Luicci Russolo dreamed of this kind of artistic intervention:
“With the endless multiplication of machinery, one day we will be able to distinguish among ten, twenty or thirty thousand different noises. We will not have to imitate these noises but rather to combine them according to our artistic fantasy. ”

What is needed to create such a system is an Arduino, some MIDI-keyboards or controller as well as some motors and coils. Depending on the MIDI input we can control the speed of the motors and therefore their sound by using an Arduino. In order to record that sound we just need an audio head of some old reel to reel tape recorder and voilà: we play the electro-magnetic smog.

In the workshop we start by building a MIDI-Paper-Duino and some motor-control boards. We will then learn how to “tune” our motors in order to play it with our MIDI-devices. And lastly we will pick up the sound to play our new instrument.

max. Participants
Target group
Options for Participants

Laptop; servo-, stepper or gearmotors; USB-Micro cable; if possible a MIDI-keyboard or controler;