Automated Xylophone – Part 1

In continuation of examination of the arduino’s inputs and outputs I’ve decided to pick a musical instrument to focus on in this weeks assignment.

The Xylophone is a musical instrument that I thought would be a good Idea to visualize – It already has a good feedback to it, its a percussion instrument!

The first step was to visualize the idea on pen and paper, sketching some ideas.


After getting a rough shape of the interactivity, I started modeling the first module on a CAD program – a wooden stripe inlaid with LED for each note.

  1. The first functionality will indicate each note as its being hit.
  2. The second functionality will pick a random note to be played following the note previously hit. 

I started fabricating the stripe from wood, drilled and wired all the LED in their place.

I used Piezo microphones attached to each note to allow an analog input to the arduino, processing and sending signals to the LED’s.

I had some trial and error connecting the mic to the metal notes. In the beginning, i used blue tape to attach the parts, which wasn’t a good decision. the tape muted most of the sound of the note. I then used another tape which was better but the second one was conductive and short circuited the piezo mic. At last, I used two sided tape to attach the mics, the sound is better, yet not 100%, but its the best solution between the three, and the most elegant one.   

I labled every input and output and connected each module to the arduino VIA a dedicated breadboard.



First MVP:

Audio culture – introduction / Liberation of sound – Edgard Varese / Luigi Russolo – “Art of Noises”

Luigi Russolo was part of the futurist movement that saw the beauty in the modern city and found amaze- ment in technology. In his manifesto, ‘the art of noise’, Luigi Russolo describes the breaking of the 12 tonal music structure that was the common until after the industrial revolution. He describes the modern orchestra (of his time in 1913) twenty ridiculous men slaving to increase the plaintive meeowing of violins, he contin- ues and describes the orchestra’s sounds as pitiful. Russolo wanted to introduce noise as a valid sound in the modern orchestra by utilizing machines that would make these sounds, rather than to imitate sounds with conventional music instruments – to bring into the creation of music the every day life and sounds of mod- ern living. He built machines that created rumbles, roars, whistles, hisses, gurgles, screeches, and crackles. I always saw him as the rst sound artist, utilizing sound as his main sculpturing material.

Varese, an accomplished piano composer, shared the same love for ‘tech’ and noise as Russolo, he saw all music as a series of organised noises. Varese, maybe as opposed to Russolo, wanted to add to the western 12 tone system a technological/electronical layer that will liberate it from its constraints. he wanted to add new timbers to the accustomed ear and introduce di erent ‘colors’ that western music then didn’t allow – sounds that we are well accustomed to in today’s modern music(EDM, IDM, POP or ROCK for that matter). Varese saw music and sounds as colors and objects. his masterpiece, poeme electronique, that was conceived for the Phillips pavilion for the 1958 world fair was an audio visual experience that was years ahead of its time.

As many others, Varese and Russolo saw progress and technology as their medium for creation. they both were early adopters of new techniques, embraced and led the change with the creation of recorded and per- formative music. All art utilizes some sort of technology for its creation, I see the futurist (Those who came after them in france – musique concrete) as the leading locomotive as the leading change in music in the last century.

Listening response #01 – ‘I am sitting in a room’, Alvin Lucier.

The sound piece, I am sitting in a room by Alvin Lucier astounded me the first time I heard it. The piece itself is a quite simple; a man sitting in a room, recording himself on tape recorder as he narrates the act and the meaning of his action. He then feeds the tape recording back to the room and records the played back version that accumulates the rooms sonic resonances and sound characteristics. He does this 32 times throughout the piece and this abstracts the artist’s voice from its sonic characteristics and meaning and throughout the piece.

I like to think about this peice as a futoristic peice. As Luigi Russolo claimed in his manifest/letter to Fran- cesco Balilla Pratella in 1913, “the human ear has become accustomed to the speed, energy, and noise of urban industrial soundscapes, furthermore, this new sonic palette requires a new approach to musical in- strumentation and composition.” Russolo proposes a number of conclusions about how electronics and other technology will allow futurist musicians to “substitute for the limited variety of timbres that the orchestra possesses today the in nite variety of timbres in noises, reproduced with appropriate mechanisms”

The industrial revolution was a catalyst for artists like Russolo who started getting in uenced by the new city landscapes and technology and incorporate it in their work as a tool and as a main theme.

Alvin Lucier’s ‘I’m sitting in a room’ also brought Walter Benjamin’s book ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ to mind. In his book, Benjamin states that after the industrial revolution, things have changed in the art world. “the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impend- ing in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain una ected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby a ecting artistic inven- tion itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”

The way I see it, ‘I’m sitting in a room’ addresses these themes exactly, and in an extremely elegant way. It is simple, yet sophisticated as it takes the human condition/material and transforms it with technology to something else that is profoundly not expected.

Variations on circular 10 print

For this week’s assignment for Intro to Computational Media with we were to create an algorithmic design with simple parameters, using a rollover, button, or slider from scratch. 

I took inspiration from the mandalas and the 10 print CHR$(205.5+RND(1)) book by Nick Montfort, Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost
Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas
Casey Reas, Mark Sample, and Noah Vawter.

Interact here.


Public observation – The Highline

For this assignment I’ve chosen to observe the High Line park. The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail. It was created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan (between 12th street and 34th street). The park is built on the disused southern viaduct section of a New York Central Railroad line called the West Side Line. Repurposing of the railway into an urban park began in 2006, with the last section leading to Tenth Avenue and 30th Street to open by 2018 once the first phase of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project is complete.

The park’s attractions include naturalized plantings that are inspired by the landscape that grew on the disused tracks, views of the city and the Hudson River and various art installations that are scattered across the park.

The abandoned railway has been redesigned as a “living system” that draws from multiple disciplines including landscape architecture, urban design, and ecology. These enable a quick green getaway amidst the manhattan lower west side concrete and glass buildings.

For it’s visitors, the High Line serves as an escape from the regular sights and sounds of the city by elevating them to a bird’s eye view of the street and neighboring buildings. Unlike other parks in the city, I find the High Line special for its intricate mix between nature and the surrounding city. 

In this current observation I visited the High Line at 2pm on a Monday. I managed to identify locals on their lunch breaks, lots of tourists – an assembly of humans enjoying the mixture between the city sights and the feeling of a green oasis within the noisy city. the average amount of time people come to visit ranges between 10-20 minutes and hours (it takes about 30 minutes to walk from end to end).

There are multiple entry points to the park (12 to be exact), Visitors need to climb up a staircase or take an elevator to reach the High Line’s level.

I started my observation in the 14th street entrance.There are 2 main ways which a visitor can enter the park, via a case of stairs or an elevator. there are 44 stairs to climb which take approximately 40 seconds, the elevator ride is also 40 seconds. I placed a camera on the street level to measure how many people take the stairs vs. the elevator.

Almost four times the amount of people chose to climb the stairs over taking the elevator.

The park has a lot of different attractions that could be experienced while walking around, some main ones are:

  • A pathway between West 14th and West 15th Streets, is flanked by lounge chairs and a water feature that offers visitors a chance to dip their toes during the spring and summer. I’ve found this part of the park surprisingly refreshing as a lot of the visitors actually took their shoes off and dipped their feet in the water. For those who did not want to take their shoes off, the sound of the flowing water creates a calming atmosphere. There were alot of children playing in the water and it was hard to find a spot in the seats across the water.  

  • 10th Avenue Square and Overlook – As part of the High Line’s conversion to a public space, many of the structure’s steel beams were removed from this unique space where the High Line crosses 10th Avenue, creating an amphitheater-like space with views up 10th Avenue to the north and views of the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty to the south. Even though the view is stunning, most of the people that sat there were tourists that took photos of the street, it was a hot day and the sun made it difficult to stay there for long. Across from there was a corner with trees and benches that seemed more occupied by locals and tourists alike that found a hideout from the sun.

  • Faucets are distributed across the park, and serve cold water. People stop and fill their water bottles and drink from the faucets. I have found that those that have shade are more in use than those without.


  • The High Line’s only lawn stretches for an entire block north of West 22nd Street. Anchored on the southern end with seating steps made of reclaimed teak, the Lawn is a popular spot for picnics and the site for many of the park’s summer programs. Shade was a rare commodity here, with a quick look you could see most of the lawn was cleared from people because of the sun.

When thinking about architecture and urban planning, these are two domains that their main objective is humans and their wellbeing. Designing a park, a place where people come to interact with nature, is a task that occupies a wide variety of fields and responsibilities. I think that the designers, urban planners and gardeners did an amazing job. an example of this is the right answers to the right questions in terms of maintaining a strong visual connection between the past and the present, the city and nature and overall experience of visitors in the park. the close, almost violent proximity of the city to nature and the rapid gradients from one to another.

One thing was missing for me when walking the park, it seemed like there was not enough shade for visitors in places it mattered the most, lookout points and faucets, among other places.

In the end of the park, close to 10th street, there is this large mural on the opposite side of the building, which kind of connects you to the geographical past of the park, which to me serves the point for human centered design.