High pitched laser beats and wearable sub-woofers on the go


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Ready for some high pitched laser beats that will definitely trigger your imagination. This week we will look closer at ::vtol::’s latest installation as well as experience what may be your next party gadget – the Basslet.

Russian based ::vtol:: has a rich track record of producing intriguing and conceptual videos where he explores audio and robotics – his latest project is no exception. ‘Divider’ is a light and music installation that shoots powerful red lasers through spinning PC cooling fans to trigger otherworldly sounds and rhythms. To be clear it is not any easy listening – the high pitched sounds coming from Divider may want you to turn the volume down, but they are surely fascinating and far from what most of us have heard before.

Here is how ::vtol:: himself describes the installation:

This project is an autonomous light-music installation. The main element of the piece is the construction fixed on the wall, with 7 powerful red lasers which send light horizontally. The laser rays pass through several fans rotating on high speed, placed along whole length of the installation. The fans serve as dividers-modulators which turn the ray into rhythmic impulses instead of the permanent ray. The frame opposite from the emitters has photo sensors which register the presence or absence of the ray. Thus, the system has 7 independent binary variables which become the basis for creation of sound composition. The speed of the each of fans is variable which leads to constant shift of modulation phases of the light rays.

The central idea of the project “Divider” lies in an abstract artistic interpretation of the wave-particle duality concept that every physical object may be described mathematically in terms of wave quotations, as well as from a formalist point of view that conceives object as a particle or a particle system. As a textbook example of that duality, we can think of light as a particle (photon) flux, which works like an electromagnetic wave in various physical experiments. In the artwork, the rays are interrupted repeatedly and constantly, but not simultaneously – as to create a polyphase source of uncertain events.

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The utilization of lasers in music is not new but the innovation here lies in the autonomy of the lasers. A more traditional approach can be found in laser harps. The harp above consists of a box with a power supply, a 450-milliwatt green laser, a mirror and a motherboard. After determining the beam’s frequency, one is able to tune a sensor so it would detect only the laser and not any ambient light. Touching a beam deflects light toward the sensor, triggering software on a PC that translates hand movements into sounds. He also wrote a script that maps notes from the harp to keyboard controls in the videogame. The laser harp has been popularized by Jean Michel Jarre, and has been a high profile feature of almost all his concerts since 1981.

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Going back to Divider it is also interesting to note that a lot of the inspiration for this project came from a source dating several years back in time – the Rhythmicon – the world’s first rhythm-machine created by Léon Theremin in 1931. Rhythmicon used the same principle, it featured rotating discs to interrupt the light rays, and optical sensors to detect passage of light through apertures, which was influencing how the rhythms were produced.

The rhythmicon can play triplets against quintuplets, or any other combination up to 16 notes in a group. The metrical index is associated … with the corresponding frequence of vibrations…. Quintuplets are … sounded on the fifth harmonic, nonuplets on the ninth harmonic, and so forth. A complete chord of sixteen notes presents sixteen rhythmical figures in sixteen harmonics within the range of four octaves. All sixteen notes coincide, with the beginning of each period, thus producing a synthetic harmonic series of tones.

THE PHYSICAL PRESENCE OF MUSIC

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Speaking of beats here’s another interesting innovation that may alter the way we are experiencing sounds going forward. In a world of smartwatches we are not overly convinced about its inherent use cases, but perhaps we are to quick to judge. Basslet is a new wearable device that sends vibrations into your wrist, inducing bodily hallucinations of bass and musical depth—even with tiny headphones.

In a sense Basslet may turn out to be the physical connection that we´ve lost in the iPod era. With more and more people consuming music in solitude a sense of reality may be what our bodies will be looking for.

Here’s what the inventor has to say about it:

Our hands and wrists are especially sensitive to touch sensation. It’s not only the number of nerves but how closely the brain “listens” to those nerves. A blind person can read braille through their fingertips and a cellist can feel the subtle vibration of a bowed string. Actually, MIT researchers have recently developed a wristband that lets your entire body feel cold or warm— like an air-conditioner wristwatch. The wrist, as the extension of the hand, exposes vitals, like our pulse, which makes it really quite a unique part of our body. The Basslet works by using a perceptual trick. The brain doesn’t localize the music we hear to any single part of the body. So the Basslet is designed as an extension of what we hear, and the brain happily fills in the perceptual gaps. On the flip side, musicians often aren’t aware of their tactile listening skills when playing an instrument. Laptops and digital instruments don’t have any vibrotactile feedback; they feel completely numb. I discovered that you can’t build an intimate relationship with a laptop as an instrument. Only then did I realize how valuable tactile listening is to music.

The Basslet is a wearable subwoofer for your body. Using a whole new technology for sound, it delivers the beats and basslines of your music directly to you – so you can literally feel the music. The result is a powerful sound experience that headphones alone cannot provide.

Check it out on Kickstarter >>