Therephone (December, 2017)




For this project, I have created and engineered a xylophone that responds to movement when placed in any room environment. Using two HC-SR04 ultrasound sensors, 8 actuating 5V solenoids and a PureData patch containing the control logic, the distance that someone is from either side of the xylophone affects both the pitch and tempo of the played notes on the xylophone. Inspiration for this project stemmed primarily from my long-standing interest of the Theremin, but also from watching Wintergatan’s demonstration of their ‘Marble Machine’ (Wintergatan, 2016). Both of these machines combined in my head to make a robotic mechanical theremin which I have called the Therephone.

The Therephone succeeds to fulfil the criteria of a musical robot by being active (it contains eight actuating solenoids, that move freely without direct human input), responsive (the two ultrasound sensors allow the machine to sense directional distance data and respond accordingly), musically intelligent (it contains internal pattern generation processes within PureData and C++), and social (it can interact with humans on an instrument level, but also on an installation level with any moving objects within the throw of the ultrasound sensors).