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11.04 Sonic Arts Workshop Assignment

Assignment Deliverables

  1. Bring your Motorized Sound Sculpture to class next week. Be prepared to demonstrate its use and contribute to a collaborative sound art installation.

Assignment: Motorized Sound Sculpture 1

Assignment: build a free-standing motor-driven sound sculpture that creates sound/noise which varies over time. Sculptures should autonomously produce sound when turned on, but may be manipulated (“played”) while running if you wish. Sounds may be loud or soft, continuous or occasional, musical or atonal… but aim for complexity or irregularity in the patterns and sounds.

The video examples I pointed to (Anne-f Jacques, Petr Válek) purposely focus on recycled or low-cost materials and a provisional aesthetic. This is intended to give you permission to experiment and play (especially given the 1-week timeframe), but does not dictate any particular style or aesthetic. The primary focus should be on the sound.

You are welcome to use 3D printing to produce parts of your sculpture. This could be particularly appropriate for hubs/cams/levers to modify circular motion from the motors, or for tuned resonant cavities to amplify vibrating objects. Extruded plastic may be too soft to produce much sound directly, but feel free to experiment.

  • I am making available (on loan) some slow geared motor to get you started, already safely housed and ready to use (various speeds are available). SEM may also have some unhoused motors that you can use if you are comfortable wiring 120VAC connections (SEE SEM STAFF if you have ANY questions about wiring). You may use your own motor(s) if you wish: toys, record players, electric toothbrushes, or the thrift store are good donor sources.
  • Again, construction techniques to consider:
    • Use resonant materials if you want louder/more distinct sounds: metal, plastic…
    • Take advantage of irregularities in the sound-producing surfaces or actuators (rock, paper), particularly to produce sounds via abrasion or friction.
    • Offset cams can be used to change circular motion to linear.
    • Levers can be used change direction or range of linear motion:
    • Eccentricity – placing weights on one side of a motor shaft to introduce “wobble”
    • Flexible or loose coupling – either in the joints (oversized holes etc.) or in the connecting linkages (string, plastic, not-quite-strong-enough wire)
    • Multiple axes of motion to produce complexity
    • Weak or unstable material that changes/degrades over time – cardboard, tape
    • Performative intervention (particularly see Jacques’s work)

Assignment is Due 11/21, start of class. We will be using these sculptures in our explorations of sound art installation, and as subjects for recording , so it is critical that we have your initial pieces to build on.

Grading Rubric

Sound Sculpture Assembled25 points
Motor Spins to Make Noise25 points
Experimentation and Creativity25 points
Ability to Combine with other Sound Sculptures25 points
Use of Techniques to Increase Complexity25 points

Additional Resources

  1. Motorized Sound Sculpture assignment text on this page was written by Bob Drakeexternal link it is used with permission in conjunction with his Sonic Arts Workshop. ↩︎