the universal language orchestra

in a project spearheaded by charles curtis, several ucsd grad students, including me, have embarked on an outreach project at the spring valley community center. we are working with children ages 8 - 12 years old, building instruments, making sounds and listening. the project will eventually culminate in a performance of some kind, which the entire group will plan and execute, with my fellow students and i acting as facilitators.

last week was our first meeting, and we built three types of instruments: three-way shakers, hose-a-phones, and digeridoos. this week, we built qins (single-string zithers) and what i've taken to calling "crickets."

what is a cricket?

a cricket is a simple synthesizer i designed using cmos technology. each one is unique, occupying a niche in a sonic environment. we talked about how different organisms are interdependent on one another for survival, and how this relates to their ability to communicate. furthermore, crickets are modular, so the signal they produce can be used for a whole slew of applications. they work especially well for driving piezo discs. we used styrofoam and other re-purposed materials to amplify the sounds of the piezo discs, effectively making little acoustic amplifiers. many of the crickets respond to changes in light, so we took advantage of this property and played them with flashlights and by moving them around.

andrew and i built the circuits for 9 of these instruments in a single night. i also completed several piezo drivers for the students to use as speakers. we used 4093 quad nand gates.

the bare circuits made for a strange bouquet:

i told andrew not to take a picture of me while i was working. this one turned out sort of ok:

here's what they looked like when we were all finished:

a detail shot of their insides:

next week we'll use contact mics to amplify things as well as to vibrate them. i can't wait!

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