A physically programmable music instrument

Make Note is a musical instrument that explores what it means for something to be physical and also digital. Although we tend to draw a clear distinction between the two, anything digital has simply been assigned a defined set of analog (physical) states.

I started playing with the idea of sculptural sheet music, wanting to create something that would allow users to compose, record, and revise a musical experience in a physical way. I wanted the instrument to be able to hold its defined musical state (like any digital recording) yet also allow for someone other than the originator to come along and alter the composition themselves.

I had the idea that I could use gears as music sheets on which to write individual physical notes. By varying the sizing or positioning of gears, I could create interesting timing and harmony effects. This version ended up using only two gears, but I would've liked to build something more elaborate had I had the time.

To construct the instrument, I put together laser cut layers of medium-density fiberboard and attached it to a lazy susan mechanism. The notes are made from solid aluminum rods that I tuned with a metal grinder. Far from an exact science, I often ground them slightly too flat and had to try again for the next note up, which inevitably would be even harder to perfect.

One fun outcome that I hadn't planned for turned out to be the ability to play any composition, literally, backwards - not something easy to do with any old music maker!