Kian-Peng Ong / UCLA
People are fascinated by the organic. This project takes advantage of that fascination using open-source hardware and software to recreate one of the more primordial human experiences in a sculptural work. We love how the tonic sounds and rhythms of an ocean are delivered from a completely surprising source and look forward to the upcoming instructions for building our own. – Rob Faludi
Coronado is a sound installation consisting of
1) Sound automata controlled by an arduino (micro controller), servo motors and robotic arms
2) DIY contact microphone made from a piezo buzzer
3) Computer running Puredata.
4) 6 Active Monitor Speakers
In a nutshell, the sound automata is an ocean drum that has its own behaviors, plays itself in an organic way. The contact microphone captures the analog sound signal generated and sends it to the computer that reprocesses the sound input and bouncing the sound across the 6 speakers.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The immediate challenge that I faced was the problem of creating the kind of experience I imagined this to be. There was the problem of creating the sound, it was surely easy to immediately turn to the computer and synthesize the sound that I want. I felt like there should be something physical and a source of focus for the audience. So I turned my attention to a physical sound output, which will then be the input for the computer to reprocess. This conversation of the digital and analog sound, to me was a form of “wave” which very much relates to the idea of sea. The end result is an ocean drum automata that is meditative to look at and listen to.
Technically, It was the first time for me working with servo motors and mechanical robot arms. So there was a lot of trial and error and in the process, I wasted a fair amount of money on motors that did not have enough torque.3. The Intent: What is the personal backstory; why did you create your DIY project? What point of view did you bring to the project?
The motivation for this project was a simple but powerful one. On my first trip outside of Los Angeles as a foreign Student (i’m from Singapore), I visited the Coronado beach at night and it was absolutely amazing, particularly the soundscape reverberating across the beach. It felt like it was coming from all directions. Now Singapore is an island nation surrounded by the sea but yet I never encountered anything quite like this. The desire to translate this experience became my motivation to make this work.
The point of view that I am hoping to bring across in this project is a total experience where the audio and visual, analog and digital comes together,4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Analog or Digital?
That was the first thing that I had to work out, not just technically but also conceptually. I wanted to create something more physical, where the audience could feel its presence. I decided going analog and digital.
Next I decided to make an automata sound sculpture that would be the source of the analogous sounds. I created different versions of the ocean drum with metal, plastic etc but in the end I decided on using a ready made that sounds the best to me.
Following which I designed and created a structure which was predominantly black in order to allow the drum to stand out. These were constructed with acrylic and metal.
Programming the behaviors with arduino and the sound in pure data was not that hard in itself as I had enough experience but working with motors was a first for me so it took me much time in working out things like torque and how small mechanical problems would cause a big strain on the motors itself.
I ended up wasting quite a lot of money of buying and experimenting with different motors, learning about gear ratios and hacking robotic claws to make what I had wanted to do.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Though some might argue that this project is of no value, I beg to differ. This piece exists as an art work that seeks to highlight some of the simple wonders in the world that often goes ignored or forgotten. All too often people move too fast, without having time to simply stop and look around them and experience the environment. Coronado hopes to bring a piece of wonder to the audience and have them think about this simple phenomenon.6. How does your project fit into the DIY category? (For eg: sharing the process, sourcing, entrepreneurship, accessibility/repeatability, skill sharing, etc.)
This project was built entirely with open source tools like arduino and pure data. Much of the process was also made with the help of online open sharing tutorials. It can easily be replicated with some documentation that I will release in the near future. That said, the entire project was conceived from scratch conceptually, explored and funded by myself.