Synthetic Twin is a brand new piece I composed for percussion quartet featuring two custom electronic instruments. Sandbox Percussion just released a recording of the piece with videographer Kim Bunce.
This project started with my interest in instrument design. I have always loved electronic music, but I have also continually felt the need for more physicality in the performance experience. So many years ago, I just started designing instruments that would allow me to do that. This project features two identical versions of my most recent design – Rook (so named for its shapely resemblance of the chess piece).
The Inner Workings
These instruments feature three sections, which allow for a range of different physical interactions in addition to providing greater sonic potential. Two infrared sensors read the height of any object above them. A capacitive touch board features two touch strips, each of which counts the number of fingers being used and senses finger placement. And the last section uses a contact mic to provide more precise rhythmic content (which I particularly wanted for a percussion piece).
The Rooks are powered by two microcontrollers – an Arduino Uno, which processes data from the infrared and capacitive sensors, and a UDOO board, which processes the contact mic and runs Pure Data software to generate the sounds. The four chips on the underside of the top piece are MPR121 chips from Adafruit. They calculate information from the capacitive touch board.