Strange Beautiful Music

Music is an important part of my life.  As such, I'm constantly seeking out new and inspiring intersections of music and technology.

Plasma Speaker

Last week, I adapted my high-voltage flyback driver to function as a plasma speaker.

From the video description:

"In this setup, a 555 timer IC --based astable multivibrator oscillator circuit (powered independently with a 5V 2A wall adapter) switches a 12V 1.2A power supply via a silicon diffused power transistor into a television flyback transformer. The high-voltage transformer secondary is allowed to arc across a spark gap made from a screw and a piece of copper magnet wire.

The frequency and duty cycle of the oscillator circuit is tuned with two 0-10kΩ potentiometers and audio-modulated by tying the 555's control voltage (Pin 5; Pin 11 on the 556) to an audio input in series with a 100nF ceramic capacitor.

The resulting hot plasma arc does an excellent job of reproducing audio above 1kHz. Two Door Cinema Club's "Something Good Can Work (The Twelves Remix)" is quite recognizable. With a larger power supply, I should be able to pull much larger, more stable arcs and improve the sound quality.

Virtually all of the parts were harvested from electronics salvaged from the Bay Area streets. Don't just throw out old electronics — donate them to your neighborhood aspiring mad scientist!"

The Music of Wikipedia

This web application generates music in real-time from the Wikipedia edit feed.  Bells denote additions, strings denote deletions, and swells of sound herald a new user account creation.  Pitch is modulated based on the magnitude of the edit.  In the accompanying graphical representation, white circles are edits by registered users, green circles are edits by unregistered users, and purple are bot edits.  You can click on any circle to be taken to a listing for the edit itself.

Without further adieu: http://listen.hatnote.com/#nowelcomes,en


This research project out of Imperial College London sought to answer the question: what kind of music can natural selection produce out of nearly-random noise?  The BBC profiled the project in August 2012.
Greatest project slogan ever: "Survival of the Funkiest"
The first phase of the project itself ended in January 2013 and you can no longer participate in the selection process, but a snapshot history of the 'evolution' is archived on SoundCloud.  The researchers are no doubt busy preparing the second edition, so follow them on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

I think Charles would be impressed.