Conductive rubber leads to a cool new type of musical instrument

first_imgThough it’s been predicted by everything from Star Trek to Futurama, the future (which we now inhabit) has produced remarkably few new musical instruments. It’s both surprising and a shame, since the evolution of music has always moved in tandem with technology. New materials and manufacturing techniques allowed the creation of standardized strings, while valves and a mathematical understanding of pressure gave us the pipe organ. Somewhere along the line, though, even trying to create a new form of musical instrument was labeled as silly, or presumptuous, or artistically bankrupt. New instruments have tended not to bring anything new to the table, but rather to reinterpret the old in new ways — the electric guitar, for instance, or the synthesizer, both of which are mere updates of classical instruments.Now check out a video of one of the few attempts to achieve something truly novel in musical hardware: the Elasticsynth. Not only is it physically structured to require new ways of playing, but its mode of turning input into sound makes it a real, actual new music-creation experience. It works by interpreting elastic tension as input, like playing a guitar by quickly adjusting the tuning pegs rather than plucking the strings. Combined with the harp-like physical shape of the thing, it looks and sounds quite unique. If that description doesn’t make sense to you, view the video below, then rejoin for a quick technical explanation.The elastic principle at work here is one of elastic conduction. In other words, as the rubber lines are stretched, their ability to conduct electricity changes in a measurable way. It should be noted that the stretch sensors are not the large white bands the player is stretching in the video, but the small white ones visible in the photo below. By putting the vast majority of the stretch-length into regular elastic, which has a much greater ability to snap back, the player is able to affect very slight changes in the elastic length without having to be too precise with her movements.To be perfectly honest, I can’t quite tell how the light is involved — but the team at NYU claims it is, somehow. Details on this DIY instrument are a little sketchy, as is the audio fidelity on the instrument itself. But I truly appreciate the creativity that went into this. Art of all forms has become too much about elaboration on and perfection of what’s come before. Efforts like this show an admirable wish to push into some territory that is in some way actually new.last_img