SoundSpindles.

I came up with what I thought was a pretty good idea for a proposal for the New Mexico School for the Deaf (which I didn’t land – more on that later). I had wanted to somehow engage the student body itself in generating the concepts, and thereby the forms, for the piece. I was messing around in Garageband when I noticed how the waveform being generated by spoken word portions of the playing track were pretty interesting when viewed as silhouettes – much less staccato and fuzzy than the instruments. Being a complete 3d software nerd, whenever I see interesting silhouettes, I always want to try to manipulate them somehow into three-dimensional forms. Tracing out the waveform’s outer edge and then spinning that outline around a central axis expanded the shape into the 3rd dimension while still allowing the original sounds to be readily evident. I thought, “How about having the students supply me with a bunch of words and phrases that have meaning for them, and then record these sounds to drive the shapes!”

I loved the idea, and everyone I bounced it off of said, “Cool!” before punching me for hurling ideas at them.

In a synchronicity that may seem hard to believe, while researching further on sound-derived sculpture, I happened across this Instructable for making bracelets or necklaces using the exact same technique I’d come up with for the sculptures. I felt a little nervous about “ripping off” the idea, but the fact that I’d arrived there independently, coupled with the waveform technique being freely available on the internet in a format MEANT to be reproduced, quelled my fears. Onward!

It wasn’t difficult (the link is right there on the first page of the Instructable) to find the author of the post: David Bizer, a jewelry designer in Berlin. I looked around on David’s website, and found this picture:

Lookit all them colors!

“What Devilry is this!”

The material just blew me away. Apparently, I like shiny things. Searching around the web, I was unable to pinpoint just what it was – so I sent David an enquiry. He wrote back immediately, calling it “Rainbow Acrylic”, which he gets from the online laser cutting shop Ponoko. I ended up having to contact Ponoko’s material guys, who informed me that the material is by Acrylite, and it is officially called “Radiant Acrylic”, and that it is not available at the US Ponoko shop.

Argh.

I hunted down the Acrylite website and was able to get my hands on some of the stuff. The NMSD proposal required a maquette, so I elected to fabricate a mock phrase, “I am not broken,” to convey the idea. Below is a graphic from the proposal that illustrates  how this all works:

NMSD Proposal Graphic

After much cursing and fiddling about in damn near every software package I own, I was able to produce some usable patterns for my laser dude, Bill at Wesco Laser. (Caution: Auto-playing sound and animation, but NotNSFW linky.) Here’s how it looks while being assembled (please ignore the pretty towel):

I am not a photographer, nor do I play one on TV.

That there is some purdy stuff, yo.

Which brings us to the point of this post – I have a new material in my arsenal! (Heh heh – he said “Arse”) Radiant Acrylic is awesome. I love it. Even though I didn’t win the job for the New Mexico School for the Deaf, I ended up with a net positive. I went ahead and made some other forms using this technique, utilizing actual music to drive the waveform. I’m really excited by the possibilities here – any sound can be used, from someone’s name, to a poem, to a favorite piece of music. This one is “Spring” by Vivaldi, shot by the always-awesome Jafe Parsons:

“Spring” shot by Jafe – who IS a real photographer.

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