The making of ‘The Synesthete’s Music Machine’

My ex-classmates and I have sometimes talked about doing art projects together outside of school while we were still at LASALLE. We even created our own logo and group name called “Art Makes Us” to reflect that we like to make art. A year after we graduated, even though we are all working then, we actually managed to make this a reality. We got together to create a sound toy inspired by the idea of a synesthete, someone who is able to hear sounds in his head in response to visual stimuli. We presented this object at the Singapore mini-maker faire (smmf14) at Senja Cashew community center at the end of July this year. We treated this as an exploratory art project where we could exercise our artistic faculties in thinking, coding and making.

This project took about two months from conception to completion. I was the project leader for this and coordinated the team’s efforts and acted as a liaison to the organisers of the smmf14. First, I wrote a project proposal to capture our vision for this project and then proceeded to work on the lightbox and create a working software prototype in Processing and Puredata.

For the lightbox which was mostly made up of wood, I went to a makerspace that had just started up – the Experience Centre (XPC)  at Home-Fix’s HQ building at 19 Tai Seng Avenue. They had the wood cutting machines and raw wood materials. I used wood glue, hot glue, a staple gun, nails, specially thin velcro strips, and double sided tape to hold the parts together. All in all, the lightbox cost me about $200 to produce, including rental of equipment and service charges. It is rather expensive, but the cost includes excess materials and mistakes I made. If I were to re-do it, I could probably hack it at half the price of $100.

Some images showing the making of the lightbox at XPC:-

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For the software, I did a prototype of the application in Processing and Pure Data. The final version was programmed in Javascript and was done by my teammate. The prototype has the functionality and processes required for the application, but requires Processing and Pure Data in order to run it. The great thing about doing it in Javascript is that it runs in the web browser which everyone already uses. An explanation of how the software prototype works is best explained in a video :-