Requiem for Rhinos at the MIT Media Lab

A few months back I reprised my role as robotics mercenary and general fixer, spending a week working on David Nunez’s Requiem for Rhinos installation at Illuminus Boston. David is a researcher with Todd Machover’s Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab. The idea at the core of the sculpture is the passing of Nabire, one of the last northern white rhinos in existence. Only four remain and they are so closely related that rekindling the species is impossible. The sculpture was conceived as a grand send-off, with Nabire’s kin descending from the ceiling to wish her on her way.

Requiem for Rhinocerous @ ILLUMINUS from Illuminus Boston on Vimeo.

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The Anywhere Organ and Figment, NYC

As the latest crest in more than a year’s work, the Anywhere Organ has premiered at Figment, NYC.  I’m pretty elated. There’s still lots to do in making it the window shattering monster interactive megalith I’m building towards, but it’s exciting to have a live performance with a working sculpture under my belt.

I’ve got a little more detail and a few pics on the main Anywhere Organ site. There are a bunch more photos from Tony Lanza on Flickr. I’ll be doing a full writeup with some code and plans soon. Keep an eye out.

If you’d like to catch the Anywhere Organ and happen to be in the New York area, you should check it out at the Lost Circus party on July 16. It will be playing along with Aaron Kuffner’s fantastic Gamelatron.

The Anywhere Organ Continues

After much doing of things I’ve come up with the next big thing for the Anywhere Organ. This particular prototype was created in SolidWorks and then made all pretty with Illustrator. Again, the whole thing’s made of 3/4″ plywood cut out on an industrial laser.

There’s still a load left to do before I can call everything done, but I’m closer to completing this thing than I’ve ever been. All the fastenings and fits have tested beautifully, the design is pretty, and things seem to be working out, mechanically. It’s just in time, too, because the Anywhere Organ has been invited to premiere at the Figment Festival NYC next month .

Check out more of the Anywhere Organ on Flickr.

Mario Hair

I’m a fan of elaborate Halloween costumes. I’m also an enormous fan of home built fx projects, like Missmonster’s full body werewolf costume, and about everything Volpin Props has ever made. Back in ’05 I got an itch to create a Dr. Mario costume. Of course for any successful Mario costume, you need the signature jet black Mario coiffe and pillowy mustache.

I lost a fair amount of facial hair that day

It started out with bribing some friends to wrap me in plaster bandages. The process was pretty painless, all in all, with the exception of removing my face from the plaster mold. I’d used oil as a release, but had been kind of liberal with it around my eyebrows and lashes. Unsurprisingly they stuck in the mold, which made the subsequent foam cast of it kind of eerie. The new foam head came out with my eyelashes embedded in it. Continue reading

The Anywhere Organ

Painting organ bits late at night.

I’m developing an enormous interactive musical sculpture called the Anywhere Organ. It uses organ pipes, salvaged from discarded church organs. With a combination of some electronics and CAD I’ve designed a system that can easily be expanded to more voices and pipes as I gather more pipes and add to the instrument.

This sculpture is about replicating all the most incredible aspects of pipe organs: the way they fill a space with sound, how the instrument and the building that houses it are all part of the same sonic system playing each other, how beautiful the pipes are when seen rank upon rank together, how they can mix different voices and instruments together to create complex other-worldly sounds. The crucial difference between your ordinary run-of-the-mill organ and the Anywhere Organ is that the Anywhere Organ can be brought anywhere, turning any space into a cathedral of sound.

Since church organs are fading out, steadily being replaced by digital music systems, it’s become easy to find salvaged organ parts. I’ve created a design that can easily be scaled to fit any collection of pipes from any organ. That means I can integrate pipes from hundreds of different derelict organs into one complete instrument.

Dynamically generated CAD through SolidWorks.

I’d like to make the Anywhere Organ as large, beautiful, and easy to play as possible. I’d like to create elaborate installations that make music in response to people dancing. I’d like to hybrid with musicians to make Bach concertos in abandoned buildings.

I’ve been building and refining designs for nearly two years, trying to produce a bulletproof installation that can survive the slings and arrows of ad hoc public installations. One of the major advantages of doing my prototyping through laser cutting is that different iterations are quick to produce and aren’t hampered by imperfections in execution. What you draw is what you get when it comes to laser cutting.

Me holding up the "Editor's Choice" award at World Maker Faire 2011.

The organ has played at World Maker Faire 2011 (where it won an “Editor’s Choice” award), the Lost Circus, Figment NYC, and the Amanda Palmer Kickstarter Countdown (where it was played by the Grand Theft Orchestra and Amanda Palmer herself). It has been featured on the Dark Roasted BlendKickstarterCoilhouse, and MakeZINEFEAST and The Awesome Foundation have been absolutely instrumental in the process of bringing this idea to fruition. I also had a massive surge of help from Kickstarter, recently, funding the Anywhere Organ to the tune of $3001!

For a running record of my progress you should take a look at http://anywhereorgan.tumblr.com. The source for the Anywhere Organ has also been released on Thingiverse.