Percussa micro super signal processor

It’s not in any way digital – we’re in paper and needle territory – but clever design transforms packaging and notecard into playable music device. Create Transducer Music, anyone?

Designer Kelli Anderson concocted a novel approach to the wedding invitation for her friends Karen and Mike: turn the paper invite into a playable sound device. The couple even made and recorded their own song for the occasion. (The story of the individuals is worth mentioning – Karen advocates for the rights of makers and coders and Mike is a Grammy-nominated engineer.)

The device itself plays music without electricity or circuits. You may recall the FlexiDisc, the inexpensive records (normally made of vinyl, not paper), as seen in magazines, books, and comics. Here, a sewing needle is the entire playback mechanism, amplified by the paper and the kinetic energy of a person using their hand to rotate the disc. Working with her partner and music podcaster Daniel, Kelli turned to the power of geometry. (And I never miss an opportunity to work geometry into this site.)

A major breakthrough came when we realized that the ideal sound was produced when the tented page created a perfect right triangle with the flexidisc. The needle needed to be perfectly perpendicular to the flexidisc. (@Pythagorean theorem: at long last, you are an ally!) We also discovered that the “tent” needed two loosely-swinging bends to allow the record needle to travel as freely as possible. By creating two parallel folds, we essentially made the angle at the peak of the tent variable as needed. At the beginning of the track, the ideal angle of this peak is about 15 degrees. By the end of the track, the arm needed to stretch further towards the center of the flexi, with an ideal peak angle of about 35 degrees.

If you do want to play the results on a proper turntable, you can drop the same flexidisc on your (electrically-powered) record player for better sound.

The sewing needle at work. This and the movement of your hand is all that makes the player function. Photo by the designer, Kelli Anderson.

Details on Kelli’s (beautiful) blog:
A Paper Record Player

And listen to the song the couple wrote for everybody

Aside from being a chance to nerd out about sound, I’m going to take this as yet another example of inventive packaging for musical objects. I’ can also imagine it as the way we’ll listen to music should environmental catastrophe mean that we don’t have access to electricity on Earth any more. File this away for your next post-oil-crisis sci-fi short story, a la the (excellent) book on that theme, The Windup Girl.

Thanks to Howard Shin for this great tip – and Howard, Kelli, Daniel, Karen, Mike, and Pythagoras, I owe any one of you a drink if I see you.

As for music, the Pythagorean Theorem and Trigonometry are always your ally.

Previously: Reclaim the Album’s Soul: Tips for Handmade CD Artwork

Last Days of Compact Disco: Album Lovers Hand-Make Musical Objects