Amidst an onslaught of disposable, impossible-to-repair electronics and waste, the best weapon to fight back can be know-how. That’s the message in a beautiful short film that paints a portrait of sound artist and designer Yuri Suzuki, a resident of London’s Design Museum. (Via our friends at Engadget DE)
In this case, Yuri navigates the maze of an electronics PCB quite literally, mapping out a functioning radio on the schematic of the London Underground. But he also speaks poetically about why understanding the inner function of electronics is so important. Whether or not we all become electrical engineers is irrelevant. As artists working in electrified sound, this kind of understanding means familiarity with the workings of the instruments that make music, and in turn, music and sound are ideal means of conveying to the public at large the meaning of all the electronics that pervade our lives. (The film itself, by Alice Masters with sound by Neil Cheshire, is a work of art – especially with Cheshire’s calmly-vibrating sonic landscape.)
Description, from the Design Museum:
Denki Puzzle and Tube Map Radio
Yuri investigates the workings of consumer electronics. He has made a collection of working objects that attempt to demystify electronics and give the user a better understanding of how things work.
Suzuki has other wonderful works; here are just a few:
The Uruhi Musical Instrument, in stark contrast to the exposed circuit board above, draws from Japanese laquer technique to create a beautiful, mirror-like surface. But this isn’t just a black box; while it’s not so easy to see in the video, gold inlay produces an exposed schematic touch interface. As in the circuit board, what you see is the literal interface, both in terms of the musical conception of the instrument and the actual electronic touch surface. It recalls the work of Michel Waisvisz’s Crackle Box (1975), but unlike that instrument, here the connection to musical pitches is clear:
Collaborated with british composer and musician matthew rogers on ‘urushi musical interface’, a touch panel style instrument which uses the principle of gold inlay. it is a musical instrument in which the two worked together to produce a logically functional circle patterned keyboard. the circular format allows one to understand musical codes very easily. for example:
if you touch the C, G, E keys, the interface will play the C major code. if you touch the C, G, E flat keys you can play the C minor code. in terms of engineering, each gold inlay line is hooked up to a touch switch board and then connected to contact the MIDI interface, allowing one to connect any MIDI electronic musical instruments and controls from this keyboard.
It’s also connected to traditional craft traditions, though, as well as electronics, applying the lacquer technique of Wajima in in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan.
If you’re not versed in such laquer skills, I expect you won’t be making one of those at home, but for something entirely different, here’s a project you can make. The Three Radio Theremin, which started life as Tomoya Yamamoto’s “Super Theremin,” can be constructed from three AM radios tuned to specific frequencies. Here are the results:
Full instructions are on Yuri’s site:
Three Radio Theremin
…or a giant Jamaican Sound System-style speaker array from beer cans?
Plenty more where that came from: