Surprise: there’s a little tiny rave hiding inside a flickering LED lamp from a toy. Fortunately, we can bring it out – and you can try this yourself with LED circuitry, or just download our sound to remix.

Surprise Super Fun Disco LED Hack from Darsha Hewitt on Vimeo.

Amine Metani arvid
But let’s back up and tell the story of how this began.

The latest edition of our MusicMakers Hacklab brought us to Leuven, Belgium, and the Artefact Festival held at STUK. Now, with all these things, very often people come up with lofty (here, literally lofty) ideas – and that’s definitely half the fun. (We had one team flying an unmanned drone as a musical instrument.)

But sometimes it’s simple little ideas that steal the show. And so it was with a single LED superstar. Amine Mentani brought some plastic toys with flickering lights, and participant Arvid Jense, along my co-facilitator and all-around artist/inventor/magician Darsha Hewitt decided to make a sound experiment with them. They were joined by participant (and once European Space Agency artist resident) Elvire Flocken-Vitez.

It seems that the same timing used to make that faux flickering light effect generates analog voltages that sound, well, amazing. (See more on this technique in comments from readers below.)


You might not get as lucky as we did with animated LEDs you find – or you might find something special, it’s tough to say. But you can certainly try it out yourself, following the instructions here and on a little site Darsha set up (or in the picture here).

And by the popular demand of all our Hacklabbers from Belgium, we’ve also made the sound itself available. So, you can try remixing thing, sampling it, dancing to it, whatever.



And follow our MusicMakers series on Facebook (or stay tuned here to CDM).

  • Dubby Labby

    Well Peter these are PWM applied to the legs of the rgb so it’s logical to expect some rithym and noise from lightshows :}
    It could be interesting plug somekind of toy with different “presets” (xmas lights anyone?) into the feed of modular synth and mix the “original” xmas song with its “outta space rave” counterpart :V

  • Will

    Love it. CDM remix contest where the only source sound allowed is from that Freesound page?

  • J.R.

    Looking at (and listening to) a self-flickering LED

  • I discovered the same phenomenon two years ago

    • Darsha Hewitt

      Cool – It sounds very close to the LED we found in the video! So you built up a little circuit around it that also includes capacitive contact point? What chip are you working with?

      • Read the description of the piece on Soundcloud. It was obtained by pure accident. The original circuit design had a simple LED just for fun, but because these LEDs were out we took a RGB color changer LED instead.

  • Psicomajo