Teenage Engineering and designer Love Hultén worked together on the design for the CHD-4, a drum machine based on electrocardiograms. The object went on auction on Valentine’s Day this week, in an effort to raise visibility of Congenital Heart Disease.

You might have seen the CHD-4 make an appearance a few months back. It’s reappearing this week for Valentine’s Day as a fundraiser for the Swedish Heartchild Foundation, “a nonprofit that supports children with congenital heart disease and their families.”

It’s a unique way to employ musical instrument invention and industrial design for a health cause. And the cause matters, too: some 1.3 million babies worldwide are born with Congenital Heart Disease, making it the most common birth defect in the world. Yet – like so many other health issues out of sight and out of mind – there’s surprisingly low awareness about the issue.

If you don’t know Love Hultén’s designs, they’re gorgeous and stylish – a kind of alternate-future retro-chic. This particular creation is kinetic, centered on a turntable, with a sleek patch bay reminiscent of a 70s instrument, and a compact display. More on the instrument and its intentions:

When a child is born with congenital heart disease the rhythm of life is disrupted. Despite being the most common birth defect in the world, general awareness of CHD is low. This drum machine was created in a collaboration between audiovisual designer Love Hultén and teenage engineering to highlight the issue. The device, functioning as a modular synthesizer, produces rhythms made using the electrocardiograms of four children with different heart defects …

The device is based on echocardiograms from four children with congenital heart disease, printed from real hospital check-ups. Each ECG has been decoded into patterns based on its individual shape, pace, and BPM. These four heartbeat patterns are transformed into a four-track circular sequencer. Each sequence – or ‘heartbeat’ – can be played separately or together to produce a wide arrange of sounds. Each heartbeat can also manually be offset in relation to the other(s) in order to explore soundscapes further and create unique rhythm patterns…

The machine will be auctioned out on Valentine’s Day 2023 to the highest bidder with all proceeds donated to the Swedish Heartchild Foundation.

I’m late on the auction, but you can still donate to benefit the cause. And there’s plenty more to check out – great fodder for designers, synthesists, inventors, and anyone interested in finding novel ways of using music to benefit others.

In a world where important issues easily get lost in news cycles and empathy and care can give way to fatigue and distraction, that kind of invention and love may be just what we need.