The Modular Music Box consists of several interconnected, plug’n’play devices that collectively reproduce the functionality of the familiar 19th century clockwork musical instrument. At the heart of the piece is a custom-made electro-magnetic rotary sequencer. Melodies are stored on interchangeable, 10” acrylic disks embedded with small magnets arranged in a regular circular grid. By rotating these over a ‘play head’ of magnetic field sensors the device effectively replicates but supersedes the set of pins on the revolving cylinder that pluck the tuned teeth of a steel comb in the traditional instrument.
Additional units include a self-contained and controllable sound source (to hear and effect the musical output); a clockwork-like key (to ‘wind’ the device so it can ‘play’ the melody); and an animated representation of a dancing ballerina automaton – realised as a modern-day interpretation of the praxinoscope – a popular visual parlour toy of its era. Inspired by the design of second-generation monome.org controllers these modular components draw on their minimalist aesthetic and a similar restricted material palette of walnut, brushed aluminium, translucent acrylic and orange LEDs.
The work explores themes such as the ‘materialisation of data’, ‘the tactile digital’ and the ‘invisibility of technology’ while attempting to recapture something of the sense of craft and workmanship, refined aesthetics and genteel appreciation of the iPods of their day.
The Modular Music Box was first exhibited at Analogue is the New Digital, AND Festival, Manchester, UK in October ’10 and has since been shown at Kinetica Art Fair, London, UK in February ’11; Maker Faire, Newcastle, UK in March ’11; and most recently at the Roundhouse, London, UK as part of the Sonic Maze exhibition of Netaudio London in May ’11.
Monomatic is a collaboration, experimental playground and halfway house between the work of Nick Rothwell and Lewis Sykes.
NICK ROTHWELL is a composer, performer, software architect, programmer and sound designer. He has built performance systems for projects with Ballett Frank- furt, Vienna Volksoper and Braunarts, and has worked at STEIM (Amsterdam), CAMAC (Paris) and ZKM (Karlsruhe). He has composed sound tracks for choreographers Aydin Teker (Istanbul) and Richard Siegal (Laban Centre), and has performed with Laurie Booth (Dance Umbrella, New Territories), and at the Different Skies Festival (Arco- santi, Arizona), the ICA, and the Science Museum’s Dana Centre. He is currently working in software for Wayne McGreggor|Random Dance (Sadler’s Wells), in sound for body>data>space alongside CIANT (Prague) and Kibla (Slovenia), and in audiovisuals for the current Future of Sound tour. Works Compositions
LEWIS SYKES is musician and music technologist, interaction designer, digital media producer and curator, experimental visuals enthusiast and qualified Youth & Community Worker specialising in the Arts. A veteran bass player of the underground dub-dance scene of the 90s he performed and recorded with acts such as Emperor Sly, Original Hi-Fi, Somatik, Pfink and Radical Dance Faction, was a partner in the respected underground dance label Zip Dog Records and more recently as musician with the progressive AV collective The Sancho Plan. Lewis is Director of Cybersonica – an annual celebration of music, sound art and technology (now in its eighth year) – and between 2002-2007 was Coordinator of the independent digital arts agency Cybersalon – founding Artists-in-Residence at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre. Lewis has just started a practice-led PhD at MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University exploring the aesthetics of sound and vibration. Cybersonica The Sancho Plan