When you’re deep in the throes of a Waka Flocka song or partying your way through the day with Andrew WK, it can be easy to forget that glorious science lies at the root of all musical creation. Science doesn’t simply allow us to make music, it enables the imaginations of the inventor, the tinkerer, the dreamer, and the kid who just couldn’t get enough of playing with his food to run wild. Witness some of the wonders that occur at crossroads of musical and scientific experimentation.
Click the picture or hit “next” to start…
Musical Tesla Coils
Nikola Tesla was a pretty radical dude in a time before radical dudes really existed. Tesla is responsible, at very least, for 278 patented inventions globally, and that number only paints part of the story, since one of the inventions he happened to contribute to, in large part, to the invention of the electricity that is, you know, powering your fucking existence (he also claims to have invented a particle beam death ray…so…you know…you’ll never be as cool as Tesla). One of his most visually iconic inventions is the Tesla Coil, a transformer capable of generating electricity and generally looking like it’s shooting lightning all over the place.
Tesla lovers, music geeks, and Super Mario enthusiasts Steve Ward and Jeff Larson took Tesla’s famous coils and created a force for undeniable good, turning them into giant midi controllers:
“The music that you hear is coming from the sparks that these two identical high power solid state Tesla coils are generating. There are no speakers involved. The Tesla coils stand 7 feet tall and are each capable of putting out over 12 foot of spark. They are spaced about 18 feet apart. The coils are controlled over a fiber optic link by a single laptop computer. Each coil is assigned to a midi channel which it responds to by playing notes that are programed into the computer software.”
Check out the melodious fruits of their labor below.
When Household Items Become Instruments (a symphony in three parts).
Pianos, guitars, basses, cymbals, saxophones, trombones, lyres, lutes, xylophones, drums–we’ve seen them all before. Some traditional instruments date back thousands of years, to times when only the simplest materials and assembly techniques were available. In 2012, anything and everything can be an instrument if you so desire. Let you mind run free!
The Kitchen Synthesizer
Film composer and synth enthusiast takes making beats on the dining room table to an unparalleled level with his remarkable homemade synthesizer, which makes use of bowls, coffee cups, cans of Pam, a pot lid, a cheese grater, a whisk, and a frying pan (complete with cooking egg!) into a super responsive, unorthodox midi controller. The end result: a surprisingly complex composition that sounds nothing like the culinary tools that control it.
Mark Applebaum, Homemade Synthesizers, and Music That Isn’t Music
Composer Mark Applebaum has dedicated his life to mastering musical forms and subverting them with glee. In his enthralling Ted talk he unveils a synthesizers comprised of door stops and stapler springs, as well as a concerto in which traditional musicians are accompanied by a florist arranging flowers. Mark’s compositions and creations exist to challenge comfortable definitions of music, incorporating sounds and performative elements that often have little to do with traditional understandings.
The Viennese Vegetable Orchestra
It’s ok to play with your food, but only if you’re turning vegetables into musical instruments. Otherwise you’re an animal.
Non Newtonian Fluids and the Power of Bass
“Hi P&P crew, quick question: what in the motherfuck is a non-Newtonian fluid?”
So glad you asked, intrepid reader. In short, non-Newtonian fluids are fluids that do not follow the laws of their regular Newtonian cousins, which continue to flow in spite of forces acting on them (thank you, Wikipedia). The fluid you’ll see in the video below is the charmingly named “oobleck,” and you can make it your damn self:
“An inexpensive, non-toxic example of a non-Newtonian fluid is a suspension of starch (e.g. cornstarch) in water, sometimes called “oobleck” or “ooze” (1 part of water to 1.5–2 parts of corn starch). Uncooked imitation custard, being a suspension of primarily cornflour, has the same properties. The name “oobleck” is derived from the children’s book Bartholomew and the Oobleck.”
When manipulated by the proper frequencies, oobleck takes on a sort of stiffness that gives it the appearance of living, morphing goo–like a giant starchy amoeba. So get yourself some cornstarch, throw a little water in there, toss it on your subwoofer, and turn the Skrillex up to 11 to watch that oobleck dance! Also, in case you were curious: yes, Flubber is a non-Newtonian fluid.
OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” & And the power of physics
When it comes to making videos to accompany music videos, it seems most artists think, “How can I make myself look awesome?” For rockers, this usually involves guitar shredding in a desert or on top of a mountain. For rappers, it’s all about flaunting wealth and everything that comes with it. OK Go took a different route. We don’t understand physics, and we’re still trying to figure out what this “gravity” shit is all about, but even if we don’t understand OK Go’s video, we have to respect it.
The grill that plays music by using your body as an amplifier
We finally made it, you guys. Only God and Mother Nature know why it took this long to come up with the musical grill, but instead of dwelling on the fact that our human existence has been, up until now, pretty empty and meaningless, let’s just celebrate the fact that we finally have the musical grill.
“Because the grill sits on top of the teeth, the MP3 player conducts sound through the teeth. That means you can listen to music without headphones because the beats are delivered through your own body. The controls fit on the roof of the mouth in a hard retainer-like object. Once you learn the location of the buttons you can control the player with your tongue. The weird but inventive project kind of makes you wonder what other music interfaces are out there that we just haven’t explored yet.”
BONUS: The Sea Organ of Zadar
For millennia, man has attempted to harness the power of the ocean, only to have the salty misstress swallow him up time and again with little remorse. One way to get even with the big, bad ocean? Use its tidal currents to make beautiful, random organ music. Embedding a series of tubes and a resonating cavity under a series of marble steps on the seafront in Zadar, Croatia, architect Nikola Bašić created a massive, constant chorus of random harmonic sounds. The Sea Organ of Zadar is one of several unique, stunning structures that utilize waves to create harmonies, including San Francisco’s Wave Organ and the Blackpool High Tide Organ in the seaside town of Blackpool, England.