Play Music

2005 — 2014Experiments to democratise music-making

Over the years I’ve made quite a few software and hardware musical interfaces to facilitate music-making. Here’s a sampling of some of the more radical ones.

Music Box

This is one of the projects I did at the Media Factory FabLab, Aaalto University during the time I spent as Research Assistant there. The Music Box seeks to be a simple conversion of image to sound. A spool with a printed/drawn/sketched score is read and played back by the device. The playback happens through the cranking motion. A digital device that feels wonderfully analog, I regret that I don’t have a video yet!

The following images describe the process. Source files are all available here.

Perfecting the gears using InkScape and cutting the first iteration of the design. The first iteration was a huge fail and a huge learning experience. The design was wasting a lot of space and material in pursuit of geometric idealism.

Revisiting the design led to this unconventional slanted form. The form was not a coincidence, the slant had a special affordance: the speaker was now angled up towards the user while the crank was being turned, leading to a better overall experience.

The guts of the device consists of:

  • A series of infra-red LEDs that bounce IR-light off the image.
  • The reflected light intensity is read by phototransitors.
  • The intensity is sent to be processed into sound by an Arduino

The process was a good experience in learning to work with and understand the various fabrication processes in the FabLab. Of course, this particular project mainly used the laser-cutter, electronic workbench and the circuit fabrication facilities.


I’ve always been curious about translation — how an artifact in one medium can be translated into another medium. For this project, I wanted to translate visuals into sound. There are two ways to change the sound output of this app — by filtering the visual data (one example implemented is thresholding) or by tweaking the waveform (one example implemented is switching between sine and sawtooth). Future plans for extending this include more preset filters for the visuals, and more waveforms. Inspiration and code bases for the project can be found at the following links:

Gestural Music

A super-short exploration of a pentatonic scale using the iPhone’s accelerometer’s values fed into a custom Pure Data patch. I’d like to believe this has some resemblance to Malkauns. @Media Lab, Aalto University, Helsinki

Electro-Acoustic Musical Instrument

This electro-acoustic instrument I built uses three solenoids to produce sounds by striking the drum-heads and the metal pipe. I used CPU fans as controllers for the solenoids (wired them through Arduino). Finally, there are a couple of speakers, which combined with a contact piezo microphone, make a quick haptic feedback generator. @Media Lab, Aalto University, Helsinki


An electronic musical instrument, inspired by the traditional ektaara played by itinerant minstrels of Bengal. The instrument synthesises sound when the air column is disturbed by fingers. Proximity to the base defines notes. The base is supported by a sculptural stand that also doubles as a handle. Plaything was developed as part of the Srishti Nokia Only Planet 2006 programme and was showcased at the Nokia Only Planet 2006 conference (Rovaniemi, Finland) and at the Biennale Internationalé Design (St.Etienne, France).

The concept for the instrument was born through research and brainstorming; in response to the brief that demanded the creation of a global lifestyle product that embodied Indian values.