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Theremin Volunteers

2002-05-25 23:18:49+00 by meuon 7 comments

Months ago, when Dan was visiting Chattanooga, Topspin conjured a project involving a theremin at least 2 volunteers and a tent. The basic idea was to run the capacitance antenna(s) (that makes a theremin change pitch and volume) throughout the tent so that the people in the tent cause the theremin to react. Today, on a lark, I bought a theremin kit from NightDiver. The kit is neat because it has schematics and tips on modifications. Topspins idea was setting it up un-obtrusively in a tent at Burning Man and seeing what people did with it. I think he wants to take theremin dancing to the next (logical?) level. Anyone want to play?

[ related topics: Burning Man Music Chattanooga ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-05-26 00:31:18+00 by: Dan Lyke

Oooh! Oooh! I do! I do! Damn. What size space were you thinking of?

#Comment made: 2002-05-26 00:31:36+00 by: Shawn

Wow. Science fiction from out of our past. I've never heard of this theremin, or anything remotely like it. But I've seen numerous sci-fi scenes where the musician is playing an instrument simply by waving their hands past it.

#Comment made: 2002-05-26 03:59:30+00 by: topspin

Disclaimer: This is concept brainstorming, possibly in the wrong place. It's unlikely I'll be able to make Burning Man this year and highly likely I have the conceptual skills but not the techie skills for this stuff.

Lots of structures at Burning Man seem to use PVC (or other hollow) pipe. Putting a theremin (or another "interactive" mechanism) in the pipe seems a way to make the "structure" interact. I know nothing of the power needs and antenna limits of a theremin.

For example and for those of a different mindset, I could envision a "room of random pain" with wired walls and a conductive floor and furniture. Every so often..... a few volts "enliven" the room, but that's an entirely different sorta thing.

Conceptually, mobile structures are cool, but people behave freer (even at Burning Man, I suspect) inside a structure. Letting the structure participate in the interaction would be interesting.

Imagine Charlene delivering a massage in a "theremin charged" room. Imagine making a sandwich there. Imagine a square dance. Imagine an argument. The sounds should make one conscious of one's movements/attitudes and perhaps produce graceful, measured movements even in everyday tasks.

"If the tent WOOOOOO---HEEEEEeeee---EEEEEEPing, don't bother peeping. <grin>

#Comment made: 2002-05-26 19:27:21+00 by: meuon [edit history]

Space size: It depends on several things. It uses the bodies capacitance in PICO FARADS (very small amounts), and can be augmented by a ground shared with the human body. ie: if you are in contact with the same electrical ground (bare feet on aluminum foil to bare feet on a slightly conductive blanket). Conversely, in my previous expirements, one human could be the antenna itself, the pitch would change as the two people got closer and father apart, but it theoretically could be adjusted to work on the differences created by how much contact there is between two people as well. Expirementation will have to tell.

My original idea would be an overhead antenna for pitch, and I'd like to work a feedback loop somehow for volume in order to create rythym, instead of it being also controlled by capacitance. The space could be a tent just big enough for two people.. or an area of a much larger tent. I'll play with antenna designs and we'll see. As for the PVC.. I just envisioned an antenna inside a large dildo.... Hmmm... Pictures will soon be posted...

#Comment made: 2002-05-29 14:30:20+00 by: Dan Lyke

So how easily is this sort of thing calibrated? What restrictions are there on materials for the tent? Is varying humidity or the heavily alkali playa going to be an issue?

I'll be building a shade structure for the sound goddess, if you need me to whip together another 8x8x8 cube out of 2x2s (but wiht stronger corners than the sheet metal joist holders I've been using) I can do that.

Have you thought about power and where you'd like it? I think Todd and I are edging towards camping with Firetown, which should be on the esplanade. We are, of course, saving space for y'all there.

#Comment made: 2002-05-29 19:02:26+00 by: meuon

I am bringing enough solar power (panels, batteries and inverters) for my toys. I got the case finished (Oak w/Tung Oil), I'll be soldering and playing this weekend.. :)

I like kits with instructions like: With your oscilliscope hooked to test point 8, tune inductor L8 to approx 440hz..

The shade structure sounds great, the antenna's are sensitive to large capacitors and/or ground. I may rig up something portable as well, I like Topspins PVC pipe/tubing idea.

#Comment made: 2002-06-06 02:49:12+00 by: meuon

Update.. the theremin works, and is a pretty neat toy. Steve (at work) has pitch (mental) and in 2 tries was working out the Star Spangled Banner. I hate people with natural talent, and I admire them as well.. Playing with antenna and sensitivitie adjustments is next.