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March 16, 2013

Bionic A Cappella


It’s a strangely captivating, inhuman monstrosity. An a cappella group is strapped into a series of hydraulics. They each sing a note, and with a few buttons pressed, their bodies turn and contort to augment the pitch.

The Pendulum Choir, by Cod.Act’s Andre and Michel Decosterd, is basically an organ that plays with human pipes. It’s what might happen when homo sapien musicians are plugged into the Matrix, and that merging of man and machine is entirely the point.

“Up to now, we always used sensors to detect movements and use the result to produce and/or control the sound,” Andre tells Co.Design. "The idea behind pendulum choir was to find a direct physical relationship between sound and movement, where the bodies of the singers replace the sensors. We also wanted that the parameters of speed, acceleration, and movement influence in a natural and physical way the characteristics of the voice of the singers.”

This choir, for as shiver-inducing as it may look, actually resembles traditional wind instruments more than their modern electronic replacements. Consider a digital synthesizer. You passively hit a key, which is really just a sensor that tells an onboard computer to produce a tone. But to play a tuba, it requires the full, physical commitment of human energy into the machine. And that energy, augmented by valves and tubing, is ultimately what the audience hears in their ears.

The difference in Pendulum Choir, of course, is that the humans aren’t playing the machine so much as the machine is playing its humans.

“The appearance of the human being as part of the machine brings to the whole a narrative aspect as well as an important emotional aspect,” Andre writes. “Its resultant is a morphological relationship between the human being and the machine, both part of the same living organ.”

And if this makes you squeamish, you probably don’t want to see the 2.0 version: An arduino that stabs humans with a hot poker--to the beat, of course. Read more about the project here.

Watch the choir here.

Posted by acapnews at March 16, 2013 12:00 AM