jonathan foote

micro rhythm orchestra

The Micro Rhythm Orchestra is an update on the venerable music box tradition. I made it from a wooden cigar box and head-park solenoids scavenged from old disk drives. The solenoids are controlled by a microprocessor. Instead of playing a conventional melody, the solenoids are sequenced to click in rhythmic patterns. If the whole business wasn't quite such a dorkfest, the sound could almost be considered funky.

When you open the box, the Micro Rhythm Orchestra begins to play. (Note the switch at the upper right, which turns on the power when the lid is lifted.)

Click on the image to hear an mp3 of the Micro Rhythm Orchestra at play, or choose a link below:

Intro - Pattern 1 (mp3, 200k) (wav, 900k)

Pattern 2(mp3, 140k) (wav , 600k)

Here's a close-up of the control panel. The knob controls the speed of the rhythmic pattern, from zombie-slow to impossibly robot-fast. A reasonable speed is indicated by the black triangle, though users are naturally free to set their own tempo. The red button starts and stops the pattern, while the black button selects the available patterns to play. (Pressing the black button while stopped cycles through the available patterns.)The bicolor LEDs at the top cycle with the pattern (when playing), or show the selected pattern in binary (when stopped).
Here are the insides during operation. Note the moving arms of the third and fourth solenoids. Blatantly disregarding good electrical engineering practice, I used LEDs for the coil-snubbing diodes, because they blink when the solenoids open -- neato. Electronics geeks aficionados may note the homebrew darlington pairs made from discrete 2N2222s. The ribbon cable comes from the microcontroller under the control panel.

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