amplified audio. solenoid-actuated mirrors. spotlights | 2015
θr is an audiovisual installation in which high‐tech elements are decontextualized and repurposed in the creation of a kinetic sound and light installation. The piece consists of an array of motorized mirrors that, using micro-controller programming, are programmed to rotate synchronously with pulsating sound waves, casting beams of reflected light through the space. The work is an effort to draw attention to the basic principles behind the physics of sound and light travel. Through its stripped‐down and minimalist aesthetics, the kinetic sound-sculpture creates an engaging and sophisticated show of light and sound from some of the most basic physical phenomena experienced in everyday life.
The work is comprised of two side-by-side identical assemblies, each consisting of an array of four motorized mirrors, a focused light source, and a loudspeaker. The two spotlights are placed at the end of the arrays, providing identical focused beams of light on each assembly. Using purpose-fabricated brackets, the mirrors are attached to an independently controlled rotary solenoid (an electromechanical device similar to a motor designed for use in laboratory settings in order to actuate external objects). Here, the solenoids are used to rotate the mirrors to interrupt and reflect the light beam. A micro-controller and an accompanying custom-designed circuit board are used to transmit the pre-composed rhythmic patterns to drive the solenoids, while also triggering computer-generated sinusoidal sound waves that are amplified through the loudspeakers. Every mirror on each module has a corresponding sound wave with a fixed frequency that is chosen based on the relative distance of the mirror from the light source. The distance between the mirror and the light source determines the width of the reflection that is cast by the mirror. The farther away the mirror is from the light source, the less focused the beam and the wider the casting reflection, and, accordingly, the greater the wavelength of the sound wave (i.e. the lower the frequency of the sound) are. The patterns are composed in four different sections with different rhythmic structures that morph into each other during the installation. In parallel to the core visual concept of the piece, which is based on reflection, the sonic material of the work is composed symmetrically between the two modules. This symmetry, which can be perceived through the stereo effect distributed between the relatively widely spaced speaker monitors, is taken into account in order to provide a coherent aesthetic, both in terms of the visual and the sonic aspects of the work.
Materiality and simplicity are recurring themes throughout the elements of θr : mechanically-minimal actuators are used to pivot geometrically-simple mirrors. The mirrors reflect plain white light onto the unadorned roof of the space in which θr is installed. Accompanying these elementally simple visuals is an equally fundamental audio component, consisting of pure sine tones at predictable mathematical frequency ratios. By combining these stripped-down components into a cohesive whole, a dynamic and compelling audiovisual experience is created, showing that technologically-mediated material simplicity may provide insights into the coupling of light and sound that might be difficult with more baroque assemblages.