Nick Yulman

Song Cabinet

The Song Cabinet is an interactive mechanical music installation that allows users to mix a song by exploring the contents of a set of drawers.

Introduction to Physical Computing

The user is presented with a small cabinet of card catalog drawers. Pulling one out reveals a small mechanical musical instrument and starts it playing a pattern. As more drawers are pulled out, additional instruments within each one are triggered and a song begins to form. The patterns played by the instruments vary depending on how far out each drawer is pulled. While most drawers contain physical instruments, some contain recorded voices (speakers), which sing over the backing track created by the instruments. By opening and closing drawers, the user can mix the song, muting and unmuting the various parts and selecting different patterns and voices.

This project takes a simple, familiar physical interaction (pulling out a drawer) and translates it to a more complex one (mixing a piece of music). It aims to engage users with an immediate response to their actions but also allows for a sustained interaction by inviting them to explore the content of the music and its various permutations.

Technically, it involves analog sensors feeding into an Arduino, to determine the position of each drawer, sending serial data to a sequencing program which controls the content of the music. This program sends audio to speakers and midi signals to a midi-to-parallel converter driving solenoid actuated mechanical instruments positioned in each drawer.