Arduino makers project - Musi


What are the sounds of having everything in mess and how it differs from order? Finally, are there any abstract, uncommon ways to compare different surroundings? These questions seem difficult to answer... Musi was designed to answer them in form of unique audio device. It doesn’t require from user any knowledge about musical composition, actually you can learn something by messing with the device and objects around.

Supervisors: Dawid Wiener, Wieslaw Bartkowski


What have you made?

Musi is an experimental audio device which plays the melody of its surroundings. The project is a part of my graduation at School of Form (Communication Design) with theoretical thesis titled “Embodiment - the meaning of body and space in interaction between virtual and real world.”

What gave you the initial inspiration?

As a starting point I focused on creative learning techniques and abstract ways to show things difficult to explain. The theoretical part behind Musi is the fact that we learn not only through our mind. Learning process is also related to our body and its actions in physical world. Everyday experiences and their meaning are embedded in the world around us. In this case, while manipulating objects around - by acting through them, we give them a new, embodied musical meaning in their melody. In context of interaction design it’s called embodied interaction. Its impact on design is important part of human-computer interaction which combines benefits from both physical and virtual world. One of examples which inspired me the most was Cubetto by Primo. Its abstract, screenless way to teach children programming is great example of both embodied interaction and creative learning.

What is the original idea behind this project?

The most important thing is extending our perception of sound in abstract relation between space and melody. You learn about music composition while acting through physical objects. Thanks to Musi, every space and every object around can become a part of this unique instrument. Observing effects of project’s interpretation raises inspiring conclusion: the more tidy area around is - the less harmonic is its melody. Physically, with this interpretation an octave can be described as a spiral of objects, moved away from the device. Another inspiring question arises... how many meters long can octave be? After my graduation I decided to make Musi to work as MIDI instrument with many new modes and features like dividing each module for different instrument or shrinking and expanding attributes like range or octaves density. Now it's project that can involve everyone - from creative toy from children or interactive installation to professional instrument which can be used along with any music production software. Another great concept is usage of Musi as interactive activity for blind people - to explore the space by its melody.

How does it work?

The fun lies in both area exploration and manipulation of physical objects. You can play with Musi by placing the modules where you want or moving random objects around. Melody represents the arrangement and gives manipulated objects new musical meaning. Technically Musi works as sonar. It scans the area for objects and interprets distance between as melody. To know which sound is actually played there is timeline made of LEDs.

How long did it take to make it real?

The whole graduation project took me about 7 months including the theoretical part and research.

How did you build it?

I made it with Arduino Micro for each module and Arduino Uno to work with Raspberry Pi connected to a speaker. Wireless communication was made with nrf24l01 . The first idea was to use the IR sensors rather than a low-cost ultrasonic HC-SR04. I was afraid of wave interference which could cause the false readings but actually they worked fine. First prototype was made from foamed PVC and it used Sparkfun MP3 Shield. I had to change it to Raspberry Pi working as sound card due to problems with multi-channel audio and its quality. The final project is made of wood with plexiglas upper cover.