The Electric Knife Orchestra

The Electric Knife Orchestra

Description

The Electric Knife Orchestra consists of sixteen knives and one meat cleaver (all purchased from the $0.99 store) that have been brought to life to perform the Bee Gees’ 1977 hit Stayin’ Alive. The orchestra consists of six musical machines and all of the sound is created through the operation of these machines.




Interview


What have you made?

The Electric Knife Orchestra consists of sixteen knives and one meat cleaver (all purchased from the $0.99 store) that have been brought to life to perform the Bee Gees’ 1977 hit Stayin’ Alive. The orchestra consists of six musical machines and all of the sound is created through the operation of these machines.






What gave you the initial inspiration?

Originally I started this project by experimenting with combining knives and projected elements to create a piece that merged virtual and physical elements. However, once I had created a couple of knife machines, they seemed interesting enough in their own right and the piece evolved into what you can see in the documentation.






What is the original idea behind this project?

Making music with knife based machines.






How does it work?

All of the instruments are controlled using one Arduino running firmware based on code available online here. The music was arranged in Logic, output using a USB to MIDI cable and then read by the Arduino using the MIDI circuit that is detailed on this page.
There are two machines that create sound by stepping stepper motors at the same frequency as musical notes.  The Jacob’s Ladder uses a relay to control a 12,000V neon sign transformer and the three other machines work using MOSFETs connected to solenoids and car door lock actuators. Apart from the Jacob’s
Ladder, the whole installation is powered using a computer PSU.






How long did it take to make it real?

It took around a month.






How did you build it?

The machines themselves are mainly constructed of transparent acrylic and were prototyped using aluminium extrusion and then designed in a vector graphics program and laser cut.