Transforming electromagnetism into beautiful noise

Aaron Sherwood began playing music professionally at age 15, although in more recent years he has focused on art. His latest project, known simply as the Magnetophone, successfully combines both worlds.

According to Chris Welch of The Verge, the Magnetophone features 14 guitar strings and 14 homemade electromagnets, with continuously generative, electromagnetic fields that cause those strings to vibrate. 

The platform – which measures approximately three feet tall – is made primarily from aluminum and acrylic. Meanwhile, guitar strings of various gauges run up the sides, helping the instrument achieve various sounds.

“Acoustically, the strings vibrate the bridge, which vibrates the front plate, which pushes air molecules inside the resonance chamber back to bounce off the back wall,” Sherwood told the publication.

“When electricity passes through the coil a magnetic field is generated. Since I’m sending a square wave to the coil, the magnetic field is oscillating on and off at the frequency of the wave. I put a bolt through the hole of the bobbin, which becomes magnetized and vibrates with the magnetic field. The magnetic field from the bolt pulls and releases the string making it vibrate, which makes sound.”

The platform is powered by an Atmel-based Arduino board tasked with “deciding” what to play, all while continuously generating new music. More specifically, the Arduino alternates between two modes: random strings and looping sequences.

Interested in learning more about the Magnetophone? You can check out the project’s official page here.

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