This Arduino-powered metronome will ‘spark’ some interest

They say “time is money” and this installation will remind you of that.

A metronome refers to any device that produces regular, metrical ticks which are settable in beats per minute. In recent months, we’ve seen our fair share of such machines created by Makers, including the recent art project entitled TEMPO, TEMPO. Designed by Sanela Jahic, the piece is described as a kinetic object which forms a narrative about accelerating the production process and enhancing work performance in order to increase competitiveness and improve profits. What’s more, the project reproduces sound modulation using a spark.


As MAKE: Magazine’s Jeremy Cook notes, the metronome is wound up like a mechanical alarm clock and uses a flyback transformer to produce the spark between the end of the metronome’s hand and a nail on either side of the device’s travel. This spark is modulated by a 555 MOSFET driver — controlled by an Atmel based Arduino — in order to play audio samples, which are synced with a video of a 1930s play that shares the exhibit’s name.

“TEMPO TEMPO conveys in layers a complex narrative about the inter-relationship of technology, labor, subjectivity and the criticism of capitalist production relations,” Jahic says.


The video contains archival footage of research by Frank Bunker Gilbreth (1868–1924), a pioneer of time and motion study. In his research, Gilbreth developed methods for searching for the most efficient way of carrying out a specific task in order to increase the efficiency of workers. Jahic explains that the archival footage is complemented with modern footage from a factory making metal products.

“The title of the work is taken from the agit-prop play with the same title performed in 1930 by a theatre group of German immigrant workers called Prolet-Buehne in New York. The characters of the play include a capitalist, a policeman and seven or ten workers. The text of TEMPO TEMPO also serves as an element linking the video in which an immigrant worker in Slovenia is reading one part of the text which the kinetic object/metronome reproduces through the sound modulation of a spark.”


“Sparks are used as a reference to Gilbreth’s research into the optimal relationship of the worker’s effort to the volume of work that the effort accomplishes. Mounting a source of light on a worker’s hand, Gilbreth, who then employed time-lapse photography, recorded the trail of light created by the movement of the worker’s hand,” Jahic adds.

Impressively, the Maker was able to converge both research and art using historical and contemporary materials along with acoustic and visual elements. Intrigued? You can learn all about the kinetic art project on its official page here. Meanwhile, you can check it out in action below.

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