Contribute Sound Art to SYZYGRYD

Syzygryd Software Preview
from nicole aptekar on Vimeo.

Currently in the Bay Area, a team of artists, engineers, hackers, musicians, designers and makers of all stripes is working around the clock to produce an ambitious interactive sound/light/fire sculpture called Syzygryd. As you read this, chances are someone is welding, grinding, riveting, plasma cutting, wiring up LED lighting, finalizing the touchscreen control panels, or installing fire effects at the Nimby DIY space in Oakland, where the project is rapidly coming together – tube by tube, cube by cube, burst by burst of flame.

A collaboration between Interpretive Arson, False Profit Labs, Gray Area Foundation For The Arts (GAFFTA), and Illutron, this 2.5-ton, 60-foot sculpture will act as a giant electronic musical instrument. Designed as a traveling installation, Syzygryd will debut at Burning Man in under a month. The Syzygryd user experience, as explained by Interpretive Arson’s Morley John, will be as follows: “Three strangers [will] come together and visually compose a unique piece of music. The beauty of Syzygryd is that the entire sculpture responds to what you’re creating in sequenced light and fire. Each touchscreen controller has a grid of buttons which allow you to input musical patterns.” The initial Syzygryd proposal elaborates further:

Syzygryd is a collaborative musical instrument for three non-professional players. We are not naive. We’re not shoving guitars into the hands of novices and expecting symphonies. This is a very carefully designed canvas that guides beginners to harmony (in fact, discordant notes are literally impossible.) The interface is rhythmic, visual, and dead simple. We’ve been meticulously developing the software for months, playing with iPhone prototypes on busses, tweaking sounds, testing it out on our friends. We knew we were getting warmer the first time that three people, with no formal training in music, got bystanders grooving involuntarily…

Though most of the heavy lifting takes place Oakland, people from around the world are invited to contribute to the build.

How can you help build Syzygryd? By submitting sound sets. You’re basically submitting 3 (or more) types of sounds that mesh well together, and people will make music with them. For Syzygryd’s sound palette is not limited to the three electronic tones you hear in the software demo above. You can make it play anything: chirping bird noises, breathing, machine/factory sounds… the more creative the combination, the better. To submit a set, all you need to do is have Ableton Live, download Syzygryd’s MDK (Musician Developer Kit), and consult this handy video tutorial for extra help as needed. There’s also a forum where you can ask questions and get advice. All submitted sets will be reviewed by Syzygryd’s Music Team, and a selection of the top sets will played by the sculpture.

Having observed and participated in the Syzygryd project build, it’s clear that everyone involved is deeply invested in crafting an experiential zone that will be the first of its kind. As the proposal states, “[Syzygryd is] the most beautiful expression we can imagine of the joy we take in community, music, technology, fire, sculpture and architecture. We have assembled an international team of artists with extraordinary talent and experience. All of us are in love. Every day we see things that no one has yet imagined, and it’s been our delight to work within a community to make them real. We’d like to create a space in our city where others — people who don’t normally do this sort of thing — can feel at least a little of that.” That’s a wonderful thing to be part of on any level, and in Syzygryd’s case, people from around the world can get involved.

The deadline for submitting sounds sets to Syzygryd is Tuesday, August 24th. More info on the sculpture and music submission process, after the jump!

So here are the basics: you always want at least 3 sounds playing, one controlled by every panel. You can definitely submit more than 3 sounds, and have them rotate out. Don’t make your sounds have too many effects such as delay that make it hard for the person pushing buttons to figure out what they are controlling and not – a little bit is cool, but the idea is that non-musicians should be able to figure it out and learn.

There’s also another layer: you can add manual controls to the sounds that will be available to people not at the Control Panels to play with. For example: you a can have a crossfader between two similar sounds, or a filter on one sound. Each sound can have up to 10 modulators applied to it. They can be used to change effects, filters, envelopes or anything else that is automatable in Ableton Live. In addition to the three touchscreens, an iPad or iPhone on site will be able to control aspects of the sound.

The more people contribute sound, the stronger the sculpture will get. SUBMIT.

Time-Lapse View of Syzygryd’s Construction
from Daniel Garcia on Vimeo.

In the clip above, you can see a time-lapse view of how Syzygryd comes together. This is just one day, but close to this level of activity has been going on for months. This coming weekend is the last full weekend of Syzygryd build. Coilhouse wishes the Syzygryd project team the best of luck in this crucial week.

3 Responses to “Contribute Sound Art to SYZYGRYD”

  1. Mailee Says:

    I am so stoked about this!!! This will be my second year at Burning Man, and I cannot WAIT to see this amazing object. It’s like a more awesome version of the sound-synchronized bulb lights (for lack of a better description) that was there last year, and also at EDC.

    I’m so proud of my hometown. *sniff*

  2. Cass Says:

    (psst – it’s Morley, not Morely ;) and yes, Syzygryd looks awesome :)

  3. Nadya Says:

    @Cass: Whoops, good catch. I totally know how to spell Morley’s name, I don’t know WTF happened and I even had two people proofread this. Fail! Do you know Morley? She is awesome! Hope to see you on the playa one of these days. (Or sooner). Squish.