Origami, robotics, and folding sound

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World premiere for Oribotic Instruments with Anne Wichmann (She’s Excited), Miller Puckette, and Dan Wilcox at the Ars Electronica Festival.

Anne Wichmann (She’s Excited), Miller Puckette, and Dan Wilcox (robotcowboy) were among the first artists to explore the unique soundscapes of Oribotic Instruments – musical instruments constructed of robotic origami. At the Ars Electronica Festival 2023, they showcased the possibilities of Oribotic Instruments with exclusive live Futurelab Night Performances in Deep Space 8K of the Ars Electronica Center.

Oribotics inventor Matthew Gardiner of the Ars Electronica Futurelab forged Oribotic Instruments in 2023, questioning what happens to our experience of space when we fold sound. It is part of the Futurelab research into fundamental artistic methods for origami and robotics. Technically, the instruments are layered electronics and textiles. By contracting and expanding, the kinetic origami structures – captured in real-time and conveyed through an algorithm – invite to interact, play, and perform. We envision Oribotic Instruments as a form of robotic sculpture, where the program of folded geometry constrains the human-hand movements, and as a form of spatialized musical expression.

Anne Wichmann

In her performance, Anne Wichmann (She’s Excited) presented the piece “Sui-Rain,” folding a multi-parameter path and navigating a full range of origami-like gestures through a pre-composed ambient soundscape. Pre-recorded video sequences emphasized the ambient, fluid sonic space of water, rain, and the ocean.

Miller Puckette

The next performance came from Miller Puckette, the author of the graphical development environment Max and the real-time performing platform Pure Data. “This is Not a Violin” took the audience into the chaotic world of noise-trending audio synthesis, using raw fold-sensing data from the instrument. The live video accompaniment brought the audience up close to the subtle gestural and responsiveness of the Y8.

Dan Wilcox

The final performer was Dan Wilcox (robotcowboy). In the piece titled “Noble Brass,” he tapped out sequenced synth-pop from the Y8’s touch and pressure data, and then crumpled the Y8 into a squealing, fold-sensing guitar solo-esque crescendo. Supported by a minimal, signal-driven, pixel block interface, he establishes a visible link between the instrument and data.

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