In 1917 the Futurist noise artist and painter Luigi Russolo gave a performance with his noise orchestra. Russolo believed that the industrial revolution had adjusted the listening palette of modern ears and in response he composed a series of noises broken down into categories including rumbles, snorts, whispers, scrapes and sobs. Backed by a number of noise-generating devices he had designed called Intonarumori, his first performance was met with disappointment and outrage from the audience. Fast forward to 2014 for a somewhat wider appreciation of noise and experimentation in which our ear drums have adjusted to such absurdities. This week the design team Dentaku exceeded their Kickstarter goal of £50,000 for Ototo an all-in-one musical kit that assists you in converting almost any surface, object or motion into a sound making instrument.
Dentaku is a design consultancy established by Yuri Suzuki and Mark McKeague. Suzuki is known for his approach to experimental sound that takes form through interactivity, performance and sculptures. McKeauge is a designer of sound systems that are visualized through experiential events and animations. As a team they have worked with well known clients to develop clever approaches to marketing and concept development (check out their Oreo cookie video). It seems like they have a lot of fun working together so I imagine that the funding of the Ototo is as exciting for them as it is for us. While I have seen recent projects and demonstrations that use fruits and veggies to convey the concept of conductive materials, the Ototo pushes the experiments a step further by wiring loads of possibilities onto a single board. There is a panel with 12 touch inputs, 4 additional sensor inputs and a built in speaker. Once you are connected to the Ototo you can literally turn an orange into a guitar or a sheet of metal into a saxophone with an interface and system that is unique to your design. There are loads of cool things you can do with this device but the most exciting is the possibility for mass sound transformation and collaboration.
If Russolo’s belief was that the industrial revolution had permeated the modern world with more complex sounds due to city life and factories, then the digital revolution’s contribution to environmental sound is the daily influx of digital tones and vibrations from notification systems on our phones and computers. I don’t know if these daily sound bytes have provided most of us with a greater capacity to appreciate the practice of noise, however the funding of this Kickstarter project proves a sincere interest in the potential for a truly unique noise making device. Over the summer Suzuki presented a piece at the Victoria & Albert titled, ‘Garden of Russolo’ that paid tribute to Russolo’s noise orchestra. The hand-cranked devices were not met with disappointment – instead people were intrigued by the large interactive sound generating objects. Certainly the element of interactivity and the presentation of the Ototo as a fun tool has aided in the interest in it’s properties. The possibility of turning a series of colorful balloons into a giant, collaborative sound generating instrument is really intriguing. Through Dentaku’s playful collaborations and communication they have piqued interest in the history of sound performance. The Ototo’s potential to sonically integrate our surrounding environments and objects into instruments will provide a powerful kernel in the next phase of interactive sound development and research.
If you missed the Kickstarter campaign make sure to get in touch with Dentaku so that you can carry on the dream of Russolo through the Ototo device!