Insects turned into orchestra; not harmed but terribly inconvenienced

[Jochem] has always been fascinated by chaos in nature, whether it’s a swarm of ants or evolution in action in a petri dish. His insect orchestra takes the chaos in the natural world and changes it into something completely artificial. In this case, MIDI.

For the build, a light sensor was placed at the bottom of a test tube. A cricket (or grasshopper, or locust) is then put into the test tube. The test tube is then closed up with a cap that houses a LED. An Arduino reads the light sensors and then transmits the data over MIDI. The MIDI commands are picked up in Abelton Live which converts everything to audio.

[Jochem] rigged up Abelton to have the insects perform in four different modes – instrument, synthesis, samples, and drums. Definitely an improvement over the humble Mexican Jumping bean.

You can check out the insect orchestra in action after the break.


  1. austin says:


  2. John says:

    PETA is not going to like this; on the other hand, I love it!

  3. aztraph says:

    Ugh … circuit bending, but with bugs

  4. Aftering watching “Microcosmos” I got a bit of respect for bugs. Hopefully they aren’t kept in those tubes.

  5. fa says:

    So, I guess this is what people mean when they talk about “bug tracking”?

  6. John Bokma says:

    ID soap box much?

  7. andrew says:

    Looks a little unnecessarily disrespectful to the grasshoppers — the same thing could have been done by using a webcam to track them on a surface or in a cardboard box. That way, you could use direction or speed as parameters in music generation and still give them some reasonable space in which to move. I’m ok with doing research on animals in general (I’ve even been involved in some myself), but there’s a point at which the benefits (entertainment in this case?) no longer outweigh the harm.

    By the way, I know Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (which are overseen by the USDA and are responsible for making sure animals are respectfully involved in laboratory research and other university activities) generally provide far less oversight for invertebrates, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this project was approved by such a body. But, it wouldn’t have passed my desk.

  8. austin says:

    you should probably educate yourself on these things before ranting, just a heads up.

  9. Blue Footed Booby says:

    I see no evidence that the bugs were actually harmed, unless crickets have a sense of pride, or unless you consider dressing dogs up in silly outfits and laughing at them cruel to the point of being subject to regulatory intervention.

  10. zuul says:


    would you rather have the crickets fed to a pet lizard?

    i’d be more conserned over the rat sniper guy

  11. t&p says:

    I could care less for the bugs’ health as I kill them (or they kill themselves in my drink) all the time, everyday. I look at them as nature’s maintenance bots.

    But this is just hilarious!

  12. Dr_Nick says:

    I don’t like this. It’s not like it is science for a noble cause or other useful experiment. It’s just a machine creating random noise. Call it art if you wish, but this is useless. Feeding them to a pet frog would be more acceptable. I enjoy HAD but I have to disapprove that one.

  13. Limey says:

    But in all seriousness this is pretty horrific :O.
    Although it made me laugh when the blue cricket went off on his own little solo for a while.

  14. David says:

    I found this pretty disturbing. The methods used are impressive, but I’m sure they could be put to better use.

  15. echodelta says:

    Bug Music. Raymond Scott would be tickled all colours.
    Deetal deetal deet. Deetal deetal deet.
    Crickets are musical cockroaches.

  16. Alan says:

    Do they only do progressive Jazz?

  17. Neil Harding says:

    This is not cruel, I like the Monty Python sketch with the mouse organ where he uses a mallet to make the mice squeak in tone when he hits them. Now that was cruel ;)

  18. flag says:

    this be done with beetles…

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