The Grafofon: An Optomechanical Sequencer

There are quick hacks, there are weekend projects and then there are years long journeys towards completion.  [Boris Vitazek]’s grafofon falls into the latter category. His creation can best be described as electromechanical sequencer synthesizer with a multiplayer mode.
The storage medium and interface for this sequencer is a thirteen-meter loop of paper that is mounted like a conveyor belt. Music is composed by drawing on the paper or placing objects on it. This is usually done by the audience and the fact that the marker isn’t erased make the result collaborative and incremental.
 These ‘scores’ are read by a camera and interpreted by software.This is a very vague description of this device, for a reason: the build went on over six years and both hard- and software went through several revisions in that time. It started as a trigger for MIDI notes and evolved from there.
In his write up [Boris] explains the technical aspects of each iteration. He also tells the stories of the people he met while working on the grafofon and how they influenced the build. If this look into the art world reminds you of your local hackerspace, it is because these worlds aren’t that far apart.


We sure do like large musical machines like this contraption by [Wintergatan] and sequencers made from random stuff also get our love. If this kind of project piques your interest, be sure to check out the ‘musical hacks’ category below.

4 thoughts on “The Grafofon: An Optomechanical Sequencer

  1. Why would you select that video? It has no sounds from the actual machine (at least, I’m not convinced it does). I had to track down another video on his website were you can actually hear it (maybe it was just a test run), and it sounds terrible (most likely due to the given input). I like the idea, but I don’t like the way it’s presented in the video. I don’t think I would like the sound coming out of it live either…

    1. hey there, sound in the video IS the sound from the machine, you can check the process of drawing – making the sound here, with input simulation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxhYfFnBh6M. If you would go through my writeup here: https://medium.com/boris-vitazek/sonifying-experimental-visual-scores-with-computer-vision-febf8c32d62d you can read all about it. I played on big music festival so i made possible to make dance-ish music with it.

    2. hey there, sound in the video IS the sound from the machine, you can check the process of drawing – making the sound here, with input simulation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxhYfFnBh6M. If you would go through my writeup here: https://medium.com/boris-vitazek/sonifying-experimental-visual-scores-with-computer-vision-febf8c32d62d you can read all about it. I played on big music festival so i made possible to make dance-ish music with it.

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