Mechanical Musical Sculpture Recalls The Four Muses

Music was created by humans, but often we find ourselves creating performances with machines. [Alana Balagot] and [Federico Tobon] did just that, constructing the stunning 4 Muses musical sculpture with their combined talents.

4 Muses is made up of four individual instruments, under the command of a single keyboard controller. The keyboard can be used to play the instruments live, or alternatively, can learn from the player or be used as a sequencer. It can also act as a simple device to play back music using the four instruments.

The pipe instrument uses servo-controlled valves, which allow air from a blower fan to reach several wood pipes. The xylophone instead uses solenoids to play its 13 tines. Percussion is provided by a mechanized cajón drum, using motors to actuate mallets that strike the various sections of the box. Meanwhile, hackers will be familiar with the concept of the motor-noise instrument, which drives stepper motors at different frequencies to generate tones.

Inside, a cavalcade of microcontrollers make everything work, from Arduino Megas and Teensys to NRF24s sending wireless packets from the controller to the instruments. [Alana] and [Federico] go in-depth with their documentation, highlighting the challenges they faced putting together the various instruments and showing how the final build came together.

Built with and brass hardware and sporting a variety of exquisite wood finishes, the final result is a quartet of machines that play beautiful music composed by [Alana] herself. Musical sculptures are often a great example of the artistry possible when putting electrons to work. Video after the break.

8 thoughts on “Mechanical Musical Sculpture Recalls The Four Muses

    1. Birdsong is not exactly standard music. Sure, it is pleasant to listen to, and it has repeating patterns, but it lacks the deliberate design that most human music has, and it completely ignores tempo and time. So yeah, your flippant comment and youtube link might make you feel superior to the seemingly prideful author here, but consider that your holier-than-thou attitude isn’t particularly helpful, or even accurate.

      1. I’m not really sure what your definition of standard music is? probably not the same as me i guess. I heard a podcast with Brian Eno he calling music “non-functional styling”. Some people reduce music to 4 crotchet 808 kicks with dissonance on top and that’s cool. And what about John Cage using chance in his music to push away from the composer repeating himself endlessly through out his career, and what about his 4:33? What about music inspired by birdsong? I think music goes beyond the scope of a western pop song or even Bach nowadays, what ever it is, it’s hard to pin point.

  1. Visually amazing, especially the stepper motors – the overlapping spirals are very attractive. The massive LED screen on the keyboard looks super-fun too.
    But the servos on the pipes seem way too loud :(

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