Musical Spider’s Web – Tech Art

WebWindow

Project

This fuzzy web was created during the week I spent at Shakerag Workshop WV,  with Leah Buechley, inventor of the Lilypad Arduino. Delighted by the round shape of the Lilypad, I envisioned a musical instrument that would take advantage of its spokes. Luckily I had discovered that there was also a thicker version of conductive thread—conductive yarn! The result was a spider’s web that uses capacitive touch to trigger 8-bit sounds. Shakerag encourages collaboration and I managed to learn felting from a classmate that I used for the center of the web, which acts as a hatch to hide the microcontroller. I also was able to scout out some non-conductive yarn that had been naturally dyed by another class there for the main spokes. One of the most interesting discoveries I made on the final presentation of our projects is that not everyone could produce notes from my web. It was a baffling problem until I compared hands of the two people that were having problems. One was an elderly man with extremely dry hands, and the other was from a young girl that also suffered from dry hands; with a little moisturizer they were able to play. It was a great learning experience and many in our class still continue to experiment with tech.

Future Possibilities

One of the challenges working with conductive thread or yarn is the resistance. The longer the length, the less likely it will be to carry the electricity needed, much like a cable box connecting to a TV. I would love to do a large installation of this piece in a park where everyone could produce music together with large speakers jamming electronic riffs or nature sounds. However, first I would need yarn with better conductivity and the time to create knitted or crocheted pieces which would appear thick enough for the size of the web. With some LEDs and solar power this could be a Burning Man contender.

On a more day-to-day level, it would be fun to take the traditional beaded room curtains and use them as home musical devices. As a person passes through, they would make a noise. Or perhaps one day they will serve as artistic locks for door entry systems. By squeezing certain cords you gain entry.