This audio feedback system is being developed by Ph.D. student Jason Cress, at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies in Berkeley, CA. It is a prototype designed to digitally manage or “shape” Larsen tone audio feedback as it resonates through various media. In this case, air pressure waves are produced by a loudspeaker, routed through a configuration of pipes, split at an angle greater than 90 degrees, and picked up by a microphone on the other end. By completing the feedback loop and splitting the sound waves, energy flows seamlessly between the environment and the instrument.

The aim of the project is to establish musical parameters inside the instrument that passersby can intuitively perceive in public spaces. As a stand-alone sound sculpture, the instrument invites observers to interact by simply listening or making sound. Such exchanges then encourage spontaneous collaboration amongst participants who may not know each other or have formal music training. Once individuals have engaged with the instrument, the installation moves from a role of initiation to mediation, as the sound information transfers dynamically.

Manufactured waste materials or commonly found materials are integral to the creation of the prototype, along with open source software such as Pure Data and MobMuPlat. Used and/or discarded electronics (e.g., reused speaker cones/circuit boards, and DIY microphones/batteries) will be implemented in future audio feedback works. It is critical that issues of environmental sustainability and social transformation are acknowledged amidst worsening climate change and economic inequality.

The ethical and aesthetic considerations of this project lend themselves to additional conceptual prospects. For example, the development of instrumental archetypes from manufactured waste materials. As discarded products pile up in landfills at an ever increasing rate, why not view them as a resource? Just as any traditional instrumental ensemble has families of instruments (i.e. winds, strings, etc.), why not families of feedback instruments (e.g., air wave, transduction)? It seems reasonable that artists could simultaneously repurpose discarded technology, disrupt landfill waste, reduce creative costs, and provide more opportunities for communities to participate in art-making outside of monetized venues.

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