Soundform I

6061-T6 Aluminum (24" x 3" x 1/4"), Processing 3, Python, Max 8, Blender, Fusion 360

Soundform I studies perceptually-based tuning for new musical instrument design. The work comprises a collection of software tools, acoustic analyses, material simulations, 2D and 3D visualizations, generative audio-visual systems and physical instruments.

This work uses the concept of sensory dissonance to evaluate timbre and design perceptually-informed tunings and musical scales. Dissonance curves and surfaces are used to visualize the relative dissonance of a timbre sounding against itself at incremental frequency ratios. The local minima of these visualizations are consonant frequency ratios that represent likely candidates for scale pitches. For many timbres, maximally consonant intervals occur at ratios that do not conform to 12-tone equal temperament. This suggests that every timbre has particular sensory dissonance characteristics that can inform the design of novel tunings, scales, instruments and music theories.

Soundform I is a preliminary engagment with these concepts. An aluminum bar serves as a case study. The timbre of the struck bar is characterized through fourier analysis by extracting the frequency components of the sound and their amplitudes. This data is verified against parametric equations for the modes of vibration in a free-free bar as well physical simulation and modal analysis using the finite element method. The frequency-amplitude data is then used to calculate the dissonance curve of the timbre. The local minima of the curve suggest a fifteen tone scale distributed over two and one half octaves.