Modular Music Box


Analogue mechanisms via digital technologies
1st-23rd October 2010 – Analogue Is The New Digital @ AND Festival
MadLab, 36-40 Edge St, Manchester, M4 1HN

The Modular Music Box consists of several interconnected, plug-and-play devices that collectively reproduce the functionality of the familiar 19th century clockwork musical instrument.

At the heart of the piece is a custom-made electro-magnetic rotary sequencer. Melodies are stored on a series of interchangeable, acrylic, 10” disks embedded with small magnets arranged in a regular circular grid. In the same way vinyl records are located on a turntable these disks are centered on a spindle and rotate over a ‘play head’ made up of a line of magnetic field sensors – effectively replicating but superseding the set of pins on the revolving cylinder that pluck the tuned teeth of a steel comb in the traditional device. Additional units are ‘daisy-chained’ to each other via single cables and include a self contained and controllable sound source (to hear and effect the musical output) and an animated representation of a dancing ballerina automaton – realised as a modern-day interpretation of the praxinoscope (the successor to the zoetrope – the popular visual parlour toy of its era – but which improved on it by replacing its narrow viewing slits with an inner circle of mirrors).

Inspired by the design of the second generation controllers these modular components draw on their minimalist design aesthetic and utilise a similar restricted material palette of walnut, brushed aluminium, translucent acrylic, and orange LEDs.

The work explores exhibition themes such as the ‘materialisation of data’, ‘the tactile digital’ and the ‘invisibility of technology’ while attempting to recapture something of the sense of craft and workmanship, refined aesthetics and genteel appreciation of the iPods of their day – refocused through the minimalist design aesthetic and tactile ergonomics of the monome.

Creative Commons License
Assets for the Modular Music Box by Monomatic are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available – contact info@