Dyson engineers raid parts cupboard for orchestral debut
Engineers from Dyson have built a bunch of novel instruments for an orchestral piece by musician David Roche. Digital motors, vacuum cleaners, air purifiers and bladeless fans were all stripped down, mashed up and merged with other instruments to produce notes and harmonies that will accompany the Orion Orchestra for a premier performance at London's Cadogan Hall this weekend.
Instruments that include Dyson digital motors, V8 cord-free vacuums and Pure Cool Link fans have been developed by over 50 Dyson engineers, and will join the orchestra for the debut performance of Acoustical Anatomy – which is the term used by Dyson's Senior Vibration and Noise Engineer Ben Mercer uses for the analysis of motor sounds in Dyson products.
The idea for the unique collaboration blossomed from a conversation between Sir James Dyson and Toby Purse, artistic director of the Orion Orchestra, who was looking to combine the sounds of machines with the music of a full orchestra.
"The initial concept was two Dyson Supersonics performing a duet accompanied by an orchestra, but thanks to the astounding knowledge and enthusiasm of Dyson engineers, it rapidly evolved into a piece that combines science and sound – fusing classical music and Dyson technologies together," said Purser.
Roche – who has previously written music for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, London Graduate Orchestra, the BBC Singers, Britten Sinfonia, and The Assembly Project, among others – got the gig by going head to head with 16 other composers for the chance to work with Dyson's engineers on the project.
After analyzing the sounds of Dyson machines, methods to manipulate and control such sounds so that they could be integrated into the orchestra were developed. The pitches of six Dyson digital motors are adjusted to get musical notes during the piece, along with an "intense noise" produced from V8 cordless vacuum bins with ball bearings and airflow from Dyson Cool Link fans directed at chimes. But there's more ...
New instruments were also created by the Dyson engineers, some of which auditioned to join the orchestra. The first, the Cyclophone, is a pipe organ of sorts, made up of 48 open flue pipes from V8 cordless vacuum cleaners. MIDI data from a keyboard causes electronic switches to fire on and off, causing Dyson Air Multiplier fans and V9 digital motors to blow air into the pipes and produce notes.
Another successful candidate is called the Amp-sichord, which sees a keyboard player control 36 motors that pluck strings mounted within Air Multiplier fans – that act as resonance chambers – to produce "a harmonious collection of notes."
More instruments built by the Dyson team will be on show at the debut performance, such as the guitar-shaped Electrospin that's home to a Raspberry Pi which drives a V6 motor. The shell of an air purifier acts as a resonance chamber and the frequency of the synthesizer-like pitch is controlled through movement.
There's a four-string violin made up of Dyson parts, too, including an Airblade, a cordless vacuum and an upright vacuum cleaner. And telescopic wands from vacuum cleaners were used by a team of undergraduate engineers to sound a pentatonic scale when a paddle and buttons are used. Finally digital motors serve as oscillators for a modular synthesizer that makes use of airflow for its sound source.
Acoustical Anatomy, conducted by Toby Purser, will debut on Sunday February 18 at Cadogan Hall. You can get a taste of what's to come in the video below.