Bizarre drum machine beats to a different rhythm to raise CHD awareness
At first glance, building a drum machine that uses the heartbeats of children with congenital heart disease might be considered very poor taste. But audiovisual artist Love Hultén and Teenage Engineering have created the CHD-4 to raise awareness of the condition, and raise funds for the Heartchild Foundation.
We've long admired Love Hultén's retro computing, gaming and instrument creations, and even the more obtuse pieces, but this latest project walks a very different path – producing rhythms based on the echocardiograms of four children who were born with congenital heart disease (CHD).
"Drum machines are defined by order – beats, pace, and rhythm," said Hultén. "This machine disrupts that system, the same way life is disrupted when a child is born with congenital heart disease. These broken hearts all have their own pace, sometimes off-beat, too slow, or too fast, as a result of their CHD. Transforming them into sound was a truly heartfelt experience that I hope anyone who hears the machine will feel as well."
CHD is an umbrella term for a range of birth defects affecting the way the heart works, and is reported to occur in around one percent of live births in the US each year, and 2,000 children in Hultén's home turf of Sweden. The four heartbeat patterns upon which the drum machine is based were printed from actual hospital checkups and decoded into sequences based on the individual shapes, pace and beats-per-minute.
These sequences were then transposed onto a turntable-like disc to produce sounds and rhythms based on the four unique heartbeats. "These sequences can be played separately or together to produce a wide range of sounds, and one can manually offset each 'heart' in relation to the other(s) in order to explore further and create unique rhythm patterns, explained Hultén. "For further manipulation, there is a mute switch for each channel and the overall tempo is adjusted via a knob up front."
The rhythms triggered from the circular sequencer are transformed into audio thanks to the synthesis expertise of the folks at Teenage Engineering, with the machine rocking Pocket Operator 400 analog synth modules that sport multiple oscillators, noise generators, filters and of course a bunch of patch cables. A small OLED display has been added to show the beats in real time.
The CHD-4 is portable and will be embarking on an awareness-raising tour in the coming weeks, visiting various artists and creators before eventually going up for auction on February 14 2023 in aid of the Swedish Heartchild Foundation. There's more info via the project link, and you sea and hear the machine in action in short video below.
Project page: CHD-4