Music

Forget Metallica, this machine makes real rock music

Forget Metallica, this machine...
The Rock Band uses real rocks to pound out the melody for Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
The Rock Band uses real rocks to pound out the melody for Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
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The Rock Band uses real rocks to pound out the melody for Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
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The Rock Band uses real rocks to pound out the melody for Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
The full Rock Band ready to play, comprising two Spinner modules, a Pinger glockenspiel, a Slapper component and a Buzzer
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The full Rock Band ready to play, comprising two Spinner modules, a Pinger glockenspiel, a Slapper component and a Buzzer
Building the Slapper component of the Rock Band
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Building the Slapper component of the Rock Band
A bunch JF-1250B solenoids awaiting installation in the Pinger module of the Rock Band
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A bunch JF-1250B solenoids awaiting installation in the Pinger module of the Rock Band
Building the Spinner module of the Rock Band
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Building the Spinner module of the Rock Band
The Rock Band comprises a Buzzer out front that provides fuzzy bass, two Slapper modules, a Pinger glockenspiel and two Spinner components
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The Rock Band comprises a Buzzer out front that provides fuzzy bass, two Slapper modules, a Pinger glockenspiel and two Spinner components
Close up of the rocks in the tubes of the Rock Band's Pinger module
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Close up of the rocks in the tubes of the Rock Band's Pinger module
Close up of the Rock Band's Slapper module
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Close up of the Rock Band's Slapper module
View gallery - 8 images

So you've gathered together a lightnin' fast guitar shredder, a stomach-churning low end thunder god, an eardrum-splitting bin basher and a gravel-voiced screamer ... and you think you've got the makings of a stadium rock band. But is that noise your neighbors complain about real rock music? Prepare to be totally upstaged by Neil Mendoza's Rock Band – a set of electromechanical instruments that make sounds when genuine rocks are thrown at the them.

Mendoza's impressive machine was designed using Autodesk software, at the company's Pier 9 digital fabrication workshop in San Francisco as part of its artist in residence program. Taking care of the main melody are a bunch JF-1250B solenoids in circular formation that fire small pebbles through polycarbonate tubes at a dozen aluminum keys, or the Pinger module for short.

"Inside each of the tubes is a small pebble," Mendoza told New Atlas. "When the Teensy (similar to an Arduino but a more powerful) receives a note for this instrument, it triggers a solenoid (electromagnet), to launch the pebble up a tube and strike a key. For the design of this piece, I wrote a piece of software that calculated the size each key needed to be to produce the appropriate frequency and then cut them out using a water jet cutter."

The Rock Band comprises a Buzzer out front that provides fuzzy bass, two Slapper modules, a Pinger glockenspiel and two Spinner components
The Rock Band comprises a Buzzer out front that provides fuzzy bass, two Slapper modules, a Pinger glockenspiel and two Spinner components

To the rear of the setup are two Spinner modules, where poles attached to stepper motors pick up pieces of hematite using magnets and spin around circular housing to launch them at pieces of marble. "When a note is received, the shaft spins and one of the rocks is guided away from its magnet and launched through the air," explained Mendoza. "It lands on a piece of marble that has been cut to size to fit in the machine."

The appropriately-named Slapper component whacks a pair of stationary rocks with a whirligig of studded fake leather, and the Buzzer module provide some fuzz bass by vibrating the plunger of a solenoid on a piece of marble.

The Rock Band has been set up to play The Beatles classic Here Comes the Sun, but as it's computer-controlled with a MIDI player that communicates with a Teensy dev board maybe something like Rollin' Stone by Muddy Waters or Bo Diddley put the rock in rock 'n' roll could conceivably make it onto a future playlist.

Mendoza has shared build instructions for the Pinger mechanical glockenspiel module over on Instructables, should you wish to make your own mechanical rocker. Meanwhile, the video below shows the Rock Band in action.

Source: Neil Mendoza

Rock Band

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