Chessboard Synthesizer, 2020


The Chessboard Synthesizer is an interactive instrument designed to promote experimentation between audience members. The game of chess can be transformed by the participants through its potential as a musical game rather than one of conquest.  The sound produced by the instrument means that everyone is involved in the game, not just the players. This piece is designed to question the nature of set laws and conventions: there are moves that are sonically harmonious which might not be advantageous in a traditional game of chess. 

The chess pieces are all attached to quarters which send touch data to 16 channels on MPR121 sensors. Arduino sorts the data and sends it to a Pure Data patch where is is mapped into 16 oscillators, phasors, filters, samples, etc. The levels, frequencies, and playback of these 16 devices shift every time a piece is moved, changing the additive sound of the instrument.

Special Thanks to Autumn Rogers for coding assistance.
Photos by Yi Min at Art + Tech at Coaxial Arts Foundation