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Rotuni

1997 | Golan Levin with Scott Snibbe and Marcos Vescovi

Rotuni

The Rotuni is a computer musical instrument, developed as an experimental prototype at Interval Research Corporation, with a colorful graphic display and a physical, camera-based input device. Users play the Rotuni by placing opaque shapes or other objects on a translucent table-like surface. Beneath this surface a digital video camera captures the silhouettes of the users' objects; the pixel-outlines of the individual shapes or objects are then individually segmented and tracked by the computer. These silhouettes are reproduced on-screen (in real-time) but with the addition of a clock arm which originates at the centroid of each silhouette and extends to the silhouette's edge, and which rotates in discrete time steps.

As the clock arm sweeps around the contour of the silhouette, a musical note is played whose pitch is proportional to the length of the clock arm at every time-step. The Rotuni (whose name is a combination of "rotating" and "tunes") is polyphonic, since each silhouette yields its own melody. Each silhouette, moreover, yields a melody which is unique to its form; users can modify a shape's melody as it plays by changing the "footprint" of the object with the addition or motion of fingers and/or other small objects.

The Rotuni musical silhouettes are enlivened by the addition of eyes which float above each shape's center of mass and "look at" the eyes of the other shapes. The size of the eyes are proportional to the area of the shape to which they belong.

Images (click to enlarge)

Rotuni Rotuni