Spectrum66 is a custom made spatial installation for LifeHub@ JinQiao . It consists of 66 single-string mechanical instruments. The concept of the artwork is to present visualized musical notation and to visually express the sheet music in real-time in a public space. Our goal is to create a performance of sound and light from accurate mechanical movement that immerses people in music both acoustically and visually. Surrounded by this three-sided mechanical installation, the audiences are experiencing a space of flowing music. Sounds could appear from different directions as sudden surprises accompanied by the horizontal and vertical movement of lights.
Since Spectrum 66 is permanently installed in a mall, it had to be something exciting also something that relates with its environment. In this space for resting and recreation, we wanted to create work that would grab the visitor’s attention. We also wanted to make something that would last as an extension of a delighted memory. Recalling from our childhood, we would eagerly wait for animated music clocks to perform. We wish to pass this kind of excitement to the people coming here as well, hoping that when they think of Spectrum 66, they would look forward to visiting it again to see if there were any new transformations of it.
The performance of Spectrum 66 is an interesting incident happening regularly, but Spectrum66 would always be fresh and prepared with new surprises, such as new music and new collaborations with installations or performances, waiting for its audience to come back again. Spectrum 66 is a mechanical art installation, an immersive sound environment, and also a playing instrument that anyone can appreciate. It is a performing artwork that is approachable and constantly changing.
How Spectrum 66 Functions
Spectrum66 consists of 66 mechanical instruments. Each instrument contains a light bar, a string, a pickup and a picking mechanism. The light bar on each instrument moves vertically in advanced to the correct pitch like fretting the guitar. The sounds are generated by the picking mechanism, which is a pick attached to a motor for plucking the string. During the performances of Spectrum66, the light bars shift up and down, forming a horizontal flow that contains sound, light and mechanical movement. The whole space becomes a musical instrument in the performance.
Spectrum66 is controlled by a computer. The computer analyzes prearranged midi files and distributes the notes inside the midi files to available instruments by an internal network. The light bar on the instrument then moves to the corresponding pitch. When it is time for the note to play, the network sends out a signal to trigger the picking device.
Spectrum66 also has four kinds of controllable lights, including the cool/warm white light on the back of the installation, the full color led under the strings, the full color light bar and the white flash that appears when plucking the string. All the lights can be controlled by real-time code. The practice we use is to define the control change midi message (CC) to allow the light and the music to preform synchronously in our performances.