The Magnetosphere

2015-2016, ferrous metal, wood, acrylic, electronics, electromagnets

The Magnetosphere


Excerpt from The Fusebox Time Arts Festival 2016.

The fluctuating yet persistent presence of the Earth’s Magnetosphere forms an aura of invisible electromagnetic energy around the outer atmosphere of the planet. This transitional frontier is where the Earth interfaces with outer space and where satellites and discarded space junk are possessed by the invisible forces of gravity and electromagnetism.

Utilizing found objects, robotics, electronics, sound, and music, this work echoes the imagined feelings of kaleidoscopic weightlessness in an oscillating orbit around the Earth. The disparate artifacts form a connection with one another through the phenomena of electromagnetism and sonic resonance. Orchestrated to a score that oscillates between the “familiar” (Earth) and the “far away” (Outer Space), the soundtrack combines traditional styles with minimalism and an experimental pallet of drones, ambience, and noise. 

In addition to the robotic percussion and player toy piano, the magnetic membranophones in particular featured in this work are an unexplored area of musical instrument design and sonology. They produce a range of rich acoustic timbres similar to horns, cellos, flutes, and percussion. Using software, the electromagnet that is held next to each membrane is carefully controlled with pulse width and frequency modulation. The musical score employs this process by manipulating the physical sonic character of each set of instruments such as resonance, pitch, noise, dynamics, and reverberation. Unlike speaker-based electronic compositions (flat one-dimensional sounds), all of the warm and complex assets of these acoustic instruments are projected in every direction and spatially orchestrated throughout.

The documentation above uses binaural microphones to capture the soundtrack which follows the position of the camera in order to convey how the instruments and musical parts are experienced in the space. If you wear headphones, you will be able to get a sonic sense of how the objects are placed.

Below is flow chart that briefly explains the sound process.

Magnetosphere Flow Chart



The Octant Ensemble

2014, wood, electronics, solenoids, motors, hand built and modified musical instruments

As part of a group show with various works mimicking an Ikea store, the Octant Ensemble is performing the (MUSAK) soundtrack. You can hear the occasional announcement interruptions. The curator, Zac Trager, assigned the song list to me to and I arranged the music for the robotics. I know some of the songs pretty well but some are still unfamiliar, as I haven’t kept up with the hits over the years.

Working Together to Serve You Better

2003, ants, electronics, motors, dirt, plastic, food

I don’t think the efforts of people (such as myself) working in modern cities are fully appreciated (even by me). Truthfully, I don’t think the combined efforts of humanity are properly appreciated by anybody. Every building, vegetable, magazine, computer, and toy represents the accrued lives of vast numbers of mental and physical laborers throughout history. Each of these creations is the tip of a colossal iceberg of history. But we will use them and then dispose of them, like our hair and fingernails, or any of the other tools we used to borrow from the natural world. We will purchase them, eat them, read them, stand on them, break them, throw them away, bury them, and forget about them. And then maybe dig them up again and proffer them for sale or spectacle.

My business is reworking the designs of dead architects, engineers, and designers.  I build electromechanical devices that orchestrate sound and movement. I also incorporate organic elements that have their own clocks and programs to respond to and initiate change within their systems. I place these systems in vessels made from fabricated and found containers. This is my way of cleaning up after millions of generations of billions of slobs. Although I suppose that I am really not cleaning up, just rearranging.




2004, needle felted wool, electronics, motors, plastic


Are we not monstrous? We extend our bodies and perception into outer space, virtual space, and medicated stupors. We become larger by inhabiting vehicles and buildings. We make monsters of other living things like, cattle and pets, breeding and engineering them into food and companions.

This work explores the murky borders between technology and biology. They are alchemic experiments that portray both my attraction and repulsion with scientific trophies and prosthetic disasters. I choose to exploit the confusion surrounding what is considered cognitive or instinctual, living or nonliving, animated or stationary.


2003, mixed media


Mokaoke takes the performative role of a karaoke machine but instead of guiding you through a song, it takes what ever you sing into the microphone, samples it, chops it up, reorganizes it, and plays it back to you with its own rhythm and arrangement. In its code, it uses algorithms and random number generators to vary the rhythms and accompaniment. With the construction, I continued with the use of found mundane components for its chassis and mechanisms – cat litter containers and tin cans.

The installation video documentation has been lost but below there is a performance from the 2003 Pack Edge Music Fest. I am feeding a cassette tape player’s output into its input instead of a microphone.

We Love to Make Mistakes

2002, spandex, electronics, servo motors, plastic

This robotic installation uses feedback and an algorithmic program to generate organic-like movement. There are five improvisational robots that sample light from sensors at the ends of wire. As the wire flexes new readings are taken and new movements are triggered to complete the loop. All of the parts of this installation are scattered along the floor and only move when people are present. There are also half tuned TVs that are placed around the improvisers as additional sources of variable light input.



Kermit the Man

2004, electronics, motors, felt, plastic toys

Kermit The Man in Progress

Kermit’s head comes from the Hasbro Micky Mouse version of the Teddy Ruxpin cassette tape controlled talking bear from the 80s. Chicago had the best cheap thrift stores in the early 2000s when I was in grad school and I had my eyes out for anything that could be repurposed for animatronics. I had to develop a controller for the mouth due to the unique servos that were inside the of the head. At this time I was using Pic micro-controllers.

As you can see in the video above, I decided to augment the plastic head with similarly tinted plastic parts and I didn’t add eyes to keep the head from taking priority over the rest of the parts. The body was formed from plastic toys glued to a base and covered in felted wool. I left the plastic appendages poking out of the felt like teeth or broken bones bursting out of his skin.

Kermit is a re-envisioned asymmetrical Frankenstein monster. What was forming in the process of his creation was a dialog between his head and his giant foot as if they were two different persons. The soundtrack augments a call and response between these two parts.


Letter to The South

2004, electronics, motors, felt, dirt, cotton q-tips