Week 11:  Bio Symphony

[]  Tuesday 18th of Janruary: One week project

[]  Brief:
Design and make bio material instruments and play it together

[]  Team members:
Bipasha, Jessie, Malavika, Mu Lin

Day 1: 18th Jan

This day was spent experimenting with gelatin and various bio materials.

The gelatine was mixed with water and glycerol which made it have elastic properties.

We mixed in shrubbery and we noticed the clouded effect it had when light shined through it captures in the bio material inside as an artifact.  This aesthetically looked nice. However we were yet to discover its sonic properties.

Day 2 19th Jan

I started to think about products in my everyday life that went to waste. One of which is used coffee granules. These are a wet powder like material. I found that these could be dried in an oven and used to bind the gelatine.  

Another material was mushrooms. Mushrooms can be used to grow bacteria and form quite a hard solid layer when dried.

I minced the mushrooms and sliced them to dry out as I wanted to see what would  happen when incorporated into the mixture.

The dried mushrooms produced a rustling dry sound when we recorded the sliced mushrooms but the minced incorporated better into the gelatine mixture. Listen to sound recordings here: 

Using the coffee granules and mince mushrooms, we experimented with different amounts. We found that the more coffee granules the harder the set material was.

The agar mixture was very strong and silicone like. It could be shaken and through with no breakage. We recorded the sound of it shaking which made a sound similar to a wet mixture being stirred. Listen here: 

Day 3: 20th Jan

We started to think more about instruments that we could make from what we had. Playing around with the biomaterials we started to drag the agar material over the coffee and mushroom. It made a very quiet but unique sound as the elastic material (agar) interacted with the brittle rigid material (coffee/mushroom).

How could we turn this movement into a material?

We looked at music boxes. As they produced a controlled sound but the user was in control of it. Using this principle I designed a mechanical box that would make the two materials interact. See diagram below.

Day 4: 21st Jan

With the finished instrument we went to the workshop on Friday to create a symphony with other groups and Ronnie was conducting it all.

Comparing our instrument to other groups in the class, I could see that ours had more instrument characteristics than most. But I notice through-out the workshop that each group seemed to fit either the interesting sound category or the characteristics of an instrument - rarely was there a group that both produced an instrument and an interesting sound. I found that our group fell into the characteristics of an instrument category as the sound it produced was deep and metallic which was mainly produced by the microphone and not the bio material. 


I think this project played to my strengths, it was a physical, making project. I enjoyed exploring the material properties of biomaterials learning about how to make them stronger or more elasticated.

I think its strengths are that it looks like an instrument and involves an interaction to make a sound. Whoever, I think our bio instrument could have been improved with a second iteration. The mic we used produced a similar sound for each different material and I think this was due to the calibration of it. So, next I would experiment with more sensitive microphones.