CHROMATIC Is a Color-Controlled Record Player
This sequencer lets players generate music by simply positioning colorful pucks on a turntable.
While everyone considers music an art, music theory is actually very technical. The sound combinations that are pleasing to human ears aren’t completely arbitrary; they follow a pattern, and music theory is all about adhering to that pattern — or purposefully tweaking it — in order to create the intended mood. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of wrapping their heads around formal music theory. Many people work better when they have a more tangible way of stringing notes together. CHROMATIC is like a color-controlled record player, and lets players generate music by simple positioning colorful pucks on a turntable.
The CHROMATIC optical color sequencer was created by Xavier Gazon, an electronic music producer and sound designer from Belgium. It was inspired by the Optophonic Piano created by Vladimir Baranoff Rossiné 1916, which used a complex series of filters, mirrors, and lenses to direct light onto a photo-electric cell that controlled the pitch of a single oscillator. CHROMATIC uses much more sophisticated hardware, but it still relies on light—specifically the color of light—to control the pitch of the notes being played. The timing between notes is controlled by adjusting the speed of the turntable, and placing the colored pucks in specific positions.
That was doing using a Teensy board and a series of sensors that are used in conjunction with turntable controls. The colored pucks are detected by a color and distance sensor, and white traces around the circumference of the turntable are used to set the MIDI clock in order to sync up other instruments. The musician can change the speed and direction of the turntable, as well as the position of the tone arm. A few potentiometers are also used to adjust the MIDI sound output. When plugged into a computer with MIDI software CHROMATIC can be used to create complex music like any other sequencer, but in a far more tangible way.