Lomond Campbell has built an 18th century harmonograph, connected it to a 21st century modular synthesiser, and used the setup to record an album.
He explains: ‘A harmonograph is an 18th century scientific device that uses pendulums to create drawings that illustrate musical harmony — called lissajous figures. In this harmonograph each pendulum is connected to a sensor which triggers different elements of the synthesiser so that every time it makes a drawing, it also plays an accompanying synth soundtrack. There’s also a contact mic on the drawing board to pick up the sound of the pen. It uses three pendulums – two connected in a linear way to the pen and one rotary pendulum connected to the drawing board. You set them all swinging, lower the biro pen to the drawing board and let the pendulums run down over a period of about 5 minutes.
For this album I set the pendulums to near unison, so they gently swing in and out of phase with each other. Each time the machine creates a unique drawing, it also creates a unique musical composition to accompany it. The duration of each track is the exact time it takes for the pendulums to run down, at which point the drawing is complete.’
Watch the harmonograph in action below:
You can listen to the resulting album, NEAR UNISON, via Lomond’s Bandcamp page.