Merkaba is a 3d printed exotic looking bracelet that worked as a musical prosthetic. The bracelet itself has sharp points sticking out on one side and extends down the bracelet, unevenly. The bracelet has an arduino attached to the bracelet for the final presentation, and multiple wires connecting the bracelet to the patch on a users arm. The wires are soldered and placed in the correct holes of the arduino to send the data to the sensors. Each bracelet has two touch sensors, which play two different sounds according to the instrument each player is assigned.
In our team Isabella had the vocal bracelet - one of the sensors on the vocal bracelet manipulates the volume of her recorded singing , while the second sensor manipulates one of her coaches beat-boxing recordings. Jasper had the melody bracelet- both sensors on the bracelet are piano based sounds and has the manipulations of the volume. Lizzie had the beat bracelet- both sensors on the bracelet plays two different beats and has the manipulations of the volume aswell the other two bracelets.
Vocal Bracelet (Isabella):
The vocal bracelet process started with assembling the melody and the beat to go together in the software Ableton Live. Then Isabella was able to record her own vocals with one of the coaches. This took a couple takes and a several tests to determine which affects worked out. After recording Isabella’s vocals we decided to add one of the coaches awesome beatboxing skills. After recording both of Isabella’s and her coaches vocal samples we put them into Ableton Live and edited them. This consisted of elongating some parts and minimizing others. This helped because it escalated parts of the track such as the piano and beat. After creating the track, Isabella cut out main samples and made them into loops. A factor Isabella had to consider during this process was to have it be eight bars and work together when her group performed live. My next step was to send each loop to my partners and all of us had to set up the sensors on max patch. However our first attempt to do so was unsuccessful because we needed to fix the patch for each individual. After doing so we connected all the wires and placed the sensors on.
Melody Bracelet (Jasper):
For the melody bracelet Jasper downloaded a package of 300 synth, piano, and bass samples onto itunes. He sorted through them until finding a moody and catchy piano riff that the whole group agreed on. This piano riff was the basis for which the vocals and beatboxing were created - all the other recordings (except the beat tracks) were recorded over the piano sample. After Isabella sung the vocal track, One of the coaches took all the samples and recordings to Ableton Live, changed all the BPM’s (beats per minute) to rhythmically align everything, and added a bass track of his own creation to pull it all together. This bass track also ended up on Jasper’s bracelet along with the piano tune.
Beat Bracelet (Lizzie):
The beat bracelet process started with finding loops online that would correspond well with the melody. Lizzie found multiple loops that sounded sufficient, however she narrowed down to two beats that would work well with the vocals and the synthesizer. Those two beats were edited by Isabella in Ableton Live for the best quality. After she was done editing the beats they were then downloaded to the sensors, using the Arduino.
Vocal Track (Isabella):
Isabella created the full track by using the software Ableton Live. Isabella took the loops from the melody,beat and vocal and placed them in the software. From there she manipulated the vocals by adding and correcting each of them with different effects. Then Isabella took all the sample loops from the vocals and beatboxing and tried to see which sounded best together. Each sample Isabella cut she had to manipulate in order to make fuller sounds. This meant clicking each individual sample and either speeding up the song or elongating them. The final step consisted of rasterizing the whole piece in order to get a final song.
Bracelet Design (Lizzie):
After settling on the bracelet idea, we still had many more aspects of the project to figure out. Lizzie started by working on rhino. She didn’t know exactly what the bracelet would finally look like, so she played with some of the tools on rhino, and came up with a couple different ideas. After a while of designing different kinds of bracelets on rhino, Lizzie decided to research some exotic looking bracelets, for some inspiration. She explored different textures, designs and themes. After collecting multiple images of different artist’s work, Lizzie started sorting through materials and found cardboard. She started designing strips in rhino and laser cut them into the cardboard. To give it a minor effect, she made the strips uneven. Some were bigger than others. After gathering the strips from the laser cutter Lizzie wove them together. This was one option for the texture of the bracelet. To make the woven pattern look more exciting, Lizzie laser cut arcs out of cardboard, and glued them in between the strips. It captured the creative look we wanted, but it was not functional as a musical prosthetic.
This is when Lizzie started with constructing a whole new look, that was inspired by a wooden bracelet she found online. She was planning on laser cutting the pieces, so she started designing it on rhino. It was cut into foamboard. This idea was using 4 different pieces of the bracelet and connecting them by wooden dowel. After the first prototype of this idea was laser cut, Lizzie fit them onto her wrist, and realized the edges were too sharp for comfort, and she had to readjust the size. Lizzie applied these critiques to the design in rhino, and laser cut the second prototype. This one worked and fit well onto our wrists. However, after Lizzie started to use the dowels, she realized the only size that we had access to, were a little smaller than the ones she had made room for. Given this challenge, she worked on the design in rhino some more, and laser cut the final prototype. She fit the dowels in, and put the bracelet together.
After more discussion about the bracelet, we came to the conclusion that touch sensors would offer more control over the sounds than the distance sensors. This meant we had change the design of the bracelet to fit the touch sensors. Lizzie started 3d modeling on rhino. She used the dimensions she had previously gathered and created multiple bracelets with different features. Each one had a different look. Some were sharper, or thicker, or longer. She examined each design and considered the functionality each bracelet. Lizzie finally had the basic design of the bracelet, with the correct dimensions, and thickness. However, this design looked quite boring to us, and did not fulfill the captivating aspect that we were hoping it would.
This is when Lizzie started brainstorming possible additions the bracelet could include. This is what took her to the final bracelet. She added texture to one side of the bracelet, by added spikes. It captured the look we thrived for, and we were satisfied with the functionality of the musical prosthetic piece.
While researching and learning about musical prosthetics, we saw a video about a project that was made called the Dodecahedron. This is an instrument that is controlled by the movement of your hands. It plays different sounds depending on which side of the instrument you play. Our group formed based on our interest in this video, and we created our first sketch of a possible prototype. The original idea was to make 3 triangular panels that had infrared sensors that would detect the movement of our hands. We planned on controlling the volume through the distance of our hands to the sensors. We also wanted to include LED lights to add more of an effect to the prosthetic. We were hoping the panels would be able to spin, and based on the speed of the rotation, the light would flicker different colors. After thinking through all these aspects we wanted to include, we came up with the name “Merkaba.” Merkaba is a form of meditation that uses one’s energy, directing it across three triangles surrounding the person. We liked the similarity in focusing on triangles, so we decided to name our project that. We spent a few days sketching the triangular panels and discussing how to build the prosthetic. However, after further deliberation, we decided it would be better to make the musical prosthetic be something one can wear. This brought us to our final project, which was a bracelet. We faced many more changes after we thought of the bracelet, but we had narrowed down our brainstorming ideas, and were ready to start on the technical and design piece.