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Sam Topley embroidery

Sam Topley embroidery  ·  Source: Sam Topley

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Sound artist Sam Topley works with textiles to create interactive musical experiments and instruments. Her latest is a fabulously embroidered noise machine.

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Musical Instruments from E-Textiles

Over the course of a handful of Instagram posts, Sam puts together a simple idea for a noise-generating machine that can be interactively manipulated through touch and is built on textiles or e-textiles to be exact. E-textiles are a means of embedding electronics and wires into fabric to make devices that are full of physical texture and beauty in a way that PCBs often don’t. It’s found in so-called “smart garments” or clothes with lights and other fanciful bits of technology. It’s a fascinating area especially in music technology where expression is so open to creative uses of our environment and form.

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The circuit is based on a 555 Timer oscillator and then she introduces an interactive element in the form of conductive fabric so you can change the sound. It’s brilliantly simple and engaging. And what’s really great is the understanding that this doesn’t have to happen in isolation, and so the output is fed into Max MSP where it is processed and messed about with granular synthesis, delay and pitch shifting to take it to otherworldly levels. Sam says it has “dial-up energy” and she’s not wrong.

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DIY Pompom Musical Instrument Kit

You can pick up one of Sam’s previous inventions as a kit from her Etsy page. The idea is that after winding yourself a couple of e-textile pompoms you can play the musical instrument by squeezing them. The harder you squeeze the higher the pitch. That’s fantastic.

Sam Topley Pompom kit

Sam Topley Pompom kit

Sam is hosting a virtual workshop to take you through building the kit on Saturday 6th November.

So while I’m unsure if Sam has any plans to release more kits she’s a great person to follow on social media if you are interested in creative DIY projects on music technology.

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