lev, a machine for playing the theremin

Lev with a Moog Etherwave Lev is a machine for playing a theremin.

Lev is named after Lev Termen (Leon Theremin), a Russian scientist who invented one of the first electronic musical instruments, an instrument which is played without touching, and which bears his name.

Lev is made out of an old floor lamp, some plumbing supplies, a few empty mint tins, and some microprocessors. Lev will never replace the human theremin virtuoso, although, as there are so few of the latter, a mechanical substitute may someday be vital to our economy.

greenmarket produce scans

Every Saturday, if I can, I go to my local greenmarket (at Grand Army Plaza), buy some goodies, take them home, and scan them. I’ve been doing it since 2000 or so, though this set only contains more recent ones.

Archival-quality prints of any of these images are available for sale – contact me if you’re interested, or buy online. Normal prints of the produce scans are about 11×14 inches – photo prints are $40 and Iris (giclée) art prints are $175. The veggies are reproduced at exactly their real size with wide borders on the art prints, and a bit bigger than life with narrow borders on the photo prints. Double-size prints (about 20×30 inches) are $60/$325. Prices include shipping in North America. Write ranjit at moonmilk dot com for more information.

See over 100 produce scans at my flickr site

sketching device #1

Sketching Device #1 is a moody art machine for which expression is more important than precision. Its bad temper turns simple instructions (back, left, down, right, repeat) into unpredictable swirls and snarls.

Based on research by Dan Reznik at the University of California, and inspired by a remark by Ed Stastny, Sketching Device #1 sends low-frequency vibrations through a sheet of paper to guide objects– such as pens– in any direction, without direct contact. The principle is similar to the way you scoot yourself around in a rolling office chair without touching the floor: jerk back quickly to make the chair move forward, and relax more slowly to get centered again without pulling the chair back. Sketching Device #1 does this about thirty times per second– too fast too see– and the pen in its plastic “boat” appears to float around the page by itself. In this primitive implementation, the process is not very reliable or predictable, and that is what makes the resulting sketches interesting.


fluxbox accordion“On March 25th, 2006 the Flux Factory space in Long Island City was transformed into a giant, interactive music box.

“A group of seven sound artists, musicians, and sculpture/installation artists gathered together by Flux Factory have created kinetic sculptures that all work together to play a single song. Viewers activate the box with a crank. Inside the Box, a veritable funhouse of sound can be discovered in each artist’s contribution to the overall song. The viewer becomes an active participant in the experience, subtly altering the song produced.” —flux factory

Sensitive Research

Sensitive ResearchI’m fascinated by antique scientific instruments. Sometimes that fascination goes too far, and I’m compelled to eviscerate them. Sensitive Research is part of a series of pieces combining natural materials with technological artifacts.

The preserved lemon inside Sensitive Research spins and strobes in response to various environmental factors, including network activity (if available), but, most importantly, the settings of the two front-panel knobs, which are quite pleasant to tweak.

Sensitive Research is now in the collection of Judith Zissman.

silence organ

silence organ consoleNexus Gallery in Philadelphia commissioned the Silence Organ for Innovative Instruments, a show of artists’ instruments presented in conjunction with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Citycircus, a celebration of John Cage.

To exploit rooms full of interesting instruments making interesting noises, I wired the gallery with 13 microphones, each set in a resonating tube tuned to a note of the diatonic scale. The viewer would put on headphones and play a tune on an antique keyboard, in which each note was made of filtered sound from elsewhere in the gallery.