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SHAPE (Sound and Habitat Audio Prototyping Environment)


Sound and Habitat Audio Prototyping Environment (SHAPE) is a collection of nature-inspired electroacoustic devices created for sound art in public spaces. It is part of an audio feedback research project at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT). By repurposing discarded electronics and manufactured objects, low-cost materials are used to make interactive sound sculptures and novel music instruments. Subtle gestures and actions by participants change the sound in real time. The project attempts to question the dichotomy between sound art and common environmental sounds through a zero-waste, collective action framework. With SHAPE, natural and artificial materials converge; construction and deconstruction hold equal weight; raw materials reclaim another existence; and sounds from unusual sources expand into fully resonating bodies. Audio transfer is based on two input types for each device: a piezoelectric contact mic and an electret air mic. These elements combine to sense both vibration in material and pressure waves in the air. Sound energy is then converted into an analog and a digital signal. Both analog and digital electronic environments are highly programmable, allowing for quick on-site prototyping. Six devices from this project will be highlighted and described in detail. Aside from the PCB fabrication, smartphone, and case construction, all of the e-components for these devices can be easily found in old discarded speaker systems and reused. Proprietary devices such as the iRig are currently being used, but these will be reverse engineered for future open-access integration. Open-source software such as Pure Data and MobMuPlat make any Android or iOS device compatible with this system, thus facilitating second-hand use of virtually all smartphone models. Considering the portability and cost effectiveness of this project, SHAPE is particularly adept at facilitating outdoor applications such as sound installations or musical performances.

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