the musical quilt

interactive fabric electronic musical quilt featuring the trees and sounds of SE Tennessee.

The thought of using soft piezoresistive materials to make music is perhaps first presented in this paper, "Robust and Reliable Fabric, Piezoresistive Multitouch Sensing Surfaces for Musical Controllers." We demoed a 4-panel musical fabric at the 2011 MIT Tech Fair, using sounds samples from Anamorphosis' gamelan collection on freesound. Later on we saw some tree quilts in the Seattle airport and thought to do a musical version of one. There are some pretty awesome tree quilts out there, by the way.

Thanks to the kind folks at the UNFoundation we had the material expenses defrayed. The piezo and conductive fabrics came from Eeonyx and Less EMF, respectively. Each of the dogwood petals are triggers, and the buds contain purple LEDs that light on the petals being pushed. Based on focus groups aka small children it is clear the buds should also be responsive. Hopefully this greater understanding can go into making the rest of the quilt better. The sound is created using Pure Data on Ubuntu OMAP/Linux. We made some samples of nature sounds -- chickens and wild birds and dogs and such -- as well as some notes played on our grandmother's old upright piano. The current piece is about 1/8 the envisioned final size. Right now work is going a bit slow as the blueberries are ripe and need picked before the birds get them but we'll be continuing soon (7-31-13).

schematic of musical fabric
Circuit diagram of the fabric

view of conductive and piezo resistive fabrics
View of the conductive and piezo-resistive fabrics

shift register chip configuration
View of accessory IC chips (595 shift registers and 4051 multiplexer)

playing the petal sensors
Shift registers and the arduino control LEDs sewn into the dogwood buds.