- Categories Electronics, Installation, Performance, Resource, Sound, Video
A trampoline-based portable synthesizer for making noise in the woods alone. Built as part of my research for my position as Game Designer in Residence at MICA Game Lab.
You can get all the code and more technical info on the GitHub repository for this project.
I’ve been playing around with trampolines as interfaces for some time now, starting a few years ago with Tinderbox and Room to Play. The premise is really simple – with some copper tape underneath the trampoline you can make a switch circuit that is completed each time someone jumps, making the equivalent of a button press. You can then use that to make noise (or play a game or anything, really). It’s an incredibly satisfying and universal interaction, jumping up and down to control sounds just works well for some reason.
This past semester I taught a class at MICA called Experimental Sound Games, so I resurrected my old trampoline ideas to use as one of the main assignments for the class. The whole pandemic situation meant that the projects couldn’t be completed quite as planned, but some of them turned out super well anyway! To help them along I made this tutorial video.
In terms of the jumpSynth – the synth part is a Pure Data patch running on a Bela. I’m no synthesis expert, so it’s a kind of silly synth with 8 analog control inputs. It produces a fun array of sounds overall – I designed the sound to work well with the jumping interface. The synth plays a sequence of notes from an array in a loop. With each “button” press from the trampoline it plays the next note. There is a button for randomizing the notes. This is a sound design trick I rely on pretty often (it even shows up on the menu system for my old iPhone game Bad Hotel, which I talk about in some depth here).
Funny story: my original plan was for this synth to be called “goatSynth” because my sister got some pygmy goats and I thought it would be hilarious to make a trampoline synth that the goats would play by jumping up and down. I soon learned that goats don’t always jump up and down on things. They just stood there looking confused. If anyone has any tips for getting goats to jump on command please let me know.