Pipes is a tonal percussion instrument built for Curtis Hartshorn (tk) and Kyle Harris (Blue Man Group, Ben Levin Group), for their 2018 performance of "Extremes," an original score by Jason Treuting. The instrument’s 3D model can be parametrically stretched and pushed like clay to conform to its end-user’s desired frequencies and playing applications.
I worked with the two percussionists to test a series of materials, fastening mechanisms, and frequency ranges to optimize the audio quality and playability of the one-off instrument. Beginning with a literature review (cheers to Professor Lapp) to determine physical specifications for achieving exact sound frequencies, I produced an equation-driven 3D model of our pipe lengths of interest.
Above, the equation used for frequency-to-dimension relations (Lapp 2003). The model's subsequent equation table includes user-entered values, including the pipe’s material, inner and outer diameters, and desired frequency (e.g. F#). Its output rendered the pipes’ lengths, which I machined, shown in the above time lapse.
Above, Harris and Hartshorne practicing Treuting's "Extremes," after a few evenings of prototyping sessions. The players settled on 3/4" copper tube, for its warm tone, and a thick foam base for its length of resonance.
The model was also programmed to render a sound-optimized base for the instrument. Fastening through-holes are generated at the exact anti-nodes, the areas of least sound resonance along the varying lengths of pipe. The project is an exercise in parameterized music hardware. I look forward to its further evolution, ideally porting it over to string and wind-based instrument hardware design.