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Retro Product- Vacuum Cleaner Instrument

Yen Tzu Chang

Retro Product- Vacuum Cleaner Instrument is a hybrid project which mixes analog and digital sound, and is displayed as an experimental sound performance. It is not just a hacking of daily life machine, but also creating nostalgic atmosphere from the point of the future.

The vacuum cleaner is one of the most widely used household products since the 19th century. It was once a representative product which makes loud noise. But, if we search the sound of household products on the Internet, it will show some vacuum cleaner sound sources for hours, since they are regarded as a kind of white noise for those people who just want to relax or sleep well. Under this circumstance, the noise of vacuum cleaner is not negative anymore, it is transferred to positive.

However, with the rapid development of the industry and technology, more and more domestic products are improved. Unfortunately, sound-reducing is one of the targets of improvement. Household machines’ abundant sounds are gradually disappearing from our daily life. The vacuum cleaner is not excluded. Instead of typical noisy one; customers can only get a low-noise one with automatic features nowadays in the market. In other words, our familiar sound is disappearing.

According to observations above and with the point of view from the future, vacuum cleaner would be a symbol to present old decayed machine. Therefore, this work throws an imagination based on future’s approach of reproducing rare and nostalgic sound.

Typically, we record the sound to keep the sound. But what if instead of recording, we recycle the sound-maker and transfer it into an art work or an instrument? By means of it, we record more than sounds, but also its entity and our experiences. This is the basic conception of Vacuum Cleaner Instrument.

How to change a vacuum cleaner to become a music instrument? It is that remain the original part which can make the sound, but release the rest from its original purpose to make other sound. Based on the core of an old vacuum cleaner, the inner part of the system is modified into a combination of vacuum cleaner and the reed part from the accordion. Furthermore, outward and interface of controller are redesigned. All the components can be collected into a leather bag which bought from flea market.

During the performance, audiences can hear original sound from the vacuum cleaner, which are the noise of motor. Moreover, they can hear special melody when air flows through reed. What’s more, Arduino, relaies, ultrasonic sensors, and some electronic materials control motors and connect interface like a MIDI controller. By pressing keyboard on the Vacuum Cleaner Instrument, microphone recorded analog sounds are sent to Pure Data to be processed and remixed and finally played from speakers. In a nutshell, there are three elements of sound – the motor sound from vacuum cleaner, the sound from reed, and the live-remix of motor and reed. With nostalgic soundscape and dense atmosphere, audiences can enjoy abundant sounds from Vacuum Cleaner Instrument.

Image: Vacuum Cleaner Instrument, Yen Tzu Chang. Image courtesy of the artist Image: Vacuum Cleaner Instrument, Yen Tzu Chang. Image courtesy of the artist