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Slowscan Soundwave

Douglas Irving Repetto

wood, metal rod, spring, plastic sheets, motors, microcontroller

In the physical world, transmutation is never perfect. Slowscan Soundwave is one in a series of pieces that attempt to create simple physical manifestations of complex physical, biological, and social phenomena.

Sound travels through open spaces via the compression and rarefaction (expansion) of air molecules. For example, as the head of a drum vibrates, it pushes and pulls at the air around it. That pushing and pulling creates areas of higher and lower air pressure, which propagate out from the source in waves. Slowscan Soundwave uses a microphone to sample the ambient air pressure in its environment. It then uses those samples to change the alignment of seventy nine suspended plastic sheets in an attempt to create a visible analog to those constantly changing pressure fronts.

Even the simplest of sounds is too complex, and changes too quickly, to be accurately represented by plastic sheets slowly moving this way and that. As a result the patterns formed by Slowscan Soundwave are a crude approximation of those formed in the air.

The goal of these pieces is not perfection or precision. I am entranced by the strange and beautiful, but often invisible, intangible, and inaudible phenomena that surround us. These pieces are an (imperfect) attempt to make those elusive phenomena more clearly perceptible.

Douglas Irving Repetto is an artist and teacher. He lives in New York City and works at the Columbia University Computer Music Center. His work, including installations, performances, recordings, software, and lectures has been presented internationally. He runs a number of arts/community-oriented groups in New York City and on the web, including dorkbot: people doing strange things with electricity (, ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show (, organism: making art with living systems (, and the music-dsp mailing list ( When not teaching or making art, Douglas spends much of his time cooking, coveting buildings, and socializing with members of the plant kingdom. He is married to writer Amy Charlotte Benson.

All materials on this website copyright 2000-2022 douglas irving repetto and the individual artists.