Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 November 2013
The article describes the design, production and usage of the ‘Rumentarium’, a computer-based sound generating system involving physical objects as sound sources. The Rumentarium is a set of handmade resonators, acoustically excited by DC motors, interfaced to the computer by means of various microcontrollers. Following an ecological/anthropological approach, in the Rumentarium discarded materials are used as sound sources. Every instrument is ‘produced while designed’ in an improvisation-like manner, starting from available materials. In this way, hardware is ‘softened’: that is, it can be continuously modified as in software development. Analogously, the onsite setup is very light, so that components can be added or removed on the fly, even while the Rumentarium is at work. Differently from typical computer music, the Rumentarium, while entirely computationally controlled, is an acoustic sound generator. On one hand, the Rumentarium can be played like an instrument in conjunction with a MIDI controller, for use in live musical performance. On the other side, it can be driven by algorithmic strategies. In this way, the Rumentarium can be configured also as a sound installation, in a standalone mode. Some artistic works are discussed while introducing the various control modalities that have been specifically developed for the Rumentarium.