Sofia Syjuco – Looking Outwards 11

Changxi Zheng

A work in the area of music that I found particularly interesting was the new musical instrument developed by Changxi Zheng. It’s called the “zoolophone,” a metallophone where each bar is shaped like a different animal. But the stylized shapes of the instrument aren’t nearly the most interesting thing about it, nor what I admire most. Zheng used computational design to create each bar, instead of painstakingly carving out each bar so that they vibrate perfectly. The computer tests and retests each bar, so that there is even less room for error, and when struck with a mallet, actually produces three notes (or a full chord).
I don’t know much about the algorithms used by Zheng to generate this work, but it’s really cool to think that, outside the intricate programming to carve out each piece, from this course we’ve been taught enough to know that the process beyond that is probably something along the lines of ‘if’ statements and continually testing until it works!
The artist’s sensibilities manifest in the final form by making each bar into a stylized animal shape – which is pretty incredible to think about, given instruments usually use regular bar shapes because it’s so difficult to get the sounds right with irregular shapes.


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