Sound Sculpture

Categories: Artistic/Visual Project or Installation

Submitted by:Ryan Edwards, MASARY Studios

24 May 2023

Elevator Pitch

Sound Sculpture

Sound Sculpture is an interactive musical instrument, comprised of 25 location-aware cubes. It is a physical sound and light environment that facilitates cooperative sound composition.

Product Description

Sound Sculpture

Sound Sculpture is a large-scale, interactive, music sequencer utilizing location-based technology, electronic music, sound design and custom hardware. Participants are invited to play with (arrange) the illuminated cubes in any fashion, and in so doing create musical patterns, melodies, and rhythms. Comprising 25 location-aware blocks, the project is situated as a participatory, public artwork that is simultaneously an illuminated social foil, and a serious, playable musical interface.

The artwork allows participants to move and play with blocks, creating changeable and dynamic light and sound structures. The portable, location-aware blocks offer a spatial and tangible aspect to musical composition, merging sculptural creations with auditory experiences.

Designed for installation at various venues such as museums, schools, community centers, and public art festivals, Sound Sculpture adds a physical dimension to musical composition and makes sculptural creation audible. Each block is made of high-density polyethylene, measuring 17 inches on each side. Equipped with a positioning tag, battery, processor with Wi-Fi antenna, and LED light array, the blocks can be tracked in a determined space using ultrawideband location systems and custom software. The software continuously updates the movements and locations of the blocks, activating them in sequential order with sound and light based on their physical placement. As participants rearrange and reorient the blocks, the musical composition changes accordingly. Typically, the x-axis represents rhythm, while the y-axis represents pitch.

The development of Sound Sculpture has involved years of research, study, and development in interactive instrument design through the lens of public art. Technicians, software developers, composers, and electronic music producers have contributed their expertise to the project. However, the true motivation lies in the public reaction and the joy of unlocking musical creation in a playful and collaborative setting.

How It's Innovative

Sound Sculpture is a massive, wireless MIDI sequencer. It is patented as the first "location-aware musical instrument" and has been widely appreciated by audiences of various ages, and backgrounds. Many musicians, particularly those who are familiar with MIDI sequencing in software (piano roll) and even composers who toil over the placement of notes in musical time, will recognize the approach to this artwork as intuitive. Sound Sculpture makes physical - literally - the compositional process and puts notes (MIDI notes, to be specific) in people’s hands thereby allowing real time, physical composition. What's more, this project utilizes 25 cubes in a space typically about the size of a half-basketball court. This spatial realization of composing, with blocks, allows multiple people to collaborate, co-compose as a community, and together create structures, rhythms, melodies, and harmonies.

See MIDI Innovation In Action

Most Inspiring Use Cases

While this project is the obvious extension of software, hardware, and technological expression,  what is perhaps more inspiring is the evidence of universal tenants of Composition. In this case  referring to capital "C" composition, as in the ideas of composition that are shared across media  - from prose to architecture, painting to fashion, film scores to scripts. We might agree that  many basic ideas of theme, variation, positive and negative space, repeating forms, inversion,  counterpoint, and more are tangible in all (or at best many) creative pursuits. 

Sound Sculpture is no exception, in fact it describes these ideas in extremely plain ways - it is  both visible and audible. When, for example, a random scattering of the cubes is present, it will  sound (and look) just like that - without recognizable pattern. When participants create a shape,  and then repeat it, perhaps with a slight variation, it is often recognizable as such - a pattern  and variation, a musically provocative idea. These unique features of the artwork - the  physicalization of music making - have allowed many people to be creative, and play with  sound, in ways they may have otherwise not attempted. The artwork creates a social foil for  play that is intuitive and effective, all the while being a literal and accurate musical instrument.  This has opened doors to musical play and in many cases surprised participants with new belief  in their own creativity. 

Additionally, this artwork has been used multiple times in performance works with musicians  collaborating with the public, and in certain cases, with dancers and choreographers. This use  has been particularly inspiring, as the physical nature of the artwork allows dancers to co-create  their score, set design and aspects of the stage lighting in real time.

Expansion Plans

At this time (early 2023) we have one set of 25 cubes and the supporting system to make the piece function. This year we are planning to create a second set to increase our ability to share, tour and potentially install the artwork in museums for longer showing periods.


We consider this project an artwork, and as such have toured the piece extensively in the US over the last 4-5 years. We receive invitations (paid, typically) to show the piece at light festivals, museums, clubs, and more. In the near term, we envision long-term contracts to show the piece or possibly acquisitions by contemporary art museums and / or science museums.