Interactive Musical Performance

Collaborative Project

Ableton, Arduino, Max


Pendular is an interactive musical system that explores the physical motion of hanging objects as a method for manipulating synthesized music. Using wind and light, we work in tandem to control the environment in which these objects react. As the objects swing and spin through the air, their movements are interpreted as sonic transformations ranging from calm and predictable to chaotic and random. It is a collaborative project with Elias Jarzombek.

We are naturally drawn to observing movements such as a balloon flying into the sky, or a pendulum swinging in perfect time. These motions give us a glimpse into the infinite interconnected variables that make up our reality. They captivate us in their seeming randomness (when there are too many variables to model) or their predictability (when the system can be accurately represented with mathematical functions). Observing such phenomena provides us with a moment of meditative peace and contemplation, not unlike the feeling you get when listening to music you love. In our interactive musical system Pendular, we draw a connection between these two sensibilities. The work introduces a method of translating the invisible forces around us into the sonic realm, in an effort to inspire imagination and memory through movement and sound.

Our performance with the interface is structured around the delicate power dynamic between human and natural forces. The musical arrangement reflects this relationship in its combination of organic and inorganic sounds: the disc modulates effects on live vocals while the cube affects the timbre of a synthesizer. We begin by establishing the link between motion and sound: we manipulate the two objects in a predictable manner: pushing, rotating, and shining lights on them in dialogue with the music. We speak lyrics inspired by laws of physics such as Newton’s First Law (An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion…) and the Law of Conservation of Energy (The total energy in an isolated system remains constant…).

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Newton's First Law

In physics and chemistry, the law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant; it is said to be conserved over time.

Conservation of Energy

As the performance progresses, we relinquish control and allow natural forces to dictate the narrative. We start using a fan to move the objects. As we adjust the source, direction, and strength of the wind, the trajectory of each object becomes increasingly random and unpredictable. We also activate hanging light sources that shine on the objects as they move in the wind. As our voices — each speaking a different language — blend into an abstract soundscape and the synth sound becomes wild and atonal, our performance then becomes more about responding to the motion than triggering it.


Through this exchange of roles, Pendular describes not just the natural movement that we see, but also how our mind oscillates between different states, and how the relationships between people, technology, and nature are constantly changing in response to each other.

NIME(New Interfaces for Musical Expression) Show at ITP, New York University. 12/2021


Poem by Zairan Liu
















下沉 —— 



只剩一颗心脏 即将燃尽 

飞行 在找到落点之前

Fabrication / Schematic

Special thanks to Jason Gao who helped us design and mill custom PCBs for this project.
Ableton File
Max Patch