Fingerscan. A tactile music device for your fingertips


This project is a tactile music wearable: 10 vibration motors (the same found in cellphones) are to be attached to fingernails. This device can be used to produce patterns for meditation/body consciousness, tactile music, 1-to-1 performances, music for deaf people, tactile communication systems, augmentation of perception (e.g. feeling the same sensation under a performing pianist’s skin), possible medical applications…

Realized as the last work in the frame of the research project touchmysound, in 2016, this prototype of a wearable tries to translate the musical elements to a tactile level. While sound is totally absent here, the focus is on the spatialization of the tactile sensation.

Two Arduinos control rhythm, duration and intensity of the vibration. The patterns can be programmed and then uploaded to the Arduinos or controlled in real-time via computer.

PH Stefan Klaverdal

This prototype could be upgraded in various ways:

  1. realize a design to properly and easily wear the device (maybe 3D-printed silicone gloves). Int he public presentation of the project, finger sleeves used to count banknotes were used to secure the motors to the fingersnails;
  2. laser-cut a wooden case and include a battery to make it a mobile wearable;
  3. include plugs to attach a set of 10 piezo sensors that, worn by another person, can transmit the vibration data to the vibrating motors (even via networked connection);
  4. include a knob to control the maximum intensity of the vibration;
  5. include a button to select the operational mode: different stand-alone programs, composition mode (attached to a PC via Arduino’s USB port for composing tactile music), direct piezo-to-motor communication;
  6. compose different stand-alone patterns for when the device is used as a wearable;
  7. set up a computer-based system for the composition of pieces;
  8. imagine the same system fit in another design to be worn on other parts of the body. Will the same compositional strategy apply?
Picture from work-in-progress

In the schematics shown hereunder, made with Fritzing, the two Arduinos run separately. In case you wanna sync the two hands, you need to send data from one Arduino to the other (via the TX and RX pins). The software has to be adapted accordingly.


Schermata 2017-07-30 alle 18.32.52.pngThis schematic is basically a development of the project found on Learning About Electronics, and the module which controls a vibration motor (3.3V) is repeated ten times. Since all the motors could be on at the same time, an external power supply is used, which feeds 9V directly to the Vin pin of the two Arduinos, while a switch regulator takes down the input to 3.3V to feed the then motors. For a better understanding of the powering of the Arduino board, see this article.

You may want to redesign this circuit using an Arduino Mega, or even one only Arduino Uno…

I programmed the patterns directly in Arduino Code.

An Arduino sketch was used activate the motors one by one on subsequent fingers, with a random timing:

  const int motorPin1 = 3;
  const int motorPin2 = 5;
  const int motorPin3 = 6;
  const int motorPin4 = 9;
  const int motorPin5 = 10;
  int randTime = 0;

void setup() {
  pinMode(motorPin1, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(motorPin2, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(motorPin3, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(motorPin4, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(motorPin5, OUTPUT);

void loop() {

void steady(int motorPin) {
  randTime = random(250);
  analogWrite(motorPin, 250);
  analogWrite(motorPin, 0);

Another sketch was used to produce ramps (crescendo-diminuendo) on subsequent fingers:

  const int motorPin1 = 3;
  const int motorPin2 = 5;
  const int motorPin3 = 6;
  const int motorPin4 = 9;
  const int motorPin5 = 10;

void setup() {
  pinMode(motorPin1, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(motorPin2, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(motorPin3, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(motorPin4, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(motorPin5, OUTPUT);

void loop() {

void ramp(int motorPin) {
  int randn;
   randn = random(10);
   for (int intensity = 0; intensity < 250; intensity++) {     analogWrite(motorPin, intensity);     delay(randn);   }   randn = random(20);    for (int intensity = 250; intensity > 0; intensity--) {

    analogWrite(motorPin, intensity);

The prototype also resulted in a caterpillar-like self-moving robotic hand:

A modified versions of these sketches was then used by Argentinian composer Mariano Rocca during a sound-art workshop at Distat Terra 2016, Choele Choel (Argentina). The device was attached to the strings of an open vertical piano, with the pedal forced down, to let the strings resonate with the motors.

The project was publicly presented at the Nordic Sound-Art Symposium “Sound Disturbance”, February 10-12, 2017.

Licenza Creative Commons
Fingerscan by Alessandro Perini is distributed under a Creative Commons License – Attribution – Non-commercial – Share Alike 4.0 International.
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A tactile canebrake: transforming a natural element in a sound source

I took a recording of a cane from a canebrake (Arundo Donax) continuously swept by wind. This recording was then filtered in order to turn its noise, from time to time, into a particular frequency. Eight different versions of the soundfile were created. These eight soundfiles were loaded into eight different Micro-SD cards, feeding Vibe-Tribe Troll 2.0 battery-powered vibration speakers. The speakers were attached to eight different dried canes, planted into the soil as to form an artificial sound canebrake.

The installation, called Canneto Sonante (“sounding canebrake”) could be experienced by listening to the polyphony created by the different canes, by putting one’s ear onto the canes (listening to a particular internal background resonance, peculiar to each cane), or touching one or more canes at the same time for a tactile experience.

Made for Imagonirmia Prize Residency in Chiaravalle/Milano (Italy), June 2016.

You can follow the making of this work by reading these three posts:

Sounding Canebrake, I

Sounding Canebrake, II

Sounding canebrake, III

“Polifonia liquida” – sound and light installation (video documentation and project description)


(Photo credits Kristin Warfvinge)

“Polifonia liquida” (liquid polyphony) is a new sound and light installation exhibited at Inter Arts Center for the Gallery Night of Malmö (Sweden) on the 26th of September, 2015. See this previous post for some close-up pictures.

The work involves a series of 8 independent audiovisual systems (arranged as two groups of three and five), each one composed of a sound actuator (a contact speaker capable of inducing vibration into surfaces) and a point light source that passes through a water-filled plexi plate and projects the vibration-induced shape modifications of the water surface on the wall.

This project has a strictly musical focus: the compositional process takes into account both the sound material and the visuals generated by sound. Issues are raised in terms of relationship between the sonic and the visual perception, about the choice of the frequencies in relation to the images they will create and about the delay between the sound input and the visual response.

Eight independently-controlled Mighty Dwarf 26W vibration speakers (capable of low-frequency response) are equipped with custom-made plexi plates (laser-cut at FBRKN, in Malmö, and made concave thanks to a hot-air gun). These plates host a certain amount of water, which reacts to the frequency sent to the vibration speakers. Eight point-light sources (modified IKEA Jansjö LED lamps) project the shadow of water ripples on the walls of the venue. These lamps are turned on and off at will by a timed dimmer.

The work explores the idea of visualization of sound from a strictly musical perspective. The installation is not a bare game of more or less defined Chladni patterns but wants to investigate a possible re-contextualization of compositional parameters, structures and processes in the frame of an audiovisual system that is partly physical, and for this reason depending on the physical qualities of the materials involved. The response time of water to the vibrating stimuli is a fertile constraint that influences the development of the sonic and visual material along time.

There are some crucial musical aspects that have been explored — even partially — in the making of this installation:

  • tension between monophonic and polyphonic gestures, controlling how independent each audiovisual system is from each other (not only in the rhythm parameter, but also in the frequency and amplitude domain, thus greatly influencing the visual result);
  • tension between solo and tutti, also offering different subdivisions of the 8-elements ensemble and creating a dialogue between the groups and/or the soloists;
  • time-related processes, typical of renaissance music, such as dialogue between two parts (“cori battenti”), canons and so on;
  • figures of space, letting the sound and the images travel through defined paths in the exhibition space.

Another level of presence-absence of material is given by the DMX system switching on and off the lights (DMX controller+dmmer). In this case the tension between darkness and light is a filter on the visual aspect of the work and acts in the same way than the sound-silence dichotomy. Silence is not used in the installation; instead, high-pitched sine waves have been employed, for two reasons:

  • to create a complementary (in pitch) material to the low frequencies needed to make the plates vibrate (silence would have been too “absent” and to similar to certain low sounds which are not perceived as belonging to the center of our optimal auditory space);
  • to prevent the listener’s ear from getting used (and tired) of the prolonged presence of the low part of the audible range, thus giving the listener a sort of “blank space” — actually a dark space, being the high frequencies always associated with the shutting down of the lights (since the “ensemble” was considered as a sum of three plus five audiovisual systems, it happened that only three or five of the lights were off while the others were on, so in those cases the room was not completely dark).

(Thanks to Fabriken Malmö and its crew for plexi-cutting the discs. The work was hosted and created for Inter Arts Center Malmö.)


Until the realization of the final project, many tests with synthetic waves (sines, square waves, …) have been carried out with different materials in order to visualize the shapes of the water surface. The best result was obtained with plexi plates. I recorded some test videos in which different frequencies and materials produce different results. Some of those videos are available clicking on these links:

Transforming a wooden floor into a multichannel sound system: “Wooden waves”, video documentation


Finally I prepared the video documentation of “Wooden Waves”, an installation originally conceived for the beautiful windmill of Harplinge, which is now turned into a hub for experimental arts (HarpArtLab), for the BZZZ! international sound art festival (July 2015).

(You may also take a look at the pictures I uploaded to a previous blog post.)

Eight contact speakers are attached to the floor’s wooden planks.

The listener lays down on the floor, transformed in a resonating surface.

Sound is perceived not only through the ears, but mostly through the body of the listener.

By stimulating the body in 8 different areas, a spatialization of the tactile sensation is put into play. This makes it possible to shift the use of space – typical of the electroacoustic composition approach – from the external dimension of the environment to the internal dimension of the body of the listener.

Tools for an enlightened dictatorship: embedding sound logos into people’s body

…or: territorialization of people’s body by means of soundmarks.

A soundmark is a landmark made of sound. In the frame of acoustic ecology, it characterizes an area, but in this very case it characterizes a body/a person. See the studies of Murray Schafer about soundscape and acoustic ecology, namely the book from 1977 The Tuning of the World (ISBN 0-394-40966-3), where he defines the soundmark.

  • Context

1. Let’s imagine a dictatorship (enlightened?) where every individual is forced to have a multimedia device installed in his/her body.

2. This device is controlled by the dictatorship and receives commands or data via wireless network.

3. The dictatorship decides to apply a particular sound (a sort of soundmark) to people, based on their behaviour. For example, tax evaders would be characterized by a special sound and everybody would recognize it.
4. The sound-logo may vary, depending on the behaviour of the citizen.

  • An example at Cittadellarte, November 6th 2015, 22:00
    (Performance by Alessandro Perini)

1. The logo of Third Paradise by Michelangelo Pistoletto, founder of Cittadellarte, has been rearranged so that the two symmetric curves, enchained one to each other, would form a sound wave:

2. This sound wave is a sort of DNA which generates a particular soundscape. Not only it constitutes the timbre of the sound (microscopic level), but it aso controls amplitude envelopes, pitch and rhythm structures:(2:30 excerpt from the generative sound environment. Note the accordion-like timbre derived from the Third Paradise logo-waveshape.)

3. This sound environment is worn by the designed individual, by means of a mobile device capable of receiving sound-streams wirelessly. Cittadellarte has incorporated his sound-logo into the inhabitant. The body of the inhabitant has been territorialized by a superior entity.

(A portable Bluetooth speaker was used in the performance.)

➥ A hacker could sneak into the software or the streaming system, so that the value of the soundmark could be sabotaged or tweaked.

This (provocative) project was elaborated at a residency module (2nd-6th of November, 2015) at Fondazione Pistoletto – Cittadellarte in Biella (IT), called Creating Territorialities (part of Unidee – Territoriality, Identity, Place and Possession; mentors G. Checola and T. Gliardi).

A soundwalk with mics under your shoes to record the tactile sensation of walking


During a residency module (2nd-6th of November, 2015) at Fondazione Pistoletto – Cittadellarte in Biella (IT), called Creating Territorialities (part of Unidee – Territoriality, Identity, Place and Possession; mentors G. Checola and T. Gliardi) I proposed a way to record the tactile sensation perceived by feet while walking.

The idea is to use contact mics attached to the shoe soles in order to record the vibration phenomena happening in the soles themselves. A great deal of low frequencies are present in the recording, which actually represent the most tactile portion of the spectrum.

The following video contains a test-walk recorded in Cittadellarte on November 5th, 2015. You should use good headphones if you want to catch the tiniest sonic details (for example, the metal resonances of the staircase). Gear used: 2x AKG C411, Zoom Handy Recorder, GoPro 3+ (thanks Lorenza Ippolito). Ah, you can watch it in full HD, 50fps.

A device may then be built in order to recreate the tactile sensation: two wooden boards equipped with vibration speakers, on which the “user” can put his/her feet. In the future I may try to realize this device int he near future. For now this project remains a provocative/question-triggering proposal between art, design and geography/geophilosophy.

Tactile map

(Pictures: Vittoria Soddu)


A map of tactile relationship between foot and soil

1. A person walks paths with two contact microphones attached to the bottom of his/her shoes.

2. The resulting recording is a (sonic) representation of the tactile perception of his/her feet while walking.

3. By playing back the sound with contact transducers attached to (e. g. wooden) boards, the recorded tactile sensation is returned to another person who has his/her feet on them.



Scenario 1

You are hiking in Venezuela and you are streaming live the tactile sensation to your father in Biella, who is comfortably sitting on his sofa and enjoying a drink.
The live stream could be public and thousands more people could be actually foot-connected to your experience.

Scenario 2

Thousands of different people have mapped most part of the earth by walking everywhere in different shoes, seasons, weather conditions, speeds… Everything has been inserted into a multi-dimensional map which takes into account variables such as

  • weather (different tactile sensation with snow, rain, …);

  • physical conditions of the walker (weigth, speed, …);

  • steepness of the terrain;

and so on.

This map is a description (an analytical one) of the tactile sensation induced by the ground. Musical implications include the possibilities to see the territories as sound textures (granular/smooth, dry/resonating, pulsating/rhythmically uneven, …).




➥ Augmenting the body of impaired people in order to experience the territory in different ways, or without leaving their homes.

➥ Possible medical use as (part of) a therapy of stimulation of the body, also recalling previous experiences in nature of the patient (T. Gilardi).

Cool patterns created on water surfaces by vibration

“Polifonia liquida”, sound and light installation exhibited at Inter Arts Center for the Gallery Night of Malmö (Sweden) on the 26th of September, 2015.

Eight plexi plates mounted on vibration speakers are filled with water, which receives the vibration.

Photo shots from a close distance show patterns created by vibration on the liquid surface.

General view of the installation.

Overview of the installation (Credit: Kristin Warfvinge)


Close-up at 23 Hz


Close-up at 24 Hz


Close-up at 26 Hz


Close-up at 28 Hz


Close-up at 30 Hz


Close-up at 31 Hz


Close-up at 35 Hz


Close-up at 43 Hz


Close-up at 55 Hz


Close-up at 56 Hz


Close-up at 64 Hz


Close-up at 72 Hz

Using a wooden floor as an eight-channel tactile sound system

BZZZ – International Sound Art Festival took place for the second time in the old windmill of Harplinge (near Halmstad, Sweden) from the 3rd to the 5th of July 2015.

I participated with a new installation, called “Wooden Waves”, in which eight vibrating devices were transforming the wooden planks of the 4th floor of the windmill in a resonating surface. People was asked to lay down on the floor to experience the vibrating waves and percussive sounds flowing along their body.
For now only some pictures are available, but a video and a more detailed post will follow during next weeks or months.




“Perturbance” as played by Elena García

Ghost studies, no. 2 “Perturbance” for double bass and embedded electronics (E. García)


Another performance of “Perturbance” (see here the article about the first performance by Jonathan Heilbron at the Darmstadt Ferienkurse 2015).
Elena García from Feedback Trio is captured during rehearsals before the concert at SuecaSax, Sueca (Valencia, Spain).

Touch my string. “Perturbance” for double bass and embedded electronics

Ghost studies, no. 2 “Perturbance” for double bass and embedded electronics

Jonathan Heilbron, double bass

47° Darmstadt Ferienkurse

August 15th, 2014, Kunsthalle Darmstadt

A series of three works with vibration devices embedded in musical instruments has been produced in the frame of the 47° Darmstadt Ferienkurse (“Expanded Music” workshop, coordinated by Simon Steen-Andersen).

The piece shown in the video is the Ghost Study number two, called Perturbance, and written in close collaboration with the double-bassist Jonathan Heilbron.

After a session with the performer, where I recorded a number of percussive interventions he made on the body and strings of the instrument, I reordered these gestures from the most inharmonic to the most stable spectrum (the A string of the double-bass). While building the electronic track (which was supposed to be played back through the vibration speaker), I created different reverberations of the percussive gestures. Some of this reverberations were infinite, and I could use them as static sounds which were triggered by the percussive interventions of the performer. The overall path of the piece lead to the final, loud 55 Hz sine wave emerging from some bowed notes. The A string was thus shaking, and placing the finger on the string made the timbre of the resonance change with the pressure of the finger. At the end of the piece, this resonance seemed to be stopped — as torn off — and re-activated by sudden gestures of the hands of the double-bassist “muffling” the whole instrument. Both this theatrical situation and the reverberations in the previous interventions were quite effective in giving to the instrument a life of its own. The interaction between the performer and the double-bass (the man and the artifact) was not anymore one-directional, but the instrument responded almost consciously to the stimuli of the instrumentalist, and seemed to make decisions of its own.

Being the instrument itself, and not a separated speaker, the resonating surface (electronic tracks can be sent to contact transducer embedded in the instruments) which emits sound, it’s often difficult to perceive (acoustically) the difference between an instrument played by a human and an instrument equipped with vibration capabilities. This way of augmenting the capabilities of an instrument leads to new possibilities in composition for instruments and tape and live-electronics, in a way reconsidering and reframing the live-electronics practice.