Meet the Maker: Lewis Sykes

Meet Lewis Sykes, creator of the Augmented Tonoscope, which you can see at the interactive exhibition on Saturday 7th September at the Corn Exchange. Lewis will also be running a workshop on Sunday 8th September, exploring the science of sound and showing you how to create your own cymatic device.

What kind of maker are you?
I’m a media artist and musician, currently in the final year of a PhD at Manchester Met. I make physical artworks and instruments that explore the relationship between sound and vision.

When, why and how did you start making?
Up until 2008 I’d mostly been an audiovisual composer and performer – though I’d configured my own performance systems using commercial hardware and software and integrated a few additional sensors into my setup. I started to make seriously as Monomatic with Nick Rothwell when we won a commission for an interactive installation for Sound and Music’s Expo 2009 Festival in Leeds. We designed and built PEAL – a digital, laser-controlled installation which models a traditional English church bell tower.

What project or workshop are you bringing to this year’s Faire?
Various components from my PhD project, The Augmented Tonoscope. It’s a modular audiovisual instrument for creating real-time audiovisuals – mixing analogue and digital outputs together to explore how sound can combine and interplay with moving image to create a close connection between what you hear and what you see.

Have you been to a Maker Faire before, and if so, what was it like?
I was a BMMF last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Really well organised, a great vibe and lots of interesting projects. I’ve also shown past work at the Maker Faire in Newcastle in March 2012 and the Manchester Mini Maker Faire in August 12.

What can people do at your stand? How can they get involved?
For the Faire I’ll be bringing along various components of my instrument which people can see in action and have a go at playing with themselves. I use a monome – a controller with a grid of 64 buttons – to trigger musical notes which are then visualised as geometric patterns on the surface of my device’s drum-skin and as computer animations on a monitor. For my ‘Cymatics – the Science of Sound’ workshop I’ll be introducing folk to the various equipment, materials and techniques – all easily accessible and easy to configure – that will allow them to explore Cymatics – the study of visible sound – for themselves.

What is the main thing you’d like people to learn from you at Maker Faire?
That making is a natural part of trying to realise creative ideas – and that the tools, techniques and knowledge you need are freely available. I integrate making into my PhD research, but it’s appropriate for all levels and a great way for anyone to explore and play and share what they do with others.

Is it something they will be able to keep doing at home afterwards?
For sure. By the end of my workshop participants will have constructed different Cymatic devices – ideally using their own old speakers, amplifiers and smart phones – which they can continue to play with back home on their own kitchen tables.

What’s the most interesting or surprising thing about your make?
The patterns that form on the drum-skin surface of my device are the result of a natural phenomenon that is usually hidden from view. It is sound in visual form. Hopefully this goes some way to capture the imagination and inspire a sense of awe and wonder in the world around us.

What other makers have inspired you?
One of my first Arduino projects was a basic synthesiser – the Auduino – originally designed by Tinker – a multi-disciplinary design studio based in London. I really liked the way this simple starting point turned into a community of Auduino makers who each customised the device evolving the design of the project and sharing these tweaks back with the community. I’m also inspired by and indebted to Mike Cook – Grumpy Mike as he’s monikered on the Arduino forum – who shares his expert electrical engineering and fabrication knowledge and skills so generously.

Can the maker culture change the world?
In small but I think potentially significant ways. Becoming a maker shifts your perspective from consumer to producer – and that’s got to be worthwhile. If more people share their ideas, knowledge and skills freely we’ll all have more solutions to creative problems. I also think making has real potential for creating viable alternative micro-economies – monome.org is a great example of this – a creative product that attracts an active community of users who help support and shape future development.

What are you most looking forward to about the Faire?
The vibe, the crowds, the really interesting conversations, the unexpected ;-) And to performing at the After Dark event – it’s been a little while since I’ve been on stage.

Where/how can people find out more about you?
My various websites (although they’re all in need of updating – sorry):
My online PhD journal: http://www.augmentedtonoscope.net
My PhD digital sketchbook: http://augmentedtonoscope.tumblr.com
Monomatic, my current art collaboration: http://www.monomatic.net

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Book tickets for the Saturday exhibition or Sunday workshops here: http://www.makerfairebrighton.com/tickets


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