N Cycle Kinetic Sound Sculpture Español



N Cycle is inspired in Guatemalan composer Joaquin Orellana's concept "Multiphony Hall" where several Kinetic Sculptures play different fragments of a random musical composition.


Some of the best-known Orellana compositions make use of several gadgets called "sound utensils" designed to reproduce certain musical fragments when played by an interpreter.

In "Multiphony Hall", Orellana proposes the sound utensils to be played by mechanical systems the same way an interpreter would.

This poses a lot of difficulty in design, as well as it rises the project budget in such a way that very few ideas have gone trough the experimental phase.

utiles sonoros

My proposal is to abandon the idea of using the sound utensils the way they have been built to be played by humans, and to adapt them keeping the same working principles so that they can be played by mechanical systems with the following characteristics:

To be made of easy to obtain parts and easy to assemble with few simple tools.

To be assembled in different configurations to experiment with different sounds.

To be built in modular form, so that bigger things can be formed by adding several parts.

To avoid monotonous and repetitive sounds, trying to produce unpredictable and ever changing patterns of sound.

With these principles in mind the next step is to look for shops of any kind looking for machines that can be adapted to some of the working principles of the sound utensils.

N Cycle is a very simple solution to this design challenges, using the most widely available moving parts, (bicycle wheels) and produces something that sounds random using a single motor and no electronic  devices, or computers playing the random parts,

as it happens in the Virtual Multiphony Hall, a program which takes recorded sounds from the sound utensils to play them back in random successions and combinations.

Virtual sound utensils can use different working principles, here for example, the spheres move without friction on a plane surrounded by keys. (Move the slider up to increase the speed).

N Cycle uses the same working principle as the Sonarimba, a sound utensil where a ball running inside a tube hits two marimba keys attached to the ends of the tube, which also serves as a resonator.

The first version of this idea is an aeolic sculpture called Ramajes (Branches) that uses several Sonarimbas to recreate a musical texture used in Orellana's work Ramajes de una Marimba Imaginaria.

In N Cycle, an aluminum tube replaces the marimba keys, and the ball runs inside a curved tube so it hits the aluminum tube from below. (Thus producing a bell sound)

N Cycles Musical Texture is formed by the superposition of 14 cycles with different rotation periods. The apparently chaotic pattern repeats itself every 22 hours, which is the least common multiple of all 14 rotation periods.

This means that if we make a mark on the wheels and then make the motor go, it will take 22 hours for the marks to coincide in their initial positions.

We can compute this period using the least common multiple of the number of teethes in the rear wheel gears, the ratio of the small to big radii, and the speed of the motor.

Nonetheless the form of the sculpture is limited by very practical considerations, the resulting form is aesthetically pleasing, perhaps the same way some objects found in nature seem beautiful or interesting for having certain symmetries resulting from some optimization process, such as the hexagonal cells in the hive, symmetries in flowers, the circle in the eyes, etc.

This modular construction of repeating parts attached to a supporting structure is inspired in molecular biology, where we find important examples of molecules made that way, like DNA itself.


The original model for N Cycle was a motor driven version of Ramajes, but it was necessary to simplify the design to tackle different problems in a separated way.

Curiously, the way to simplify the design is to lower its potential energy, and since all parts are the same there is no prefferred direction, so it takes a circular form, like molecules do.


Sometimes it is possible to apply the same algorithms, workflows and procedures of creation used in some particular area, like music for example and to apply them to other area like graphics design.

The use of pre fabricated parts taken from different sources, and to use them in a repetitive form attached to a supporting structure make this N Cycle a very Tecno Sculpture.


The musical texture is intended to be closer to the sound of rain, waterfall or natural phenomena than to a music box. The tubes are tuned non-chromatically grouped around the 880 Hz and 1760 Hertz.

When two notes of nearly the same frequency are heard together, a pulsation in volume can be heard at a new frequency that is the difference of the two initial frequencies.

This phenomenon, and the fact that the tubes are rotating give the sound more interesting properties.


Ideas or comments are welcomed at:




david marin