Light Controlled Radio Project

I've always been interested in the relationship between movement and sound, particularly in terms of using the body as a control source for music software.  After scratching the surface of interactive system design when studying at university, I decided to start a new project to expand my skills in both DIY electronics and motion sensor technology.  My aim was to create a system where moving my hand in open space could control sound parameters in different ways.

I first started repairing electronic equipment when working as a technician at Northbook college.  This soon turned into 'hacking', after realising that my soldering skills could be put to more creative uses.  I began by buying an old radio from a flea market, removing the internal amplifier components to make some room, and installed a small 5 watt mono amplifier I purchased from an electronics store.  With a little re-wiring of the headphone jack I was now able to send my own sounds through my radio.

I bought an Arduino micro controller and started to explore different sensors I could connect to it.  Arduino is an open source prototyping platform that has become popular in recent years among hobbyist electronics makers and inventors for it's ease of use interface and simple programming language, along with a strong online community waiting to give you a helping hand at every hurdle you come across.

I started to work with an LDR (light dependant resistor) connected to the Arduino and followed a useful tutorial to help me get started.  I then created a basic circuit using the sensor, creating a continuous stream of data depending on how much light it detected on it's surface.

I then started to think about how I could use this data to interact with my audio software, specifically Ableton Live.  I did some research and found a dedicated Max/MSP patch called Maxuino which enables direct communication with the Arduino board and my Max software.  Next I built my own patch to take the information I received from moving my hand in front of the light resistor, to turn it into useful MIDI information I could send into my favourite DAW to control my instruments and effects!  For all you budding makers out there, here's a video of exactly how I did it.