Let's Play . . . Musical Ice Creams?


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What could be better than licking an ice cream cone? How about composing music while enjoying the sweet treat? And we don't mean sweet melodies emanating from a smart player nearby, but ones that can be custom composed by the way the treat is licked.

Aptly called Lickestra, the fun concept that transforms ice cream cones into playable instruments, is the brainchild of Emilie Baltz and Carla Diana. The New-York-based designers created the fun concept as an experiment in isolating a single gesture (in this case licking) and understanding how one sense (taste) can be amplified by combining it with another sense (hearing).

They began by 'playing music' with various types of foods to see which was the most conductive. Among the different foods they tried were marzipan that would create sweet sounds when crushed and cocktails that could be sipped using audible straws. In addition, they also experimented with metal forks and spoons that produced music when used to pierce food. They settled on ice cream as their musical medium after realizing that the most magical sounds seemed to be created when there was an interaction between the tongue, teeth and mouth!

And while their first choice of flavor was Vanilla, because it created 'visual harmony' between the cones and the pedestals they were place on, for the two test performances the artists filled the cones with a custom-made frozen treat infused with cayenne pepper. That's because the spiced up ice cream seemed to make for more vigorous licking and hence robust music!

These of course are no ordinary ice cream cones, but ones fitted with capacitive sensors that send an electronic message to an attached Arduino board, whenever the ice cream inside is licked. This in turn transmits the messages to a computer that picks the appropriate sounds from its library of melodious notes and plays them, creating sweet music. While it sounds fairly simple, the artists said they had to learn how to pack in the ice cream just right, so that the musical circuit would be completed right down to the last lick. However, the testing was fun, since it meant eating more ice cream until they got it just right!

The sounds that emanate from these musical ice creams are of course no ordinary ones, but a four-part composition crafted by Brooklyn-based musical composer Arone Dyer. As seems appropriate, they include sounds that remind the listener of frozen icicles and slippery surfaces.

In order to make it sound like a real composition, each Lickestra participant was assigned a particular instrument sound with which they could create their own sweet music by either playing it in short spurts or longer phases - All they had to do, was lick the ice cream in different ways.

Lickestra has already been tested or should we say tasted, by volunteers in two impromptu performances at New York's School of Visual Arts and at Specials on C, an art-space in the city's East Village - Both, were a great success. The best news is that Baltz and Diana are planning to tour their experiment to other parts of the country and even add more sounds and composition, as well as, deeper qualities like tone and tempo to future Lickestra prototypes. Maybe they will even consider selling them to the general public some day. Now that would make for some sweet tongue licking music, wouldn't it?

This is not the first interactive project the artists have been involved with. In December 2013, Carla Diana published a children's book. Entitled LEO the Maker Prince, its main protagonist is a walking, talking robot that can print (in 3D plastic) any object that his owner Carla sketches. What makes the book real fun is that thanks to the easily downloadable designs that follow the plot, the reader can also create each object alongside, either on their own home 3D printers or by ordering it through a printing service. Written with an aim to educate young kids about the marvels of the new technology, it allows them to create things like a hamburger, chess set and even a hamster habitat!

Resources: wired.com, gizmag.com, carladiana,com,leothemakerprince.com

Lickestra: An Interactive Ice Cream Orchestra from MOLD on Vimeo.

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