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Media Lab plans 'sonic bath' for Lewis Music Library

Mike Fabio and Steve Pliam's sonitronic chandelier will help 'wash' the Music Library in sound. Instrumentalists can tickle or pluck the resonant 'strings.'
Mike Fabio and Steve Pliam's sonitronic chandelier will help 'wash' the Music Library in sound. Instrumentalists can tickle or pluck the resonant 'strings.'
Photo courtesy / Tod Machover
Tod Machover
Tod Machover

The Lewis Music Library will be transformed into what Tod Machover, professor of media arts and sciences, calls a "sonic bath" next week as graduate students from the Media Laboratory join him in a collaboration with Music Library staff to present "Library Music," a group of interactive music installations that explore the relationships among space, movement, touch and sound.

Musical stairs, a tactile rainfall and a sonorous, robotic chandelier are among the 10 "experiences" to be featured in "Library Music." Workshop sessions, open to members of the MIT community, will give participants an opportunity to discuss the concepts and technologies behind each installation with Machover and the student designers.

The workshops will take place January 16 to 18, culminating with a demonstration on Friday, Jan. 19 from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Lewis Music Library (Room 14E-109).

No advance sign-up is required for the workshops, and participants are welcome at individual sessions. The final demonstration is open to the public.

According to Machover, the installations were developed individually but have been assembled so that they work nicely together in a progression through the library spaces, turning the library into a comprehensive, sound-filled experience. Some installations will be explored with use of headphones; some will be set up in separate, enclosed rooms, and some will be in the open spaces.

One of the installations, a robotic Music Chandelier, will be shown for the first time in "Library Music." Mike Fabio, graduate student in media arts and sciences, designed the laser-based system for the chandelier, which can be played by the public in its current iteration. Fabio's chandelier is being developed for Machover's opera, "Death and the Powers," which will premiere in Monte-Carlo, Monaco, in November 2008.

"A library to listen to should be fun!" said Machover, expressing delight that the Music Library, a place normally devoted to listening to and thinking about music in silence, will be transformed by willing staff members and Machover's group into an interactive, musical environment.

At the Jan. 19 demonstration, the student designers will explain the how, what and why of their installations and will be available to guide visitors through each experience. Also, Lewis Music Library staff will share some of its hidden treasures that relate to sound installations and experimental music technology. Refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Ariane Martins, x3-1613, e-mail:

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 10, 2007 (download PDF).

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