Incredible MIDI-Controlled Tesla Coils

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The guys at Haken Audio, the creators of the Continuum Keyboard, have published a video that showcases the awesome power of MIDI-controlled Tesla coils.

Here’s the story behind it:

Mark Smart performs live in Urbana, Illinois on March 7, 2008.

This outdoor concert was part of a student-run open house for the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. Tesla coils were used to create musical pitches via a control system designed by university student Steve Ward. Two coils were used. The right coil is playing a prerecorded Midi track, acting as the bass, and the left one is performed live as a lead sound via the Continuum fingerboard. The Midi track as well as additional audio backing tracks were played via Cubase running on a Open Labs Neko workstation.

In spite of the frigid temperatures (4 degrees Fahrenheit, 26 mph winds), the concert was well attended and was voted the most popular event of the open house.

Based on the video, it’s clear that this would have been a tough act to compete with.

Mark Smart is an very talented multi-instrumentalist and a geek in the best sense. I always try to stop by and see him and Dr. Lippold Haken at the annual Winter NAMM Show, because they’re both really nice guys, and it’s amazing to see Mark play walking bass with one hand he solos on Continuum with the other.

More about Mark at his site.

via Livepa

4 thoughts on “Incredible MIDI-Controlled Tesla Coils

  1. it was being triggered by the midi input
    they were not playing the note but giving a visual to the pitch.
    “The Midi track as well as additional audio backing tracks were played via Cubase running on a Open Labs Neko workstation.”
    so the audio was coming from a device in his PC/workstation and the coil was used as a visual.
    The keyboard he is playing was sending a midi note to the soft synth on his workstation “he just picked out a real electrical sound for the synth voice” and the coil was sent a on off frequency to go along with the midi note value

    I would think
    if im wrong please inform me of this magic device that can read
    electrical bursts that can contain the info for a MIDI note value to be sent to his workstation.. that just doesn’t seem logical
    “not only note value but velocity and a MIDI on off send…”

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  2. Actually, the only sound from a speaker is that bell sound. The staticy electronic noise is in fact the sound of electricity arcing in the air, like thunder from lightning. There’s some logic to convert a note to an amount of energy that produces an arc which will vibrate the air (thunder) at some frequency. See all the crazy spikes in the lightning? These are the ‘samples’ that produce a note when they are played at, say, 400 hz (middle a on the keyboard). Its not rocket science here.

    For something really amazing, google ‘toccata fugue tesla’ to see SIX of these monsters harmonizing together.

    If you’ve seen one of these live its intuitively obvious that the sound is from the arcs…you don’t need a speaker with enough of these around…they are LOUD!

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