How To Build A Synthesizer Made Of Light

In this video, synthesist Frazer Merrick documents his journey of building, composing and performing with a synth that turns light into sound.

Merrick has created a custom synthesizer, Pulsar, that translates Pulse Width Modulation of LED lights into sound. The synthesizer is build around the Photon Smasher, a device that he designed that translates light into sound. As a result, light acts as the sound source of the synthesizer.

The Photon Smasher can be thought of as a microphone for light. Merrick started by using the Photon Smasher as a type environmental sound tool, exploring how environmental lights translate into sound. But he realized that he could also use fixed light sources with the Photon Smasher, and by modulating the frequency and width the LED modulation, he could musically control the resulting sounds.

Check out the video and share your thoughts on the Pulsar Light Synthesizer!

Topics covered:

00:00 Introduction
00:25 Field Recording Light
02:18 How It Works
07:59 Snape Residency
09:20 Performing With Pulsar
11:00 What Next?
13:15 Outro / Performance

8 thoughts on “How To Build A Synthesizer Made Of Light

  1. interesting. didnt knew leds flash to reduce brightness
    not sure if I would call that pwm usually you dont want to PWM into nothing and back I guess, but yeah why not.

    I wonder if this could be an epileptic trigger?
    its flashing light like a movie and you dont realize its flashing …

    1. it’s called ‘duty cycle’. it’s used very often this way. two-leg tri-color LED’s work, by forward biasing and reverse biasing a pair of red and green LEDs, the third color comes from cycling forward and reverse bias alternately.

    1. This doesn’t really have anything to do with the color of the lights, but with the frequency of their PWM.

      So this would work the same without the different colored shades on the lights.

  2. In the 1960 and 1980 we had those very large disco color organ Model 1625 colored lamps flash on the sound of music.

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