Symbols in on paper can be realized as music, so why not turn a tattoo on your arm into a musical score?

That’s what artist Dmitry Morozov (“vtol”), Moscow-based media artist and musician, has done with “reading my body.” It does more than transform his body markings into sounds. He mounts a machine on his arm, as sensors scan the image from a stepper-motor driven path along rails. The strange robotic machine makes him a kind of cyborg photo scanner optical synth.

And the results sound like a delicate solo on a violin, playing a lullaby to baby puppies. Kidding. They sound more like some harsh cyborg Russian sound art. As we’d expect (and hope).

::vtol:: “reading my body” from ::vtol:: on Vimeo.

Here’s how it works:

The ingredients, assembled in Moscow, Kaliningrad, and Berlin (okay, I’ve been to two out of those three – guess which): Nord Modular G2 synth and Symbolic Sound Kyma X environment, OSCulator for converting OSC messages, Arduino, and Wii remote, plus custom robotics and sensors. The tattoo is designed for musical applications, and he can ‘play’ the score interactively by modulating the sensors path through the score, with additional sensors allowing him to control performance parameters.



а sound controller that uses tattoo as a music score

this is a special instrument that combines human body and robotic system into a single entity that is designed to automate creative process in an attempt to represent the artist and his instrument as a creative hybrid. The device consists of a railing with comfortable hand holders and two parallel, but offset from each other black lines’ sensors that move along the arm using a stepper motor. It is equipped with a 3-dimensional Wii remote controller that uses the OSC protocol in order to give a possibility of additional expression achieved by moving hand in space.

Here’s an example of a different performance, showing how he can transform parameters as he plays:

::vtol:: “reading my body” tattoo performance from ::vtol:: on Vimeo.



And yes, this is another character from the SoundArtist.ru network. More on them coming…


  • esskay

    hi. this looks really interesting – it put me in mind of this chap Neil Harbisson who can only see in black and white and is now officially a cyborg (on his passport) as he has a camera hard-wired to his brain with software that plays a note corresponding to tonal variation of the colour that his camera sees (something in the region of 300+ notes).

  • http://freezedream.bandcamp.com freezedream

    When I started reading your sentence, “And the results sound like a delicate solo on a violin…” I was actually really intrigued. If it really did sound like that, now that would be impressive. I consider this as sound art and not music in the usual sense. Still, it’s an interesting concept.

    • David Fodel

      On the one hand, it seems like the “triggers” involved, the black lines spaced such that a large amount of timing variations are possible, could be used to trigger whatever sound desired, like a physical model of a violin, on the Nord or Kyma. On the other hand, perhaps at that point it might be more effective to just grab a real violin. Maybe he could try both at the same time, since in fact he does have 2 hands. Either way, even with both hands tied behind his back, Dmitry is one of the most prolific, playful, and serious kids on the playground.

  • Misterpickle

    On one hand, I think Dmitry is a creative genius.

    On the other hand, I really hate tattoos. Although I guess getting a tattoo for your art is a lot better reason than “’cause I was really drunk at the time.”

  • vvv

    Meanwhile, in Crimea…