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date: 20 October 2019

Kosmophonelocked

  • Anne Beetem Acker

Extract

Unique MIDI synthesizer controlled by a gamma-ray spectrometer designed and built by Jerry Chamkis (b Los Angeles, CA, 1942). He studied physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but disillusioned by the emphasis on military applications, he left and became chief engineer at a radio station in Houston, Texas. In 1975, he formed AERCO (Acme Electric Robot Company), where he initially produced peripheral devices and memory expansions for small computers and then moved on to computer-controlled hot wire cutting systems, broadcast equipment, and microphone preamplifiers. Since about 2000 he has concentrated on various art projects such as the Kosmophone.

The gamma-ray spectrometer used for the Kosmophone operates at 3–7 million electron volts, the energy coming primarily from very high-energy cosmic radiation. Although mostly stopped by the atmosphere, gamma rays produce secondary energy emissions that the Kosmophone detects, sending the information to a synthesizer MIDI control port. The radiation pulses are processed and digitized to 12 bits, 7 of which are sent as the MIDI pitch value and 4 as the MIDI velocity value. The first Kosmophone was built from standard nuclear instrumentation modules and custom circuit boards. The second version is a self-contained portable unit with an integral detector, a self-contained nuclear analyser, an Alesis QSR synthesizer, and a 100-watt-per-channel amplifier. It was first shown publicly at the Electricity and Me show at Gallery Lombardi in Austin, Texas, in ...

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