Piano Installation Plays Keys Based on Shapes, Movements of Clouds

Arts & Culture

The 'Cloud Piano' by David Bowen uses a camera aimed at the sky and custom software to translate cloud forms into unique key patterns

Leah Gonzalez
  • 28 august 2014

American artist David Bowen was commissioned by L’Assaut de la Menuiserie in Saint-Étienne, France to create an installation that automatically plays melodies in real time, based on the shapes and the movements of the clouds in the sky.

David Bowen’s Cloud Piano uses sensors and a camera installed outdoors and pointed at the sky to capture footage of clouds as they pass over the device in real time. A custom software processes the video of the clouds and maps out their movement to operate a robotic device that presses the keys of the piano. The result is a series of sounds created from the unique key patterns that depend on the ethereal and changing forms of the clouds above.

The installation is set up in a way that it would seem as if the clouds are the ones pressing the keys on the piano. The Max/MSP software maps out the movement of the clouds over a keyboard and the robotic device presses the corresponding keys for as long as the clouds are over them on the map. Therefore the sounds would depend on what keys the clouds are passing over and for how long. The speed of the cloud movement also contributes to the sound produced. It is as if the clouds are really the ones playing the musical piece.


The installation was completed with support from the Visualization and Digital Imagining Lab and the Weber Music Hall at the University of Minnesota.

The Cloud Piano will be featured together with another of Bowen’s piece, the Fly Revolver, in a one-man exhibition at L’Assaut de la Menuiserie starting September through October.

Bowen is known for taking natural phenomenon and using it to create an art piece, or in this case, a musical piece. The Fly Revolver, for example, consists of a revolver that moves and fires based on the movement of a collection of flies housed inside an acrylic sphere.



David Bowen

Source: Designboom, Wired


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