The Chowndolo is an instrument based on a magnetic pendulum whose trajectories are altered by magnets placed underneath the device. This creates unstable patterns of oscillation which are translated into synthesis parameters and sound. The magnets below the pendulum can be arranged to compose new shapes: different configurations will modify the pendulum oscillations and the generated sonorities. The unstable patterns produced by the pendulum oscillations are transformed into sound, articulating a music that evolves based on the pendulum’s dance. 

The magnetic fields and their interactions are revealed through nuanced tones, acting as counterpoint to the pendulum’s motion. The installation aims to make visible the invisible, letting us feel forces that we are not able to perceive. The sounds generated are entirely based on FM synthesis whose sound parameters are controlled by sensing the variations in the magnetic field.

With the support of the Augmented Instruments Laboratory.


Concept & Sound design: Giacomo Lepri

Performance: Giacomo Lepri, Nicole Robson

Design: Giacomo Lepri, Alessia Milo


The Chowndolo is a tribute to John Chowning, a pioneer in the field of Computer Music mostly known for his electroacoustic compositions, the discovery of FM synthesis and research on voice and instrument synthesis. During the development of the Chowndolo, we were lucky enough to welcome John Chowning to our lab and show him the project. He provided precious comments for the improvement of both the sensing technique and the FM synthesis implementation.