The Evil Eye project is the result of a residency we did at the Frans Masereel Center, a center for printmaking in Kasterlee, Belgium.
During the residency we printed optical audio records. We created visual patterns and silkscreened them on heavy paper. Then we handed them out in bars and on the local market in Kasterlee. On the last day of our stay at the center we did a short performance. The local people were invited to come with their records and play them on our home-made optical record players. We played the records only once during the performance. After the performance, the audio information is still contained in the record, but the owner can’t get it out anymore. When they returned home from the Masereel Center, their records became again just prints, but with a memory of the event and their sounds attached to them.
Technically, the project is very straightforward. There’s no conversion between the printed patterns and the sounds they make, it’s truly one-to-one. We didn’t want to make prints that need some extra information to become sound, like for example a visual midi-track. We really wanted to have all the sound inside the prints. This means there is no synthesizer or anything digital involved in translating the prints to sound.
When you put one of the records on the record player it passes the electronic “eye” we’ve built: a simple device with an LED and a light sensor. The rotating patterns create modulating light that is translated into an electric signal by the eye. This signal is fed into a guitar amplifier and comes out as the exact sound that is embedded in the prints.
Most of the designs were made by hand, starting from the printmaking and visually creating sounds by trial and error. We also built custom software that can create different kinds of sound waves as circular drawings, much like a visual synthesizer. We created some patterns with this, but mostly used this as a tool to get a feel for what sounds could look like in print.