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This laser-powered drum machine rips through beats like The Death Star did Alderaan


There’s one particular reason 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t as much fun as the original Star Wars films, and it’s not just Harrison Ford, space wizards, or their various alien counterparts. It’s lasers.

Everything is cooler with lasers.

If you like lasers as much as we do, along with the classic blips and pops that emanate from analog drum machines, you’re really going to love Russian artist Vtol’s latest creation, Divider. Lasers are responsible for the massive art project’s visually stunning assortment of sounds.

Divider uses seven red lasers arranged horizontally to create all of it’s varied drum sounds, using fans as modulators to cut through the lasers and turn the rays of light into rhythmic impulses, which hit light sensors and are then transformed into noises.

A massive drum machine that looks like a cold-war era weapon, the art installation is currently housed at the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow. The project was based on an instrument called Rhythmicon which was created by legendary electronic music pioneer Léon Theramin in 1931. That instrument, often cited as the world’s first drum machine, used a similar means of creating sounds, employing spinning discs and optical sensors to create drum-like sound effects.

Divider is much more advanced than its predecessor, of course, adding to the seven lasers 42 small fans, a mono sound system, and four separate Arduino controllers programmed in the Pure Data language.

The machine runs autonomously, creating seriously interesting beat breaks on the fly. When viewed in a dark room, the device comes alive, where it could easily be mistaken for some sort of awesome AI, or a terrifying technological weapon speaking an audible computer language.

Those interested in checking out the installation in person will need to take the trip to Russia, as the piece will not be listed for sale, and there are no current plans to bring it on a world tour — though we imagine plenty of electronic artists would love to use the thing as a show-stopping backdrop.

Parker Hall
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Parker Hall is a writer and musician from Portland, OR. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin…
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