Based on my research on electromagnets, The Fork Organ is an original instrument for live performance. It uses "digital" square waves to precisely drive strong electromagnets at the resonant frequency of nearby tuning forks. When a magnet switches "on" and "off" at juuuust the right frequency, it creates a tiny magnetic field that attracts and releases the steel tines of the tuning fork several hundred times a second, causing it to self-oscillate (and make sound!). I designed 3D Printed Brackets that hold the magnets and tuning forks within a few millimeters of each other, and tried to mimic the aesthetic of the tuning forks in the brackets themselves. I accidentally discovered that if you switch the magnets at a low frequency (between 1-50 Hertz), they remain "on" long enough to physically 'grab' the tuning fork! This creates the contrasting metallic clicking/buzzing sounds that first occur 10" into the above recording.
As beautiful as the sound of the mysteriously vibrating forks is, it is not very loud! After some experimentation with building resonator blocks, I decided to affix contact mics to the Organ's wooden body to amplify it. When performing, I process the signal from the contact mics with a parametric EQ, Reverb, Delay, and a few other effects of harmonic interest.
It is always amazing to me how perfectly the forks illustrate the natural harmonic series. Though each fork is engineered to produce a single, focused frequency, boosting a judiciously notched EQ at any point in a fork's overtone series (Octave, Octave + 5th, etc.) causes that particular harmonic to leap out of the spectrum. When I perform live, I map out these EQ points to a MIDI Controller, and am able to construct overtone-based melodies or improvise with other musicians. I am currently in the process of making 3D Printed weights that will allow the pitch of each tuning fork to be varied, rather than to remain fixed at a certain pitch.
I have performed on the Fork Organ at Character Projects, the Long Beach PUMP Festival, and the DTLA Mini Maker Faire. I also created an installation-version of the FOrgan at Walt Disney Concert Hall for the LA Phil's "Noon To Midnight" Event.