You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong in thinking that digital recording (and attendant pieces of software like Auto-Tune) have made for a more sterile brand of pop music—songs that are hermetically sealed to the world around them. But still, even today, the strange sounds of our analog existence manage to creep into songs. In a recent New York Times profile of Benny Blanco, a prolific pop hit-maker, we learn that the 24-year-old is "a scavenger of peculiar sounds, including those made by his body; his French bulldog, Disco; the lock on his door; and the clatter of bowls on a table," all of which he’s incorporated into hits by groups like Maroon 5 and Rihanna. With the Re: Sound Bottle, a project by Japanese designer Jun Fujiwara, you still have to do the scavenging, but the bottle will do all the beat-making for you.
The project, which received a judge’s prize at the 2012 Mitsubishi Chemical Junior Designer Awards last year, cleverly turns the complex, mulitpart process of digital music production into a simple analog act. Essentially you wait for something to catch your ear—it could be a screeching car, a barking dog, or the nattering person behind you in line at the coffee shop—and then you uncork. The bottle automatically records the desired snippet of sound, and when a critical mass of components are acquired, the device will instantly arrange them into a (surprisingly listenable) found soundtrack.
The preface to the above clip mentions the bottle’s indebtedness to musicBottles, a project conjured up at MIT Media Lab by Hiroshi Ishii in 1999. With that work, three glass bottles were designed to "contain" tracks played by three different instruments: violin, cello, and piano. Performers could start and stop each at their will by corking or uncorking the bottles, introducing each instrument to the performance at their will.
Fujiwara’s Re: Sound Bottle takes the same idea—a musical rig that "everyone can operate automatically" with "natural behavior," as the designer puts it—and democratizes things even further, letting users identify their own aural elements, in the wild, instead of relying on expert, prerecorded tracks. Granted, no matter how great you’re convinced your samples are, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever beat the bottle spits back out at you, so your dream collabo with Rihanna still might be a ways off yet.
[Hat tip: Colossal]