Project 2 – Magnet Chimes

Magnet Chimes


revolution & gravity, 2019

revolution & gravity by Yukio Fujimoto inspired me to deal with natural materials and sound that are subtle and may be easily overlooked in our daily lives. Fujimoto placed some salt, sugar, pepper etc into a tube attached to a motor from a musical box. He takes advantage of the rotating mechanics of the music box as well as its sound making nature, complemented by the sounds of the ingredients in the tube. The rotation causes the ingredients to move and collide, creating random and subtle sounds.


Though the magnet used for this project is man-made, I was interested in using magnets as they exist naturally in our world as lodestones or magnetites. Earth itself has a magnetic field that extends from its interior out into space. Since I wanted to play with natural materials, I felt that magnets would be an interesting material to deal with in this project too.

Project 1


Since the previous structure required a person to hold a magnet to create sounds, for the second project I wanted to improve the structure such that the magnets can repel and attract each other without needing the viewer to play with it.

To improve the structure, I took inspiration from traditional wind chimes that are hanging and have about 4-5 rods suspended.

Most wind chimes are also based on a pentatonic scale. I attempted to follow the C minor scale for the corals I used, although loosely, to make the chimes sound more pleasant to the ear.

For this trial, I had to experiment with the height of suspension and the distance between the magnets to find the optimum position for the magnets.

After attaching the corals, the weight brought down the magnet which disabled them from interacting with each other. I decided to change the structure of the chimes. Instead of attaching magnets on each coral, only the central coral piece would have a magnet attached at the bottom, with other magnets at the bottom moving to make the chime magnet move and create sounds.



Rotation using servo motor and arduino.

Slower speed – 90

Faster Speed – 45

Using a battery instead to slow down the speed and reduce the motor noise.


Surprise – The corals create sounds randomly according to how the moving magnets interact, thus the output is generative and without much pattern. In this aspect, the sounds create are unexpected and cannot be calculated.

Though I started off wanting to do the chimes completely analogue, I realised that it was difficult to manipulate the materials purely in an analogue manner, which resulted in me having to use digital means to make a rotating mechanism, which was also a surprising element personally.


Week 10 Update

Sonic quality of Wind Chimes

Most chimes employ pentatonic scales as the basis for the pitches of their individual chimes as opposed to the traditional western heptatonic scale.

Pentatonic scale – a musical scale with five notes per octave

This is largely due to the fact that these scales inherently contain fewer dissonant intervals, and therefore sound more pleasant to the average listener when notes are struck at random.

Magnet Motor

To make the magnet chimes more automatic, where it moves purely from magnetic forces without needing a person to interact with the chimes, I am considering using magnet motors in the magnet chimes.

Week 8 Project Update

Magnet Chimes

Project Update

To improve this project, I would like to experiment with electromagnets to perhaps enable the viewer to have a better control in manipulating the magnet chimes.

Creating an electromagnet using:

  • Large iron nail (approximately 3 inches in length)
  • Thin coated copper wire
  • Dry cell batteries
  • Electric tape
  • Iron fillings, paper clips and other magnetic items
Below is a sketch for how I would try to incorporate the electromagnet into the structure, however there is definitely a need to try different ways to include the electromagnet.
Surprise is defined as the unexpected, or discovering something suddenly. This aspect exists in how the reaction of the magnets with each other and with the electromagnet cannot be anticipated, and the sounds that emerge from the chimes will always be different according to their position and the viewer’s manipulation.

Generative Study 1 Final


Other than using magnets to create spontaneous movements, natural materials were chosen as inspired by Fujimoto Yukio’s work. These include seashells, wood, and corals.


While playing with the different materials and listening to their sound, I noticed some materials make higher pitched sounds and some lower. With this, I decided to make the chimes have 3 differently pitched tones, classifying them according to their tone range.

Soprano – higher tone range

Alto – medium tone range

Bass – Lower tone range

Final Outcome of Magnet Chimes

Magnet Chimes is a work that aims to change the way we experience sounds from nature. The individual pieces come together to create spontaneous and random sounds. The sounds generated are derived from the movement of the magnets in the structure that attract and repel each other, as well as from the magnet held by the user.


Setting up the height of the magnet, and the distance from each other was one of the tougher parts of this challenge. An equilibrium needed to be established to ensure the magnets are not too near or too far from each other. Another challenge was getting the sounds generated to be random. Because the movement is caused the the magnets held by the viewer, the sounds tend to be cluttered together and do not sound entirely random.

Moving Forward

The initial idea for this project was to create chimes that would interact only with each other via magnets to create sounds. However, while working on this project, I realised that establishing a system that would work was challenging and due to time constraints, the system changed to one that required the viewer to hold a magnet and play the magnet chimes. As mentioned by Dejan, a way to move forward with this project would be to experiment with electromagnets, which creates an entirely different system on how the sound may be generated. This could also allow the the chimes to work independently without needing a user to hold a magnet to interact with the chimes.

Project 1 Generative Study Process

This generative study aims to using magnets to manipulate natural objects to create spontaneous and random sounds

The first trial was done using corals. The magnets were initially hanging side by side however the attraction was too strong which did not cause movement, and I had to move the hold the magnet instead to manipulate the hanging magnet.

Second structure using an acrylic rod and wood.

The current trials were constructed individually, and from here on I will experiment with joining the structures together, as using other objects like stone and charcoal.

Exploratory Project 1

Reinventing the way wind chimes interact with nature using magnets

Wind chimes are a type of percussion instrument that created sound when they catch the wind. In East Asian culture, they are said to frighten away birds and lurking evil spirits. Wind chimes create sound in a chance based manner.

Project concept: reinvent wind chimes by creating a series of wind chimes made from different natural materials (wood, sea shells, stone etc) and make the individual wind chime structure interact with one another using magnetic forces. The resulting sound should be generated randomly according to the magnetic force.