Beats from a barcode

Beats from a barcode

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Mads sent us info on this project which derives beat sequencing data from barcodes –

It questions whether barcodes can contain musical qualities and be used as a media of sound and rhythm. It is intriguing to see everyday items, like milk, transform into sound. The user uses a standard barcode scanner to scan a barcode and hear what sounds are produced. Users have the opportunity to scan multiple items, and create a composition of sounds. The sounds of each barcode is unique and contains among many things the information of rhythmical qualities and the type of sound.

Barcode Beats

Resident blogger Becky Stern built a similar project generating some awesome compositions

Sternlab Barcode Beats2

UPC Sequencer is an application that employs a barcode scanner to create music from UPCs. By creating an audio composition unique to each code, the composer begins to value products based on their contribution to a musical score rather than marketing and package design. The one part of the package not designed to appeal to the consumer’s wallet becomes the most valuable component. Items from a similar manufacturer have similar UPCs, creating recognizable patterns for similarly governed corporations. As patterns in sound are known to be highly recognizable, users can understand complex corporate ownership chains by composing music. Controller codes allow the user to select which type of intstrument a particular product should be. The product takes on a new meaning that is defined by the user and is therefore much more personal and genuine. Undermining the marketing hype surrounding consumer goods, the UPC Sequencer helps take back control over deciding what roles these products play in our lives.

UPC sequencer @ Sternlab

10 thoughts on “Beats from a barcode

  1. EllisGL says:

    I downloaded the program and after figuring out how to get a barcode in via the keyboard (type out the barcode and hit enter or space(x2).

    The Doom 3 upc 04785323773 will bring up something from a nightmare….. Makes me wonder how the algorithm works.

  2. Liz says:

    How very cool, I’d love to try this at home lol.

  3. Aud1073cH says:

    and not just electrical.

    If you could load the software into embedded chips like eproms, stamp, possibly a propeller controller …
    It could become a stand-alone device for live performance, as a kid’s toy, …

    I imagine an over-sized barcode scanner wand with a little 2″ screen, internal speaker, headphone jack, 9v battery…

    will it scan scribbles? my car’s VIN?

  4. Aud1073cH says:

    This version says it uses pre-recorded samples…

    More code could let it generate its own samples.
    Part of the bar code could select a base frequency or noise (pink, white.) Another part could set parameters for an ADSR envelope.

    Certain starting points could be programmed in. For example if I wanted to generate a cymbal sample, it would know to start with a short attack, and use a noise source with higher frequencies, – and then the bar code from my pudding cup would modify those starting parameters to something unique to that bar code.

    Like the sample? store it to a flash card.

  5. says:

    Funny! I built a very similar system for inputting musical events, down to the idea of printing out a piece of paper to use as a set of controllers. I showed it last year at Warper here in NYC and at the San Mateo Maker Faire along with some other stuff, but I will say, I ultimately tired of the technique. There’s just not a whole lot of actual data in a barcode, so it’s fun for a bit and then it starts to feel like a random number generator. (Although it did start to make me think more about vision apps and such and could be more interesting if you interfaced with a database.)

    Then again, maybe this fellow has found a way to make it meaningful to him, which is really what it’s all about.

    If anyone wants some spare Processing code and is interested in doing things like, I’m happy to share. The way I implemented it, it’s just string manipulations, which is really easy in Processing (probably easier than in Max, in fact).

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