Bell Controller

Motor-Control Instrument

A motor control interface for 15 vibration motors and LEDs attached to jingle bells. Used for installations and live performance. Performed acoustic or amplified. Featured in Experimental Music Yearbook 2016.

GitHub Repository

Expressive Control

The bell controller allows for expressive control through a few simple parameters:

  • Performance vs. Installation mode
  • Whether a motor is on or off
  • "Note on" length
  • "Note off" length
  • Intensity of motor and LED
  • Acceleration or Deceleration

When a motor is "on", it flashes/vibrates at a rate controlled by a combination of "note on" and "note off" rates. The combined rate is then scaled differently for each motor, preventing any two motors from flashing at the exact same rate.

The structure of the program is based on a single motorcontrol() function. Each motor uses the same function with slightly different parameters. All logic is self-contained in the Arduino. You can view the code on github.


Performances with the bell controller can either be amplified or completely acoustic. Amplification introduces other control elements that are used compositionally thoughout the performance (live EQ and mixing). Tape and magnets are also used to change the timbre of the bells.


CDM Create Digital Music

"Watch these makers of hybrid physical-digital music instruments – a talk from Ableton Loop", Peter Kirn, Create Digital Music, September 3, 2020.

Performance excerpt (amplified version) from the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. October 26, 2017. Video by Ian Byers-Gamber
From Ableton Loop 2018: "Touch, Code, Play: Creating hybrid physical-digital music instruments"
Astrid Bin, Dan Moses and Stephanie Cheng Smith explore the world of bespoke electronic music instrument creation – digging into the design, engineering, and performance practices with CDM’s Peter Kirn.


Related Events

Mar 08, 2021 -
Research + Practice Visiting Artist , CalArts
Feb 24, 2020 -
Research + Practice Visiting Artist: Sonic Instrument Building Lecture , CalArts
Sep 29, 2019 -
Aug 02, 2018 -
Nov 18, 2017 -
LA Phil: Noon to Midnight , 5:30pm - Midnight , Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Sep 24, 2017 -
soundSpark Extravaganza , 11am - 4pm , Kings Road Park Pavilion, 1000 N Kings Rd, West Hollywood, CA
Oct 26, 2017 -
Performing at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA , 7pm , The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, CA
Nov 11, 2016 -
Motor Arrays on Tour with EMY Issue 2016 , 8pm , Touring (see link for details)
Jun 02, 2016 -
Solarc Pilot Series: Batch 4 , 8pm , MorYork, 4959 York Blvd, Los Angeles
Mar 07, 2015 -
Performing in soundSpark , 12pm , Children's Theatre, West Hollywood Library