Syncaplonk! is a network of self-organizing electromechanical percussionists. Left to their own devices Syncaplonk nodes will synchronize themselves. However, disruptions in Syncaplonk’s environment delay synchronization, or, if the network is already synchronized, cause nodes to fall out of sync.

Sonically, what visitors would experience with Syncaplonk is an evolving soundscape of plink-plonking (sync-plonking?) percussion instruments. Visually, each node has an LED that lights up when the node plays, creating subtle flashing patterns in dim lighting. Plus it’s just fun to watch these robotic percussionists hit stuff! Given a sufficient time in the space it should become clear that the sonic texture is not changing randomly, but rather that the instruments are moving toward synchrony, lending the piece a tenuous goal-directedness with possible narrative implications (sync up little buddy!).


Syncaplonk’s nodes and environmental detectors (i.e. motion sensors) would be placed in some ad hoc arrangement around the installation space. A laptop and interface for the nodes and sensors would also need to be somewhere nearby. Patrons would obviously be invited into the space and the traffic within the space, or within certain sections of the space would constitute the aforementioned disruptions in Syncaplonk’s environment.


This work comes out of an interest in algorithmic control of musical systems and a desire to see/hear electronic (or at least electronically controlled) music performed on acoustic instruments. Inspiration comes from examples synchronization in nature, such as fireflies flashing together, and mathematical models of such synchronization, notably that of Mirollo and Strogatz.

Show me:

The video below shows a smaller beta version of Syncaplonk that demonstrates proof of concept. The proposed version will have many more electromechanical sound makers spatially arranged (in rather more aesthetically pleasing fashion) throughout the installation space.