Whilst Steampunk is a well established movement yeilding some wonderful creativity, there is apparently little documenting the quantum shift of technology of 1925-1939 and most importantly the integration of art into that technology - This movement is Art Deco.
Art Deco I beleive was a hodge podge of inspirations which capitalised on new materials and new shapes and forms which were starting to crop up at the time.
For example, Egyptology from the discovery of the Pharoes tombs in Egypt (the inspiration for 20's ladies fashion), the huge upsurge in Aviation and how it broke down the walls of travel and gave people the excitement and optimism of what possibilities were around the corner for mankind.
Electronics were starting to become commonplace, 'Wireless' (or radio as we call it), huge broadcast ariels to beam the music, news and theater to these devices were becoming a common sight. These shapes were inspiring a whole generation with an icon to celebrate the technological progress and a step into the unknown. It seemed anything was possible in the Art Deco era - and people damn well had a jolly good go at experimenting in both styles and technologies!
The first mass production non-metallic moulded shapes were coming into fashion with the readily available Bakelite. Knobs and inlays could be made in any shape or size and at minimal cost and in pretty much any colour.
Art Deco in my mind is all about 'motifs' that is the featured lines that appear to poise the piece of furniture as if it is about to take off like a plane or rocket, like it is reaching out to the future. take a look at the Douglas DC3, or the AWA radio tower in Sydney - they just reach mankind sykward to the future.
Writers of the time were also experimenting, with drugs and with the future.... and the inspiration for my first Instructable comes from Aldous Huxley - who wrote the book 'Brave New World' - read it, even if it is the only book you ever will read - it will change the way you think about our society.
In the book Huxley talks about a drug called 'Soma' that was only available to the 'Alpha's' - a group of specially 'cultured' humans who were segregated from the rest of society as being the most intelligent of all of societies engineered casts.
Alpha's could go out and take Soma and listen to 'son et lumiere' (sound and light performances) in special theaters. The music consisted of many sounds but most prominently 'great creciendos of bass' that, with the Soma, warmed the soul and heightened perceptions and was used by the overseers to stop their intelligent minds from realising that they had been manifactured.
One can presume here that Huxley is talking about the feeling that most of us are lucky to have experienced with MDMA - a sensory rush.
So to honor Huxley and to make my two year old daughter a very cool first instrument. I decided that I would build the instrument that made these creciendo's of bass and style it in the Art Deco form.
http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=T0eZyn53UtA (cant seem to make video embed work! sorry)
This device uses the Arduino controller and the Pocket Piano Synthesizer keyboard add on from Critters and Guitari that I picked up at Maker Faire in SF earlier this year. I havent got the first clue about electronics and I am sure many of you don't have either, so what I did here is put together a collection of readily available household devices to make a single independant (and electrically safe) musical instrument and furntiture piece.
I am keen to indulge myself fully in the DECOTOPIAN style - the fashion, the technology, the naivety and 'chin up' nature of the common language at the time all inspire awe in me. If only we had stayed so exited and focussed.
I would love to hear from anyone who is interested in collaborating on DECOTOPIAN projects in the future or who is as fascinated as I am by this era.
Cheerio for now - I hope you enjoy the Instructable!
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Step 1: Getting the components organised
So I drove to 'the Bower', a reverse garbage yard in Marrickville and found this hall dresser, which would have at some point had a mirror and hooks down the side for making onself look dashing in ont he way out to the races.
I was looking for a curved art deco veneered surface that I could make the centrepiece or 'motif' of the Somaphone.... this hall dresser was perfect and I knew from experieince that with a bit of french polish this would come up like knew as there was no water damage to the veneer.
I wasn't too fussed about getting good veneered timber for the sides and back until I built a complete unit. The motif piece was most important to get right.