The Evil Eye is an analogue audio project from Belgian collective Indianen with an interesting method of printing and using sonic data on physical media. Instead of cutting grooves onto a surface, custom software allows the artists to design and print black-and-white waveform patterns as PDFs, which are then screenprinted onto 12-inch optical discs and played back on a turntable using specialized light-sensing hardware instead of a needle. The waveforms can be either shaped manually in the software or imported / modified from existing patterns.
The "eye" hardware's designer, Tim Knapen, says he opted not to use a smartphone camera as the sensor, because it would have unnecessarily complicated the process. "We use a simple light-to-voltage converter that doesn't do any processing. An iPhone app would require some visual processing but more importantly also some kind of synthesizer. In the setup we used, all the sound is encoded in the disks and there is no need for anything digital."
Aside from producing audio artifacts covered in beautiful, arcane-looking waveform mosaics, the project's optical disc system also allows for a unique kind of musical performance. By running multiple turntables and alternating between different "tracks" on the disc using the handheld optical sensor, an impressive range of improvisatory possibilities arise.
It's not a first for optical analogue, however. One commenter notes the project's resemblance to "Soundmachines" by Berlin-based studio The Product. It also brings to mind Derek Holzer's "Tonewheels," which has a similar setup but instead uses tiny spinning tops and a stand-up light projector with color filters instead of turntables and custom hardware. The project is being presented tonight as a participatory performance at the Frans Masareel Centre in Kasterlee, Belgium.