Steve Hamilton Final Project: Post-Meridien Redux

Post-Meridien: Redux  (Internet Enabled Dream Generator)

My final project involves updating an artifact I created for a live performance/installation at the New Museum way back in 2001.  I’d commissioned a composer to write a nocturne and hired a violinist from the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra to perform it live for 4 hours while locked into a 4 by 4 by 8 foot tall black wooden box.  You could hear him playing from inside the box (there was no top so the sound came through pretty clearly) but you couldn’t see him.  There was a video feed to another part of the museum where you could see him playing but you couldn’t hear him.  The effect, although perhaps a little maddening, was also quite mysterious in the room with the big black box where the lights were kept low and twilight-y.  In the video he looked sort of sweaty and hot.  It was summer and the museum’s AC wasn’t working very well.  Plus he was locked up in a windowless black box, so there you have it.

Anyway, I found a small music box mechanism that played songs from 5 inch metal disks and I had one fabricated with the nocturne I’d commissioned on it and created this blue velvet lined wooden box and put a mirror on the floor and an inverted half silvered mirror on the top and ringed it with blue LEDs just under the half-silvered mirror.  The effect was of a bottomless series of blue LED rings and this small plunky music box music.  Back then I didn’t have the electrical chops to get the whole thing functioning and the piece has been collecting dust in my studio ever since.  Now that I’m developing some mad skillz with Arduino I decided to resurrect it and bring it to an even grander fruition than originally imagined.  Now it will not only play music and light up, still providing a deep, bottomless, LED lighted mystery, but it will start up only when approached and will have a pulsating blue button that when pressed will activate an internet-based algorithm that generates dreams and prints them out using a thermal ink receipt printer.  I know.  Right?

So how will I make this killer mod?  Well, here’s what I’m thinking I’ll need.

Starting with an Arduino Uno Microcontroller I’ll add . . .

Maxbotix Ultrasonic Rangefinder – LV-EZ1 [LV-EZ1] ID: 172 – $24.95 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits


This will trigger the lights and music using the Arduino and some sort of transistor circuit that manages the auxiliary power source (because the Arduino alone can’t power all those LEDs and the music player) when somebody approaches the box.

I found this tutorial about managing large currents with a transistor . . .

The Arduino will be outfitted with . . .

Adafruit CC3000 WiFi Shield with Onboard Ceramic Antenna ID: 1491 – $39.95 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits

Arduino Internet Shield


Adafruit CC3000 WiFi Breakout with Onboard Ceramic Antenna ID: 1469 – $34.95 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits

Arduino Internet Breakout

I’m not really sure what the difference between a breakout and a shield is so I’m not sure which one of these I need.  Hopefully it’s the shield because the breakout is not currently available.  Becky please advise.  Anyway, this will provide the Arduino with Internet Access via Wifi and enable the handshake that lets it activate the internet algorithm dream generator code.

Waterproof Metal Pushbutton with Blue LED Ring [16mm Blue Momentary] ID: 481 – $4.95 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits


This cool blue glowing button will be used to trigger the dream algorithm and will gently pulse all the time on the front of the box enticing people to approach it so the entire shebang gets activated.

Mini Thermal Receipt Printer Starter Pack ID: 600 – $61.95 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits


This printer will print out the message algorithmically captured from the internet by the Arduino.

LoL Shield BLUE – A charlieplexed LED matrix kit for the Arduino [1.5] ID: 493 – $24.95 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits


I don’t think I’ll use this for anything but I thought about the possibility of having the dreams scanned out Jenny Holzer style using this LED Matrix instead of the printer.  But I think I’ll probably use the receipt printer so people can take their dreams home with them like the fortunes from Chinese cookies.

I’m still thinking about the structure and content of the algorithm to generate the dreams but I’m thinking a part of it may pull lines from Allan Ginsberg’s Howl Part 1, a poem  which even today rings forth with an hallucinatory energy that seems not just dreamlike but totally revolutionary.  It’s fierce.  I’d like the dreams to be thought provoking, poetic, and possibly politically significant.

I’ve been doing some research and discovered . . .

An alarm clock that wakes you up with harsh truths scraped from the world wide web

A Robo Poem generator

Robopoem – Computer poetry: automatic poems and song lyrics

And some interesting articles on the history of chance and cutup concepts in poetry making  and music . . .

Aleatoricism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Indeterminacy (music) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cut-up technique – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dissociated press – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One thought on “Steve Hamilton Final Project: Post-Meridien Redux”

  1. Go simple, Steve– cut out the wifi (just have the thing plug into ethernet by using an Ethernet Arduino or ethernet shield). It should also be noted that the LOLshield uses almost all the pins on the arduino and so will make it hard to have anything else connected– i think there are enough LEDs inside the box without adding more to the outside. Otherwise your project proposal is solid, but think about how to tutorialize it– what parts would someone else want to make, and how can you make it as easy to replicate those parts as possible? Start writing the rough draft of your tutorial text and also bring your in-progress physical objects to class.

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