Paul Slocum’s Dot Matrix Synth

I don’t pretend to understand the how-to involved in turning an old digital printer into a musical instrument but I definitely appreciate the effort. Paul Slocum has taken this idea through three variations so far. Here’s a pic of its most recent manifestation- Dot Matrix Synth Version 3.0.


The third version of the project has an interactive component where the viewer can influence the piece. From Slocum’s website…

The user presses buttons on an attached control interface to play different notes. As the printer is played, it’s also printing a set of images that are programmed into the printer’s EPROM with the software.

The printer creates sound from the print head firing pins against the paper and the vibration of the stepper motor driving the print head back and forth. To generate different notes, the software adjusts the frequency of the printing process. Higher pitches tend to come from the firing of the pins against the paper, and lower pitches come from the rattle of driving the stepper motor.

So there’s a sound component and an image component. Depending on what notes are played, the dithering pattern of the image varies. We can’t embed sound files into our site so you’ll have to visit Slocum’s site if you want to hear a sample of this printer-made music. Fair warning: if you’re hoping for CCR, you’re going to be disappointed. We can provide an example of one of the print outs…


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Categories: Artists, Technology

One Response to “Paul Slocum’s Dot Matrix Synth”

  1. RL Tillman says:

    I wasn’t hoping for CCR, but I’m always hopin’ for some Bob Seger.

    …Maybe “Still the Same,” which I hereby nominate as the Official Rock Ballad of Printmaking!