April 13, 2011

Tesla Orchestra’s New Project Lights Up Music Scene

Case Western Reserve University’s Tesla Orchestra is known for its innovative projects. Take, for example, its entire existence: It’s a musical group that uses tesla coils to convert music into lightning—the only university-based traveling group of its kind.

Now, the brains behind Tesla Orchestra are launching Open Spark Project, in which musicians around the world, especially here at Case Western Reserve, can submit their songs and get them turned into lightning. One act already signed on to the project? Former Case Western Reserve student Gregg Gillis, aka mashup master Girl Talk.

So how, exactly, does this work? Members of Tesla Orchestra—a group that has comprised about 80 members in its short history—built musical tesla coils, devices that shoot out giant bolts of electricity tuned to reproduce all the notes on a keyboard, explained alumnus and project manager Ian Charnas (CWR ’05). The end result is that it looks like lightning and sounds like music, and it’s something better seen than explained; check out a video of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” here.

For the Open Spark Project, musicians are encouraged to submit their videos online from now until May 2, and on May 14, Tesla Orchestra will stream live video of all the songs on the project’s site. Then, on June 11, they’ll select the top songs to perform in a live show in the Masonic Auditorium here in Cleveland, with proceeds going toward funding for Tesla Orchestra (tickets are available at ingenuitycleveland.com).

About a dozen students, plus a handful of alumni, faculty and staff members, are involved in making Open Spark Project work. Most students are electrical and mechanical engineers, but Charnas said the interdisciplinary project includes students at Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland Institute of Music and Lorain County Community College.

Charnas said they’d love to receive submissions from the university community. “This project is a rare opportunity for musicians to see their music turned into lightning,” Charnas said. “I know we have a lot of people on campus who make music as a passion or a career, and when will you ever get a chance like this? It’s very rare.”

The project is made possible through various departments at Case Western Reserve University as well as alumnus Paul Buchheit (CWR ’98).

To learn more about Open Spark Project or submit your music, go online.

Posted by: Emily Mayock, April 13, 2011 08:58 AM | News Topics:

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