Nightjar - Analog Electronic Birdsong Synthesizer - Kelly Heaton
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Nikola Tesla famously said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.” Kelly Heaton followed Tesla’s advice to invent a practice that she calls Electronic Naturalism: the study of electrical patterns in living and life-like entities.
Her Nightjar sculpture uses simple analog electronics to make sounds that are remarkably bird-like. The circuit is completely analog (no digital or microcontroller in sight!) and there’s no recorded sound, only six oscillators coupled together with passive filters. By adjusting the potentiometers, different patterns of “birdsong” can be generated.
Heaton included interfaces for remote control and audio line-level out so that makers and musicians can go wild with her avian instrument: wire it up to your eurorack, or maybe add a MIDI control interface!
The name “Nightjar” has an interesting backstory. In 2020, Heaton collaborated with Johann Diedrick on a project called Deep Fake Birdsong. They used Diedrick’s artificially intelligent software, Flights of Fancy, to analyze one of Heaton’s original songbird circuits. They discovered that 47 of the 122 analyzed spectrograms were matched with Antrostomus sericocaudatus (aka the Silky-tailed nightjar) with an
average percent confidence match rating of 93%... and so the name stuck!
Heaton is known for her analog electronic songbirds and other artistic circuits, but they have not been available to the general public until now. Starting in 2023, Nightjar will be manufactured and sold by Adafruit....Prepare to grow your flock!
This circuit has only six oscillators: five astable multivibrators and one modified Hartley. It's battery operated so you can carry it around. You will need a 9V battery or 9V DC power supply (not included) to power the circuit board.