Papers and Links

Here are some resources for learning more about solarsonics, and using solar power in the arts in general. Some of these are papers by myself and others through this research, as well as a variety of useful links and other artists/researchers.


Scott Smallwood (2016).  “Coronium 3500: A Solarsonic Installation for Caramoor.” 2016 New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) Conference, Brisbane, Australia.

[ view paper ]

This paper describes the development, creation, and deployment of a sound installation entitled Coronium 3500 (Lucie’s Halo), commissioned by the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. The piece, a 12-channel immersive sound installation driven by solar power, was exhibited as part of the exhibition In the Garden of Sonic Delights from June 7 to November 4, 2014, and again for similar duration in 2015. Herein I describe the aesthetic and technical details of the piece and its ultimate deployment, as well as reflecting on the results and the implications for future work.

Scott Smallwood and Jared Bielby (2013).  “Solarsonics: Patterns of Ecological Praxis in Solar-Powered Sound Art.” Musique et écologies du son / Music and ecologies of sound, Université Paris 8.

[ view paper ] [ view poster ]

Harnessing the sun as an energy source is of great interest in this age of energy crises, and holds our imagination because of its quiet, seemingly magical properties.  Photovoltaic technologies have grown quickly over the past 20 years, and more and more applications of solar power are finding use today.  In the arts, solar power is often used as energy sources for public artworks, as a practical matter.  These systems typically work in conjunction with batteries or other sources of energy in order to ensure a constant voltage and power level.  However, an alternate approach is to design the work to use the sun’s energy directly, and exclusively, with the sunlight itself as a functional parameter of the material.  In this paper, we examine the use of photovoltaics in the direct production of sound as a function of its existence.  These solarsonic works are designed to use the sun in the same way that wind-based artworks use the wind: they are activated directly, and are totally dependent on the light available in the moment.  We survey solarsonic works by several artists, and discuss a series of works by the author, and conclude with a look at what the future may bring.

Scott Smallwood (2011). “Solar Sound Arts: Creating Instruments and Devices Powered by Photovoltaic Technologies” in NIME 2011 Proceedings.

[ view paper ] [ view poster ]

This paper describes recent developments in the creation of sound-making instruments and devices powered by photovoltaic (PV) technologies. With the rise of more efficient PV products in diverse packages, the possibilities for creating solar-powered musical instruments, sound installations, and loudspeakers are becoming increasingly realizable. This paper surveys past and recent developments in this area, including several projects by the author, and demonstrates how the use of PV technologies can influence the creative process in unique ways. In addition, this paper discusses how solar sound arts can enhance the aesthetic direction taken by recent work in soundscape studies and acoustic ecology. Finally, this paper will point towards future directions and possibilities as PV technologies continue to evolve and improve in terms of performance, and become more affordable.

Perry Cook and Scott Smallwood (2010). SOLA: Sustainable Orchestras of Laptops and Analog in Leonardo Music Journal 20.

This paper describes a series of investigations into the use of sustainable methods for powering electronic musical instruments and, perhaps ultimately, a large ensemble such as the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk), a collection of 15-25 meta-instruments each consisting of a laptop computer, interfacing equipment, and a hemispherical speaker. The research discussed includes the development of instruments specifically designed for solar power, as well as the use of solar panels and/or batteries to power more conventional devices like computers and amplifiers.

Links: Papers/Articles by Others

Chen, Angela. “KinKinetic sculptures and sound circuits: building solar-powered art at Pioneer Works.” The Verge Apr. 12, 2019.

Links: Artists Working with Solar

Links: Resources