The Evil Eye project is the result of a residency project at the Frans Masereel Center, a center for printmaking in Kasterlee, Belgium.
During the residency we printed optical audio records: visual patterns silkscreened on heavy paper. We handed the records out in bars and on the local market in Kasterlee. On the last day of the residency a short performance was held. The local people were invited to come play the records on our home-made optical record players.
The records were only played during the performance. After the performance, it became impossible for the owner to play the audio information contained in his Evil Eye record. After they returned home from the Masereel Center, their records became again just prints, with a memory of the event and their sounds attached to them.
Technically, the project is very straightforward. There’s no conversion between the printed patterns and the sounds they make, it’s truly one-to-one. No synthesizers are used to translate the prints to sound, all the sound are embedded in the visual patterns.
When you put one of the records on the record player it passes the electronic “Eye” we’ve built: a simple recording device with an LED and a light sensor. The rotating patterns create modulating light that is translated into an electric signal by the Eye. This signal is fed into a guitar amplifier and comes out as the exact sound that is embedded in the prints.
Most of the designs were made by hand, starting from the printmaking and visually creating sounds by trial and error. We also built custom software that can create different kinds of sound waves as circular drawings, much like a visual synthesizer. We created some patterns with this, but mostly used this as a tool to get a feel for what sounds could look like in print.