Here are a pair of Tesla coils playing Girl Talk's "This is the Remix." It is beautiful, and awesome. How does it work? I asked Ian Charnas, one of the brains behind the Open Spark Project, a group that paired musicians—and their original compositions—with the musical Tesla coils. Truly a match made in heaven.
It turns out, you can make music out of anything that makes noise, just by turning it on and off very rapidly.
If you record a noise of you tapping your fingers on your laptop keyboard, and then speed it up so you hear 440 taps per second, you'll hear A4, the A above middle C on the standard keyboard. Likewise with the tesla coils, we make a giant spark and then turn it on and off at the right audio frequency for the note we want to play.
This is accomplished by a series of circuits and microchips we designed, which convert a standard MIDI signal (coming from a MIDI keyboard or from the MIDI output on our laptop) to the fiber-optic signal that the tesla coil requires. Why fiber optic? Because we don't want a copper wire connecting our keyboardist to the thing that makes a million volts ;-)
Oh, and musicians, they're going to do another round of these videos sometime in the future. If you want a heads up the next time The Open Spark Project is looking for musical submissions, head over to their website and ask to "receive updates."
Thanks to Dr. Aaron for Submitterating!