Photo of Acoustic Oscillators


Jean-François Laporte

Acoustic Oscillators

Can a balloon membrane produce a pure sound wave like an oscillator? Jean-François Laporte found out that it can.

His Acoustic Oscillators are very small instruments. Each Acoustic Oscillator consists of a short piece of small-diameter metal pipe (through which compressed air comes in) covered with a latex membrane held tightly by fixed clamps. A second membrane is tied around the tip. By playing with the tension of membrane 1 and the position of membrane 2, one can tune the Acoustic Oscillator to a specific frequency, as with an electronic oscillator. Obviously, due to the small size of the instrument and the absence of a sounding board, the accessible frequency range is in the high-treble. But the sound remains warmer and less piercing than that of an electronic oscillator, possibly because it travels 360 degrees instead of being directed by the cone of a speaker. It can be reminiscent of tinnitus, though a lot less annoying than that. 

Jean-François Laporte uses the Acoustic Oscillators suspended from the ceiling, without touching them once they are tuned. The only control he has over them is the airflow. Used in groups, Acoustic Oscillators form crystalline sonic webs. When tuned to close frequencies, their notes can “beat” or “flap,” a fascinating acoustic illusion. The Acoustic Oscillators are also featured in “Corrosion,” a sound installation by Jean-François Laporte that also served as composition material for a piece by the same title performed by the duo RUST. Acoustic Oscillators also appear in “Inner Island,” a work performed by the duo of the same name, as well as in “Le Tératome,” a choreographic work by Frédéric Tavernini.

The Acoustic Oscillators are very close relatives of the Insects, another instrument invented by Jean-François Laporte. In fact, they are Insects prepared in such a way as to make them “stable,” to make them emit a high-pitched, pure and continuous sound. 

The Acoustic Oscillators are the most delicate instruments that Jean-François Laporte has created to date, a most subtle invention that does not go unnoticed.