Inside every music box is a steel comb with tuned teeth (or lamellae) that make a single note when plucked. On some music boxes, a rotating cylinder covered in pins plucks the teeth, creating a tune. But other music boxes can be programmed with music sheets, perforated pieces of paper that, when fed through a music box, catch their holes on the comb’s teeth and create sound. Any pattern of dots can be played on a music box.
That made artists Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács realize that the music box could be a beautiful visualization tool when applied to the classic embroidery patterns of their native Hungary, and neighboring Romania.
The designers call it Sound Weaving. Both Romania and Hungary have rich, centuries-old embroidery traditions, in which patterns are passed down from generation to generation, to be embroidered on shirts, pillows, and more. By collecting these patterns, Szirmay—a textile artist by trade—was able to modify them into long strips. Not only are these beautiful works in their own right, but when played through a music box of Tárkány-Kovác’s invention, the patterns come alive as sound.
Perhaps understandably, the resulting tunes aren’t exactly songs. What makes a good embroidery pattern, after all, does not necessarily make for great music. If you remember the John Costa music that would play behind Mr. Rogers when he showed a Picture Picture movie on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, it sort of sounds like that: a strangely soothing soundtrack to a beautiful textile art that is utterly silent by nature.
You can listen to more examples of Sound Weaving here, as well as see the patterns upon which the songs were based.