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Epitaph of the Earth: Rock player for listening to the earth’s history

Published onJun 22, 2022
Epitaph of the Earth: Rock player for listening to the earth’s history


  • Shinnosuke Komiya (New York University Interactive Telecommunication Program)

  • Tetsuaki Baba(Tokyo Metropolitan University Industrial Art)


Epitaph of the Earth is an instrument for playing the sound of rocks by scanning their ingredients. By picking up appropriate rocks when users go out and putting them on this instrument's turntable, users can play the history of the rock, and their memories of the place as a unique ambient sound based on the characteristics. It has an infrared sensor and load cells to detect the rock's shape, weight, and textures.

The user puts a rock on the turntable, then the turntable turns, and the infrared sensor beside it elevates simultaneously. Each sensor sends the data in real-time from Arduino micro to Puredata installed in Raspberry Pi and then analyzed the captured data by DFT.

We had some experiments to make sure we could detect rock's textures and shape.

Through these experiments, we could identify the unique parameters for each rock. Then these parameters can reproduce a unique sound inexpensively and in a size that can be placed on a shelf in a room.

However, there is room for improving the detection of rock. Thus, we will try to use a texture image from a camera module for the next step.


We think of several options to show our work in virtual format.

  • Playing a video we took before

  • Playing this instrument in live streaming through OBS.

Program Description

When we pick up a seashell at the beach and bring it home, we can hold it to our ear and listen to its sound to imagine our memories of the beach and the history of the sea.

Even though what we hear when we hold them to our ears is not the actual sound of the waves, we feel as if we are listening to the sound of the waves. So the creation of this kind of sound meaning and action is fascinating. When we look around, we wonder if shells are the only things with a history like that.

Initially, it was thought that the best media for storing memories and records were inorganic materials that would not weather easily. Human beings' Memories change little by little over time. Some information disappears, while others are beautified. Rock can express these subtle changes. The gradual weathering is a perfect example of the changes in memories.

We believe that rock is a relatively weatherproof medium that exists in nature and that it is an inorganic medium that has known the earth since before the advent of humans. Nevertheless, we do not have many methods to listen to the sounds of the earth's history using the components of rock, like seashells.

Rocks were initially used as epitaphs and recording media and had parameters such as texture, ingredient, temperature, shape, radiation, and density/weight that hint at the earth's history.

We created a player that plays the history of rocks as environmental sounds as an interface for humans to look into the vast history and enjoy it. Through this player, We would like to add meaning to the act of picking up a rock and expand the custom and perception of listening to its history.

This player is made with an IR sensor, weight sensor, two stepper motors, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Puredata to capture and generate the ambient sound according to the rock’s characteristics.

We explore the physical construction of the instrument and its implementation and feasibility as an instrument in the real world.


Epitaph of the Earth @NYU ITP NIME Show


  • The authors would like to thank people who joined the NIME class at NYU.


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