Making-of: Symphonie

Symphonie is an interactive/participatory theater piece developed in a collaboration between KOBAKANT (Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner Wilson) with Director Anna Vera Kelle of Theater Strahl. We knew the date of the premier about one year ahead of time.
Around that time, through friends we heard of a case in a Berlin school of a teacher discriminating against her student and his family because of their refugee foreground. We became aware of how such discrimination is commonplace in schools in our city. Knowing we were going to make a theater piece for an audience coming from this setting, we were motivated to work with this topic of institutional discrimination within the Berlin school system.

Busy multiple schedules made it hard for us to meet regularly to make collective process. We began reading on the topic of discrimination and racism, accounts from students and people invested in this system. We tried to meet once a month to catch up and slowly prepare ourselves for the production ahead.

In May and June 2023, Mika and Hannah lead a semester project course at the Mastersprogram Spiel und Objekt. Three actors from Theater Strahl, a theater pedagogue and a Premierenklasse joined the project and together we produced a piece titled Three Perspectives.

In July 2023 the three of us met for two intense weeks of talking, trying out ideas for the piece and discussing what forms of interactive technology could work to involve an audience. We came to the point of imagining the setting of a symphony orchestra, in which each audience member receives a digital instrument that they play in order to become the orchestra as well as experience a scene of discrimination between the conductor and members of the orchestra.

Then we took a summer break.

End of August 2023 we spent two weeks prototyping first instruments so that we would have something for the actors to work with when they started rehearsals in September.

All of September until the premier on October 12th 2023 were spent:
Developing and testing the code
Producing the hardware for 70 instruments (of which 10 are backup)
Rehearsing with the actors in the setting in order to develop an interactive/participatory script
Playtesting scenes with live audience

The following notes and photos show how we worked during this time:

Before our summer break we make this sketch for a version with CNC pannel:

The very first prototype:

symphonie string instrument - first prototype

We start to realize we need to make a box for all the electronics to be inside:

Testing further prototypes of hardware and code:


Figuring out how everything will fit in the shape:

If we CNC the body, then we could make any shape! But what shape to make?

For a first test we quickly make this shape:

LED light shining through the wood. Magical.

Final violin design:

CNC in process:
cnc milling of violin case by cncbox

First batch of final CNCs arrive.

First assembled final violin:

LED light through wood stained redish looks cheap and ugly. We decide against it, even though we liked being able to make the instruments varying shades of red.

The actors are rehearsing daily with Anna Vera:

PCB sketch in illustrator, then KiCAD, then ordered

To design the PCB in KiCAD i take the “belamini_cape_C2” file from here:
and delete everything but the header footprints. Then start adding all the circuitry we need, which is not much:
– Pull-up resistors for sensors
– 2N7000 MOSFET for neopixel as signal inverter
– Capacitor + resistor for Low pass filter for audio signal
Amplifier for audio

Final schematic

We compare these two amplifiers and decide to go with Adafruit:

PCBs arrive!

Here various versions in comparison:

How big to make the cello??? Our violin is a few cm bigger than a full violin…. do we make the cello as big as full cello?

Final cello design:

The quickest way I can think of to have a small custom board with a few holes made is to make a PCB:

We start production…. but we don’t have enough violin necks….