sound art & craft


giant noisy


The giant noisy pompoms intend to encourage play and interaction in the performance of electronic music. They are made by hand using the traditional cardboard ring method and measure around 40cm in diameter. They are often thrown into audiences unexpectedly, making music as they move and the audience plays.

The pompoms make music based on their movement. Internal Bluetooth sensors embedded within the pompoms communicate wirelessly with a computer, where software has been composed to react to the pompoms' behaviour. Numerous applications have been developed to sonify their movement, manipulate noise and trigger sound samples.

An image from a performance of 'piece for giant pompom'
(Photo: James Andean)

Above is an image from piece for giant pompom, performed at De Montfort University in October 2016. The concept of the piece was to explore play as a method of composition. The pompom was rolled and thrown around the performance space and its movement data was sonified to generate unpredictable sequences of noise. The performers had no prior knowledge of the piece and were invited from the audience to play. Each performer in the improvisation performed an idiosyncratic response, with some bold, theatrical gestures and some more introverted and curious. Other realisations of this piece happened at Always The Sun Festival (Guildford UK - September 2016), Metamagnetic (Portabello Road, London - May 2018), Post-Paradise (Centrala, Birmingham UK - February 2019) and Queen Mary University of London (January 2020).

Erika, performing with a 'giant noisy pompom'

Erika, performing with a 'giant noisy pompom'
(Photo: Lisa Knight)

A bespoke giant noisy pompom was commissioned in January 2016 by Erika, which is now used as a regular part of her performance. Below is a video from the first performance at the Red Gallery, London UK. See a video clip of Erika testing the software for her pompom here.

An image of Sam sharing the pompom's inner workings to a group of young music technologists.

Sharing the pompom's inner workings to a group of young music technologists.
Yamaha Music Centre, Surrey UK. August 2016.

The giant noisy pompoms are often used in workshop settings. They are used as tools for community artists to develop concepts at De Montfort University, and also to assist in articulating an application of coding in music making, such as in a workshops at Yamaha Music Centre, Surrey UK (pictured above).

The instruments were often explored in the soundLINCS Making Noise project, at the Guildhall Arts Centre (Grantham, UK), running from December 2015 to July 2017. Below, is a video of Rhiannon, playing a giant noisy pompom.

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© Sam Topley 2020