Every once in a while, a video will blow up on the Internet of an electronic musician or ordinary person having fun and making cool sounds by moving bar code scanners in each hand over a screen of printed lines of different widths and patterns. Although scanner videos by artist Shawn Wasabi in particular have collected millions of views, making music with bar code scanners has never quite become a mainstream thing.
Ei Wada rocks the barcodes
That may change, however, because of the work of Ei Wada. Recently, the Japanese artist and musician got an amazing 1.9 views on Twitter alone with a high-energy video of himself waving bar code scanners over patterns that he designed. Ei Wada, who also goes by the name of Crab Feet, has a history of taking old electronics, reel to reel tape recorders, for example, and re-purposing them into musical instruments. He’s also collected old CRT televisions, taken them apart and then resembled them into instruments that are similar to guitars but are unique.
Ei Wada and his like-minded electronic music friends are popular on the Internet, but they also play live in clubs and other venues. The musician is secretive about his exact process for creating bar code music, but the video watching him perform is very captivating and highly musical. He is an animated performer who is way into his compositions and has clearly put a lot of work into them. With a lot of energy, he blends together low and high pitches to make electronic noises that are fun and hard to describe.
Sharing ideas over the Internet
The bar-code patterns that Ei Wada and similar artists use to create their music aren’t exactly the same as bar codes that are used on products in stores. The musical bar codes can’t turn a pattern into a piece of text for a computer to read in the same way that functional bar codes do. Rather, they’re just designed to get a particular sound out of the scanner, and the variety of these sounds is pretty much limitless. It’s an excellent forum for a musician who wants to create a new type of music.
Furthermore, pitches can be changed by the angle of the scanners and the distance from the patterns they’re reading. Therefore, two different people are going to get very different sounds from running scanners over the same patterns. It’s hard to imagine this type of music being written down in some type of traditional musical notation, but, then again, one of the point is to break norms.
Practicality and art collide
Ei Wada has spoken about a day when employees scanning bar codes in supermarkets will be hooked up to speakers, and the whole supermarket will feel the groove. While that day may be far in the future, making music with bar code scanners is a thriving pastime here and now. On Reddit, in particular, the popularity of this music is growing.