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Device Captures The Sounds Of Melbourne

Sound engineer creates new recording device with City of Melbourne

By

5 May 2022

Guitar and sound engineer Luke Elliot has developed a unique fixed recording device, with funding from the City of Melbourne, to capture the sounds of Melbourne’s landmarks. Pitchi enables users to create their own personal messages and sounds at landmarks in the heart of Melbourne. In this interview, Luke discusses the inspiration for Pitchi, how he’s developing a version for the general public, and what he learnt studying at SAE Creative Media Institute.

With just four nobs to play, record, adjust the pitch, and loop the recording, Pitchi is a nostalgic throwback to analogue technology of the past. “I wanted to create something that was a bit like an instrument, was interpersonal, but also kind to users,” Luke explained. “People can speak or sing a message directly into the inbuilt microphone. They can then play the recording back once or choose to loop it. It can also be a lot of fun to experiment and change the pitch by speeding it up or slowing it down. When the next person records a message, the previous recording is wiped from Pitchi’s memory, which adds to the spontaneity of it, I think.” 

The compact plastic box, which is similar in size to that of a mobile phone from the 90s, was borne out of the skills Luke uses as a guitar technician. “I was wiring a lot of guitars and playing around with different electronics, and that gave me the confidence to start designing circuits, solder things and come up with the idea for a device which users could use to link their everyday interactions.” After spending eight months developing a circuit, Luke produced what would later become Pitchi.

“There was definitely a lot of trial and error, where things would catch on fire – I felt a bit like a mad scientist. After a while, I found out what sort of components I needed for it to work.” Luke said the inspiration for the name, Pitchi, was brought about through analogue technology. “It’s about being able to manipulate the sound and pitch, like you would through an old school tape machine.” Following a Development Arts Grant from the City of Melbourne, Pitchi will be installed around the world’s most liveable city, with Luke also being invited to assess future grant applicants. “It just so happened that when I came up with the idea for Pitchi, the City of Melbourne was offering arts grants. I fortunately got accepted and they’ve now given me permission to develop the project further with the idea to have Pitchi available at more locations around the city.” 

“The City of Melbourne has invited me to join their arts assessment panel to judge future arts grant applicants. Looking at future creative projects is something I’m extremely excited to be a part of.” Luke graduated from SAE Creative Media Institute in Melbourne with a Diploma of Sound Production, and said the knowledge he learnt gave him the skills for a career in sound engineering. “It was a very hands-on course with the equipment I got to use, and gave me the scope to take on projects that I wanted to pursue,” he said. 

“Getting the chance to collaborate with other students on your course and in other disciplines was really useful as well; it was a great insight into the audio industry.” Luke has just started testing Pitchi at the Queen Victoria Market, and has plans to create a sustainable version of the device – with a casing made entirely of paper – for  sale to other creatives. “The devices around Melbourne have to be able to withstand the weather conditions all year around, so they’ve been constructed of the same plastic materials you’d find in an electrical junction box,” he said. “The standalone editions are for personal use at home, which has meant I’ve been able to be more environmentally conscious with the materials I’ve used there. “As someone who’s really passionate about audio engineering, I’m excited to see people explore their relationship with sound.”

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