CH25: Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

As a drummer in hard, loud rock bands over the past decade, Jonathan Sparks indulged his passion for theatrics: “I love those large, swooping gestures, actions people in the back of the crowd could see too.” When he got more into electronic music, he missed that physicality and showmanship. His solution? The Nomis, a loop-based instrument he designed from scratch out of plexiglass while in grad school at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Its focal point is a large, spinning octagonal wheel with touch-points that trigger loops and LED lights. “I designed the pattern for it using Adobe Illustrator, laser-cut the plexiglass parts, and assembled all the individual parts,” explains the Brooklyn-based artist, who used an Arduino to hook up all the different sensors and LEDS and then imported it into a laptop. “The main interface of my instrument is a big open octagon, which you can play with these big arm gestures hitting the trigger. The whole octagon spins, so there’s this really large gesture of spinning the wheel with your arms.” In other words, he’s ready to rock.

Read more about Sparks’ musical innovations on his full CH25 profile.

Illustration by Jason Ratliff, images courtesy of Jonathan Sparks