Living Instruments

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Living Instruments is a collaborative project between London-based musician Serge Vuille (under the umbrella of his project WeSpoke) and the DIY biology community of the Swiss-based open laboratory Hackuarium.

It is a musical composition for a series of instruments that use bacteria, yeast and other living organisms to generate music. By interacting with the organisms and recording the sounds, gas bubbles, pressure, and movements they generate, the artists can transform data into music, creating a live, semi-improvised musical piece.

The final deliverable was a concert/performance that took place on February 10th 2016, at the music and performance art venue Le Bourg, in Lausanne, Switzerland. More information about the event can be found here.

The concert was followed by a workshop/masterclass at the Lift conference on innovation and digital technologies in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 12th 2016. More information about the workshop can be found here.


EN - This collaboration aims at three goals:

  • To built a set of living instruments that use biological information or organisms as sources of signal.
  • To compose a musical piece (creation) using these instrument and turning their output signal into sound.
  • Place this project in the context of the current state of DIY, science and music.

FR - Cette collaboration a trois buts:

  • Construire des instruments vivants (intégrant le vivant comme source de signal)
  • Création d'une œuvre musicale (composition) en utilisant ces instruments
  • Placer la démarche collaborative dans le contexte DIY, scientifique, et musical

Who is involved?


EN - The concert was scheduled on February 10th 2016, at Le Bourg, Lausanne.
FR - Le concert a eu lieu le 10 février 2016, au Bourg, Lausanne.

What's Next

More to come! The project is meant to live beyond the two February 2016 events. If you want to help us bring Living Instruments to new audiences, get in touch! In any case, we will update you on the next residence and events dedicated to bringing living instruments to life!

Description of the installation

The following instruments were used for the world first performed at the music venue Le Bourg in Lausanne on February 12th 2016.

Bubble Organ

The concept

The Bubble Organ is an instrument powered by fermenting yeast cultures.

This video of the first minutes of the performance will give you an idea of the sounds produced by this instrument.

The setup

The circuit

The controller for this instrument was based on a Arduino Mega coupled to an Arduino USB host shield.

The complete code can be found here.

The software

Tube Log

Moss Carpet

The concept

The moss carpet was designed and realised by Vanesa Lorenzo.

This video will give you an idea of the sounds produced by this instrument.

The setup

The circuit

The controller for this instrument was based on a Arduino Uno.

The software

Virtual Soprano

Paramecia Controller

Paramecia Bolero


The details of the preparation are recorded live here

A budget and shopping list for this project will be shared later on.

Final days 01-08.02.2016


Every day 1st-8th February 10am - 8pm (or midnight.. depending on the day)

Who was there?


Paramecia tracking device:

After several prototypes, the SeePack microscope camera was replaced by a Logitech C270. The device was built according to previously described design (instruction video here) except the bottom acrylic glass plate was kept intact (with a piece of dark paper underneath). A rubber joint was also added between the two acrylic glass plates (see picture below).

The joystick was the Play-Zone Arduino PS2.

Urs from GaudiLabs has also described a similar module (instruction video here).