Ricky van Broekhoven: ‘If you add music with light, you can tell a story and make music visible and tangible‘

Natural occurrences and invisible phenomena, that's what drives spatial sound designer Ricky van Broekhoven‘s work. The products of his fascination include self-built machines that play with our sensory perception. To explore the musical potential of his most recent installation, Ricky van Broekhoven received support from the Fund via the Upstream: Music x Design grant programme.

5 March 2020

Ricky van Broekhoven, in collaboration with Eindhoven University of Technology, had been developing an instrument based on the phenomenon of standing waves, and had already made several prototypes for this purpose. He saw Upstream: Music x Design as an opportunity to take the project to another level and to team up with techno producer and musician Albert van Abbe.

extra dimension

‘The aim of our collaboration is to develop an audiovisual musical instrument based on the physics experiment where standing waves are made visible by quickly rotating a flexible string‘, says Ricky van Broekhoven. ‘Combined with stroboscopic light, a play of magical spatial shapes and patterns emerges. If you add music, you can tell a story and make music visible and tangible. Although I produce my own music and have been involved with music for a long time, I lack Albert's skills. Our areas of expertise complement each other well. The collaboration is also interesting for Albert and fellow musicians because it can provide innovation to performances. Usually these are supported by projections, but spatial, sculptural installations can create an entirely different experience and give the show an extra dimension, as well as bringing a musically different sound.‘

Video: Robbie van Zoggel

joined forces

The challenge for Van Broekhoven and Van Abbe now lies in gaining maximum control over the sound produced by the installation itself and making the most of its potential. ‘The movement of the string produces a science fiction-like rhythmic sound and is very expressive. We need to capture this and incorporate it into the interactive live performance we are developing. A second challenge is the light, which now comes from an external source. We would like to integrate that into the string. For this purpose, we are working together with specialist parties, including audio engineers from the Willem Twee pop-music venue and mechanical engineers from the Equipment & Prototype Centre (E.P.C.). That way we can all complement each other and transcend ourselves.‘

Once the installation is fully operational, it will be shown at various festivals, among other places. ‘But it‘s not reached that stage yet. We still have to make our debut,‘ says Ricky van Broekhoven. ‘The installation must first work in an optimal way. We will only focus on the live performance and the story in the final phase of the project. What is the maximum we can get out of the installation in terms of effects in shape, colour and movement and how will this coincide with Albert's music? Those questions haven't been answered yet.‘


Last year, the Creative Industries Fund NL launched the new Upstream: Music x Design Grant Scheme, which focuses on innovative applications of design and technology in pop music. The next deadline for submitting an application is Wednesday, 1 April 2020.