Firebirds is based on a scientific experiment from the Victorian area, in which Chichester Bell discovered that a membrane stretched over a gas flame produces audible vibrations in the flame, resulting in a kind of “flame loudspeaker.” Gas flames, suitably modulated by electrical fields can be made to act as omnidirectional loudspeakers of surprising clarity and amplitude.
“It’s a trick that every high school science teacher knows,” said Paul DeMarinis. “But it’s not commercially viable, so it became another piece of orphan technology.”
Four oracular flames kept captive within birdcages recite speeches of Benito Mussolini, Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, accompanied by birdsongs. The audio filed are stored in CF-Ram as MO3 files. PIC microcontrollers activate solenoids, solid state relays, audio hardware and high voltage modulating circuits to coordinate the ignition and modulation of the flames.
An installation by Paul DeMarinis.