This amazing sound toy was created in France by multimedia conception and interactivity company, LeCielEstBleu, and commissioned by the Cité de la Musique in Paris. la Pâte à Son is an original musical piece and compositional tool that was conceived to encourage musical experimentation, and its achievements surpass its goal. Not only is this toy fun to play and experiment with, it is also capable of creating some very beautiful music.
The basic premise of the work of art is this: little pieces of clay, or pâte, pass through a variety of tubes and instruments causing them to play their respective sound. Controls exist for changing an instrument's octave, for modifying the tempo, changing the key, changing the melody, and even for injecting a bit of randomness to the equation. It may seem a little confusing at first, so it starts you off with an example.
When the very large (1020x720) Shockwave movie begins, you will see the title screen. Simply click on it to get to the music machine display. The machine has many example configurations to start you off with. Feel free to experiment with the various instruments as it plays to get a feeling for the options you have. I suggest turning on help balloons initially to get aquainted with the various levers and controls. Turn on help balloons by clicking the question mark ("?") in the lower right corner of the play field.
When you are ready to begin constructing your own compositions, clear the checkerboard by pushing the red button near the top right corner of the board. You can pick up any of the instruments or tubes from the conveyor belt, and place them anywhere you wish. To rotate a piece, simply click on the yellow arrows that appear when the mouse rolls over it. Connect pieces together such that the clay pieces begin to flow through your composition. As they do, the instruments you have placed will begin to play.
There is a lot to explore and to discover with this wonderful little toy. The instruments are all unique in their design and the artwork conveys the whimsical character of the toy. The variety of ways to modify each instrument and composition facilitates a rich and immersing experience. Connecting tubes together to build arteries of sound is compelling, intuitive and gratifying. The resulting music is mesmerizing.