Since the dawn of time, musicians have crafted their own acoustic instruments. Now, “handmade” extends to electrically-powered, digital instruments, including carved-wood gestural controllers, wearable drum pads, and rescued mannequin parts.

We got to enjoy another edition of Handmade Music in Brooklyn last week, getting together with our friends from XLR8R, Make Magazine, DIY marketplace Etsy.com, and venue host 3rd Ward. A huge thanks to our sponsor Pabst Blue Ribbon.

There are two things I especially love about these events. One is, we get to hang out and just make a racket. Performances are a wonderful thing, but getting to mix it up a little with total sonic chaos is great fun. Two, we connect people who haven’t met – non-musicians, people with no background in this stuff discovering what’s going on, but also people doing related work who may not have met before, even in a city like New York. On this particular occasion, we had two artists working with gestural controllers who were able to exchange ideas.

I think all of this can be replicated, of course, even if just hanging out with friends (in music or other fields). So, since Make Magazine and Popular Science were both nice enough to shoot some footage, here’s a look at what was on offer at this month’s edition of the event. And stay tuned for more for next month, now that we really are on a once-a-month schedule.


Handmade Music – 1/15/09 from make magazine on Vimeo.

Video from Handmade Music 1/15/09 [MAKE]

Brooke Borel of Popular Science’s DIY blog did a great piece on the event:

Making Electronic Music By Hand

Last Thursday’s event had the air of an interactive science fair, and while some attendees sat in the corner drinking, chatting, and soaking in the sounds, most crowded around the projects for demonstrations and the chance to take the controllers and make a little music of their own.

That’s a good point, too — while each of the projects could be an instrument you master over time, practicing and really getting good at, it could also be something a non-musician could pick up and play.

More on the December event and some of the technical details behind the projects — including skills you can apply to your own work and music — coming soon.

  • contakt

    So bummed I missed yet another one. I am definitely hitting the February one!

  • number9

    I'm brand new to electronics, though want to try and make a diy synth….anyone got any ideas of resources to read or kits that could jumpstart things???

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @number9: absolutely. MAKE has some, as do I — stay tuned and I'll be posting resources soon. (We'll also have them together for the next event in NYC.)

    That said, readers with ideas, fire away and I'll add them to our round-up, too…

  • Fab

    am I the only that finds this retarded? If you can make some nice sounds out of it record it and sequence it with some nice beats…

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  • cinco

    @number9: one good place to start is the site. there's pcb designs and sales and even whole kits.

  • cinco

    oops, messed up the link title – it's the music from outerspace site

  • xpez2000

    more noise

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Fab: Well, some of these folks do exactly that. We're going to have some more performances. But it is quite fun making a racket; hard to tell how much fun from just an embedded video.

    I mean, come on, I've been a musician for basically as long as I can remember, and I think at least *sometimes* it's okay to just make some noise. (Practice room all to yourself, even?)

  • brodey

    ahhhh please bring it to LA!!!