With Inventions Mechanical and Whimsical, Artist Ranjit Again Tackles an Instrument a Day

Like a fresh ingredient in food, sometimes all you need is a good idea. And whether your work is digital or analog, acoustic or mechanical, compositional or improvisational, sound artist and musician Ranjit Bhatnagar can provide ample inspiration. His best idea: forcing himself to come up with one musical idea a day for a month. Of course, having mad chops in instrumental invention doesn’t hurt. Ranjit’s creations are remarkable partly in that people can pick them up and play them as instruments, as with the 8-bit violin – a pixelated concoction of the lasercutter – seen at top in action …

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Hand-Built Bass + Ableton + SoftStep Foot Pedal: Diego Stocco on Playing, Recording Live

When it comes to playing a hand-built Fence Bass and recording it live, there aren’t hard and fast rules or techniques you have to follow. But musician, composer, and sound designer Diego Stocco can certainly make the mysterious timbres of his exotic instruments into evocative atmospheres. In “Dustland,” the performance and effects are all recorded live – no edits after the fact, no layering — and the results could take you to another world, planetary or psychological. To make all the real-time performance work, Diego combined his Fence Bass with a Keith McMillen SoftStep for expressive live foot control and …

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A Flute Made on a 3D Printer, and the Possibilities to Come

Digital models and acoustic instruments have traditionally been studies in contrast. And instrument making has by definition been a craft and an art. But what if making an acoustic instrument was a matter of hitting “print”? That’s the question asked by MIT Media Lab researcher Amit Zoran. Using the Objet Geometries Connex500 3D printer, one capable of on-the-fly use of multiple materials, he made a flute in 15 hours. The results are surprisingly good for a first attempt. The instrument is playable, but Amit plans additional iteration and improvement. (Be sure to watch through the video for some feedback on …

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Ready-to-Play, Tuned Beer Bottles, and Other Design Experiments with Sound

From label to physical shape to the boxes they come in, these beer bottles have been reimagined for musical aims. Cheers! All images courtesy the artist, Matt Braun. What if blowing tunes on beer bottles was raised to the level of musical science? Through even the mundane medium of packaging, design can transform the everyday. DJ and designer Matt Braun of Philadelphia, collaborating with Chris Mufalli, use labels to tune the level of beer remaining in the bottle for musical results. Pitches are printed on the labels, allowing you to exactly match the liquid inside to a pitch you want, …

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Diego Stocco’s Bassoforte, an Incredible Instrument Made from a Dismantled Piano

Diego Stocco – Bassoforte from Diego Stocco on Vimeo. Odds are you don’t have a dismantled piano you keep in the garden, awaiting conversion to a fantastic, imaginative electro-acoustic instrument. But that’s unlikely to make you covet the instrument above any less. Diego Stocco is a composer, instrumentalist, sound designer, and mad inventor. Among many recent accomplishments, he’s responsible, in collaboration with Hans Zimmer, for some of the imaginative sounds that populated Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes.” In many ways, he’s a reminder that the expressive potential of digital music isn’t limited to the virtual. He couples raw acoustic materials from …

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Guide to Vuvuzela Fever: Suddenly, Everyone Cares About Notch Filtering

Vuvuzela Orchestra Demo from Pedro Espi-Sanchis on Vimeo. It’s an extraordinary sporting event, one in which the spirits of the many nations of the planet come together, driven by a passion for one thing. No, not football. Notch filtering, apparently. It’s not very often geeky audio matters cross onto the mainstream radar, but such has been the case in the divisive case of South Africa’s beloved vuvuzela horns. Yesterday, I used the whole thing as a teachable moment for learning Linux audio routing, but since then, my inbox has been bursting at the seams. Along the way, we learn more …

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Musical Instrument Loss and Recovery After the Nashville Flood

Photo courtesy Guitar Center. They describe the scene: “A shattered Kay acoustic guitar (Circa late 1950’s or early 1960’s) sits on the floor of Soundcheck Nashville, waiting to be assessed for damage.” Wherever they occur in the world, disasters’ material impact can be nearly as emotionally and personally challenging as loss of life. Floods in Nashville, Tennessee have illustrated this vividly, as irreplaceable instruments at facilities like the legendary Soundcheck Nashville have born the brunt of the rising flood waters. For their part, Soundcheck has been running a flood blog covering recovery and equipment load out. National Public Radio’s All …

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Turntable-Based, Kinetic Sound Sculptures and Instruments

Works For Turntable from Stephen Cornford on Vimeo. Digital sound, and electronic sound in general, can become abstract. In fact, sound itself can be abstract. So there’s something beautiful about rendering sound as something kinetic, mechanical, and physical. Watch the hypnotic works by Stephen Cornford, top; as the video progresses, the pieces deepen in subtlety. (Thanks to Richard Devine for spotting this one.) Cornford isn’t the only artist finding new sonic frontiers in the turntable. From a recent event in San Francisco sponsored by our friends at MAKE Magazine, artist Walter Kitundu talks about his own fascination with the turntable …

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Real for Reel: The Amazing Sherlock Holmes Experibass, and More Winter Cinema Sounds

Sometimes, the best sounds come not from synthesis, not even from electrified instruments, but from the purity of a mic and acoustic instrumentation. It remains electronic, or even digital sound, but its source is organic. And so, one of the best reasons to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie in theaters is the wonderful noises that bounce around Hans Zimmer’s score. Behind many great film scores are great soloists as much as great composers, and Sherlock Holmes is no exception. Zimmer worked with Diego Stocco, sound designer, sound artist, inventor, and composer in his own right. To realize the inner …

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Music from the Road: Tristan Perich, Lesley Flanigan on Speakers, 1-bit, Harspichord

Strings of tour dates and electronic music often mean crowd-friendly dance music, but there’s a growing, impassioned audience for more contemplative concert sounds, too. Composer-musicians Lesley Flanigan and Tristan Perich are pulling into the last stop on an extended tour of their work, here in New York Friday at Galapagos Art Space. For many, electronic music, in particular that made with computers, becomes about abstraction. For this duo, electronics become a chance to grow even closer to the tangible, acoustic sound – techniques they share in workshops as well as performances. And would you believe… antique harpsichord? Tristan Perich at …

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