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The Arcane Arts of Experimental Instrument Design: 3DMIN [Videos, Gallery]

From the dawn of civilization, musicians could always be counted on as the ones inventing the truly weird technologies to make noise. Here – bang on this. Blow into this. It’ll make some sound; it’ll be noisy; it’ll get everyone’s attention. And so, the art of such designs continues. New instrument design explorations have gone hand in hand with electronic music research from the moment electronics (and, eventually, digital technology) were capable of real-time performance. But if 3DMIN follows in the footsteps of those programs, it also seeks to intertwine questions about other fields and disciplines. And tonight in Berlin, …

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rustydrive

Meet A Glitchy Nightmare Marshall Pedal, Then Play Rusty Bent MegaDrive DESTROYING EVERYTHING

The world of circuit bending continues to help electronics to mutate, finding new organic selves. There’s a steady stream of this stuff these days on social media (ah, I remember covering this before anyone had used The Facebook), but sometimes things will catch your eye. Take this brilliantly-evil rendition of a Marshall RG1 “regenerator.” This actually sounds as alien, glitchy, and weird as something with that name would make you expect. Details (and, um, I’m really sorry if you were bidding on this):

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Wiring, Electronic and Emotional: Watch A Moving Short Film about Contollerist Moldover

Electronic musicians – controllerists, if you will – may choose to augment themselves with machines. They may build elaborate custom electronics so they can express themselves live more than the default music technology would otherwise allow – acoustic, amplified, or digital. But there has to be a human there first. In a documentary film from November, Moldover talks about what drives him to make music. It’s that emotional place that motivates both his technological expression and songwriting, and that’s something I imagine will be poignant whatever genre you choose as your own.

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In Free App, Circuit Bending Done with Bits [iPhone]

It’s all been done. Or maybe not. Synthesis may not have so many unseen shores – unknown, wild beaches where you can plunk a flag in the ground and shout “I claim this for Spain!” or something to that effect. Instead, we find nuances of sonic possibility in details. We’re building on those colonies. And freed from the dogma of “fidelity” or slavish imitation of instruments (remember, a lot of the synth business had its root in the conservative organ business), the sounds that are coming out delight with new variety. Take this lovely free app, bent.fm. (Currently marked “lite,” …

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Those snap-tight blocks have a clear appeal for prototypers. Oh, and they're fun to play with. Photo (CC-BY) slackpics.

A Synth Finds a LEGO-Brick Home; Do You LEGO Your Projects?

Snap, snap… LEGO bricks are at some point irresistible for making a synth housing. Our friends at DE:BUG point to a LEGO-built, circuit-bending synth. And the imaginary toy world of LEGO find their way into this instrumental housing. Creator freeformdelusion writes: ClearTone Synth with LFO inside a nice lego project box with a house, dog, flowers, LEDs and a female figure drinking away to the synths excellent sound! Cheers to that, yes! But, with LEGO bricks here and there for the holidays (you know, for kids), I wondered: who out there is prototyping synths and the like with LEGO? Found …

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Rocking Out with Sponges and a Houseplant, and Other Handmade and Circuit-Bent Wonders [Videos]

Kraft test drummie & Robert Plant from NormanBates on Vimeo. Sorry, keys and switches and buttons: it’s all about sponges now. Using metal sponges, a houseplant (Swedish Ivy, to be specific), and a circuit-bent toy, Cristian Martínez and companion perform whimsically-wonderful music. And, of course, it’s dubbed Kraft Test Dummy and Robert Plant. Cristian, aka Norman Bates, a sonic artist and musician based in Argentina, explains to CDM: It’s a circuit bend that originally was some portable-radio type toy with 4 buttons, with drum sounds. I changed the button contacts to metal sponges and car antennas, all tied together with …

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Curating Sound: Exploring Performance and Embodiment, in Live Excerpts and Analysis from BodyControlled

Continuing our insight into this view into electronic music performance and art through the lens of BodyControlled in Berlin, we’re joined by guest writer Kristin Trethewey. Kristin, a Canadian-born video artist and curator, takes another look at LEAP and BodyControlled, on the eve of its second installment. She gets straight at the question of what “BodyControlled” means, and what it can mean for sonic performance and creation. And I wanted to make sure to subtract myself from this write-up, seeing as I was playing – but see the excellent timelapse of the evening, above. -Ed. LEAP is one of these …

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Musical Ideas into Musical Invention: Handmade Music at Amsterdam’s STEIM, Video, Open Call

Idyllic Amsterdam’s Amstel River, steps away from STEIM, makes nice inspiration. (Cross-processed film photo, which looks more like it feels being there.) In late September, CDM travels to Amsterdam and the legendary STEIM, a hub for research and experimentation in electro-acoustic music. The Patterns + Pleasure Festival will explore live electronic music practice and more, from controllerist laptop musicians like Edison and Moldover to the likes of sculpture-trained artist Nina Boes working with drawing and video instruments. The afternoon of September 28, we’ll have an open celebration of DIY electronic music culture with a special installment of Handmade Music. If …

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PAL198X Video, Featuring Neon Indian – Bleep Labs Synth, Probably Best Promo Ever

The Bleep Labs 198X, a mini analog synth co-designed with the band Neon Indian, is now here. It’s a pocketable three-oscillator synth – all triangle oscillators – that in addition to three knobs and light sensors lets you plug in control voltage or other devices and sensors in order to modulate its sound. That makes for some good, bleepy, party-clearingly noisy fun. And then there’s the Neon Indian-produced promo video, which is … insane. So there’s that. The synth itself you get as part of a $50 package that also includes vinyl, a CD, a t-shirt, and a poster. Hopefully …

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Reed Ghazala and Circuit Sound Artists in Videos, as NYC’s Bent Festival Gets Underway

Circuit bending has a reputation as involving far-out, unstructured experimental noise, of real violence and distortion done to instruments. And there’s probably a place for that. But Reed Ghazala, circuit bending’s spiritual father and electronic practitioner, takes a more organic, evolutionary approach. Reed recently told me about his favorite application of his iPad, apart from exploring new experimental soundscapes with tools like the brilliant granular app Curtis. He brings it with him into the forest, using GPS for location, and tracking plants and animals, identifying the sounds of bird and beasts. In our electronic ecosystem, fowl and beast are finding …

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