Handmade Music Spreads to Austin, Teaches You Awesomeness, Andromeda-Style

Autonomous bassline generators? Wireless, modular, infrared sync? Tiny drum machines networking together? Welcome to Texas, and the minds of Eric Archer, Bleep Labs, 4ms Pedals, the Church of the Friendly Ghost, and Andromeda Space Rockers. One look at a floor full of blinking circuits, and most ladies and gentleman might assume they’ve stumbled upon some alien technology. “Imagine the things we could learn from this civilization – advancements far beyond our own,” as the stock line from sci fi goes. “Man and woman are not meant to learn such things. You’re meddling in things beyond your comprehension.” In other words, …

READ MORE →

Handmade Music: Cybernetics, Wireless Beats, and Ingenious Sonic Circuits

four tiny drum machines from ALH84001 on Vimeo. Cybernetics is poised to make a comeback. The theory is, everything from electronic circuits to plants and animals can be understood in terms of feedback loops, as organisms – mechanical or organic – respond to input from their surroundings. The father of modern cybernetics, MIT mathematician Norbert Weiner, was inspired by working on the guidance systems of missiles. His writing was picked up Louis and Bebe Barron, informing their organism-like sonic circuits, as used in the film Forbidden Planet. The word cybernetic itself comes from Plato. Plato was talking about human self-governance. …

READ MORE →

Handmade Music NYC, Tomorrow Night in Brooklyn

If you’re in the New York area, tomorrow night we have another noise-making get-together at the lovely 3rd Ward. The event is free, and we have free Colt 45. Amanda Ervin is the featured guest this month; see one of her circuits above. Her designs are intended to be something that other folks can make, so they could be an excellent starting point for the project you’re dreaming of. (And once you get sequenced events down, of course, you can assign them to whatever sounds or visuals you like.) Thursday, September 17 7:30 – 10:30 pm FREE 3rd Ward in …

READ MORE →

Paper, Drawing as Musical Controller: A Round-Up

Imagine drawing an interface on paper, then being able to use it as a musical interface. Or, heck, don’t imagine it – do it. Unfortunately, the kinds of intelligence necessary to make the music video in yesterday’s post just aren’t practical yet. (That is, you could draw a picture of a keyboard, and even use the picture as a music controller, but while you or I could recognize a keyboard from a drum pad and know that line is a fader, a computer would need some sort of advance structure for any recognition to work.) But you can do some …

READ MORE →

Amanda Ervin’s Sound Circuits, Handmade Music Brooklyn 9/17 + Open Call

Amanda Ervin makes elegant noise-making apparatuses from simple circuits, and is able to share that process with her students (see her classes among 3rd Ward’s Circuits lineup). She’s going to show off some of her latest creations at the open showcase of Handmade Music Brooklyn, our monthly party + science fair + musical performance + ruckus. (More details soon on Handmade Music events that are springing up worldwide, thanks to the hard work and creativity of the DIY music community!) What really impresses me about these projects is that Amanda has made both the project and the curriculum – that …

READ MORE →

Alternative Music Distribution: Moldover’s CD Case as Circuit Board Noisemaker

Making music into an object – the central genius of recording – could be a wonderful thing. But the CD was always somewhat utilitarian as a distribution mechanism, with its easily-splintered plastic jewel case and inserted artwork that paled next to the grand visions of the LP. Moldover is the latest artist to experiment with ways of re-imagining the musical object. Already a fan of custom sonic circuitry, he made his CD into a circuit board. Some of it is just aesthetic, like the printed lettering. But there is also integrated noise-making circuitry for a very simple optical Theremin (well, …

READ MORE →

Where’s the Party At: Bendable, Open-Source 8-bit Sampler Now Shipping

If you hate modern samplers with all their supposed fidelity, longing instead for the glitchy digital distortion of samplers past, a DIY project has brought you the sounds you love. “Where’s the Party At?” has been inspiring tingly sensations in digital lovers since I first wrote about it in September. Now, the kit version is shipping. It’s a unique-looking combination of reliability and sonic unreliability, good open source design engineering and, as the creator puts it, a certain “crustiness.” Apocryphal Feature List and General Horn-Tooting: 8-bit max sample depth, 1-bit minimum. 20kHz (or so, user adjustable) max sample rate, no …

READ MORE →

Handmade Music March Noise and Mayhem Recap; Call for Stuff Next Thursday

Wonderful things happen when you invite lovers of noise together in a room. Musicians and non-musicians, electronics geeks and first-timers, folks pick up a soldering iron — often for the first time — and cause utter mayhem. So we again had a fantastic time at Handmade Music last month. I’ve just gotten the photos in, so decided to share. We’re looking for folks to bring stuff to Handmade Music on 4/16 – see the bottom of the article and give us a shout if you have software or hardware creations to share. They don’t even have to work, entirely – …

READ MORE →

The Art of Noise: Sonic Insanity with Hans and the Blippoo Box

Now, why would anyone imagine this wouldn’t have widespread commercial appeal? If you enjoy real analog insanity – crazy noises that challenge the ears – you’ll like these videos sent to us by Hans Tammen, the composer, “endangered guitar” artist, and director of NYC’s Harvestworks. He writes: you like analog stuff, as I know. Here are two excerpts of a concert with one of Rob Hordijk’s Blippoo Boxes. Just that tiny analog beast plus volume pedal… Of course, part of what I like about analog — and digital — sound sources is their range. Want to make something that sounds …

READ MORE →

Beep-It: Portable, Open, DIY Optical Theremin

Beep-it from Michael Una on Vimeo. Cast your shadow, shine a light, make a square wave synth make noise. Michael Una is at it again. This time, he’s created something called the Beep-It. It’s a wonderfully elegant design for a light-controller soundmaker, an optical Theremin. He describes it to CDM thusly: This minimalist electronic musical instrument eschews esoteric interface in favor of intuitive, expressive control.  One button turns the device on or off, which can produce a continuous tone or a rhythmic sequence.  One sensor varies pitch of the output waveform in response to ambient light.  The resulting system encourages …

READ MORE →