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 …

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Alternative Theremin: On Your Wrist, in a Mug of Tea

Neither of these items is “news,” but since I missed them, you may have, too — and because they’re so absurd and wonderful, I can’t let that happen. Some things are timeless. Via Chris Cheung’s Hong Kong’s-based Special Interest Group comes the Theremin Watch, “Modified (circuit bend) from 大人之科學 kit set.” I love the idea of a wrist-mounted Theremin. On one hand (ahem), it does mean that you can calibrate relative to your body, because it’s always strapped to your wrist. On the other, I expect that’s still something of a challenge. But it’s not so often you get wearable …

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Sonic Life, Organic Game of Life Sequencer, Hits iPhone and iPod

The fever for creating pulsing, organic sequencers from the cellular automaton Game of Life continues. Now, you can get your Game of Life on with the iPhone and iPod touch, transmitting event control via OpenSoundControl. (Despite publishing this on the music site, this could be great as an additional modulator for live visuals with OSC-supporting software like VDMX!) The developer describes the app: The application runs a simple cellular automaton on a grid of cells. The cells can be interacted with by touch and triggers of three different colors can be placed on the grid. The automaton can be set …

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Beyond the Guitar: Hacked Instruments, 8-bit FX, Amp Simulators on Synths, More

The world this week lost one of its great musical innovators, Bo Diddley. DIY instrument builders and anyone who enjoys abusing their guitar (or, perhaps, any instrument), you owe a great deal to "the originator." In the service of his unique and powerful expressive imagination, Bo Diddly hacked and attacked guitars, producing for the first time many of the effects we take for granted as part of the guitar language. And, of course, there was also his signature, rectangular "Twang Machine" guitar, which is just plain brilliant. I believe the instinct to experiment with sound is the same, whether it’s …

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Sequencing Beats with Bubble Gum (Tangible Interface War!)

Squarely in the “not seen at NAMM” category, the Bubblegum Sequencer uses differently-colored bubble gum balls, arranged in a grid of holes, to create rhythmic patterns. It’s not exactly a leap forward for music — you wind up with a pretty simple drum step sequencer — but it does look like fun. Or it would be, except I’d wind up eating the tangible sequencer. Note to self: make interfaces out of something I won’t devour. What’s rather interesting here is that the whole system uses computer vision analysis — a camera spots the gum balls by color. One thing that …

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How to Use Rock Band Controllers (And More) with GarageBand, Mac

Bill Pendry wanted to use his PlayStation 3 Rock Band controllers with GarageBand on the Mac, so he’s posted step-by-step instructions to do just that. The secret formula: a wonderful utility that helps you use HID-compatible game controllers on the Mac, sans drivers. GamePad Companion (US$15 shareware) Of course, the nice thing here is that the basic steps apply to other controllers, just in case Rock Band doesn’t float your boat (or rock your socks, or whatever). I ended up choosing kick, snare, two toms and one cymbal, since the other cymbal I wanted was in a inactive area of …

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Game Day: Use Rock Band Drums as MIDI Controller – Windows, Yes, Mac, Soon?

This Megatron robot is not actually playing these drums. But knowing the hacker community on the Web, he may be soon. Photo: punkjr. That didn’t take long. Just days after the games’ release, someone is already using controllers for the Harmonix game Rock Band with their computer software. Cyrus Thomas-Walker writes us: Looks like someone thought outside the box with their Rock Band drum set. Hacking the little kit could prove to be a cheap way to set up a little midi drum studio if someone happens to already own the game and interested in hooking the hardware up to …

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Video: Robotic Theremins, Ready To Replace a Human Near You

Just in case mastering the subtleties of playing a Theremin isn’t hard enough for you, you’re in luck: you can master the subtleties of building a robot that has to then master the subtleties of playing the Theremin. Sarah Angliss, a human Thereminist in the UK, sends us this video of a creepy doll robot playing the Theremin. (If you’re prone to the jeebilies, you may not want to watch. Sarah writes, “I’ve posted my latest jam with Clara 2.0, the theremin playing robot doll, on YouTube. Hope you enjoy watching her talents (or lack of them).” (Technical details after …

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