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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A Record Player Made from Paper, as the FlexiDisc Lives; Thanks Be to Pythagoras

It’s not in any way digital – we’re in paper and needle territory – but clever design transforms packaging and notecard into playable music device. Create Transducer Music, anyone? Designer Kelli Anderson concocted a novel approach to the wedding invitation for her friends Karen and Mike: turn the paper invite into a playable sound device. The couple even made and recorded their own song for the occasion. (The story of the individuals is worth mentioning – Karen advocates for the rights of makers and coders and Mike is a Grammy-nominated engineer.) The device itself plays music without electricity or circuits. …

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Kaleidoloops: Beautiful Box for Collecting and Layering Sounds by Critter and Guitari

In a week awash with new music gadgetry, Kaleidoloops are a reminder of the electronic musical object at its most basic. It’s a box for collecting and making sounds. The Kaleidoloop contains basic digital audio recording capabilities – 16-bit / 22,050 Hz mono WAV. You can now save those recordings on an SD card, with up to 32,000 tracks and – if you upgrade beyond the paltry included 256M card – hours of sound. What makes it interesting is its simple controls for manipulation. Knobs control speed and direction, and you can switch the speed control between a continuous mode …

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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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Handmade Effects, Grungy Goodness of the Gallolizer, and DIY Hardware FX

The Gallolizer is a handmade multi-effects sound mangler, an array of dirty, delicious sound-destroying effects in a single handcrafted box. It’s the work of a Spanish engineering and art collective called MP19, an Arduino-loving, free software-using, open source group of artists who turn those platforms into the kind of grungy sounds that make them happy. (And that, of course, is what it’s really all about.) But before we talk specifics, check out the video. We long ago departed the world of high-fidelity sound; this is digging your toes straight into the mud. I’ll wait. Got it? Good – now onto …

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New Year, New Handmade Music: Call for NYC, Austin/SxSW, the World

Pete Edwards of casperelectronics making some noise at Manhattan’s Culturefix in October. Handmade Music is our party for people who make things that make music. If you create your own musical tools – whether acoustic instruments and soundmakers, hacks, circuit bends, custom Pd and Max patches, electronics, or code – we want to hear from you. We’re looking for contributors in NYC, Texas, and around the world: Live acts and projects in New York Street team volunteers in NYC and to help organize and promote events in other parts of the planet Live acts and projects for a special South …

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Elegant, Simple Soundmakers Handmade by Brian McNamara

Dead-simple, focused on one task, the Wicks Looper reminds us why we liked looping. And I love the handmade gift case he made to go with it – an idea worth duplicating with other gear. All images courtesy Brian McNamara. For all that latest plug-in may perform every kind of synthesis ever, much of electronic sound boils down to a few basic techniques. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal of DIY electronics: it’s a chance to do less. What strikes me about Brian McNamara’s work is how elegant it is: simple boxes interconnect with basic functions. These are digital instruments …

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Last Days of Compact Disco: Album Lovers Hand-Make Musical Objects

While Mac blog TUAW calls on Apple to kill optical drives (does Apple need that kind of encouragement?), the shiny digital compact disc and the album in general still have their devotees. Sure, album sales are down. Sure, digital downloads are in. But look beyond business or practicality for a moment at these exotic hand-constructed musical objects, and what you see is sheer love. A hand-constructed CD or vinyl album is a gesture of making music for someone, not for the ether. I raised the issue early last month, and readers responded with lots of examples of handmade records, which …

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Handmade Music, From 3D to Wires, on October 10 in NYC, Austin, or Your Workbench

Handcrafted CD covers for records and mixes, meditative music made in game engines, handheld chip music creations, analog light synths and drone labs, VL-Tone classical music, and more surprises are coming to New York on Sunday, October 10. (Austin, Texas gets its own event, making noisemakers and ring modulators.) We promise music you can dance to, music you can’t, and tapas (at least in NYC). And on October 10, a little secret will finally be revealed to Manhattan and the world. If you’re a citizen of The Internet, we’ve got lots of sounds and creations to explore here on The …

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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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