Beamz Laser Harp Makes Faux Music, Demeans Girl in Penguin Sweater

You’re not cool now? You will be, as your hands dance to the rhythm through the magical lasers. A few moments of your playing, and nothing could possibly convince me that you didn’t grow up on the streets of Jamaica, banging oil drums you salvaged and hammered into shape. Whoops, sorry — had to snap out of that for a second. So, okay — it seems the beamz laser harp we saw last week comes with special algorithmic software that makes music play basically regardless of what you do. The problem with laser harps in general is they tend to …

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Sharper Image Selling Pre-Made Laser Harp, But Why Not Make Your Own?

The Sharper Image, a source of various amusing musical oddities over the years, now has a ready-to-use USB laser harp music controller for PC (Windows XP/Vista), at the price of — wha? US$599? Yes, this is obviously Sharper Image exercising the business and marketing acumen that allowed it to — erm — file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year. And, in a move we haven’t seen in years, they spell the name with a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s.’ Classy. And they’ve opted for a design that looks like the security fence in Jurassic Park. The beamz Music …

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From the CreateDigitalNoise Forums: Laser Koto, New Musicians, Old Issues

CDM Stalwart bliss thinks that Wired’s article on Miya Masaoka‘s Laser Koto is worthy of front page CDM status. Well let’s have a look at the required aspects of a CDM article: Electronic Music? Check. Samples? Check. Lasers? Check. Midi? Check. Arduino? Check. Laptop? Check. Max/MSP? Check. Yep, I think we can squeeze it in somewhere. Masaoka was then able to play the instrument in its natural, acoustic state, use the gestural data supplied by motion sensors to generate and process sounds electronically, or do both at the same time. Toward the end of the Monster Koto’s life cycle, Masaoka …

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Burning Man: Laser Harps, Improbable Orchestra Knob Boxes

For some of the most bizarre and unusual music-sound installation art, look no further than Burning Man. Burning, indeed: this desert-based event has in the past featured Eric Singer’s Max/MSP-controlled pyrophone, a propane-powered flaming sound organ. (And, incidentally, that installation is making a repeat appearance this year.) And what better activity when in the middle of the desert than tweaking knobs and producing strange electronic grooves? That’s the idea behind improbable orchestra, an interactive table full o’ knobs for collaborative soundmaking. Build one yourself: check out the copious design notes. Basic specs: the free Pure Data graphical multimedia development environment …

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String Thing: “Fretless” Cello-like Music Controller

Ben Dove’s String Thing is a cello-like instrument with four metal bars that can be struck or stroked. Like a fretless instrument, pitch is continuous. Building String Thing: Laser Pointers and Vibrating Rods: What’s great about the String Thing is two-fold: first, it’s an ingenious design, and second, Ben rigorously documents how he did it, including some false starts. The steel rods are a “stroke” of genius: using magnets, the rods “vibrate” as you play them for physical feedback, while a sophisticated combination of laser pointers and webcams calculate your finger position. There’s plenty of expressive control, as well, though …

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Steam Driven: Computers and Steam Engines Performing Music

What happens when engineers and laptop musicians collaborate, brought together by love for a 16-ton steam engine? Something like Steam Driven, a site-specific music performance at the Brighton Fringe Festival last month. Laptop Jams, the laptop performance collective we’ve covered previously on CDM (see story on European laptop performing), got together with the British Engineerium, a fabulous museum of mechanical antiquities in a restored Victorian pumping station. The electronic artists used sensors and laser gates to translate the mechanical into the digital. Since I couldn’t see the performance, I wonder if the digital music held its own — or whether …

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Steam Driven: Details of Coal-Powered Laptop Music

Here’s more on Steam Driven, the interactive performance that mixed music and steam-powered machines, from composer Stuart Smith. Stuart writes: The show went well and also sold-out. A nice piece of theater as every visitor had to manually stoke the fire with a chunk of coal, thus waiting for enough “steam” pressure to begin the show. During this the Engineerium owner to give a brilliant introduction and then the visitors were led into the main hall where the 16 ton machine was manually started by one of the engineers. The show begins! The laser triggers gave us: 1. A tap …

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