When Plants Jam with Synths: Leslie Garcia’s Open Project Lets Plants Talk with Sound

Pulsu(m) Plantae _ project presentation from LessNullVoid on Vimeo. You may have seen a plant used as a musical instrument before, by measuring capacitance across the leafy life form and turning it into a touch sensor. This is something different: it’s letting the plant itself express communication through sound, using biofeedback to turn the living systems on the plant into something audible. It is a synth jam, made by a plant, that tells you something about what the plant is sensing about the world around it. From Tijuana, México, media artist and musician Leslie Garcia shares the latest iteration of …


Fiction Science and Beats: Kid Sundance, a Lab, and Walnuts in Anti-Music Video

Defying the laws of Science and the rules of How To Make a Music Video, Kid Sundance’s “Tech City” gets a … somewhat peculiar short film. There are pickles, and glowing cubes, and colored goo, and singing walnuts turned into juice. There are geeky guys speaking in faux science. And there is this line, which is to me the apt description of every nerdter’s dream electronic music studio: These are things that we weren’t looking for – and we don’t know what any of this stuff does – but we’re still collecting the data, nonetheless. Oh, I love this one! …

Mark Fell investigates nanostructures and dancing particles. A visual reveals some of those Brownian Motion-produced forms. Photo courtesy Mark Fell.

Nanomusic: Mark Fell Turns to Neuroscience and High-Power Microscopes for Particle Music

Making new sounds means doing more than just making new sounds. Artist/composer Mark Fell (also known as half of SND) dives directly into the thorny question of form. And when he looks for new forms, he literally looks. The visually-trained artist speaks about making “non-representational” music in the same way an abstract artist might. (No surprise that arresting imagery invariably accompanies his work.) And in his latest creation, he looks even further, collaborating with a neuroscientist to peer at tiny particles through a high-power optical microscope. The result is alien music, constructed from the dance of those nanostructures. The work …


Last Chance to Help Moog Foundation Teach Art of Sound Science in Schools; Why it Matters

Science and art, physics and music, come together and come alive in one place. You know where. Photo (CC-BY) Mikael Altemark. We’re here today not just because people like synths, or electronic music, or even music itself, but because the advancement of technology depends on kids learning about science and math. That was certainly the history of Bob Moog himself. What he got as a student opened up the doors to the knowledge and interests that gave the world Moog synthesizers. Dr. Moog himself long credited his education – as a youngster at Bronx High School of Science in New …


Music of the Spheres, Player Roll Style: Astro Cantus iPhone App Plays the Universe

In the latest take on sonifying data in musical form, iPhone app Astro Cantus plots star data from the universe as musical notes. It turns the the sphere of heavens above the Earth into a massive piano roll. Co-founding developer Rocky Alvey, according to the creators, dismantled a music box as a kid, and that music box notion (yet again) is a big part of the concept here. What’s notable is that the app’s sonification does indeed represent not only the stars themselves but some of the data – spectra of the stars are translated into pitch. And there are …


Kitchen Contact Mic Chemistry: Make a Mic from Baking Soda, Cream of Tartar

Now, aside from making fake volcano simulations, you can actually get some recording done with this stuff. Science! Photo (CC-BY-ND) Rodrigo Huerta. Need a new mic to play with? Maybe you should raid your kitchen pantry. London-based musician Leafcutter John writes us to share a detailed tutorial on cooking up new mics from common household ingredients: Real Sound Cookery – Make a contact mic with baking soda and cream of tartar. [leafcutterjohn.com] That in turn is inspired by a terrific, detailed video by our friend Collin Cunningham for MAKE:Magazine (Collin’s also been a regular at our Handmade Music series in …


Fun with Waves, As Videos Reveal Guitar String Movement – and iPhone Shutters

At bottom, a strobe and high-speed camera accurately represent the way in which a string is moving. At top, a video taken with an iPhone camera distorts your sense of how the string is moving by capturing instead images of standing waves, caused by the rolling shutter on the device. The video isn’t wrong – it’s just showing you beautiful visualizations of standing waves that make visible how the shutter works on the camera more than they do how the guitar works. Full disclosure: I love waves. Analog, digital, acoustic, we’re talking vibrations in sound (and other substances, as well …


MoogLab to Teach Science through Electronic Music, But Your Votes Needed

Want to see hundreds of pieces of music kit from keyboards to oscilloscopes, plus some 1500 mini-Theremin toys for students, coupled with US-wide education to help introduce young people to science? That’s the idea behind a grant proposal by the Moog Foundation. The Foundation’s MoogLab teaches science through sound – a worthy cause. Not only was Bob Moog’s life in electronic music ignited by discovering the Theremin, but many of today’s generation of scientists and thinkers were raised on electronic sound kits a few short decades ago. Without the same exposure to science and sound, young boys and girls may …


Notes and Neurons: Bobby McFerrin Shows Everybody Gets Pentatonic

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo. At the World Science Festival in June here in New York, specialists – including musical specialist Bobby McFerrin – gathered to ask what in music we humans hear universally, versus what is culturally specific. Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally determined? Is the reaction to rhythm and melody universal or influenced by environment? Join host John Schaefer, Jamshed Barucha, scientist Daniel Levitin, Professor Lawrence Parsons and musical artist Bobby McFerrin for live performances and cross cultural demonstrations to illustrate …


Playing Bananas, Potted Plants, and a Workshop on Microorganism-made Music

NK Berlin is a planetary hub for wild experiments made with music, technology, and electronics. When you can’t be in Berlin soaking it up in person, you can explore the oddities assembled on their MySpace page. A recent workshop by Andrey Smirnov and Guy Van Belle on Theremins led to these unusual videos, playing a potted plant: …and a bunch of bananas (footage from the Theremin Center, Moscow). Via the Pd list, though, it seems that the next NK workshop will go somewhere else altogether: music with microorganisms. Really – you’ll need a USB microscope. It’s electronic music in a …