One Button, One Knob, USB: Crazy-Simple DIY Teensy Project (And Some Music)

8 knobs. No, 64 knobs! No, giant knobs, hundreds of buttons, dozens of faders… Okay. One button, one knob. Put (one of your) opposable thumbs to good use and just do something simple. And, with something this small and inexpensive, never go anywhere without a real knob again. (Friends don’t let friends operate fake simulations of knobs using mice. Augh. Painful. (Which way is a “circle,” again?) That was the creed of none other than Brendan Ratliff, aka Echolevel, aka chip music “superhero” Syphus, a composer/musician/hacker who works scoring games and film/TV soundtracks and general musical mayhem. He wanted something …

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What Does it Mean to Be an Electronic Instrument?

The electronic music analog to visual media’s question “is it art?” is clear. “Is it really a musical instrument?” Ableton will this week officially launch its Push hardware with Live 9; we’ll have an online exclusive review alongside that release. I know that the company is fond of calling it an “instrument.” For a profile by the German-language magazine De:Bug, Ableton CEO Gerhard Behles even posed with a double bass, the Push set up alongside. The message was clear: Ableton wants you to think of Push as an instrument. We’ll revisit that question regarding Push, but this isn’t only important …

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How Music Label Vlek Makes Ephemeral Sound Physical, While Giving Away Their Catalog [Gallery, Interview]

When music moved from live venues to radios and recordings, artists had to find a way to respond. Now, labels struggle to be heard in the era of Spotify and streaming, always-on, always-overabundant media. We could talk grander themes, but the possibilities of this conflict are most vivid in a microcosm. Call it post-digital or what you will, but being digital now means something different. For Belgian label, Vlek, that reality takes a number of forms, suggestive of the direction for independent electronic music. And so, in Ssaliva’s release for Vlek, executed by Dimitri Runkkari (part of Brussels’ design studio …

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Light Into Tones, in an Optoelectronic Hurdy-Gurdy With Rotating Wheels [Video, Images]

This isn’t like any Hurdy-Gurdy you’ve seen or heard before. Derek Holzer’s optoelectronic Tonewheels Hurdy-Gurdy is a combination of mechanical, optical, and electronic elements, part sculpture and part instrument. It recalls vintage mechanical and optical instruments, but with a sound that is decidedly modern and strange. In the translation, something wonderful happens: this becomes a serious punk instrument, producing surprising, hard-edged sounds. The wheels turn, and the gizmo rocks. Combining disciplines in this sort of design also means merging different skill sets, so it’s telling that input for the instrument has come from other artists, including friend-of-the-site circuit designer Eric …

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Pinball Pianola: Pinball Game Meets a Piano in a Wild Constructed Instrument

Pinball Pianola from Lucas Abela on Vimeo. The mechanical and kinetic collide – literally – with the sonic, in a devilishly-inventive hybrid instrument that cross-breeds a pinball table with a piano. Australian artist Lucas Abela is joining us next month as part of CTM Festival: The Golden Age. In the meantime, he shares this work. I’ve devised a Frankenstein experiment, combining the greatest musical invention of all time, the Piano; with the coolest amusement machines ever conceived; Pinball, to create an interactive sound installation like no other; ‘Pinball Pianola’, a musical device constructed by replacing the keyboard, hammers and front …

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80s Roland engineers never imagined ... this. Welcome to the age of the Real. Photo: Jürgen Lösel.

A Robotic, Physical 808 Machine Advances Weird Science of Music, Tech Alike

So, you’re really hot stuff now that you’ve got a vintage Roland TR-808, huh? Ready to have your pride taken down a few notches? If you haven’t seen it, have a look at this. The MR-808 is a “real-world” replica of the Roland sounds. And when people throw around buzzwords like “post-digital” to try to describe the spirit of the age in which we live, this is what they’re trying to get at. In some sense, this creation is a tribute to the 808’s minimalism and essential design. And this is still a creation of the digital realm. The robots …

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Concept: Rubik’s Cube as Interactive Electronic Music Tool Interface [Video]

MusixCube from Stefan Horak on Vimeo. It’s just a concept, but it’s an excellent one: the classic Rubik’s Cube here is transformed into a tangible music interface. Grid squares light up as icons, colored feedback animates sounds, and twisting the blocks around provides access to interface options and even parameter control. Someone. Make this happen. From Kiel, Germany (north of Hamburg) and artist/student Hauke Scholz. Hauke, let’s do this for real. A tool for producing electronic music, based on the interaction of the Rubik’s Cube, B.A. Thesis project at Muthesius Academy Of Fine Arts And Design by Hauke Scholz Video …

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Reactable as Artist Instrument: On Mobile, Live, and Tangible

Milivingroom.com presenta Carles López-Reactable from Milivingroom on Vimeo. Can the Reactable be artistically meaningful, as well as technologically impressive? New performances, and new releases – interactive “label” releases for your iPad/iPhone and updated hardware for those of you wanting to try the whole experience yourself – might just answer that question. Listen to designers of futuristic musical devices talk about what they hope to create, and a common theme recurs again and again. They want to make musical instruments – something you’d practice, something for which there would be virtuosos and performances that would knock your socks off. It’s tough …

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If a Computer Were a Chanting Monk: Crazy Live Sounds from Kyma + Gametrak

If a computer could throat-sing, meditating on numbers, it might sound something like this. Electro-acoustic composer Jeffrey Stolet is Professor of Music and Director of the Intermedia Music Technology at the University of Oregon, but “sonic shamanism” might apply as well. Mysterious sounds emerge from his laptop as he tugs and pulls on a controller, as if extracting sounds from within. (The hardware in question is a Gametrak game controller – a toy game device that has become an affordable 3D music input. Apparently some 300,000 units were sold by 2006, but the controller never caught on as a mainstream …

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Lego Mindstorm Robotics, One Kitchen, One Psycho Barbie: Bonaparte Music Video

BONAPARTE – 40°42’48.46 N 73°58’18.38 by JUL & MAT from JUL & MAT on Vimeo. Out of the screen, into your kitchen: digital tech can become magically alive when grown-up robotics meet child-like play. And it’s not trickery: this LEGO-powered robotic installation really is playing the parts of this song by Bonaparte. Peter Cocteau already showed the world that LEGO’s Mindstorms platform can become a fantastic drum machine, in his brilliant NXT-606. Now he’s back, with a robotic installation that “performs” the music video for German rock/electronic artist Bonaparte. Teaming up with Cocteau and French directing team Jul & Mat, …

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