cgorganelle

What makes something a “computer”? In practical terms, the definition is getting steadily blurrier when it comes to music.

With computation sipping power, generating less heat, and costing far less than before, that “computer” may find itself in places other than a big folding metal typewriter with a spendy display and a picture of a bitten fruit on the back.

But the power of the computer – the ability to turn a magic box into the instrument or effect of your desiring – that stays. And that’s something that’s beginning to remake musical objects.

Updated: for the technically minded, more details.

The latest entry comes from none other than Critter & Guitari, the boutique east coast-American maker. They’ve been known for making peculiar instruments with wooden keys on them, twee oddities that are great quirky fun to play. But this time, the sonic innards are a great deal more flexible.

The Organelle still has the 25 push-button keys made of maple wood and some knobs and an aluminum body (with plastic back). But it also has a new brain – a 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 core, capable of running Linux.

It has audio jacks – a stereo input jack, headphone jack, and stereo outputs. But it also has, you know, computer-y things. There’s a built-in OLED display, two USB ports (which you can use to connect MIDI over USB), and an HDMI output port (which presumably is for the interface, but I’ll try to find more about whether video performance is possible).

organelle2

And the banner feature is the ability to run your own custom instruments and effects made in the free, graphical patching environment Pd (Pure Data). Pd has been seen lately on iOS and Android and embedded in games and other apps and even in proof-of-concept demos powering plug-ins, so it’s fast becoming the more platform-agnostic way to make your own stuff – and it’s totally free and open source. But if you don’t feel like trying to master it, Critter and Guitari are clearly still hoping that a community will share patches. The upshot is, the Organelle is like a more music-specific rival to devices like the Raspberry Pi.

The Organelle isn’t the first device to try this – even Eurorack, in the form of modules like this one, is getting into the business of running free Pd and Csound stuff. To me, a big part of whether any device dose this effectively is down to the hardware/software integration and experience design, not to mention cost. Otherwise, you might as well just go with a more flexible and powerful laptop, even if it is a little clunky looking onstage. That said, there’s something beautiful about having a dedicated device – not just because it’s less distracting to use, but because you can more quickly get down to the business of music making on it.

In this case, we know this – patches are loaded from USB sticks, you can use any Pd patch (as long as you’re within the capabilities of the hardware), and there will be an online repository for sharing patches with others. “Lower-level” sound creation is possible, too.

Coming: later this year. Pricing: TBD.

Sound samples coming soon (though of course it can sound like anything Pd can sound like).

I’m very keen to hear more, so I’m talking now to the fine Critter and Guitari folk. Stay tuned.

organelle3

New Yorkers, you can get up close and person with the Organelle at Music Synth Fair in Brooklyn today, or at the Synth Expo at Main Drag Music on November 7 & 8.

http://www.critterandguitari.com/

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  • Tom Erbe

    any idea of what kind of sound file storage is possible?

    • Martin Wheeler

      Exactly. also any idea if it can run telharmonic echophon code ? šŸ˜‰
      All hail Tom.

      • Tom Erbe

        No audio rate CV, and probably a 64 sample or latency, so it is really a different beast, and should run stuff more suited to it (your standalone PD patches, with no outside modulation). You could certainly program something like any current digital module on it (I’d suggest braids as a first project šŸ™‚ ), but as it is a non-modular instrument, I’d think you would want DCO, DCF, DCA, ADSRs, LFOs – that is, a complete synth, sampler or beatbox.

  • Tom Erbe

    any idea of what kind of sound file storage is possible?

    • Martin Wheeler

      Exactly. also any idea if it can run telharmonic echophon code ? šŸ˜‰
      All hail Tom.

      • Tom Erbe

        No audio rate CV, and probably a 64 sample or latency, so it is really a different beast, and should run stuff more suited to it (your standalone PD patches, with no outside modulation). You could certainly program something like any current digital module on it (I’d suggest braids as a first project šŸ™‚ ), but as it is a non-modular instrument, I’d think you would want DCO, DCF, DCA, ADSRs, LFOs – that is, a complete synth, sampler or beatbox.

  • wo3

    Wow this is really great!

  • wo3

    Wow this is really great!

  • NathanaĆ«l

    Cute device. At the moment I’d rather get an Axolotl as you don’t have all of the OS overhead and it seems more hackable.

    • Robin Parmar

      Good lord! Thanks so much for mentioning that!

    • Will

      Good lord indeed. Wonder what’s up with it. Crowdfund is over and none are available via the site. http://www.axoloti.com/more-info/availability-and-pricing/

      Would be amazing if you could make, say, 20 patches, store them in microSD and switch between them via MIDI commands. For $100 and whatever you come up with for a case… Damn.

      Would love to see a deep dive on CDM.

      • Robin Parmar

        This needs to be available. Along with a generic case that provides a screen, buttons and knobs. So it can be snapped together and coded any which way.

        • James Husted

          I would love to build a module based around the Axolotl and the Axolotl Control – http://www.axoloti.com/axoloti-control/ I wish there was a simple way to just but the unit. I would love to re-make it into a doer friendly module format with CV ins to replace most of the MIDI control.

    • spoonfeeder

      yes unfortunately there are none to be had so something that is actually being manufactured ends up being more realistic

      • NathanaĆ«l

        There are already 600 boards out there, I’m sure more will come, there is already a strong online community !

    • HCCP

      Since you can only program the Axoloti on a separate computer and then load the program onto the Axoloti, aren’t you also dealing with “OS overhead?”

      You can create and edit patches directly on the Organelle, without the need the for another computer.

      • NathanaĆ«l

        That’s why I use a Raspberry pi to do these things which is (most probably) much cheaper. But I understand that the Organelle can be a nice solution for people that don’t want to deal with configuring a Raspberry pi.
        On the other hand the reason I’m curious about the Axoloti is the low price and the fact you can easily extend it with pots, encoders, buttons. It boots instantly and the latency is very low (16 samples) From the Youtube videos it also seems to sound quite good !
        Both products have their pros and cons but for me the Axoloti seems to hit a sweet spot. Curious to hear how the Organelle will sound though !

    • mnb

      axoloti has 256 k(!)b ram and 1mb flash. rpi2 has 1 gig ram and an sd slot.
      it is maybe easier to get lower latency and faster boot-time with the axoloti though. and if you don’t need longer delays…

      • NathanaĆ«l

        There’s actually an 8MB SDRAM chip on the Axoloti to allow longer delay lines (and there’s a micro sd card slot also to load samples and such)

        • mnb

          that’s right, 256k/1mb where the specs (for an older version?) on the
          indiegogo-site.

          • NathanaĆ«l

            Yup, they also added a USB host port so you can connect a USB MIDI device directly to the Axoloti.

  • NathanaĆ«l

    Cute device. At the moment I’d rather get an Axoloti as you don’t have all of the OS overhead and it seems more hackable.

    • Robin Parmar

      Good lord! Thanks so much for mentioning that!

    • Will

      Good lord indeed. Wonder what’s up with it. Crowdfund is over and none are available via the site. http://www.axoloti.com/more-info/availability-and-pricing/

      Would be amazing if you could make, say, 20 patches, store them in microSD and switch between them via MIDI commands. For $100 and whatever you come up with for a case… Damn.

      Would love to see a deep dive on CDM.

      • Robin Parmar

        This needs to be available. Along with a generic case that provides a screen, buttons and knobs. So it can be snapped together and coded any which way.

        • James Husted

          I would love to build a module based around the Axolotl and the Axolotl Control – http://www.axoloti.com/axoloti-control/ I wish there was a simple way to just but the unit. I would love to re-make it into a doer friendly module format with CV ins to replace most of the MIDI control.

    • spoonfeeder

      yes unfortunately there are none to be had so something that is actually being manufactured ends up being more realistic

      • NathanaĆ«l

        There are already 600 boards out there, I’m sure more will come, there is already a strong online community !

    • HCCP

      Since you can only program the Axoloti on a separate computer and then load the program onto the Axoloti, aren’t you also dealing with “OS overhead?”

      You can create and edit patches directly on the Organelle, without the need the for another computer.

      • NathanaĆ«l

        That’s why I use a Raspberry pi to do these things which is (most probably) much cheaper. But I understand that the Organelle can be a nice solution for people that don’t want to deal with configuring a Raspberry pi.
        On the other hand the reason I’m curious about the Axoloti is the low price and the fact you can easily extend it with pots, encoders, buttons. It boots instantly and the latency is very low (16 samples) From the Youtube videos it also seems to sound quite good !
        Both products have their pros and cons but for me the Axoloti seems to hit a sweet spot. Curious to hear how the Organelle will sound though !

    • mnb

      axoloti has 256 k(!)b ram and 1mb flash. rpi2 has 1 gig ram and an sd slot.
      it is maybe easier to get lower latency and faster boot-time with the axoloti though. and if you don’t need longer delays…

      • NathanaĆ«l

        There’s actually an 8MB SDRAM chip on the Axoloti to allow longer delay lines (and there’s a micro sd card slot also to load samples and such)

        • mnb

          that’s right, 256k/1mb where the specs (for an older version?) on the
          indiegogo-site.

          • NathanaĆ«l

            Yup, they also added a USB host port so you can connect a USB MIDI device directly to the Axoloti.

  • Lloyd Barrett

    Those specs sound quite similar to a newish Raspberry Pi.

    • Albert

      Seems like it. Might be a Pi-in-a-box. Nicely done though. Also means that it should not be too hard to expand or build a bigger version.

  • Lloyd Barrett

    Those specs sound quite similar to a newish Raspberry Pi.

    • Albert

      Seems like it. Might be a Pi-in-a-box. Nicely done though. Also means that it should not be too hard to expand or build a bigger version.

  • DPrty

    I wish I could get this same thing for Flowstone

  • DPrty

    I wish I could get this same thing for Flowstone

  • Popo Bawa

    “What makes something a ā€œcomputerā€?”

    If I had to reduce it to something concise, I’d say “a programmable logic device”.

  • Popo Bawa

    “What makes something a ā€œcomputerā€?”

    If I had to reduce it to something concise, I’d say “a programmable logic device”.

  • Robin Parmar

    Whether this is useful or not depends on how much memory it has, how easy it is to maintain code, what the MIDI/OSC spec is like, the price, and tons of other factors I suspect will keep this in the “twee oddity” category. (Good description!) What I want is for someone to make an OSC controller for my laptop, with enough feedback that I can put the computer out of sight if I want to. That would mean a display for each mappable control, and a larger screen for the unit as a whole. If I had that I wouldn’t even be looking at hardware that is inevitably too limited and costly. (Given that a good used laptop is 100-200 bucks.)

    • Martin Wheeler

      information about memory is what is missing. how much RAM, how much storage memory is on board, and how it can use the usb sticks. this could maybe be a great little audio hacking box (granular synthesis etc ) … depending on how much sample time you have, whether it can stream audio off the usb sticks, etc etc … strange that there seems to be no hint of all that on the website, as it is kinda the defining parameter as to,its usefullness, unless you want to _only_ do pure synthesis …

    • Charlie Knox

      Yeah all I really want is something like a bcr2000 that can send osc. Actually, Does that exist?

  • Robin Parmar

    Whether this is useful or not depends on how much memory it has, how easy it is to maintain code, what the MIDI/OSC spec is like, the price, and tons of other factors I suspect will keep this in the “twee oddity” category. (Good description!) What I want is for someone to make an OSC controller for my laptop, with enough feedback that I can put the computer out of sight if I want to. That would mean a display for each mappable control, and a larger screen for the unit as a whole. If I had that I wouldn’t even be looking at hardware that is inevitably too limited and costly. (Given that a good used laptop is 100-200 bucks.)

    • Martin Wheeler

      information about memory is what is missing. how much RAM, how much storage memory is on board, and how it can use the usb sticks. this could maybe be a great little audio hacking box (granular synthesis etc ) … depending on how much sample time you have, whether it can stream audio off the usb sticks, etc etc … strange that there seems to be no hint of all that on the website, as it is kinda the defining parameter as to,its usefullness, unless you want to _only_ do pure synthesis …

    • Charlie Knox

      Yeah all I really want is something like a bcr2000 that can send osc. Actually, Does that exist?

  • heinrich

    gorgeous!

  • heinrich

    gorgeous!

  • circumstance

    If you’re interested in tiny open source things we built a linux/pd based system for the Gumstix embedded computers a couple of years ago (when i say we it most mostly done by the amazing Tim Redfern) There’s a system image at https://github.com/circumstanc
    A gumstix overo is about $149 and the expansion board to give you stereo audio in/out is about $49. We managed to get it to run some pretty heavy pd patches. . including all of the old rjdj library. Plus you can run the whole thing of a small lithium battery if you want (you’ll need to make your own voltage convertor though as the board needs 5v really) Hope that’s useful for some of you. (there’s also a little pd extension on the github which will let you feed in the GPIO on the board to pd, so you can make hardware buttons šŸ™‚

    • Siblong

      Sounds very interesting, that link doesn’t go anywhere for me though…

  • circumstance

    If you’re interested in tiny open source things we built a linux/pd based system for the Gumstix embedded computers a couple of years ago (when i say we it most mostly done by the amazing Tim Redfern) There’s a system image at https://github.com/circumstanc
    A gumstix overo is about $149 and the expansion board to give you stereo audio in/out is about $49. We managed to get it to run some pretty heavy pd patches. . including all of the old rjdj library. Plus you can run the whole thing of a small lithium battery if you want (you’ll need to make your own voltage convertor though as the board needs 5v really) Hope that’s useful for some of you. (there’s also a little pd extension on the github which will let you feed in the GPIO on the board to pd, so you can make hardware buttons šŸ™‚

    • Siblong

      Sounds very interesting, that link doesn’t go anywhere for me though…

  • James Husted

    I am amazed there are not more stand-alone boxes based on small PC platforms that are available that run Pd or other higher level languages. I have a QuBit Nebulae that will run Pd and CSound programs (I have not tried this myself) and it is a great module. The Axolotl is also very cool. Basically I’m looking for the competent replacement for the Nord Modular. I was hoping the Monome Aleph would do this but it never happened.

  • James Husted

    I am amazed there are not more stand-alone boxes based on small PC platforms that are available that run Pd or other higher level languages. I have a QuBit Nebulae that will run Pd and CSound programs (I have not tried this myself) and it is a great module. The Axolotl is also very cool. Basically I’m looking for the competent replacement for the Nord Modular. I was hoping the Monome Aleph would do this but it never happened.

  • Jesse Engel

    It’s great to see the direction all this is headed in. I think embedded algorithms is something we all want. I’ve been working on realtime DSP (stompboxes etc.) so it’s important to mention the effect of latency. I think the good comparison is not with a raspery pi so much, as a mac mini. How does it compare with latency, processing, memory and flexibility you can get for $500? I can’t wait till I can get some large fraction of that in a package with the startup time and form factor (single minded functionality) of an embded device

  • Jesse Engel

    It’s great to see the direction all this is headed in. I think embedded algorithms is something we all want. I’ve been working on realtime DSP (stompboxes etc.) so it’s important to mention the effect of latency. I think the good comparison is not with a raspery pi so much, as a mac mini. How does it compare with latency, processing, memory and flexibility you can get for $500? I can’t wait till I can get some large fraction of that in a package with the startup time and form factor (single minded functionality) of an embded device

  • Krzysztof Cybulski

    Brilliant! I’m only curious about the price and how the processor will perform with some of my complex patches, but a “pd-compyter-and-soundcard-in-a-box” is something I’ve been longing for for a long time. Axoloti on the other hand looks great, but there;s a new environment you have to learn, and it seems quite limited compared to Pd, not having objects like ~fiddle or ~sigmund, which is also a downfall for Nord Modular in my opinion.

  • Krzysztof Cybulski

    Brilliant! I’m only curious about the price and how the processor will perform with some of my complex patches, but a “pd-compyter-and-soundcard-in-a-box” is something I’ve been longing for for a long time. Axoloti on the other hand looks great, but there;s a new environment you have to learn, and it seems quite limited compared to Pd, not having objects like ~fiddle or ~sigmund, which is also a downfall for Nord Modular in my opinion.