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When a record label gets into making cool, weird instruments

Streaming revenue may be hit or miss, but record labels can always make their own boutique sound hardware. Ghostly International have long pioneered new ideas in the category of “selling stuff that isn’t vinyl.” There was the Matthew Dear Totem, for instance – though that served zero practical function and didn’t make sound. Their store feels as much a trendy boutique for design fetishists as a record outlet. But I think it’s their musical instrument collaborations that are most interesting. Yeah, okay, you could say this is getting a bit hipster-y. But remember that it’s really musical instruments that have …

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Try not to say anything sensitive while heating up that Hot Pocket. ()CC-BY) 
Ewen Roberts.

Could you spy on someone using a microwave oven as a mic?

While too much of our information streams have become infected with endless discussion of the current White House, this week there’s a direct connection to Leon Theremin. So – let’s dive in, shall we? In case you’ve managed to avoid US news, you might not know that the Counselor to the President of the United States recently speculated to an interviewer that a microwave oven could be used as a spying device, and specifically, as a camera. And that led to stories like this one: No, Microwave Ovens Cannot Spy on You—for Lots of Reasons [Wired] The problem is, what …

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Here’s a cool handheld drum machine you can build with Arduino

“I’m the operator with my pocket calculator…” — and now you’re the engineer/builder, too. This excellent, copiously documented project by Hamood Nizwan / Gabriel Valencia packs a capable drum machine into a handheld, calculator-like format, complete with LCD display and pad triggers. Assembly above and — here’s the result: It’s simple stuff, but really cool. You can load samples onto an SD card reader, and then trigger them with touch sensors, with visible feedback on the display. All of that is possible thanks to the Arduino MEGA doing the heavy lifting. The mission: The idea is to build a Drum …

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Volnovod is a robot sculpture that uses wire to make sound visually

Muscovite sound artist slash mad scientist vtol (aka Dmitry Morozov) has been at it yet again. This time, inspiration struck when his iPod earbuds tangled. (Good thing he hadn’t upgraded to wireless!) And the result was a new visual interface for music, embodied as kinetic sculpture. Volnovod, sounding for all the world like a long lost Soviet lunar probe (or, um, sounding like “waveguide” if you happen to speak Russian), is an installation / controller / instrument built on the idea. And it comes from the artist just as he’s fresh off a rich Berlin exhibition full of ingenious inventions. …

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Sennheiser wants to bring 3D audio recording to the masses

The consumer electronic drive to high definition and virtual reality is having a curious, parallel impact on sound. And so it is that Sennheiser now want to market binaural recording to your average smartphone owner – really. Now, of course, the normal human perception of reality includes both visual depth perception and the ability to localize sound in a 360-degree sphere around the head. That is, provided only one’s eyes and ears are fully functional and each pair is intact, the human brain adapts to these perceptions. But “3D” visuals and “3D” sounds aren’t themselves directly connected in terms of …

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A patchable, circuit bent Sony Discman turns into a glitch instrument

It’s happened: CD players are officially retro/vintage. (Heck, so is the iPod at this point.) But that means it’s time to open them up and glitch them out – at least for some intrepid inventors, that is. Actually, this video is itself vintage, coming from the innocent days of 2012. (Ah – remember then? If only we knew what world awaited us in 2017. We’d… probably have hidden in a basement and all started circuit bending Sony CD players.) Anyway, I digress. Sony Discman. Renamed “Discbitch” – complete with laser-etched name on the case. Patchable. Glitching. Watch: Somehow, it’s trending …

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A call for emotion in musical inventions, at Berlin hacklab

Moving beyond stale means of framing questions about musical interface or technological invention, we’ve got a serious case of the feels. For this year’s installment of the MusicMakers Hacklab we host with CTM Festival in Berlin, we look to the role of emotion in music and performance. And that means we’re calling on not just coders or engineers, not just musicians, and performers, but psychologists and neuroscientists and more, too. The MusicMakers Hacklab I was lucky enough to found has now been running with multiple hosts and multiple countries, bringing together artists and makers of all stripes to experiment with …

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Micro-ritmos turns bacteria and machine learning into spatialized sound

In the patterns generated by bacterial cells, Micro-ritmos discovers a new music and light. From the Mexican team of Paloma López, Leslie García, and Emmanuel Anguiano (aka Interspecifics), we get yet another marvel of open source musical interface with biological matter. Micro-ritmos from LessNullVoid on Vimeo. The raw cellular matter itself is Geobacter, an anaerobic bacteria found in sediment. And in a spectacular and unintentional irony, this particular family of bacteria was first discovered in the riverbed of the Potomac in Washington, D.C. You heard that right: if you decided to literally drain the swamp in the nation’s capital, this …

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Watch an orchestra of floppy and hard drives play Star Wars

The Internet has seen obsolete disk drives play tunes from Star Wars before – but not like this. Hacker Paweł Zadrożniak of Poland has outdone himself with a maximalist rendition of John Williams’ iconic music. Just how big is it?

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Latest microphones unlock an unheard world

Microphones already expand what we can hear. New devices can sonify an unheard world even beyond sound. We covered the use of sound as a way of conveying gravitational waves, waves that – while not sound – are far easier for both scientists and lay people alike to grasp when translated to the audible spectrum. And we’ve already seen a world of microphones and devices by Jonáš Gruska, whose LOM label shares both the electronics and music made with them. Well, now Jonáš is back with a new generation of devices. Here’s what they are and how their results sound.

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