CDM + Handmade Music Lounge at Solid Sound: Meet These Sonic Builders, in 11 Noisey Videos

The Swarmatron, made infamous by The Social Network, is just one of the crazy sonic creations we’ll be seeing this weekend. Photo credit: Joshua Sarner. This weekend in North Adams, Massachusetts at MASS MoCA, the band Wilco is gathering their very own music and arts festival, Solid Sound. It’s become a real oasis of unique programming, musical and otherwise, and I’m pleased to be a part of it. Wilco’s Mikael Jorgensen and I put together a showcase of some of the best musical builders and DIYers. We’ll be gathering this weekend and talking to all the artists, so any questions …


In An Explosion of Keys, a DIY Isomorphic Instrument

Alternative key layouts have popped up in commercial hardware and now iPad apps and such, but there’s nothing like trying to build something to grasp how it works. An intrepid group of makers who call themselves Louisville Soundbuilders are working now to clone the C-Thru Music AXiS-64. The goal: their own, original instrument that uses the isomorphic array of keys the AXiS does, which by organizing notes by harmonic interval makes complex melodies and harmonies much simpler than on traditional fretted instruments and keyboards. You can see results in the video. (It doesn’t make sound until the very end. This …


3D Touch Linnstrument, an Update: New Features for Roger Linn’s 3D Note Expression Controller

The latest iteration; image courtesy Roger Linn Designs. Moving beyond touching a screen as two-dimensional plane, Roger Linn’s concept music controller, the Linnstrument, adds tactile response and expression. Roger calls it “3D Note Expression,” but in lay terms, it means pushing harder on the controller makes it respond differently, as you’d expect from a physical instrument. Roger this week posts an update on how his development is going and what he imagines – good timing, as this week we also saw another design on the same lines, the Soundplane. The sensing methods are different, enough so that I can easily …


New Instruments That Matter: Four Examples, Live in SF, Really Do Move Music Forward

Richard Lainhart mans the Haken Continuum at an early installment of our Handmade Music series, back in 2007. Meanwhile, in 2011: among many options, four digital instruments challenge you to practice – really – with expressions that are deep and satisfying. Is there anything genuinely new in digital instruments? Isn’t it just a load of repeated novelty, without the ability to actually make useful musical noises? Hasn’t the technology just gotten in the way of the music? Isn’t … (sigh) .. all you see … all you get … (repeat ad infinitum) Even among technologist futurists, skepticism about the iterative …


What Makes a Truly New Instrument? Human Gestures Power Winners of Guthman Competition

Interlude Consortium’s competition-winning MO makes everyday objects interfaces and does some surprisingly-sophisticated analysis of gestures. Nearly as long as we’ve had electronics, musical inventors have tried to imagine new electronic instruments. In the crowded world of new instrument design, the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition has emerged as a key prize for the best work, with creations battling fiercely for attention. But in the oddball world of sound and music, how do you judge a winner? As a starting point, organizers this year asked the judges what they personally found important. With an expert panel including synth pioneer Tom Oberheim …


Hand-Built Bass + Ableton + SoftStep Foot Pedal: Diego Stocco on Playing, Recording Live

When it comes to playing a hand-built Fence Bass and recording it live, there aren’t hard and fast rules or techniques you have to follow. But musician, composer, and sound designer Diego Stocco can certainly make the mysterious timbres of his exotic instruments into evocative atmospheres. In “Dustland,” the performance and effects are all recorded live – no edits after the fact, no layering — and the results could take you to another world, planetary or psychological. To make all the real-time performance work, Diego combined his Fence Bass with a Keith McMillen SoftStep for expressive live foot control and …


A Flute Made on a 3D Printer, and the Possibilities to Come

Digital models and acoustic instruments have traditionally been studies in contrast. And instrument making has by definition been a craft and an art. But what if making an acoustic instrument was a matter of hitting “print”? That’s the question asked by MIT Media Lab researcher Amit Zoran. Using the Objet Geometries Connex500 3D printer, one capable of on-the-fly use of multiple materials, he made a flute in 15 hours. The results are surprisingly good for a first attempt. The instrument is playable, but Amit plans additional iteration and improvement. (Be sure to watch through the video for some feedback on …


Roger Linn Imagines a New, Multi-touch Instrument, And — HELP!

We’ve lived so long with a musical world dominated by the piano keyboard that it can be hard to look beyond it. But for some time, musicians have desired a set of common requirements for what might replace it: The ability to hit specific pitches in a convenient layout, perhaps one more convenient than the piano, but also… The ability to express pitch between pitches (as most other instruments provide) Continuous pressure for expression, not only when a note is struck, but as it is played (again, as on most other instruments) I’ve been talking to Roger Linn for a …


Real for Reel: The Amazing Sherlock Holmes Experibass, and More Winter Cinema Sounds

Sometimes, the best sounds come not from synthesis, not even from electrified instruments, but from the purity of a mic and acoustic instrumentation. It remains electronic, or even digital sound, but its source is organic. And so, one of the best reasons to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie in theaters is the wonderful noises that bounce around Hans Zimmer’s score. Behind many great film scores are great soloists as much as great composers, and Sherlock Holmes is no exception. Zimmer worked with Diego Stocco, sound designer, sound artist, inventor, and composer in his own right. To realize the inner …


Eigenharp Details: MIDI, High-Res Protocol, and Open Source Plans for the Space Bassoon

The Pico model may lack the impressive array of keys on the flagship Alpha, but when it ships next month it’ll cost well under a grand. And even the Pico promises high-resolution touch, velocity-sensitive keys that you can “bend” as well as press, and high-resolution breath input. The “space bassoon” Eigenharp seems to have landed from another planet. Today, I’ve got good news: it’s bringing alien gifts with it. By next year, both the software and the high-performance protocol the instrument uses will be open source. Taken together with other advancements in the open source community and with protocols like …