Century of Sound: 100 Years After Russolo’s “The Art of Noises”

Today, the 11th of March, is the one hundredth anniversary of “The Art of Noises,” the seminal letter written by Italian Futurist painter Luigi Russolo. That letter became a manifesto for what was then a radical document, suggesting a new approach to sound and music. In it, Russolo cautioned that “the art of noises must not be limited to a mere imitative reproduction.” The Futurists’ efforts were tragically followed by not one but two world wars, making some of their lust for violence take on a different meaning. For instance, from the 1913 letter: 1 2 3 4 5 seconds …

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Photo courtesy the artist.

One Laser + Hourglass + Circuits = Crazy Gijs Noise Generator

Now, here’s the way to do an analog noise generator oscillator: use grains of sand. As falling sand interrupts the flow of a laser to a light-sensitive sensor (a photodetector), the circuit produces random oscillations of sound. It’s the latest brilliant creation of mad Dutch scientist Gijs Gieskes, the industrial designer-turned-musician whose inventions often center on some physical and mechanical apparatus. Just for good measure, the project is mounted to a clear frame so it can be fit to a Eurorack modular setup. You can try building this yourself; as with all of Gijs’ projects, the circuit is freely available …

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Lo-fi-Arduino-Guitar-Pedal

Handmade Effects, Grungy Goodness of the Gallolizer, and DIY Hardware FX

The Gallolizer is a handmade multi-effects sound mangler, an array of dirty, delicious sound-destroying effects in a single handcrafted box. It’s the work of a Spanish engineering and art collective called MP19, an Arduino-loving, free software-using, open source group of artists who turn those platforms into the kind of grungy sounds that make them happy. (And that, of course, is what it’s really all about.) But before we talk specifics, check out the video. We long ago departed the world of high-fidelity sound; this is digging your toes straight into the mud. I’ll wait. Got it? Good – now onto …

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The Art of Noise: Sonic Insanity with Hans and the Blippoo Box

Now, why would anyone imagine this wouldn’t have widespread commercial appeal? If you enjoy real analog insanity – crazy noises that challenge the ears – you’ll like these videos sent to us by Hans Tammen, the composer, “endangered guitar” artist, and director of NYC’s Harvestworks. He writes: you like analog stuff, as I know. Here are two excerpts of a concert with one of Rob Hordijk’s Blippoo Boxes. Just that tiny analog beast plus volume pedal… Of course, part of what I like about analog — and digital — sound sources is their range. Want to make something that sounds …

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Metasonix All-Tube “Wretch Machine” Synth

MIDI Optional, Glowing Green Bars Standard I know what you were thinking during the silent news week as I was on vacation: “if only . . .” If only someone would release a synth based entirely on vacuum and gas-filled tubes. No pretty sine waves, mind you: only saw, square, and square with suboctave. And a filter sweep controlled by a photoresistor. And a joystick that tunes, triggers, and modulates. And glowing green bars that show voltage levels. And the name should involve vomiting, somehow. If that hasn’t made you afraid (yet strangely intrigued), all this madness comes from Metasonix, …

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Metasonix TX-2 Butt Probe Effects Box

Here’s your typical PR hype: “because guitarists deserve, and WANT, some anus-stretching.” (We know computer musicians, remix artists, drummers, keyboardists, etc. do, too.) The Metasonix Butt Probe — sorry, the “TX-2” — is a $549, hand-made, hand-painted tube-based distortion effect, complete with fist, ream, and scre parameters. Tube-based so that it has a lovely, warm, rich, high-quality sound, right? Wrong. Tube based so it can suck as hard as tech can. According to Eric from Metasonix, the unit uses “three type 4BN6 beam modulator devices. They were intended for use in crummy TV sets as FM detectors, and were NOT …

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Hunting the Drum Buddy and Miss Pussycat

We’re going to need a “Where are they now?” edition for bizarre instrument design projects. Case in point: the Drum Buddy. Reader “fer” writes, succinctly, “wassup with this?” The answer, fer, is wassup indeed. This strange light-powered instrument had its fifteen seconds of fame on the Music Thing blog last summer, but its whereabouts now are more mysterious. According to its creators, the Drum Buddy “represents the future of electronic instruments.” If so, we have a future of pulsing, noisy oscillators-gone-awry played by the likes of Miss Pussycat “and her puppets.” For its part, the Drum Buddy itself uses light …

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Plug-in “Unsafe at Any Speed”?: NDC’s Spherical “Harmonical”

Spherical harmonic modulation of a globe with vertices that produces unusual additive synthesis? I’m already sold — and then I read the kicker: the experimental plug-in Harmonical can also blow your speakers. Now this is a must-have. Okay, before you get too excited: yes, you can blow your speakers with any loud signal. And while Harmonical’s unpredictible results earned it a passionate post on KVR declaring “beware!”, really you should have a limiter on your master out for safety all the time — especially when test-piloting dodgy plug-ins. But back to my original point — when reader Adrian Anders sends …

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Circuit Bending in NYC

If you’re in NYC, you definitely won’t want to miss the Bent festival of circuit-bending music at The Tank on 42nd Street. Each day of the festival this week features workshops on how to warp common electronics from Walkmans to Game Boys into new musical instruments, and concerts of many of the leading musical practitioners of this art form. By the way, signs I’m getting bogged down by writing work and a book that’s months overdue? How about when the UK-based MusicThing is on top of the Bent Circuit Bending festival before the (cough, cough!) NYC-based CDM that’s had this …

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Wooden Log, Lathes as Musical Instruments

Straight from the files of "Looks-like-an-April-Fool's-but-it's-real": From owlProject: The Log1k and iLog are instruments built from logs. (via near near future) The Log1k is a log with a gearbox motor that spins wooden disks to produce rhythmic noises, complete with "touch-sensitive switches" — wait, as opposed to non touch-sensitive switches? Don't forget the flat panel display. (It's a blank opaque flat panel that lights up, in other words. But it is flat.) The iLog is a new portable version with the same wooden toggle switches. The iLog records samples, but much of the sounds have to do with "the bare …

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