Multi-Touch with Your Current Keyboard, And How Expressive, Crowd-Funded Keys Stack Up

Augmenting keyboards with additional expression is a tradition that goes back nearly a century. Inventors have tried keys that bend and wiggle, add-ons from pulleys to ribbons, wheels and pressure sensors, and more – anything to extend the piano and organ beyond their on/off playing methods. But now, the Web has accelerated the ability to communicate and develop these ideas. Crowd-funded invention is becoming widespread. And that means we’ve actually seen several polyphonic touch expression schemes this year. Rather than just presenting papers at conferences, instrumental experimenters are going to musicians and trying to fund real products. American-born, London-based composer, …

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When Plants Jam with Synths: Leslie Garcia’s Open Project Lets Plants Talk with Sound

Pulsu(m) Plantae _ project presentation from LessNullVoid on Vimeo. You may have seen a plant used as a musical instrument before, by measuring capacitance across the leafy life form and turning it into a touch sensor. This is something different: it’s letting the plant itself express communication through sound, using biofeedback to turn the living systems on the plant into something audible. It is a synth jam, made by a plant, that tells you something about what the plant is sensing about the world around it. From Tijuana, México, media artist and musician Leslie Garcia shares the latest iteration of …

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Magic Cube: 20 Bicycles Make Generative, Architecture-Sized Graphics and Sound

Bet your Spinning class was never like this. In an architectural installation in Lyon, France, sound and light – and a whole lot of tech – come together with 20 bicycle riders, as the cycles appear to generate streams of data that feed the generative, abstract results. The Magic Cube @Lyon2012 from pixelux on Vimeo. The cyclists can’t really generate this much power – there’s just not enough energy and efficiency in this system for that – but, via sensors, their pedaling can impact the pattern. Presented at Fête des Lumières at the end of last year in Lyon, this …

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Massive Veg Attack: Makey Makey + Fruits, Vegetables = Music

Pianos made of apples are becoming, suddenly, commonplace. Photo (CC-BY) Pete Prodoehl. Call it a massive attack of fruits and veg. Simple circuits have long been able to make use of sensors in real-world stuff like apples or JELL-O. But Make Makey deserves special credit for making interfacing those circuits with a computer silly-simple. (The project grew out of research at MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten; to get a small sense of how much is involved in getting an idea like this off the ground successfully, check out the incredible list of men and women who contributed on the about …

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Interfacing Music with Light, A Musical Instrument Makes Performance Mysterious, Surprising

24 light sensitive sensors ‘lightefface’ – arduino + max/msp from kaziem on Vimeo. One of my earliest memories is of the piano. We’ve become so accustomed to this contraption, that it’s easy to lose sight of the pleasure of touching the apparatus of the keys and hearing sound. So, perhaps the endless experimentation with sensors and interfaces – whether entirely practical or not – is a chance to rediscover the wonder of the connection of body to sound. For all we might talk about precision in expression or making clear the connection of gesture to noise for player or audience, …

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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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BeetBox Lets You Play Root Vegetables; Latest Handmade Raspberry Pi Coolness

Bored by buttons and pads? Want something a bit more organice? BeetBox turns root vegetables into interactive percussion instruments, finally answering the question of “how can I work musical controllers into my five a day?” BeetBox is a simple instrument that allows users to play drum beats by touching actual beets. It is powered by a Raspberry Pi with a capacitive touch sensor and an audio amplifier in a handmade wooden enclosure. The project is the work of Scott Garner: Interactive > BeetBox Okay, maybe it’s not the most practical idea ever, but it is good fun. And that poplar …

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"Look, [darling significant other], it'll even be totally at home in our modern decor!" Photos courtesy the artist.

Flying Saucer UFO Controller, Ultrasonic MIDI Instrument; Coming as Kit [Arduino]

The desire to be a little different in a band might drive someone to choose a custom guitar, or maybe, you know, change their hair. For some, it drives them to build a giant flying saucer they can play like an instrument by waving their hands. No, MIDI controller, don’t destroy Earth. Klaatu barada nikto. That’s the case with Helsinki-born artist Tommi Koskinen, now doing this as part of an MA thesis in the Media Lab of Aalto University. Another strange gestural controller? Yes. But this flying saucer might just land a bit closer to home. This is just the …

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Koma Kontrol Surface: Touch Surface Hardware, CV + MIDI [Preview]

Sometimes, an idea is so beautifully elegant, it just seems obvious. That’s the feeling I get from Koma’s newest prototype. The Kontrol Surface is a touch controller device. In its Light version, it’s an X/Y touch controller with CV output. The Pro version adds MIDI so it works with both analog and digital gear, and ups the ante to three-axis X/Y/Z capacitive touch. Folks with MIDI gear will wait for the Pro version, but the Light edition already appears like it’ll become a must-have for analog/modular owners. Specs: 1 x CV output 1 x inverted CV output Manual gate output …

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Moldover, Playing Live with Latest Sensor-Laden, DIY Controllers (The Mojito!) [Music Video]

Matt “Moldy” Moldover helped champion the notion of controllerism, focusing live performance on manipulation of digital parameters. In his latest music video, he shows off his latest creations. What’s nice about what he’s doing currently is that he’s able to augment traditional live rigs with buttons and sensors. Having your controls clamped to a mic stand? Eminently practical for vocalists and instrumentalists. The guitar gets the full sensor treatment, too. Moldover explains to CDM: Both the guitar and mic controllers are prototypes I made for my recently completed Super Villain Tour. The microphone attachment is called The Mojito. It’s simply …

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