Time to start singing about how we’re the operator with our pocket calculator again. The ZONT Synthesizer is an upcoming handheld instrument. And it’s what one designer imagines for the synths of the future. Apart from being tiny, you can change its function by snapping cartridges in and out – Game Boy style. And whereas we think of synths now as big, clunky boxes with wires coming out of them, the ZONT can either plug into a desktop dock for connectivity or connect wirelessly. We’ve had a chat with its designer to see what’s in store.
It looks like a small remote control for a game system, but it’s a musical instrument. The OP-Z caught our imagination earlier this year at NAMM with a host of bizarre and wonderful functions, from sequenced instruments and drums to live visual animation accompaniment (seriously). Now, Cuckoo Music catches up with Teenage Engineering in his ongoing video series. That means a chance to see how the pocket music gizmo has progressed, as well as what’s happening with live visuals. Teenage Engineer David Mollerstedt joins: Meanwhile, TE’s instruments see other lovely action. Mikael Jorgensen writes CDM to tell us about his …
“Computer music,” “digital music” – this doesn’t necessarily mean a big laptop. Game Boy musicians had it right to begin with: palm-sized machines can make music, too. And this track is gorgeous – the work of a user named “pselodux”:
Priced at $59, inspired by vintage Nintendo Game & Watch, and looking like calculators, the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator line was a runaway hit. So, just adding three more of them seems a no-brainer. Then again, with drum machines, bass synth, and lead synth covered, the next three might easily have been an anticlimax. Good news for Teenage Engineering fans: they aren’t. The Stockholm designers have managed three retro-tinted follow-ups that might easily make as big a splash the originals.
“Surprise!” might well be Teenage Engineering’s best tagline. The latest unexpected invention from Sweden is the OP-Z – pronounced “oh pee zed.” It’s an all-in-one instrument/groovebox like its predecessor the OP-1, packed into a tiny, game-like form factor. And even from the early prototype shown at NAMM, it’s fantastic.
Jamming: the idea is to make music by connecting directly to gestures so you make something spontaneous. And if music technology is jam session friendly, this finally means you can do it together – not just alone.
Here’s a Track Made From Just Teenage Engineering PO-12 and MeeBlip, And Another with MeeBlip Vocals
Not just less is more. More from less. Call it the sub-$200 studio. Our friend Tomash Ghz has made a track with sounds produced using only the Teenage Engineering PO-12 and the MeeBlip anode. Listen: And, very cool, have a go at the project files via Splice: https://splice.com/ghz_tomash/tomash-ghz—teslacoil For the record, that’s US$59 for the Teenage drum machine, and US$139.95 list for the MeeBlip. (In fact, MeeBlip is on sale now for a very limited time for US$119.95 with free US/Canadian shipping or discounted international shipping.)
First, they made dirt-cheap synths and drum machines. Then, they made housings that turn them into handheld calculators. Now, they want … you to rethink the case entirely. Say what? So, the bad news is, Teenage Engineering’s cool calculator-style cases for their amazing-sounding, crazy-cheap synths and drum machine are backordered. And that is too bad. Because, damnit, even I can’t get one. And they’re really cool – I had a look at the cases at Musikmesse, and they recall nothing if not a Braun-style dress-up suit for these wonderful (and useful) sonic toys. But this being Teenage Engineering, they’ve found …
You’re going to need some bigger pockets. (Overalls?) British-born, Kyoto-based Ally Mobbs has hacked the inexpensive Teenage Engineering PO-12 drum machine into a full-sized box. Instead of the tiny, fingertip-challenging buttons, you get nice, big arcade buttons. He’s also made a lovely-looking wooden case and a jack connector.
Jeremy Blake (aka Jeremy Leaird-Koch) is the kind of omni-dimensional talent who that seems tailored for the age of Web media. Yes, he’s an electronic musician, but … have a listen to his SoundCloud, and you’ll find the common thread is craft more than genre. And yes, he’s also a video editor, who’s also making imaginative and dazzling visuals. Let’s instead just wander into his studio, virtually speaking, and let him play for us on a nice, assembled gathering of custom hardware. And drifting off on this chillout groove is a nice way to take a pause in your day…