Those snap-tight blocks have a clear appeal for prototypers. Oh, and they're fun to play with. Photo (CC-BY) slackpics.

A Synth Finds a LEGO-Brick Home; Do You LEGO Your Projects?

Snap, snap… LEGO bricks are at some point irresistible for making a synth housing. Our friends at DE:BUG point to a LEGO-built, circuit-bending synth. And the imaginary toy world of LEGO find their way into this instrumental housing. Creator freeformdelusion writes: ClearTone Synth with LFO inside a nice lego project box with a house, dog, flowers, LEDs and a female figure drinking away to the synths excellent sound! Cheers to that, yes! But, with LEGO bricks here and there for the holidays (you know, for kids), I wondered: who out there is prototyping synths and the like with LEGO? Found …

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From a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, Endless Synthy Sonic Variations: Free Ableton Pack

At this time of year, we come together, hearts aglow, and celebrate the simple pleasure of how much fun field recording and sampling can be in sound design. Or something like that. If you want a broader or more religious message, I’m sure you’ll find no shortage elsewhere. Having successfully weathered Armageddon (whew!), our friend AfroDJMac is back with a set of Ableton Live synths sampled from a Charlie Brown Christmas tree snowglobe. And as in the classic television Charlie Brown show, a single branch becomes a lush, full tree with some love. No, really: this is a perfect demonstration …

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Concept: Rubik’s Cube as Interactive Electronic Music Tool Interface [Video]

MusixCube from Stefan Horak on Vimeo. It’s just a concept, but it’s an excellent one: the classic Rubik’s Cube here is transformed into a tangible music interface. Grid squares light up as icons, colored feedback animates sounds, and twisting the blocks around provides access to interface options and even parameter control. Someone. Make this happen. From Kiel, Germany (north of Hamburg) and artist/student Hauke Scholz. Hauke, let’s do this for real. A tool for producing electronic music, based on the interaction of the Rubik’s Cube, B.A. Thesis project at Muthesius Academy Of Fine Arts And Design by Hauke Scholz Video …

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A Chorus of Singing, Stuffed Frogs – Complete With Mouth Pitch Control

From Japan, of course. Yes, continuing our coverage of stuffed, singing creatures – see our Theremin Cookie Monster via Koma Elektronik – here’s another entry. Cleverly, the aperture of the frog’s mouth determines pitch. Take that, Teddy Ruxpin. Thanks, Wouter Jaspers!

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Lego Mindstorm Robotics, One Kitchen, One Psycho Barbie: Bonaparte Music Video

BONAPARTE – 40°42’48.46 N 73°58’18.38 by JUL & MAT from JUL & MAT on Vimeo. Out of the screen, into your kitchen: digital tech can become magically alive when grown-up robotics meet child-like play. And it’s not trickery: this LEGO-powered robotic installation really is playing the parts of this song by Bonaparte. Peter Cocteau already showed the world that LEGO’s Mindstorms platform can become a fantastic drum machine, in his brilliant NXT-606. Now he’s back, with a robotic installation that “performs” the music video for German rock/electronic artist Bonaparte. Teaming up with Cocteau and French directing team Jul & Mat, …

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Rocking Out with Sponges and a Houseplant, and Other Handmade and Circuit-Bent Wonders [Videos]

Kraft test drummie & Robert Plant from NormanBates on Vimeo. Sorry, keys and switches and buttons: it’s all about sponges now. Using metal sponges, a houseplant (Swedish Ivy, to be specific), and a circuit-bent toy, Cristian Martínez and companion perform whimsically-wonderful music. And, of course, it’s dubbed Kraft Test Dummy and Robert Plant. Cristian, aka Norman Bates, a sonic artist and musician based in Argentina, explains to CDM: It’s a circuit bend that originally was some portable-radio type toy with 4 buttons, with drum sounds. I changed the button contacts to metal sponges and car antennas, all tied together with …

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A LEGO Step Sequencer, Made with a Camera and Code [Video; Open Source Code]

Beat Bricks – A LEGO Step Sequencer from superquadratic on Vimeo. There’s something about that feeling of snapping a LEGO brick in place, a tactile connection to childhood memory. So, while it’s perhaps neither necessary nor terribly practical, this rig that turns a LEGO board into a step sequencer is somehow irresistible. And, like any good hack, it’s a chance to learn and discover – one that, thanks to freely-available code, is shared. The ingredients: a camera, Ableton Live, and some code for analyzing the camera image and translating those events into MIDI messages Live can turn into sound. It’s …

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Camp America Releases a CD Encased in LEGO Blocks [Album Pick]

A paper cover is one option if you’re looking for ways of making music releases physical and tangible. But Steven Cowley went to something a bit more unusual. A release of his one-man project Camp America comes with a bag containing 125 LEGO pieces, and instructions for building the case. Steven writes us as he sees that paper example to show us some next-level physical release magic. And, oh yeah, importantly, it’s really good music – finely-polished, top-notch, synth-laden pop songs. It’s just darned good music, so the best I can say is, go take a listen. I also think …

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Finding Beauty in Samples, Musicians Make New Music from Another’s Raw Materials

Remix albums are ubiquitous, and sampling has become one of the fundamental techniques of electronic music. But how much do raw materials impact the end result? And given that a sample might simply be a prompt or starting point, why not take on someone else’s samples instead of your own? Film aficionados routinely trade film – sometimes even double-exposing someone else’s roll, for unexpected results. Here, a group of musicians take on another artist’s samples, starting with 40 minutes of material by Forrest Reiff (Off Balance Atlas), shared on SoundCloud. The results are eclectic, sometimes exotic, sometimes chaotic, but well …

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A CDM Holiday Gift Guide: Musical Goodness, All Under $200

Photo (CC-BY) JD Hancock. We users may sometimes gripe, but music technology gives us an impossibly wide variety for which to be thankful. From free (as in beer, as in freedom) to high-end and spendy, from software plug-in to acoustic instrument to solid-state electronics to toy, you’d run out of time and money long before you ran out of exceptional, music-inspiring choices. I think the passion people feel for music is the cause: economics and logic be damned, we’re all glad to make music part of our life, both as makers and consumers. Tools aren’t everything – it can be …

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