Last night, a reasonably-sized mob squeezed between workbenches at Etsy Labs to enjoy the latest Handmade Music night, organized by myself and CDM,, and Make Magazine. At this point, I’d normally try to explain what the concept behind Handmade Music is, but, like so many things, it sounds way cooler in Spanish. Mangas Verdes writes (responding to the latest video from Etsy):

Son músicos, son artesanos y son modernos. ¿Quién quiere pagar miles de euros por un sampler o un sintetizador? ¿Quién dijo que en en el campo de los instrumentos musicales tampoco hay nada nuevo bajo el sol? Handmade Musical Creations: interesante, irreverente y divertido. Luthiers, pero en versión tecno.

Luthiers de la música digital

And yes, luthier means in Spanish exactly what it means in English. I love it.

In a night filled with handmade circuits driving tape players, webcam MIDI controllers, a giant wall of switches, and a din of bleeps and bloops, one could well say “this sounds like chaos” or “aren’t these all just gimmicks?” I wouldn’t argue — quite the contrary. “Weird device that makes noise” is, after all, the first stage of any musical instrument. Already, people were practicing with these instruments as you would a cello. A cello takes years to master. So I’m eager to see where all this leads.

Last night’s highlights: an extended ambient-esque set from Richard Lainhart, a hand-wired cassette Mellotron from the good folks at Make (more on that coming later today), the public debut of the Monome 256, a great 40h performance (very different from Brian’s last time, showing the versatility of the instrument), Eric making the world’s least-practical yet most-fantastic controller in the form of a giant wall of household switches, and all sorts of unusual sound-making boxes.

Coverage Elsewhere

MAKE NYC & Handmade music night! JAM PACKED!! [MAKE:Blog]
Phil Torrone’s Photostream []

Yes, last night featured not one but two DIY-themed events at Etsy. Make held its first-ever Make NYC night, constructing 555 timing circuits. I didn’t make it, but there are slides of the circuit, and this is a very useful basic element for music stuff. Phil has some additional photos, too, including a terrific project based on an Atari 600.

MIDI Ironing Boards, Theremin Crutches Squeal at Handmade Music Event []

Glenn Gamboa wrote a terrific and thoughtful piece for Wired on the event. Ultimately, this is about not only technology, but an expanding culture of musicians. Ranjit Bhatnagar responds to some of the objections that raises:

“A common objection, when the topic of encouraging everyone to make music comes up, is that there will be a lot more crap music out in the world,” continues Bhatnagar, who recently programmed his theremin-playing robot Lev to play the Gnarls Barkley song, “Crazy.”

“My answer: There’s already a lot of crap music in the world and it hasn’t killed us. If people are getting together and making their own music with their friends, they’re having fun, making connections and developing their souls or something like that…. And if what they make turns out to be really good, there’s a better chance that you will hear it and you’ll be happier for it.”

Glenn talked to me, Ranjit (of MIDI ironing board fame), and Eric (of giant wall of switches and crutch-Theremin fame). And he made us all sound great, as a good writer does. Well worth reading.

And some more photos …