Electronics and synths are hard and you can’t hug them; plush animals and toys and blankets and pillows are soft and huggable. And we won’t even get started on the slightly-absurd gender associations of soft textiles and hard, toxic electronics. Or at least, so goes the traditional assumption.

But increasingly, designers are becoming interested in soft design. So in a last-minute addition to Handmade Music NYC, Richie Brown has added plush instruments – a ring modulator and two synths, which in turn can be patched together. They’re instruments you can hug. (Next step: make the connections soft, too, I think.)

As this was happening, by coincidence I was checking out a project called felted signal processing [Flickr set], using conductive soft materials for sound. That project is the work of Sarah Grant, and something I hope to cover more. We’ve also seen felt used as a very practical material for a surface and keys on a synth project (with a hard enclosure), and none other than monome creators Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree did a feature story here on CDM on their felt + circuits project.

Don’t get me wrong: making electronics work with soft things is a significant challenge, and sometimes feels like trying to make an airplane fuzzy. I hope we’ll work on some community documentation and collaboration here – and perhaps we’ll even have a soft-themed hacklab online and with handmade music.

One superb reference: CNMAT’s wiki, particularly the Materials section.

Check out Handmade Music NYC

Squeezable instruments are just the beginning. Handmade Music Brooklyn for July is, quite literally, our biggest, craziest lineup ever.

If you are in the NYC area, be sure you don’t miss Handmade Music tomorrow night (Thursday).

Complete lineup at
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