Sewing together music: designer and techno-textile artist Lara Grant constructs music with a modded sewing machine and Max. Lara is one of the artists playing Handmade Music in New York next week; stay tuned here for more behind the scenes of what those folks are doing. Photo (CC-BY-SA) See-ming Lee.

Before evolutionary adaptation comes mutation. Some of the weirdest stuff, in other words, could be the future – just ask biology. That was the conversation I had with folks like artist Rosa Menkman in Old Amsterdam (the one in Holland). So, as we gather back in New Amsterdam (NYC), we get a chance to celebrate the unusual.

Wherever you are in the world, here’s a look at some of those new mutations: a sewing machine converted into a musical instrument, an expressive audiovisual instrument borrowing ideas from the trumpet, and an electro-country band that covers classic honky-tonk American hits.

If you are in the sliver of our audience who live in the NYC area, of course, you can catch these folks live in a variety show-meets-science fair format. We don’t charge admission for the weird, and you can buy beer. Thanks to our new home at Galapagos Art Space, the NYC edition of Handmade Music can offer a proper stage and a lineup of live performances, along with the noisemaking and friendly atmosphere.

Live, Monday, March 8
Where: Galapagos Art Space, DUMBO Brooklyn [directions]
When: Doors open 7p
Cost: FREE
Highlights online for the rest of the planet here, later

Augmented Sewing Machine + Ensemble

Circuit Bending Orchestra: Lara Grant at Diana Eng’s Fairytale Fashion Show, Eyebeam NYC / SML from See-ming Lee ??? SML on Vimeo.

Lara Grant’s Augmented Sewing Machine, entitled “16TH AND MISSION,” takes the workings of the device and transforms it into musical control. Contact between needle and fabric and onboard switches and knobs (with help from Arduino and Max/MSP) make it a novel controller.

Lara joins myself and Matt Ganucheau providing additional electronic sounds (and possibly a surprise DIY creation or two from me), forming three quarters of the ensemble we formed to play a wearable technology fashion show. The Fairytale Fashion show, by Diana Eng, is documented below by MAKE’s/Adafruit’s Phil Torrone, with our group’s live (PA) music in the background. (See also an extensive photoblog of the designs by designer-technology See-ming Lee.)

fairytale fashion 2010 from adafruit industries on Vimeo.

Missing but rejoining me next week in San Francisco is Lara’s sister Sarah Grant. Together, the Grant Sisters work on conductive fabric sound. If you’re interested in how to work with textiles in sonic electronics, they’ve promised to share more of what they’re doing:

The TOOB: An Audiovisual Hypertrumpet

How do you build on the idea of a trumpet? Give it digital control and control over audio and visuals, of course:

Arvid Tomayko-Peters plays The TOOB – a unique wireless electronic wind instrument that gives the performer a vast but intuitive and malleable range of sonic material, allowing creative freedom in solo or group improvisation. The instrument senses breath, finger pressure, tilt and acceleration and utilizes sound captured and processed on the fly to create expressive soundscapes ranging from comic to tragic to “a force of nature” and abstract live video.

At top, a recent short audiovisual improvisation recorded on the instrument, provided to CDM by the artist. The TOOB even made an appearance at SIGGRAPH, the geektastic visual conference. More information:

Short live video from SIGGRAPH:

How it works:

Performance with the TOOB:

And here’s what the creation looks like. Notice the clever use of a project enclosure, tubing, and force sensing resistors. (Getting the job done always earns bonus points in my book.)

Owen Lake, Electro-Country, and New Handmade Instrument Designs

Jeff Snyder is a country artist. He’s also an electronic artist. He’s also an inventor, creating instruments like the one he’s holding. Can you say “crossover”? (Then again, we’re all standing on the shoulders of the great Les Paul – so it’s time to hone our musical chops, our hardware-hacking chops, and our rebellious sonic side, all in parallel.) Photo courtesy Owen Lake.

They call it electro-country. This isn’t modern, top-of-the-charts, watered down Nashville pop. Think covers of classic 1950s honky-tonk, covered on modular synths and custom electronic instruments. The instrumental lineup for Owen Lake:

Owen Lake (jeff snyder) – voice and manta
Penny Hunt (kate soper) – voice and synthesizer
Tommy Byrd (matt hough) – voice and guitar
Frank Arnold (spencer russell) – bass
Buck Flash (alex ness) – live video

But alongside his love of country music, bandleader Jeff Snyder moonlights as inventor. His Manta is a fascinating new small-run, boutique touch controller with a hexagonal layout. I had been meaning to check out the Manta anyway. (Its design has caught the eye of folks like Cycling ’74 engineer Darwin Grosse, one of the key minds behind Max.) Now I get to see it in person, with a full electro-country band behind it. Expect a full report thereafter.

Just don’t get too rowdy with the beers and start tossing them at the band in excitement, like that scene from The Blues Brothers. (Ah, though maybe we should put all these players together and try to cover “Stand By Your Man.”)

The hardware project:

The band project:

Gesture-Controller Exploration, by Matt + Lisa

Gesture-Control Deomonstration from Mouse & the Billionaire on Vimeo.

M Bethancourt wowed us at a previous event with an elegantly-designed gestural controller. Such devices are hardly new, fundamentally, but the GCe3 is beautifully refined, in a gorgeous wood housing. Since then, Mouse and the Billionaire (aka Matt + Lisa, though I’m not sure which one is which) have been practicing – because it’s not only the invention of the thing, but practicing on it to get good. Here’s what they’re up to:

The Gesture-Controller Exploration is a study of innovative musical instrument / controllers that investigates the relationship between movement, physical space and musical performance. The most recent incarnation, the GCe3, combines a musical software suite built in Max/Msp with an intuitive physical form to create a rich musical experience. Dipping, swinging, swaying, tilting, and turning the The Gesture-Controller sends signals to the computer running the audio software, informing its sound-making functions. This allows for a more satisfying performance, leveraging the power of the computer and helping the electronic musician to use physical means to create and manipulate digital electronic sounds in new and interesting ways.

The Event

Event details

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Bonus! Saturday we’re hanging out with Babycastles, the indie arcade, and the folks of Loud Objects, chip-programming sound scientists. Bring a soldering iron (if you own one; if not, it’s a worthy investment), and stop in for hacking controllers and making one-button objects. Previous details | on Facebook