The Monolith is a “ginormous” music making machine, powered by a tiny chip and tiny code – the Teensy and one single Arduino sketch.

And what you get is a completely non-portable synthesizer with flashing lights, controls for sequencing and synthesis, and the ability to make beats and melodies. It won accolades at this year’s Maker Faire in California, and creators Darcy Neal (aka Lady Brain Studios) and Paul Stroffregen (the Teensy’s inventor) joined Tested to show it off. (That’s the YouTube show by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage.)

They’ve packed a lot of clever features:

Arcade button controls
8-step sequencer with five voices
Tempo control (via a nice big nob)
Chromatic keyboard touch strips with transposition
Polyphonic arpeggiator
Parameter control via filters, knobs, tempo divider, etc.
Traditional virtual analog, but also Karplus-Strong physical modeling
Simple sampled drum machine

Detailed build log at Dorkbot PDX

Darcy, Paul, and Ross had a smart way of collaborating, too – they each took a physical side of the installation/instrument, and gave each a separate task. Then they let kids go wild on the result. (I can relate – at an early Maker Faire, I came with a playable sock monkey my sister and I had devised, one that got some visibility on an early issue of the magazine.)


We invite Paul Stroffregen and Darcy Neal to our studio to assemble the Monolith, an interactive musical sculpture they and their friends created for this year’s Maker Faire. Paul is the inventor of the Teensy, the small and power microcontroller that powers the Monolith, generating all of its sounds in real-time! And it sounds AWESOME.

Learn more about Teensy at:
Find Dacy Neal’s works at
Find Ben Davis’ work at:
Find Ross Fish’s work at:

Lady Brain Studios, meanwhile, is nothing but awesome. It’s musician/artist Dacy Neal, but also writer and designer Haley Moore, working between Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas.

They’re doing workshops. They’re doing light installations. They’re designing wild hardware.

They’re making a frickin’ Universal Death Sound & Light Cube for The Flaming Lips, pictured here:deathcube


Universal Death Sound & Light Cube

Major, major kudos. Check it all out: