It’s a rig in the dirt, on a budget, with some beautiful music. DIY forest sounds are go.

Now that we took a mental trip to a crowded Berlin bar playing hard EBM, let’s go instead into the woods with some open tools and very lovely leafy ambient. Just listen and watch:

Perplex On out in Bavaria is doing exquisite stuff, well worth a subscribe. They write:

Please enjoy this little ambient jam in the woods. I’m using a custom #Nornsshield loaded with #Arcologies script and two #Launchpadmini as a poor-man’s Grid in combination with #midigrid library. The background pads were done by routing the raw sound form Arcologies through #BleassGranulizer and #Velvetmachine on an iPad and then loaded this recording into Norns’ tape to play in the background.

Let’s name check those ingredients, because this is an affordable and open setup driven by a ton of community support.

And it scales to different costs depending on what you’ve got, too, all thanks to the thoughtful design of the monome project.

The heart of this is norns, an excellent, purpose-built Linux-powered computer for music and art. The nice hardware will cost you US$800 (though with rather deep capabilities), but here the cost consideration is opting for the Raspberry Pi-based DIY kit. You can still get it straight from the original developers for US$250, it’s still open source, but you save some scratch and (bonus) wind up with a device that looks a little more punk.

So, we’ve got:

norns shield (full kit with enclosure, some assembly/soldering required)

BYO Raspberry Pi 3 B+ / SD card / power

arcologies script, a rabbit hole of musical capabilities that runs on norns (see story below)

midigrid library

Novation Launchpad mini

BLEASS Granulizer, the go-to granular effect for iOS of the moment

Velvet Machine, an absolutely wonderful new iOS (and Mac plug-in) effect that’s actually on my list to write up this week, as well

If you’ve got an iPad and are unsure how to host effects like this, while it isn’t mentioned here, check out something like AUM – there’s a tutorial for BLEASS specifically.

That norns resampling trick is very clever, and reminiscent of the sort of thing we all used to do with cassette tape at one time (or, you know, still do now).

Now I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the tech rather than the music, but the music sort of requires no explanation, whereas the tech might require some knowledge so you can build a rig that’s open-air concert and field trip-friendly. And that matters, because at least one hemisphere definitely has that on the brain right now.

For more on norns and arcologies, we’ve plumbed their depths before.

First, Andreas Roman tested norns for us (the full, finished hardware):

And on arcologies:

Plus check glia’s music on this rig:

And a chilled banger (is that a thing? it should be… chiller?) from Perplex On:

Finally, if you’re interested in Launchpad and hacking fun stuff, I did this: