This post is coming to you live from Maker Faire Trondheim being held in the town square here in Trondheim, Norway, all weekend.
There are some makers that are hard to miss, they might bring fire breathing dragons that loom over the faire, or the could just be loud. Aalberg Audio makes loud sound good, they’re here a the faire showing their wirelessly controlled effects pedal.
I talked to Rune Aalberg Alstad—one of the co-founders of Aalberg Audio—about their Ekko delay pedal and Aero wireless controller, their current crowdfunding campaign, and how they went from prototype to product.
Rune talking about prototyping and producing a product
Rune demonstrating the wireless controller
The Trondheim Maker Faire is a two day faire being held in the Trondheim town square. It opened yesterday, and is open again today between 10am and 4pm. It is free to attend.
No one learns by memorizing- they learn by doing. – Chuck Stephens
Chuck Stephens is an artist, musician, hardware hacker and small boat builder who specializes in the use of recycled, repurposed and salvaged materials. He’ll be exhibiting at Maker Faire Orlando September 13 & 14 as Nepchune’s Noise Circus . Chuck’s a regular on the maker circuit, and always happy to share what he learns, as he did back in May when Nick Normal took a look at the Optical Tremolo FX Box .
I asked him to tell us a bit more about what he does and why he does it, and Chuck gave us some sound bites.
What’s a “Noise Circus”?
The Noise Circus is the result of my experimentation with electronic noise circuits and generative music. My goal is to build machines that use sensors or internal logic to create evolving rhythmic and melodic patterns. I use simple circuits like building blocks to build more complex devices capable of a wide variety of musical possibilities.
This year I’ll have my Lunetta open patch CMOS based sound machine. This device uses very simple logic circuits to create complex rhythmic and melodic patterns by manually rewiring circuits with alligator clip lead wires. Once it’s wired up it can create amazingly complex and evolving sounds- from repeating musical patterns and beats to atmospheric sounds and horror/scifi sound effects. I’ll also have my Medusatron optical sequencer, circuit bent toys, an Arduino based synth and some other fun projects. I’ll have things hooked up so folks can play around and I’ll turn it up and do a few jams throughout the day.
Why do you do it?
Noise circuits provided my Eureka! moment in electronics. I had tried repeatedly over the years to ‘learn electronics’. I would periodically pick up a book and decide to get serious, studying for days until I would inevitably arrive at the conclusion that I’d never ‘get it’. I decided that electronics wasn’t for me and went on with my life.
One day I was reading the Make magazine blog and I saw a post by Collin Cunningham about the Atari Punk Console, or stepped tone generator. I watched the demo video and looked at the schematic and parts list. It didn’t seem that hard. After a quick trip to Radio Shack and an hour of carefully connecting everything on a circuit board, I had a circuit with two knobs that made cool sounds when I turned them. I saw all kinds of simple mods for this circuit online so I bought a breadboard and a small variety of components and started playing around and experimenting with that one simple circuit. I found other circuits that used similar components and was soon combining these simple circuits into more complex prototypes. After a few months of this ‘play’ I started to have a basic understanding of what was going on. My knowledge and confidence has grown quite a bit since then and I’m finally able to produce the kinds of circuits and devices that I dreamed of.
I realized that my entire approach to electronics (and learning in general) had been flawed all those years. No one learns by memorizing- they learn by doing. I also realized that we need to find our passion first and our vocation second. No matter how badly I wanted to learn electronics, it wasn’t until I had a goal to apply the knowledge to that I finally began to make progress. Having a goal in mind for my electronics studies also gave me a structure and order to my learning. By focusing on sound and timing circuits, I learned a lot of basic principles without being distracted by information that I had no immediate use for. This allowed me to make quick progress and achieve tangible results right away, reinforcing the desire to learn more. Rinse and repeat, over and over.
Why do we need it?
I think that what I do is pretty representative of the maker experience. I saw something on a blog post, used the internet to expand my understanding, used online communities to address specific questions and shared what I discovered through online forums, videos and instructional content. I think this two way access to the information economy is what defines the maker movement- we learn from and teach each other simultaneously.
By bringing my projects to maker events I not only get to directly network with like minded folks but I also get to show young people what I do and explain how I learned it. Kids tend to assume I went to college to
learn electronics. It’s important to let them know that knowledge is there for the taking. Education doesn’t need to be a financial concern.
What do you like about Maker Festivals?
Aside from the aforementioned networking and outreach, I also love the social aspect. I tend to spend days at a time sitting at my bench working on my projects. While I share things and interact with other makers through Hack-a-Day, Vimeo and Instructables, It’s a blast to get out and see what folks are doing in real life. From my first event I started meeting amazing people who were doing the kinds of things I wanted to do- in the workshop and the community. Whether it’s Maker Faire, Roboticon, Gulf Coast MakerCon, the St. Pete Science Fest or Bar Camp Tampa Bay, I walk out of these events refreshed and inspired. It’s like a tent revival for geeks!
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve been doing some recordings lately. Here are some videos for your viewing enjoyment. All of what you hear is recorded directly from my Lunetta live in one take. The machine makes the music. There was no editing or multi-tracking except for a small part on Confidence is High.
You can get an earful of Nepchune’s Noise Circus at Maker Faire Orlando all weekend long September 13 & 14!
Jay Silver successfully crowd funded his Makey Makey invention kit back in 2012 and its come as no surprise to see makers designing unusual musical instruments (and a boatload of game controllers) with them since the kits release. One of the more unusual musical instruments to be made from kit is Jenna deBoisblanc’s MaKey MaKey Monome, which looks like a futuristic LED-light piano of sorts.
Jenna designed the touchscreen musical instrument using the invention kit along with some NeoPixels, some copper tape and cardboard. The cardboard acts as the latticework that houses the individually addressable LEDs that light-up the instrument’s squares, which is covered by a 22-inch piece of glass covered on the bottom with white paper to diffuse the light. 64 copper triggers are positioned over the glass, light the corresponding LED and generate a tone when touched. The MaKey MaKey kit translates those individual ‘touchscreens’ into sounds using Jenna’s Processing Sketch music software, which assigns a different note to each touch-square and thereby creating beautiful music with the added bonus of a light show.
See the first video in the series here:
Before the invention of radar, the British military experimented with acoustic mirrors as a means of detecting approaching enemy aircrafts. Rather than displaying blips on a screen, these strategically placed parabolic monoliths simply reflected ambient noise from their concave surfaces, making it easier to discern far-off sounds, like the drone of an airplane’s engine.
After learning about the existence of these curiously primitive and imposing pieces of outdated surveillance equipment, which are still standing along stretches of England’s coast, artist Tim Bruniges recreated these interactive objects in a gallery setting. Earlier this year, in an exhibition called MIRRORS at Brooklyn’s Signal gallery, Bruniges installed a pair of 9 by 9 foot sound mirrors that he constructed from wood and concrete with microphones embedded in their center. The sculptures faced each other to create an interactive sound experience for visitors to the cavernous gallery space.
As sculptural objects, these sound mirrors almost seem like a mashup of the ancient stone statues of Easter Island and a boom box from the 1980s; a visual representation of the tension between tradition and technology in the 20th century. Bruniges also added elements of 21st century technology to the work. Live sound picked up by the microphones mounted in the mirrors were run through a series of digital effects, which were amplified by speakers placed in the space. This modification to the original British military sound mirrors design created an auditory environment where visitors would have difficulty discerning the sounds being reflected by the mirrors from the delayed sounds emanating from the speakers. This situation highlights 21st century tensions between the real and the virtual, which are stuck in an infinite feedback loop.
More than just recreating interesting cultural artifacts, MIRRORS is a poetically succinct diorama of the ambiguous spaces that we live in today, existing between the material and the digital worlds that continually reverberate off of each other. Bruniges, who just earned his MFA from The College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales this month, just built a second version of MIRRORS at Arc at COFA in Sydney. So, if you’re going to be in Sydney or New York in the next few months, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for his upcoming projects.
Brian McNamara creates musical instruments. Generally he focuses on electronic instruments that make it easy and fun for pretty much anyone to play. The Automaphone is a fantastic example of that concept.
Feed this simple and elegant looking hunk of wood any picture and it will convert it to sound. The internals will feed the paper through while scanning the light and dark parts of the surface. It then converts these light and dark parts into the tempo, pitch, tone, and length.
For the Atomaphone Brian used 3 picaxe microcontrollers. One of them handles the scanning hardware and producing the beats. The other two handle the plethora of other sounds that need to be generated. If you would like to see more about the system, including many more pictures, you’ll have to check out his website.