In a fascinating new music video directed by Yoonha Park for experimental rock band Liars, we get to see the process of creating realistic sculptures of the band’s faces using 3D scanning techniques and CNC routing to produce molds for wax casting. The result is essentially a beautifully shot process video, which makes perfect sense because process videos always look great set to music.
There are a whole bunch of professional people in the world who are great and valuable because they push these things forward in a way that’s by the book. I feel there is a responsibility on artists and musicians to take what is going on there and set it on fire or throw it in the pool.
– Angus Andrews, Liars
As Colin Mann’s fingers dance along the pearly whites, filaments burn to life in front of his eyes. This midi controlled light display using edison bulbs is quite the thing to behold. The soft orange glow of these antique bulbs ads a whole new dimension to Mann’s music.
If you were only interested in a lamp that featured these hanging antique style bulbs, you could just follow the first few steps of Colin’s great tutorial on building this. Only instead of moving on to the section where you build the complex box that determines which light will illuminate at what point in time, you’d simply wire your bulbs to the power directly.
In Colin’s case, however, he chose to connect them through a control box that takes his MIDI input and flicks the lights off and on in one of several modes:
- CLASSIC – MIDI notes are mapped to bulbs Cn-Bn mapped to bulbs 1-12, intensity of bulbs is fully on, sustain pedal holds notes of same time, clears all bulbs when released.
- VELOCITY – same as Classic, but intensity of bulb is controlled by the velocity of the note played.
- SCROLLING (shown in video) – in this mode, bulbs are lit up sequentially as more notes are played, with intensity of the bulb based on velocity of the note. Releasing the sustain pedal clears the bulbs.
- AUTOMATIC – Slow moving algorithm that creates a changing visual display in random patterns.
Check out Colin’s instructible on building this beautiful display where you would find much more information on how to assemble each piece as well as a quick introduction to relays so that you could power those bulbs.
You have definitely have heard of a piano or a digital piano before, but have you ever heard of a flexible Mechanical NXT keyboard piano? Pianos are one of the most interesting and popular instruments for billions of people to play and learn, but often cost more than what everyone can afford. My piano only costs around 200 dollars whereas the digital piano costs minimum around 400 dollars and averagely around 1000 dollars, so everyone can afford it and create their own music. They can also learn about programing, circuit design, and mechanical assemblies in a fun way.
There are five circuit boards on the model and each has five sound buttons. Digital pianos create sound when the key that is pressed down by our finger hits the sound buttons inside of the piano. However, instead of pressing down the buttons, I place my circuit board on the wall of my piano so that you need to push the key toward the buttons in order to create sounds. I created a special “seesaw” with two keys on top of another with different angles. If you press down one key, the end will bump up the other key. I put a bumper with special angle on the end of the second key so that when it is bumped up by the lower key, it would push the key button to make sounds. Every digital piano uses springs to control the motion of keyboard by pressuring when it goes up and release it to gain force. I used elastic energy instead. The middle of two keys are connected using elastic bands so that after I press down the lower key and bump up the upper key, the elastic band will tightened and release automatically after my finger leaves the key board.
Although I didn’t really calculate the actual time of building each part of the piano, I can still estimate the time and the whole progress of making the MechNXT keyboard. I spent almost a week thinking about different interesting projects that can bond both music and mechanics together. After I decided the topic of my project, I made three different types of keyboards, each with a different solution to make sounds. After I finally decided and built one key by using my favorite and interesting mechanical structure, I spent around 30 minutes building an independent keyboard with 5 semi-notes. I spent another 30 minutes thinking about how to connect two or more independent keyboards together by making special and fixed connection.
It took me another week thinking about an innovative way to let my piano makes sounds. I first thought about using different length and depth of woods, however, I decided to use some more high tech solutions. I got my circuit board idea when I was playing around with my Electronic Snap Circuit. I found out that resister acts to reduce current flow while acting to lower voltage levels within circuits. Therefore, I put five sound buttons, which are like switches, each with a different value of resister so when one button is being pressed, my MechNXT can identify which one is pressed. In order to do that, I need to make something that can identify the current of the circuit and know which specific key is pressed.
Afterward, I spend few weeks making a program that can identify the value of the pressed button. Because I made a program to let the NXT brain know the individual key tone for every value of the resister, sounds will be played from my piano after keys are pressed. At last, there is one port on each circuit board to connect with the four ports on the NXT brain. Because there are only four ports on one NXT brain, I need to make the circuit board larger and fit more key buttons on it so that one NXT port could hold more key tones.
While building, I met some problems too. Firstly, the minimum number of key buttons for playing a whole song should be around 20 key buttons. However, there are only four ports on the NXT. The solution is putting 5 to 10 buttons on each circuit board and connect the four circuit boards to the NXT. Secondly, digital Pianos are too heavy and big to carry around whereas you can construct the mechanical keyboard into any sizes that you want. It can always be extended or shortened since I separate every five semi notes into an independent keyboard.
Therefore, there are a total amount of four main sections to build my MechNXT keyboard. The dominant parts are circuit boards, independent keyboards, a program, and one NXT brain. Some other small parts are some ports to connect with NXT, few cables, and at least 20 buttons.
Dave Sharples and David Glanzman had a pretty lofty idea. They wanted to create an entirely new instrument. Not just another keyboard based synthesizer or grid of buttons. They wanted to make an interface that felt entirely different. The two pulled it off pretty well with the Joytone. At very first glance, it may just seem like a honeycomb shaped grid of buttons, but if you look a little bit closer you’ll see that there is a joystick within each of those hexagonal compartments.
Unfortunately the RGB function was put on hold.
The Joytone has 57 “keys”, each with its own RGB LED inside. Unfortunately, at the time of the first showing, there was an issue getting the RGB part of it all to work correctly so the videos only show the default blue color that the joysticks use when powered. As you can see in the picture above, the added effect of the RGB is quite pleasing, so Dave plans on implementing that a little further down the road.
All of those keys are run through a Raspberry Pi which handles the audio libraries. Even that part of it wasn’t without issue:
We also hadn’t finished writing the code to make it polyphonic, so we were playing in monophonic mode (one note at a time) during the demo. It’s actually a miracle this worked at all, considering we’d been awake for about 48 hours.
Despite these setbacks, the admittedly limited version visible in the video is still very impressive. Hopefully Dave will share his future updates with us as he unlocks these added capabilities. If you’d like to see more pictures of the build, or follow along with the rest of the Joytone updates, you can find that on his blog.
On a sweltering 90°F March afternoon, a crack team of makers assembled from around the world carefully negotiated a wide cobblestone intersection as vintage taxis and VW bugs whizzed by. Standing before us was an ancient 16th-century monastery whose stone walls once shielded the Mexican military. Makers entered where monks once tread as the heavy front gates were swung open to reveal an oasis of succulent botanical riches unlike any other in the world. Lead through the Jardín Etnobotánico‘s vast courtyard, we found a huge event tent adorned with familiar branding: Oaxaca Mini Maker Faire. We had arrived!
Under the tent and out of the direct gaze of the hot southern Mexican sun, the temperature was quite comfortable and a welcome reprieve from New England’s fickle spring. Looking around, there were 3D printers, drones, a VR headset, young geniuses building robots, circuit-bent and odd fruit-powered devices. And despite this strange setting, it was then that I realized: Hey, I’m at home! All Maker Faires share so many commonalities; at a glance, it might have been mistaken for a deep summer Faire in the States. It seems makers everywhere are genuinely interested in sharing new ideas and helping new audiences take ownership of the technologies that are changing our world.
The Oaxaca Maker Faire was no different, it was a great disseminator of information, providing a diverse audience a first look at cutting edge expositores (exhibitors) and their new and original proyectos (projects). Here in Oaxaca, all of this was evident that in the South as in the North, the Faires are pushing this hacedor (maker) movement in the same direction– adelante (forward)!
But what quickly set apart Mexico’s first Faire is the rich heritage and local flavor of Oaxaca. The all-star production crew at Centro de Diseño de Oaxaca could not have picked a better place for this Faire. Being the location of their home office probably made it an easy choice. The Botanical Garden, while absolutely beautiful with rugged and delicate flora, also exemplified the delicate balance of nature and modern life evident in the vibrant streets of Oaxaca. Small touches like the hand-cut papel picado (perforated paper) banners proudly proclaimed that this was a real homespun fiesta. A closer look at many of the exhibitors revealed a strong respect for the local culture and natural materials to a degree that you won’t find in many other cities.
La Perla for instance, demonstrated their process for making artisanal paper, handmade with pulp sourced from native agave plants.
ChocoSol created infamously delicious Oaxacan chocolate treats on the spot with bicycle-powered blenders and grinders.
Olla Sol harnessed the fierce sun in their solar cooking pot and shared a tasty black bean dish with Fairegoers. They’re looking to provide a low-cost cooking solution for people who lack access to the power grid.
Even one of the 3D printers had both feet firmly planted in local soil, Unidad de Protocolos AnaloGo was a completely analog, wooden 3D printer with mud as it medium – hand mixed right on the spot!
For Justin Emerson and myself – the group known as Burnkit2600, the Oaxaca Mini Maker Faire was definitely a special experience. We delivered our Bleep Kit Workshop to the largest and youngest single group yet. In no time at all, the mystic silence of the Botanical Garden was broken with the cacophony of 20 dual oscillator noise synths coming to life for the first time. It always leaves a heartfelt impression knowing that so many of these kids are having their first hands-on electronics experience with us. That feeling doubled when our host, Manuel Alcala later told us that several of the kids in the workshop were from a local orphanage. I hope we inspired them all to continue in the field with our fun and noisy little workshop.
As performing exhibitors, Burnkit2600 did what it does best. We presented a pile of our strange circuit-bent and handmade electronic instruments in a quasi-musical context. My circuit-bent semi-modular Yamaha QY-10 and Justin’s newly made Bleep Drums percussion synth were featured in our set of mellow, spacey grooves with heavy beats.
We worked out much of the brand new material the night before in an impromptu pick up set with Phillip Stearns at a sweaty local dive that Mico Rex had booked – what a great night! Our Maker Faire set culminated in a jam with other makers including Jorge Ramirez from the band Mico Rex on some live code data smashing, DigitArt‘s Adalberto Gómez playing a Kaoss effected noise synth of some kind, and a featured spot by a young drummer on the Blue Man Group-esque “Tubulum” PVC pipe drum made by the guys at Hacedores.com.
Burnkit2600, Los Magos del Norte de Circuit-Bending
All in all, it was an exceptional experience for everyone involved. I think Mexico is ripe with talent and the Maker Faire scene is going to play a huge part in the lives of so many people there. I was particularly impressed with a few musical makers at the Faire and conducted some informal interviews with them, so stay tuned for that blog post.
It was truly inspiring to be involved with Mexico’s first Maker Faire. Viva el movimiento Hacedor en México!
In checking out some of the excellent makers coming to Maker Faire Bay Area this year, I noticed Lil DJ, an interesting looking musical toy project being developed by friends Jason Keppe, David Kesler, and Peter Gardner in Berkeley, Calif. Tired of the “pedestrian” musical content found in most toys marketed to small children, they decided to make a toy DJ turntable that would be aurally enjoyable for all ages. One of the great things about Maker Faire is the feedback that makers get from the community, and Keppe and Gardner are excited to share their most recent prototype with the public this weekend. Once they decide Lil DJ is complete, they will be open sourcing the plans, schematics, and source code.
Here are some sample tracks (not recordings of someone playing Lil DJ but the complete compositions which show the flavor of the songs one might create with Lil DJ):
I was curious to learn more about Lil DJ, so I asked them a few questions:
What is Lil DJ?
Lil DJ is a musical toy that enables kids to create their own songs by layering pre-recorded beats and loops.
With Lil DJ, our goal is to raise the bar for musical toys by creating one that has excellent sound quality, design, and craftsmanship. Most musical toys on the market sound and look terrible (just being honest!). Those toys make grown-ups want to hide the batteries as soon as possible to make the noise STOP. We believe that kids (and the grown-ups who love them) deserve to have a beautiful product that makes pleasing sounds; a toy that truly inspires creativity and fun; a toy that can be enjoyed day after day, year after year.
Kids of all ages love the experience of activating sounds, beats, and loops by pressing buttons and scratching the records on Lil DJ’s two virtual turntables. It’s an accessible and fun way to experience music, to get behind the “wheels of steel,” and to get the party started right.
Another level of fun will come for makers and hackers because we’re going to release our plans, schematics, and source code to the community. Through those detailed instructions, Lil DJ will be a springboard for adults (and older kids) to get into Raspberry Pi programming. People will be able to source the parts themselves, but eventually we plan to offer kits to make it easier to get all the parts and put it together. Our current plans for the kit involve little to no soldering so, with some interest, motivation, and elbow grease, people of any skill level will be able to build their own Lil DJ. Then, of course, the possibilities expand even further: you can record and upload your own sounds and loops, program the buttons to execute different functions, and invent new features. The excitement of open source is that there’s no end to the possibilities for innovation.
Peter Gardner and Jason Keppe with Lil DJ.
The first prototype of Lil DJ. The red buttons play the loops, the green cranks were in place of turntables.
We’re still in the early prototype stage, laying out the components and figuring out what makes sense for the position of buttons and controls, but the physical design is also on our mind. Right now, we’re using MDF hardboard as the deck for Lil DJ. Once we’ve got the design down, we’ll move on to creating a more visually pleasing toy. We’re going to experiment with laser cut acrylic for a techie look and hardwood planks for something a little more refined. Wouldn’t it be great to have a children’s toy that looks nice if it doesn’t get put away? We’ve got big plans, but first we want to get feedback from people outside the project; people with fresh perspectives and knowledge. That is what is so exciting about getting the chance to show off our project at Maker Faire. We imagine that we’ll be getting a lot of interesting suggestions and feedback, but more importantly, we’re looking forward to getting to see how both kids and adults interact with the prototype and if they are as excited about it as we are.
If people seem excited about the project, we’ll probably run a Kickstarter to get the first run of kits made and in people’s hands. We’ll be keeping our webpage up to date about those plans, lildj.me.
Lil DJ is controlled with a Raspberry Pi.
What are the main components that make it work?
Our first thought was to use Arduino, but we quickly realized that Arduino probably wouldn’t be powerful enough to do all the media-decoding and sound-mixing we need for this project. So, we went with Raspberry Pi. It is such an amazing platform. The interactivity comes from an array of buttons that trigger the loops, rotary encoders for the turntables, and a couple other switches for power and musical genre selection. The software is written in Java, making use of the Pi4J library to communicate with the controls and i/o expanders. The components so far are off-the-shelf purchased from online parts supply stores like Adafruit and Sparkfun. We might end up creating a custom-printed circuit board for the later version of the project, but that’s a ways off yet.
Why did you decide to build Lil DJ?
Jason Keppe, a musician and father, has been kicking this idea around for a while. When his first son was around one year old, Jason was dumbfounded by the dearth of children’s musical toys that actually looked cool and sounded good. He dreamed up the basic vision of Lil DJ: a kinesthetically and aurally engaging toy that would be fun for everybody. Over the years he shared the concept with some people and got encouraging responses, but the idea remained a pipe dream.
One day Jason and David Kesler were at the park with their kids and Jason shared the Lil DJ idea. The idea resonated with David (a musician, composer, and producer) and he helped refine it.
But it wasn’t until Peter Gardner came on board; with his technical know-how, artistic vision, and generous spirit; that we were actually able to create the toy we had envisioned. Peter is an artist and tinkerer who is always looking for fun projects and was particularly keen to do something innovative with the Raspberry Pi.
When the three of us got together and talked about it, we had lots of laughs and synergy. We decided to move forward and really make this project happen.
The cardboard prototype of Lil DJ.
Then David moved out of town and, the creative process being what it is and life being what it is with jobs and kids and distractions, activity on the Lil DJ project lulled for a while.
But a few months ago, Peter breathed new life into the project again and added a badly needed sense of urgency. Peter said we should make a real Lil DJ and that the best way to complete it would be to give ourselves a deadline. So we decided to aim for Maker Faire Bay Area! Peter had been going to Maker Faire for years and had a booth where he taught his popular Glovetopus craft for the last two. He said it was a wonderful experience.
When we signed up for a booth, we didn’t have much to show at all, but we’ve kept at it and we’re going to have at least one playable prototype in time for the Faire.
How do you know each other?
Jason and his family moved in next door to Peter and his wife in April of 2012. Our friendship and creative partnership has been fantastic. We’re both amazed and grateful at what luck we had in the neighbor lottery.
This project has been so enriching, rewarding, and fun. To stick with something from idea to full execution is a great feeling. To do it with good friends and with the hopes of sharing it for others to enjoy is even more awesome. Thank you for giving us this opportunity, Maker Faire, and thanks for talking to us!
As ethereal electronic music plays, and five dancers sway in front of a large screen, their images — or rather, a representation of their images — weave and grow and glow behind them. It’s no mere projection, and it’s not a recording; it’s danceroom Spectroscopy, a projection technology that represents the dancers’ energy using (of course) spectroscopy.
The project’s creators, whose backgrounds range from chemistry to programming to choreography, use a 3D imaging system to capture the dancers’ movement. The result is fed through a computer that simulates the effect of that movement on the nanoparticles — the molecules and atoms in the air — surrounding the dancers, and projects it in real time. It’s not just a pretty picture; it estimates the position and movement of thousands of individual atoms, and tracks the way they interact, as they bounce off each other.
The music, too, is an interpretation of the action of the atoms. The custom software represents their collisions and vibrations as data, and feeds that into music software that represents it audibly so it can be mixed into music.
Imagine the dancers as negative space; they’re these entities in three-dimensional space that are only represented by the air molecules surrounding them. When they move, the molecules are disturbed, and sent skittering into each other. Of course, the camera can’t actually film all that. What it does is film the dancers and simulate it as though they are force fields that the atoms bounce off of — or attract to, forming clouds around the dancers’ bodies.
The whole apparatus is made even more visually interesting by a set of effects that change the way the particles react and interact. Based on custom algorithms, the effects mostly grew out of actual research in molecular physics.
David Glowacki, a chemical physicist, started the project because he wanted a nontechnical way to share his research. But while it’s nice to look at, if you can make it to one of danceroom Spectrocopy’s live events, audience members can actually interact with the installation, dancing and playing with the otherwise invisible microscopic world. And we have just the opportunity for you; Glowacki will be presenting danceroom Spectroscopy at Maker Faire Bay Area on Saturday, May 17.
About 7 years ago I was given the honor of caring for the family violin. What I got was a neck (separated from the body), the body, and one tuning peg. This is an especially sensitive item because the name written on the inside holds the name Stradivarius, and came over with my family from France. Turns out it’s not a Stradivarius, but it’s estimated to be 100 years old. It’s also estimated to have been silent for about 80 years and no living Massie has heard it played
I investigated options to pay to have it repaired back to play grade, repaired enough to be an art piece, or just leaving it as is. It is a family heirloom so lending it out for someone to play was selfishly not attractive. Repairing with current parts would obfuscate what was part of the original and what is new. Finally, leaving busted up was just not cool.
At a later trip to the museum I saw the T-Rex had a bright white resin femur place holder unit they could get a real one. I assumed the stark contrast in color was to not confuse what was original and what was a replacement. I.D. Magazine also had an article some time ago about some Dutch students repairing damaged wood furniture with lime green plastic replacement parts inlaid with the originals.
These use cases inspired me to try replacing the parts in some type of acrylic or pop color plastic replacement.
Copying Remaining Tuning Peg
As a Milwaukee Makerspace member I felt the best solution would be to replace all the missing pieces in 3D prints based off original parts (scanned and/or measured out). I additionally chose white cause it stood out against the dark wood.
I measured out the Tuning Peg by hand, rebuilt in SketchUp and printed to a Makerbot Replicator for first run prototypes.
Scanning Like Pieces
Similar models of the tailpiece and the chin rest were purchased, sanded down, painted a flat brown and then scanned on a 3D scanner.
Once all pieces scans were complete, it was time to bring it all together. This was the easiest part, cause it just involved me handing someone a bag of money. Final edited STL’s were sent off to Shapeways to be printed and once returned all parts were taken to someone to be cleaned, assembled, strung and tuned.
Hang it on the wall
… till later generations wish to play it. Everything that is in place, in plastic, is able to be removed without any impact to the original device. Some day, down the line, we’ll expect to remove the plastic and replace with resonate friendly ebony and natural parts. For now it is an art piece of the visual style.
If you’re interested in more details, or finding the actual STL files for download, check out the blog entry at the Milwaukee Makerspace.
What do you get when you combine a box of sand with a Microsoft Kinect, an overhead projector, and a series of illuminated pucks? The Sand Noise Device (SND), the musical brainchild of a talented team of multimedia graduate students at California State University East Bay. Consisting of Jay Van Dyke, Devin Dominguez, Matt Roads, and James Saxon, the team describes SND as:
The SND is both a complex generative music system as well as a novel and intuitive interface for influencing and interacting with this system. The interface consists of a table height box filled with sand, a Microsoft Kinect (which provides an RGB camera and depth sensing capabilities), an overhead projector, and several internally lit tangible objects. The Kinect is used to track object position, object color, and sand topography. The projector is used to provide visual feedback. Sound is provided by a multi-channel loudspeaker system arranged around the box.
The various parameters that determine the functionality of the SND’s generative music system are influenced by the user’s interactions with the sandscape and provided tangible objects. By manipulating the sand and objects the user is able to influence various aspects of the generative music system.
The SND will be on interactive display at the upcoming Maker Faire Bay Area, taking place May 17 and 18 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds. MAKE videographer Emmanuel Mota recently visited the team to shoot some footage of the SND in action.
We also followed up with the team, fresh back from displaying the SND at Moogfest, to uncover their backstory and learn more. Read on for more details and come play with the SND at Maker Faire Bay Area.
1. How did the idea for the SND and what was your R+D process like?
Our initial plan was to develop a musical interface that was inviting and intuitive for users of all abilities and age levels. We also wanted to give the user the fine-grained level of control, such as one would find in a modular analog synthesizer. Very early on in our development, we decided that sand would be a great medium for control due to people’s familiarity with it as well as its tactile nature.
The original plan for user control was to track gestures and shapes in the sand as well as measure its topography. Our initial implementations and user testing lead us to the conclusion that directly linking the physical configuration of the sand to the instrument’s various sonic parameters results in an underwhelming experience. In order for users to get a satisfying sense of control, we had to exaggerate the sonic changes to a level we all felt was unmusical. By giving too much control to the user we ended up with a system that was neither inviting nor intuitive.
Our next iteration included tracking the location of colored objects in the sand. This gave the users an easy to understand the one-to-one relationship between their physical actions and the sound in a manner similar to a common X/Y pad. While this approach allowed for more intuitive interactions, it wasn’t an engaging enough experience to capture most of our testers’ interest.
Our current design is an attempt to replace direct control with a more indirect system. Instead of providing a sand-based musical controller, we instead decided to design a generative system and provide the user with a way to control its functionality. We used the same color-tracking and topographical mapping approaches as before but instead created a much more autonomous system. We also added a visual feedback component as well as revamping the style of the various physical components. At this stage we feel that we are providing the user with just the correct amount of control for them to find the experience engaging but not so much that they will get frustrated.
2. Who are the team members and what was each person responsible for?
Our team has no defined roles. We meet regularly to decide what needs to be done next and then each of us grabs a piece of it and gets to work. Because no one ever says “no,” leadership changes from task to task and often several times in between. Having said that, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Jay Van Dyke brings a strong sense of focus and organization, not to mention an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Macintosh. Devin Dominguez is the first person to ask in all matters relating to sound design and generation. Matt Roads is usually the one to catch the details and handle logistics, and James Saxon often took point in fabrication.
3. You recently displayed the SND at Moogfest. How was it received?
We had an amazing experience at Moogfest. Being that it was on the other side of the country, it came with some interesting logistical and financial challenges. Once we got there the response was overwhelming. We were asked by Moogfest to set up our project at the opening night VIP party, and it was an immediate hit. When we eventually set it up at our permanent installation location for the weekend, we had a nonstop flow of visitors. Everybody from local Asheville [N.C.] residents just walking down the street to talented electronic musicians, such as Dan Deacon and members of Kraftwerk, were drawn in and seemed to keep coming back. By the end of the festival, we had people telling us that they heard about it on Twitter or Instagram and they just had to come check it out.
4. What inspired you to show the project at Maker Faire Bay Area?
As multimedia graduate students at CSU East Bay, part of our education included attending the 2013 Maker Faire Bay Area. This experience was among the most valuable things we did during our first year in the program. It was really the first opportunity most of us had to see the sort of things we were studying up close. It was a very inspiring experience that helped us and our fellow classmates bridge the mental gap between the skills we had been acquiring and actual real world applications. In addition, one of CSU East Bay’s thesis groups (“Beyond the Water Curtain“) had the opportunity to present their creation at last years Maker Faire, and it provided them with tons of valuable feedback.
5. Are there any developments in the works for the SND? What do you hope to do with it in the future?
The SND has a few potential directions for the future. We’ve been asked by many people about whether the setup is for sale, and we’ve been approached already about buying the entire idea and installation. There are several minor changes that we would like to make based on our experience at Moogfest, but primarily we would like to streamline the setup and calibration process so that it doesn’t require as much time and attention as it currently does. We have contemplated the idea of getting it permanently installed somewhere as part of an interactive exhibit or we could continue to tour it at festivals like Moogfest and Maker Faire. Outside of the SND we all enjoy working together as a unit and would love an opportunity to continue developing interactive art.
Last Friday, four circuit benders descended on the Moog store in Asheville, North Carolina, finalists for the Make-sponsored circuit bending competition. They had done their best to channel the spirit of Bob Moog, the synthesizer pioneer and namesake of Moogfest, where electronic music makers go to party.
The victor, this year, was 23-year-old George Gleixner, a musician and semi-professional circuit bender from Roanoke, Virginia. “I liked the logical layout of the controls, and the quality and variety of the sounds it produces” says Mark Frauenfelder, Make founding editor and one of the judges.
The controls were one of Gleixner’s biggest innovations. He stuck thumbtacks into what had once been the contact points behind a hexagonal keyboard, creating a control panel based on the harmonic table and inspired by MIDI controllers. The instrument also included photocells to run three optic theremins, one controlling pitch, one for feedback and distortion, and one to control key latch and distortion.
“I’d worked on one of these keyboards before, on commission for other people, and I’d really wanted to just build one for myself for years,” says Gleixner. “I just decided to really go all out.”
It didn’t all go smoothly, due in part to the keyboard he found, a cheap Hing Hon EK-001 — “some weird Chinese kind of no-name keyboard that has a bunch of different functions on it” — that helped him stay under the $70 budget dictated by the competition.
“The biggest problem was the fact that it’s a really shoddily built thing,” he says. “There are a lot of terrible solder joints, and it uses incredibly tiny wires — sometimes they’d just be snapping off and stuff like that. So I had to take a lot of time to initially resolder and rewire a lot of things that didn’t look like they’d hold.”
After he stumbled across a circuit bent Furby in 2008, Gleixner began circuit bending. He got into it via a EK-001 he found at Goodwill, and would visit thrift shops looking for more things to bend. It was for his own entertainment at first, but he shortly realized there was a demand for these instruments, when he sold one on Ebay to the band Persephone’s Bees. Commenters on his YouTube channel started asking for them too, and he’s done commissions ever since. The results helped pay for his first car.
Gleixner doesn’t have any formal electronics training. He picked up his skills through experimentation and reading about circuit bending. “It’s really incredibly simple, especially just to start,” he says. “If you’re interested, go find something, take it apart, and start short circuiting it and figuring out where certain sounds are.”