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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: gadget

Drum Machine Ruler

20 centimeters of rhythmic wonder from ::vtol::

If you’ve ever plucked a metal ruler or banged it on the edge of a table, you know the vibrant, heady pulse of its taut rebound. The talented Moscow-based engineer Dmitry Morozov, who goes by ::vtol::, recognized the promise in that boinngggg and automated it. The result, a combination of processing power, two servo motors, and other items, is a programmable drum machine that makes all its sounds with a 20-centimeter metal ruler. This demo video shares some of its sonic and rhythmic potential.

Writes Morozov:

The device is based on the school experience of imitating bass lines at the desk and a fun way to disturb teachers. The instrument can be classified as an automated plucked contrabass monochord. Changing the pitch is done by quickly changing how far the ruler is extended relative to the nut. Movements, plucks and presses of the ruler along the nut are driven by powerful and fast motors, which allows playing pretty fast lines. 2 pressing motors can work simultaneously or selectively, which allows you to choose the register: the range and amplitude of oscillations depends on the place in which the ruler is clamped before the pluck. The sound is picked up by a small piezo element, which is getting hits by a ruler directly (the instrument has no resonator). The instrument is equipped with 12 touch keys, each of which can be reassigned to a specific length of the ruler. A small OLED display is used to select modes, tune notes, and indicate processes and states.

The device is called the RBS-20(cm), which stands for “Ruler bass synth, 20 centimeters.” Video originally posted at vimeo.com. More details at vtol.cc.

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Feedback Light as a Fjærlett

Feather, that is

This beautiful instrument from Norway feeds back through spring reverb, and then lets the player adjust the audio with a 10-band graphic equalizer. It was created by Kristoffer Gard Osen, who is based in Oslo. The resulting sounds range from ethereal drones to industrial clanging, and the drones have a metallic vibe while the clanging has a rich resonance. Which is to say, this instrument isn’t about either/or; it’s about the varieties of sound in between. The name of the instrument is Fjærlett, which apparently is Norwegian for feather, or feathery. Which is to say, as Osen has noted, “You have to play it as light as a feather.” While this video serves as a product announcement by a small, one-person company, I’m sharing it based on the beauty of the sounds made during the performance. (In a June 30th update, Osen wrote that an audio-input jack will be available as an option.)

Video originally posted at youtube.com. More on the Fjærlett at tilde-elektriske.com.

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A Hat for Social Distancing

The Corona Hat from the thrifty and ingenius Håkan Lidbo

The sounds of footsteps, birdsong, and occasional beeps accompany Håkan Lidbo as he walks around Stockholm, Sweden, in this video he posted on May 31. The beeps aren’t a soundtrack, any more than are the other heard elements. The beeps are the result of proximity alerts courtesy of the Corona Hat he’s seen wearing. The hat, Lidbo’s own invention, looks like what might have happened had Devo been given control of the CDC back in January. Costing less than 20 euros, it’s constructed from a parking sensors and a globe. Lidbo has a very specific recommendation for powering it: “rechargeable robot vacuum cleaner batteries.” He notes in the accompanying explanatory text that Sweden has not been enforcing lockdown. The hat appears to be his informed precaution.

Major thanks to Michael Calore of Wired for drawing my attention to the video. I’m sad to say I lost track of Lidbo for more than a decade. According to the disquiet.com archive search, I first wrote about his music back in early 2004, but haven’t since mid-2009. According to the massive navigation at his own website, he’s been up to an enormous amount in the intervening years. Plenty to dig into.

More on the Corona Hat at hakanlidbo.com/coronahat. Video originally posted at youtube.com. Moe from Lidbo at hakanlidbo.com.

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Behind the Machine

Lost in the wires

There haven’t been any Buddha Machine Variations in a few days, but there’s been a lot of activity, some of it futile (thus far), but progress is being made. This is a cable intended to connect the ER-301 module to a 16n faderbank via i2c, a nearly 40-year-old data transfer system (see wikipedia.org). I use the word “intended” because so far the connection is befuddling me.

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Walk Away

Without losing the functionality

Customary rear view of printed circuit board before the device returns to the generous pool of second-hand synthesizer modules. This is the Monome Walk (Monome being the manufacturer, Walk the module), so named because it lets you attach two foot pedals to send triggers and the like. It’s a great module, but I got two smaller modules that accomplish much of what it is useful for, and it’s time for a change.

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