Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A giant spectrum analyser to stick on your wall (Just €6,000)

This is 'On', an "electronic dynamic luminous sculpture-picture created by Jean Octobon." It's 1.5m x 1m, 8 bands and €6,000, although Jean can take commissions for models with up to 32 tracks. Cool people, I suspect, will stick to analysers that use water or fire ... (Thanks, FMass)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Nullsleep's gameboy busking in NYC

The always-entertaining Palm Sounds links to this wonderful video of Nullsleep playing live at the corner of Church and White in NYC. Of course, the Japanese do it a little bit bigger (More Japanese chiptune busking). Rather less epic, but quite charming, is this Ukulele and Gameboy Jam.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Human Piano. Not entirely a piano, but played through a human mixer nevertheless

Here's a video from Force Theory Productions, an arty outfit who have invented the Human Piano, seen in the clip. I couldn't quite work it out, so I asked them what's going on. Michael wrote back: "The idea is that sound through wire is low level electricty. That electricity can easily pass through human bodies. It works by taking a sounce [in this case several iPods] and having the outputs go into a large copper pipe. Whatever sound is being played out of the ipod is now in the pipes. Then someone grabs firmly onto the pipe (as how hard you grab will effect conductivity and therefore loudness). The sound is now in the person. On the other side of it, I have a tight copper pinky ring that has a wire attached to it. The wire goes to a mixer and to the speakers. Once I grab someones hand, the sound goes:

iPod → Copper Bar → Human → Me → Mixer → Speaker

"Polyphony is just touching more than one source imput at a time. The sound mixes inside me. The grand idea is to have a 16 person piano and play a piece just composed for the human piano in public at some point."

eBay of the day: MODboard onboard analog delay circuit

I love this. eBay item 180141928515 is a MODboard onboard analog delay circuit - a little board, powered by a 9v battery, which can fit into the cavity on your guitar. You can then add a couple of knobs (or use those stacked pots) and have live tweak-a-tron delay right in your guitar. It's also cheap - the full kit, including the board, push-pull pot, battery lead etc - is just $51.95. If I was a soldering minded chap, I'd put one of these into a project guitar and mount a little analog joystick to control delay time and feedback. Even if you're not a guitarist, this could be good for all manner of circuit bending fun. I wonder if I could fit one in my Synth II?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

When a cat pees in your microphone

Here's what happened when MT reader J_Chot didn't put his microphone away properly. Does make me wonder about the state of his house... (via em411)

Monday, July 23, 2007

10 MORE greatest beat making videos ever*

Previously: 10 greatest beat making videos ever | Hip Hop producers on YouTube | All MPC coverage

1. Anchorsong 'Breathe Breathe Me' The Japanese producer and star of Pt 1 takes it fairly comprehensively to the next level by appearing live with MPC2500, Korg Triton and live string quartet in this clip, and also the blip-tastic No Virus, No Fever. Somehow a lot more appealing than Just Blaze doing a Nike Ad and re-recording the whole thing to avoid paying royalties to some orchestra.

2. DiViNCi's MPC guitar solo Bearded gent plays a Hendrix-esqe solo using a MPC2000XL, a loop of a snare sample and a wah pedal. Awesome.

3. Pushing Buttons DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist and DJ Numark playing two MPC2000s and one MPC3000. Keep watching until you get to the chin solo at 4:10.

4. Aswell live Very simple over-the-head clip of live jamming on a well-used MPC2000XL.

5. This dog can use an MPC60 And his beats are better than mine.

6. Building a beat on the SP-404 Proving you don't need an MPC, a Scottish lad cuts up Simon and Garfunkel on the flashing light-covered SP-404.

7. damuthefudgemunk Not really much to watch, just a MPC2000, a finger and a nodding cameraman, but this guy makes wonderful '90s hiphop.

8. O.S.T.R 'O robieniu bitow' Polish nerdcore rap about floppy discs, MPC60s and a Novation K-Station."

9. Le MPC deux mille featured on 'Street Smart Cool Cat', the web tv show for le french teens.

10. Beat Kings Prince Paul, Marley Marl and DJ Premier talk about the early days of sampling.

Bonus: Cut Chemist goes record shopping "If you want to pick a good drum break, pick a nice Humble Pie record."

Bonus #2: Strange redneck guy shares thoughts on MPC programming: 'That's some kind of talent.'

*Or, you know, today. (Thanks again to the wondeful 16pads for links)

Now you can play your hemp guitar through hemp speakers in a hemp cabinet

This is The Fatty, a speaker cabinet built from hemp board, covered in bamboo, and loaded with hemp-coned speakers. Yours for an eye-watering $1,499. Perfectly matched with the Hemp Guitar I wrote about a few months back. The cabinet is made by Hard Truckers, who used to run the Grateful Dead's sound system and now produce very expensive gear, including gruesome tie-dyed speaker grills. Damn, these baby boomers have a lot of money.

Oliver Sacks on music, the mind and musicophilia

Neurologist Oliver Sacks new book (out October) Musicophilia is about music and the mind. He's written a great introduction in this week's New Yorker, telling stories of people who became obsessed with listening to and playing music after some mental or neurological trauma: "In 1994, when Tony Cicoria was forty-two... he was struck by lightning. He had an out-of-body experience. 'I saw my own body on the ground. I said to myself, 'Oh shit, I’m dead.' …Then—slam! I was back'... Life had returned to normal, seemingly, when 'suddenly over two or three days, there was this insatiable desire to listen to piano music.' This was completely out of keeping with anything in his past. He started to teach himself to play piano. And then, he started to hear music in his head. In the third month after being struck, Cicoria was inspired, even possessed, by music, and scarcely had time for anything else." There's also an audio piece with Sacks talking about music and the mind.
ps: While you're at the New Yorker site, you might also enjoy this video of Malcolm Gladwell talking about Platinum Blue's hit prediction software.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Not the new Nord Modular G2 from Clavia

Oh, if only. These are a pair of genius photoshop mockups (by Crystalmsc on the VSE forum) of long-awaited-but-non-existent new products from Clavia. On the right, the Micromodular G2. The original Nord Modular from 1998 came in three flavours - one with a cute two-octave keyboard (also available in lego), a rack with knobs and a display and the micro modular - an almost stomp-box sized unit with four knobs, which was pretty cheap at launch and now sells on eBay for about $300. Then the G2 Modular arrived in 2004 with two wondeful but expensive keyboard versions and the G2 Engine - a faceless 1U rack. So, what everyone really wants is the G2 Micromodular, which would look exactly like the unit above and cost about $700. Crystalmsc also imagines an unbearably cute 2 octave keyboard version, with an x-y pad. What I'd really like to see is a G2 Stompbox: A metal box, a big on-off switch, a few knobs and a 8-way program switch, into which you could download your own effects units using the genius editor software (which you can try out in the free, monophonic G2 Demo). Anyway, none of these products are ever going to appear, because Clavia are making too much money selling stage pianos and organs to worry about us synth geeks...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hot, expensive, pointless tape echo from Blue Coconut

Why, why, why? You could buy whole stack of old Space Echoes for the £1,800 price of the new Blue Coconut Echo Verb - a modernised tape echo which, rather pointlessly, tries to eradicate the noise and wobbly-ness of vintage gear. For less cash (although still more than vintage) you can buy the $559 HiWatt custom tape echo, which is small, modern and kind of cool looking. If you're willing to put up with digital, the $249 Boss RE-20 pedal looks fantastic... (via Ben and SoS)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tom from BugBrand reclines in his studio

I'm loving this Flickr set of Tom from BugBrand in his workshop in Bristol, building some of his many fantastic music gadgets. (pics by Arun Christian Lucas for Dazed & Confused, via the excellent Sendling)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Headless custom-made android plays Guitar Hero

Guitar Heronoid is a project to build a robot (of sorts - one moving thumb and four moving fingers) which can watch TV and play guitar hero. And, to save you the effort in the comments, here's the link to Captured! By Robots, the all-robot band... (via N.E.R.D)

eBay of the day: Cross-stitch your own musical robot...

...that's the promise of eBay item #300118731239. Unfortunately it's just a pattern snipped out of an old magazine, but if you do buy and build this, please send a picture...

Ciat-Lonbarde: Crazy guitar vs oscillator vs synth

Here's the hot new thing from Peter Blasser, aka Ciat Lonbarde: The Namastitar is a three-string guitar with brass frets that are wired into the synth circuit. The page has sound samples which are pretty much what you'd expect, to be honest. Yours for $520, custom built. Peter is the crazed genius behind the worm-powered synth and many other strange inventions. He also offers a range of paper circuits - circuit diagrams and schematics on one sheet for you to print, etch and build - CemenTIMmental explains: "You don't have to etch the paper circuits, that's the whole point... you just print them out, stick on card and push the legs of the components thru in the right place and solder together on the other side."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Excellent free geek wallpaper by James Joyce

MT reader Daniel Pemberton (of TV theme fame) has a great new album out, with a geek-tastic cover illustration by James Joyce. James' site has a couple of nice free desktop wallpapers involving reel-to-reels, vintage synths, spectrum analysers and such. He should collaborate with cardboard synth man Dan McPharlin, I think.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Stienway's one-off double-keyboard piano

The NY Times have interesting feature about a Steinway piano built in the late '20s with two keyboards and four pedals (but just one set of strings and hammers). The upper keyboard runs an octave higher than the lower (and pulls the keys of the lower 'board down, like on a player piano). The mechanism was devised by Hungarian inventor Emanuel Moor - about 60 Moor pianos were made by Bösendorfer, but this is the only Steinway. There's a nice video, with a chap using the piano to play the Goldberg Variations - composed for a double-manual harpsichord. (Thanks, Ben)

Letter from Puerto Rico

Pachy writes with flattery: "Hey hey! Just a musician writting from Puerto Rico to let you guys know how musically informed we are because of the Music Thing web page. Its a really good source for further inspiration in seeking for new sounds and musical experiences. Over here in the tropics live a lot of good musicians with awesome ideas, good dedication, but the whole island is in a whole other musical tour. Too much reggaeton took over the island. So, since mt keeps us well on track, and since you guys are music lovers just like us, I just though I could send you links on bands you should hear that are being cooked here:" Pachy recommends (apologies for the MySpace links):


hE (human error)

Go Organ!


Discuss (pictured)

More super-hot schoolkid-built DIY electric guitars

Remember Paul's guitar-building project in NYC High Schools from last year? He's back: "Another school year has come and gone, and this time we focused a lot more on the look of the guitars. The kids spent a lot of time designing, making and painting the bodies. There's one shaped like Barbados, a star, a spider, a heart, two spongebobs, and lots of other shapes. And as always, the guitars sound great! A lot of the music we recorded was lost in a hard drive crash, but some of what survived is in the background of the slide show. You can see: The kids making the guitars and winding their own pickups, the guitars as they're almost done, and some of the amplifiers and kids making square wave oscillators and more of the guitar building process." Once again, the music is awesome, as are the guitars. It's a great project, which is always looking for funding and help: If you have tools, materials or cash, contact paul [at] ubertar.com. (When he's not teaching, Paul builds his own crazy-ass experimental instruments.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Piece on 'Get rich blogging' in The Times today

Regular readers might enjoy this piece I wrote for the Times today, containing the full sorry story of the Music Thing shop... (I also did 'Ten ways to get rich blogging')

Monday, July 9, 2007

Probably the strangest music videos you will ever see

Remember Godfried Willem-Raes, star of Peter's wonderful GW-R Week some time ago? Godfried is still going strong. He recently discovered YouTube, posting up numerous amazing videos. The awesome clip above shows Godfried and a friend playing QT, his automatic circular pipe organ using Picradar movement-to-midi system (contains full frontal male and female nudity, BTW). Then there's the sensopole, which is absolutely the most unlikely combination of art, music and full-nude pole dancing you'll see this week.

What are Daft Punk actually playing inside their pyramid?

Tom writes to direct us towards the Erol Alkan forum for the first pictures I've seen of the inside of Daft Punk's pyramid. I'd always assumed they were using two laptops running Ableton and/or Google Mail and/or Linerider, but their setup is wonderfully (and predictably) cool and eccentric: It looks like: 4 x Moog Voyager racks, 2 x Behringer BCR2000 controllers, and possibly 2 x Lemur controllers in the middle (DP endorse the Lemur). Presumably there's also some computers somewhere, but there don't seem to be any keyboards involved at all.
Ps: Daft Punk? 290,000 views and counting...
UPDATE: Seems my alma mater Mixmag have captured a better shot of inside the Daft Punk pyramid, together with some words from Guy & Thomas.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Nice, unexpected Q&A with Steve Albini on a poker website

Rachel writes: "This is a link to Steve Albini answering all manner of blunt questions on the 2+2 poker forum. Why? I dunno. Fake? I dunno. Awesome? Yes." One commenter does point out that Steve already has a very active forum at his Electrical Audio site. Of course, the finest Albini text is his wonderful The Problem with Music, which you've probably already read.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Complete build your own guitar kits for £65

There's something appealing about The Music King's Build your own guitar kits which sell from £65 for a Strat copy to £89 for a Les Paul. You get all the components and hardware, with shaped but raw bodies and necks. I'm sure the quality isn't great - you're probably buying a cheap Chinese made guitar in pieces - but it would be a fun project. Brandoni sell rather superior kits at around £200, although the kings of self-assembly guitar kits are Warmoth, whose gallery shows just how far you can go wrong with this kind of thing. If you're looking for inspiration, WD Music have a fun but slightly clunky virtual guitar custom shop.

Dude releases his new album on a NES cartridge

Matthieu writes to let me know about chiptune musician Alex Mauer's new album Vegavox, which is available now as a €22 NES cartridge, which seems like a very neat way to get around the bootleggers. I'm no chiptune connoisseur, but the video preview looks good. Previously, Alex built this incredible looking Lego Janko-format keyboard (more on Janko here)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Who the hell is Robert Schroder, and why would I spend €850 on a cardboard model of his studio?

Thanks to the always wonderful Matrix Synth for alerting me to Robert Schroder, some kind of German new-age synth pioneer guy. On his website, he sells a kit to make a 1/10th scale model of his studio (Atari ST, Roland XP-60 workstation from 1998, old Tascam desk, antique Sony F1 betamax audio recorder). Each item is sold separately, as a flat piece of card. You have to cut it out, fold it, and glue it yourself. If you bought the full studio, it would cost €281.50. He'll cut them out for you, if you're willing to pay around €500.
By comparison: here is a completely free papercraft Moog Modular, here is a pre-cut, pre-scored Arp 2600 for €15. Then, of course, is the mind-bogglingly beautiful and awesome work of Daniel McPharlin, who builds beautiful little cardboard synths and sells them (very quickly) for €60-80. (via Matrix Synth)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Ten entertaining videos about Max/MSP

The problem with writing this blog is that people think I am the geekiest man in the world. Fortunately, I know I'm not, because I don't know Max:

1. Scratch monkey This guy has set up a patch (using Miss Pinky) which lets him scratch his own voice, live, using real vinyl records. Does it work? Well, watch the video. You won't forget it.

2. SP-1200 Video Guy turns his classic SP-1200 sampler/drum machine into a video sequencer.

3. Jamie Liddell talking about Max Uniquely, he's using it to make music with both a beat and a tune

4. Sexy Lemur+Max drum sequencer patch When big Mac screens all go multi-touch, we'll all be able to do this...

5. Gamepad-controlled breakcore Just a little bit like Jones in Nathan Barley.

6. Controlling sound using RFID tags Well, yes, that works...

7. Dude with saxophone and twitchy arm Again, does this sound familiar? (Thanks, Steven)

8. Guitar Zeros Nice profile of the band who use Guitar Hero 2 controllers and Max to play live (Contains the excellent phrase "I tweaked out really hard") Here's how to do it yourself.

9. Printball Not actually music, but it uses Max to control a robotic paintball gun which works as a big, slow, noisy, cool injet printer.

10. Paris Hilton Remixed Not her album, but her more famous pr0n video remixed with Max (video pretty much SFW, but turn down your speakers. You've done that already, right?)

Alternatively, for snark-free videos Cycling 74 have a big collection.