Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jörg made an excellent 'Speaking Object'

Love this: "during my 11 days at STEIM i did a working prototype of the second incarnation of the "speakingObject" (no better title still). it's basically a vocal synthesizer controlled by two buttons and a three axis accelerometer. it works without a computer. the two wires are just power and sound out. the finished object will work on batteries and include an amp plus speaker so there will be no wires at all." More at Jörg's site.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Google wonders if Music Thing is spam...

This arrived this morning from Google:


Your blog at: has been identified as a potential spam blog. To correct this, please request a review by filling out the form at XXXX

Your blog will be deleted within 20 days if it isn't reviewed, and you'll be unable to publish posts during this time. After we receive your request, we'll review your blog and unlock it within two business days. If this blog doesn't belong to you, you don't have to do anything, and any other blogs you may have won't be affected.

We find spam by using an automated classifier. Automatic spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and occasionally a blog like yours is flagged incorrectly. We sincerely apologize for this error. By using this kind of system, however, we can dedicate more storage, bandwidth, and engineering resources to bloggers like you instead of to spammers.

Thank you for your understanding and for your help with our spam-fighting efforts.


The Blogger Team

P.S. Just one more reminder: Unless you request a review, you won't be able to use your blog.

I wonder if it was that post yesterday about ugly guitars, which had a big mass of links saying "Sword guitars, Sword guitars with wings, Gun guitars" etc, all with links back to old stories. It did look a bit spammy when I wrote it - I've now taken it down. Or maybe it's just all the runescape gold comment spammers...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ESP Samurai Kyomoto Special is the ugliest guitar ever made

On Sunday, Music Thing will be four years old, and I've never seen a guitar quite so eye-bendingly ugly as the ESP Samurai Kyomoto Special, built for Masaki Kyomoto, actor/musician star of Cutey Honey and Ai to Yujo no Boogie-woogie ("an entertaining drama that carries a message of hope in the boogie-woogie rhythm to all housewives around the country"). There's a nice shot of Masaki at work here.

PS. If you're wondering what the veiny, blue erect bit is, it's a fully working samurai sword. Good luck getting that through airport security. Anyway, many more gruesome ESP specials at Monmon's Gadgets. (Thanks, Raimon)

Monday, August 18, 2008

eBay of the day: Guitar photocopier

I just wrote a tweet describing a Jeff Beck replica tele as a photocopy. Then I found ebay item 140257976042, which is a real-life guitar photocopier. It's a big welded steel jig, a bit like a pantograph. Drag one arm over the first guitar body, and a router carves its shape into the second wooden blank. No idea if the system is really detailed enough to carve crucial bits like the back of the neck, but it's probably cheaper than a CNC machine, like the one carving a nasty BC Rich clone in this awesome video (with terrible music).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

eBay of the day: Moog Vocoder used by Monty Python

£2,950 gets you eBay item 300219454269 a 1979 Moog vocoder, apparently used by Monty Python on their 'Contractual Obligation' album. The seller promises 'more collectable audio gear from our Monty Python collection'. Somehow, it's not quite as attractive as Kraftwerk's original vocoder, which sold on eBay for $12,500 in 2006.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

KB Covers Logic keyboard shortcuts overlay

Logic Studio is a huge, complicated beast of an application. It has 389 preset keyboard commands/shortcuts, with another 587 commands waiting to be assigned. If there's a nice, neat diagram somewhere in the 1,800 words of printed documentation, I haven't found it yet. (Although Kent Sandvik describes how to print the list out yourself.)
So, on a post-pub whim, I bought a KB Covers Logic Keyboard Cover, which arrived a couple of days ago. It's a printed, embossed latex sheet which slips over the thin aluminium keyboard and shows 130 colour-coded shortcuts.

Good things: It works - the rubber sheet is pefectly moulded, fits very neatly, and comes off easily. Most keys are snug, although the space bar is a bit flappy. The printing is crisp and clear. Most importantly, it's a really useful way to learn Logic. I know that if a command merits a place on the overlay then it's probably useful. I immediately learnt how to zoom around the windows quickly, something I'd looked up in the manual a couple of times without any luck.

Bad things: Yes, it makes your keyboard look and feel almost exactly like the 16k ZX Spectrum I had in 1982. $39 is not cheap (shipping to the UK was a reasonable $8), but this is a specialist product.
I wonder if 70% of the value comes just from having a clear diagram of the most useful shortcuts (which happens to be stuck to your keyboard). I took a high res photo of the overlay with all the commands visible, but decided not to run it, because it felt mean to the company. Is that lame?
Overall: Happy!
UPDATE: The company don't mind, so here's the full sized image of KB Covers Logic overlay with all the commands visible.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Today is 808 day

Yes, it's 8/08/08, so here's an utterly random selection of tributes to the boomingest drum machine in history. Send more! (Above, is Dan McPharlin's 808)

808 State: Olympic (see what I did there?)

The Shape of things that hum 10 minute documentary on the 808 with Arthur Baker, Orbital, Coldcut

Blaque 'Boom like an 808'

Beastie Boys 'Nothing sounds quite like an 808'

Kelis: "I'm back with an 808 'cos I'm bossy"

Geishas with 808s

Felix da Housecat: "808s Give you power"

Sound on Sound's definitive history of the 808

Afrika Bambaata: Planet Rock

808 parts kit All the switches and knobs, including the coloured tap switches, for £99 - could you turn this into an awesome midi controller?

Tape 808: $19 gets you the best 808 sample set ever

Sounds like there's an 808 at the Party in my tummy

The Hobnox AudioTool has a beautiful 808 emulation, right there in Flash

How to make an 808 kick with your mouth. I'm not sure this gentleman has actually ever heard an 808 kick.

Rebirth with an 808, a 909 and two 303s, is free

Talking Heads: Psycho Killer live - the acoustic guitar / 808 version from Stop Making Sense...

(Inspired by Experimentalists Anonymous)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Red hot Chemical Brothers live gear porn

Ben from Galactic writes "my band played a show with Chemical Brothers, and I took some shots of the gear".

And here they are (click on the pics for big versions). Nice to see them keeping it old-school, with a very battered MPC3000, a knackered Octave Cat, two Akai S5000 samplers (complete with Zip Drive!), and everything covered in little coloured stickers so they know what to do.
It's a very long way from Daft Punk's Pyramid, which contains almost nothing but computers, controllers and copies of Ableton Live. There's another shot here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Music Thing (and the other gear blogs) on Twitter

Trying to keep Music Thing a bit more active, I've just added a sidebar from Music Thing on Twitter, which will hopefully be a feed of good quick links. You can always use the RSS if you don't want to get into Twitter. Anyway, just as I was fiddling with the sidebar, Peter at Create Digital Music, Chris at Analog Industries, and Oliver at Wire to the Ear all wrote about Twitter and started posting there. Their twitter accounts: Peter, Chris, Oliver. While we're on the subject of ultra late adoption of social apps, I'm looking for chums with good taste in music...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cute hardware upgrade for BC16 synth

Here's a tiny patchable inverter accessory for the Chimera BC16 mini synth "a little PCB (postage stamp) with four wires hanging out of it (the whole package is heatshrunk into a clear sleeve) - it's purpose is to 'invert' any control signal used on the bC16". Being sent out free to all BC16 owners(mine hasn't arrived yet).
UPDATE: It arrived! It's cute! Haven't tried it out yet...

Six-output pickups for stereo guitars

Paul writes: "I'm making some guitar pickups to sell that have a separate output for each string. These can be wired to 6 jacks, or to pan pots to a pair of jacks, or to a 7 pin out to a breakout box that has whatever configuration you want, etc. I installed one in an 80s Korean Squier to test it out, with pans to two jacks for stereo. Paul is the man who teaches NYC schoolkids to build guitars and oscillators and jam. Six-way guitar pickups aren't new, of course. Aside from all those midi hexaphonic pickups, Eddie Van Halen had a bonkers Kramer with pannable outputs. If you want one of Paul's pickups, they're $110 from paul at ubertar dot com.
UPDATE: A couple of mp3 demos, best heard on headphones: Hexaphonic 1 Hexaphonic 2.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Audio Damage Automaton: 'Game of Life' vs glitch

This video makes me smile whenever I watch it. It's so clever, and so bonkers, and so much more fun than almost any other plugin I've seen. It's the first look at Automaton, the new thing from Audio Damage - a glitch/buffer override effects unit controlled by cellular automata a bit like Conway's Game of Life. Since starting again with Logic, the only 3rd party plugins I've used have been from Audio Damage, because they look incredible and sound right. If Automaton is getting you interested in Cellular Automata, you'll enjoy this clip of game of life running on a half-built Monome.

eBay of the day: Anorectal Transducer. Yes, it's what you're thinking. Yes, it's used.

Noooooooooo! eBay item 380050845372 is a B&K Type 1850 Anorectal ultrasound transducer. Yes, you put it there, connect it to an ultrasound machine, and it produces awesome 3D images. The auction contains the unforgettable lines: "Comes in nice wood box. Came from working environment." Noooooooooo!32 I'm assuming that one of you dear readers has $2,499 to drop on this, and plans to connect it to Max/MSP and create the most terrifying musical instrument in history... (Thanks, Paul)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Just Blaze really, really hates the Akai MPC5000

Just Blaze delivers a funny, geek-tastic and devastating 2,700 word demolition of the the new Akai MPC5000 on his blog: "I don’t know if this is a drive format issue, a drive content issue, or bad OS programming that makes your unit sh*t itself, wipe, get a diaper, and pop 2 Immodium AD’s and then say 'Okay I’ll give it a shot'"
He says that someone from Akai called him offering an endorsement deal. He never got back to them, but bought an MPC5000 on impulse, and is now livid: "I may have generated a few million dollars in my career, and the cash spent does not hurt me financially, but that doesn’t mean I have money to burn at the expense of bad engineering and a tad of false advertising. I feel just as burnt as the dude who busts his back at a 9-5 just to save up enough money to go out and buy a piece of gear to pursue his dream, only to not have it work as it should." Not a good day to be an exec at Akai/Numark/Alesis Inc... (Thanks, Anonymous)

Incredible Japanese paper-powered minature pipe organ kit

You may have heard about the Japanese magazine Science for Adults (Otonanokagaku), which recently came with a $30 analog synth kit. I'm now completely in love with the magazine, whose Japanese only website is full of wonders. There's a great little pipe organ - be sure to watch the video at the bottom of the page. The magazine itself looks great - page after page of stuff about organs, waveforms, and building the kit (you can even download extra punch cards). Admittedly it's not quite as elegant as this all-paper pipe organ, but it looks a bit more practical.

Gakken, their parent company, also produce many other great things, including these awesome electronics kits, which look like EMS synths.

(Thanks, Paul)