and ) : C

Sunday, December 31, 2006

eBay of the day: Disposable Pop Song

eBay item #270072387882 is a wooden and glass cannister with a circuit board inside and a speaker on top: "on turning a knob it dispenses an original pop song... After about four plays the song degenerates into noise, thus rendering the whole (song) contraption useless." Created by Yashas Shetty, an artist from Bangalore, India. 24 hours to go, it's currently just Rs 1250 ($25). (Thanks, Indira, via )

Saturday, December 30, 2006

How to play music with barbed wire and chainsaws

Jon Rose is an Australian violinist/artist/composer who has done many cool things. here (QT link) is a clip of him playing barbed wire with a violin bow: "One aspect of the barbed wire fence that appeals to me is that it becomes very clear where the notes are - if you miss'em it's quite painful. Also the scale articulated by the barbs is extremely unorthodox and about as far as you can get from the equal tempered scale upon which most western music is played. But the tyranny of the equal tempered scale is not a subject upon which we should dwell in the middle of an Australian desert.".
And here he is conducting an orchestra made up of violinists, a drummer, a pianist and several chainsaw players. There's a lot more interesting stuff, including a MIDI bow being demonstrated on daytime TV, at this page. (Thanks Sam)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Akai MPC1000 now really does play Pong

Now we can all play Pong with Philip Glass piano samples. JJ - the mysterious Japanese hacker who has re-written the operating system for the Akai MPC1000 - has had a super productive xmas. After fixing the file system (Akai left a bug which caused nasty file problems), adding a features from the more expensive MPC2500, and all new stuff like proper visual MIDI editing, he's started having fun. This video (my first on YouTube!) shows the custom loading screen and the long promised but not quite delivered Pong, which triggers samples of your choice (it also does something over MIDI, but I'm not sure what). If you have an MPC1000, you can get the $30 upgrade here. If you don't have an MPC1000, you can buy one here.
Previous MPC video action here and here .

Korg MS20 number 1 is on sale in Japan

I've covered the legendary Japanese synth shop Five G in the past, but Steven writes to point out that on this page they're selling an MS20 with the serial number '1' for ¥207,900 ($1,700). They seem to sell a lot of MS20s, usually for a hardly any more reasonable ¥98k ($825). If you're in the area, could you sneak in and get us a picture of the serial number?

It's... just like... painting with sound

Visual Acoustics is an nice online sound toy (or "Concept for interactive expression") - click, drag, it's fun. The software is by Alex Lampe, but the unfortunate words come from Lewis Moberly, a beyond-parody naming consultancy ("We created 'Ride the Tiger' for the Human Resources Programme at Novartis Consumer Health. Challenging and evocative, it commands attention in a multi-national institution") (Thanks Scott)

Beat-making with Ali-G

Brandon writes: "I know you must get a lot of emails linking to "How to make beats on the MPC" videos, but as an American, after watching Making a club beat on the MPC4000 I finally realize that some people in the UK actually do talk like Ali G." Seems to come from an organisation called Creative Mindsuk, who have a half-finished website: "C.M also offer services ‘for hire’...Promotional Flyering/ leafleting, Brand representation (in person or via modelled photos),Street-bookings ... Once you are happy with the proposal & allocated provisions, you will be invoiced and hey presto… your good to go…"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Music geek fun with Google Patents Search

Last week Google introduced their Patent Search site, which searches patents going back hundreds of years. What could be more fun? Here is Bob Moog's patent for the Moog 'ladder' Filter, filed in 1966 and granted in 1969. This seems to be John M Chowning's patent for FM synthesis, which earned $20m for Stanford when Yamaha licensed it for the DX7. Here is Leon Theremin's 1925 patent for the Theremin. Here is Leo Fender's pickup patent from 1944 (here is Les Paul's). Here is the Synthaxe, here is the Fender Jaguar Jazzmaster, from 1959. Here is a fantastically cool 'Electric Self-Playing Violin' from 1905, and here is Anacleto Montanelli's Electrical Musical Instrument from 1893. Here is the Rhodes piano from 1964... and so on. Anyone found anything cool?
UPDATE: Rather than randomly putting words into Google, Don Tillman has actually researched this stuff. Here are his surveys of patents from: Moog, ARP and Mellotron/Birotron.

UPDATE 2: Casionova claims to have found the patent for the Demo Button, although I'm sure they had them before 1986. He also found this super-awesome Casio electric harmonica ("a main body having a plurality of ducts").
UPDATE 3: Eddie has found this 'Electronic Percussion Musical Instrument' designed by Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter from Kraftwerk in 1975 (it's only an 'ornamental design' though).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Chad & Pharrell on how to spend $10k on music gear

Here is a nice clip of Chad Hugo & Pharrell Williams from the Neptunes talking about how to get started in music with 'only' $10,000. Their advice: Piano lessons, a ProTools rig and learning to DJ. Obviously, there are cheaper ways to start - like build a studio for $27 or $500 (Warning! Old, dusty links...)
More Neptunes on YouTube: Here is Chad showing you round his studio (Andromeda, Voyager, MicroKorg, and what might be a little Doepfer modular?) Here is Pharrell & Justin Timberlake's studio samba school. Here is a long, rambling studio session with Pharrel, a bored singer and a really irritating cameraman.

Like Waynes' World, but with synth geeks

Here is a video showing the good folk of Gearwire comparing an Roland SH-101 (cheap, plastic, classic collectable) with a Roland SH-201 (cheap, plastic, plain ugly). The good folk of EM411 have been having some fun with memorable phrases from the clip like: "And then you have yer pulsewidth.. it's.. how many times it.. goes back and forth" and "All this other stuff is affecting the signal to make this the same." More rockin' Gearwire action here and here. (Thanks Steve, and astroid)

The Walkman that makes music from sounds around you

Noah Vawtner is a junior Music Thing hero. He was part of the team who created the Chiclet DSP synth, the PSP Kick drum machine and other cool stuff like the 1 Bit Groove Box. He's just finishing his masters at MIT, and his thesis project was Ambient Addition, a Walkman-sized box with headphones and a microphone. It takes the sound from the microphone and turns it into (roughly) music - putting all the background noise through a vocoder/resonator which is running a chord sequence, and sampling and looping percussive sounds to make drum tracks. Yes, you have to watch the video to make much sense of it, but it's a fantastic idea. (thanks Brian)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Keith Harding's World of Mechanical Music

Jon writes: "Hi Tom. The other day, my girlfriend came home with a leaflet for 'Keith Harding's World of Mechanical Music'

She knows me too well. We went on a trip to Northleach in the Cotswolds to have a look yesterday. I tell you, this place is fantastic!

Along with the little gift shop, there's a museum packed to the ceiling with all sorts of goodies. They do a tour for £6.50 which lasts an hour and is well worth the trip.

I've got a bit of a thing for music boxes, and there are more here than you can shake a stick at, along with huge beasts from German beer halls and all sorts. We even got to listen to a Steinway player piano, playing Wagner recorded by Rachmaninov. I was like a kid in a sweet shop, and didn't ask half the questions (or take half the photos) I should have, as I was a little bit in awe!.

Highlights include the Midi pipe organ, an early cylinder music box, an Ariston disc-playing symphonium, and the original disc created for the 'Labyrinth' soundtrack, recorded for the film on a player borrowed from the museum.

You've got to go, you'll love it (probably)!

Guy with no arms plays the guitar

Can't argue with this, can you? And here is the one-armed guy from Def Leppard explaining how he plays the drums (warning: blurry) Meanwhile, here is the endlessly clever Michel Gondry doing a foot-related trick with a Rubiks' cube.
UPDATE: It looks like the guitarist is Mark Goffeney, bassist & singer with Big Toe, who are - by all accounts - excellent. (thanks Rob)

Monday, December 11, 2006

December... Time for Moog new product speculation

Good old Amos - he's the Moog tech support guy (and robot builder and musician) who first mentioned the Little Phatty on a message board. Now, in this interview on an official Moog website, he says:

What’s the most frequently asked question you get from users? “What MoogerFoogers do I need to make my guitar sound like a synthesizer?”

And the answer is… The answer is not any of our current ones, exactly, but we are working on some surprises in that regard...

Is there anything you can tell us about Moog’s next product? I can say it will defy expectations. It will be the most daring and boundary-defying Moog product to date!

What do you think? Moog fuzzbox/filter/envelope follower? Moog hexaphonic fuzz pickup with six-way polyphonic analog filters? A fantastically complicated, expensive and company-bankrupting guitar effect system like the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli (more) or the Arp Avatar? Something completely different? Maybe we'll find out at NAMM in January. (Thanks for the tips, John, get well soon!) (Image from alt-mode)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dude builds guitar from Wacom tablet

Really nothing to add. It's an old but amazing video of Jon Cambeul's 'Speech Guitar' - basically a Wacom pad and a Max/MSP patch. Here is a nice shot of Jon busking at the Futuresonic festival in Manchester. (Thanks again to Steven, genius of Max geeking)

Not eBay of the day: Peter Tosh's M-16 Guitar

YardFlex reports on the strange story of Peter Tosh's M-16 shaped guitar (which I wrote about here and here). The guitar was due to be sold (for charity) on eBay on Dec 3rd. News of the auction stirred up some legal claims in Jamaica (Peter had 10 children and his mother is still alive), and the auction has been cancelled. In this wonderful post, Peter's former manager Copeland Forbes tells the full story of the M-16 guitar, how it was made by a young fan, how buying a case for it was a pain, how it was lost in Germany, then found after an appeal in Der Spiegel, and how it was played a the biggest concert ever in Swaziland.
Anyway, if you're a disappointed potential bidder, there's always item 120062795791, which is still 99p (plus £35 shipping) with only a day to go.

Is my gear hot or not?

The splendid noise website NoiseFX is running an excellent Kewl Gear Contest, which is simply 'Hot or Not' for pictures of pedal chains. It's hypnotic! (Thanks Cementimental)

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Gordon Brown says 'Mashups are the future'

In his big annual speech today, Gordon Brown, the UK chancellor, said that he wants to spend lots of money catching music and film pirates (who, in the UK, can't be penalised if they sell DVDs with hand-written labels. Only people who photocopy the covers can get in trouble). However, he also said that he wants to make it easier to produce 'transformative works' - i.e. bootlegs and mashups, like the Gray Album, The Avalanches original Gimix, A Night at the Hip-Hopera, and my personal highbrow favourite Glassbreaks. The Times says: "The report suggests that exemptions to copyright law should be allowed for “transformative works”. This would permit the use of copyright material in new and creative ways, so long as it did not detract from the value of that material or offend artistic integrity. It calls on the EU to amend the law to allow for that exception. It would allow “rappers” and other creators to rework old material." (These ideas come from the Gower Report Gowers Review, which Gordon seems to be endorsing)

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The greatest eBay category in the world, ever!

Of all the categories in all the eBays across the world, surely there's no finer category than 'Analoge Instrumente' on German eBay. It's a treasure trove of goodness, like item #160059220196 - this beautiful Mini Pops preset drum machine, made in 1969 by Keio Electronic Lab, which became Korg. Used by Jean Michelle Jarre (not this actual one) and yours for €99.
Elsewhere in 'Analoge Instrumente' right now, item 300055121568 is a great looking bit of weirdo vintage lab/music gear. It looks to me like a delay/reverb, but the seller says it works best as a fuzz box on his Moog. And item 250057054580 is a breathtakingly awesome-looking CRB Computer Band - which seems to be an old drum machine covered in buttons and switches, with two octave keyboard. Sort of like a MonoMachine. There's boards to build a 303 clone, leaflets about Theremins from 1930s Berlin, a super-rare MC-8 Microcomposer... Why can't every eBay category be like this?

Creepy guitar made from the body of a teenage girl

The Teenar was a 1986 art project by Lou Reimuller (yes, that's him in the middle picture). It's made from a vintage shop window dummy. Previous creepy, slightly NSFW guitars here and here. .. (Thanks to Boing Boing, and whoever sent this to me yesterday - I deleted your post because I saw 'Teenar' in the subject line and thought it was spam...)

Sunday, December 3, 2006

36 playable demos of vintage drum machines

Here's an old but wonderful link. Luke writes: "Hello! Look at this! It's cool! I just found this awesome web page full of virtual drum machines, thought you'd like to check it out." Alongside all the funky preset drum machines, Joseph Rivers' fantastic Keyboard Museum site is full of wonderful things. On that same page is a virtual Bee Gees Rhythm Machine, and here is a fantastic Flash explanation of how a vocoder works, complete with demos of different vocoders. Joseph, we salute you! (Thanks also to Viv and Ian and all the other people who've sent this in over the years...)

Nels Cline has a fuzzbox, and he's going to use it

John writes: "Have you ever featured
page? Nels is now the guitar player in Wilco. Nice shot of his pedals, and
a full description of what they do."
Nels' commentary is great: "The 80s were a dark time for a young person looking to get that nasal fuzz sound... Everything was all creamy, soaring... Dare I say it, MIDI-controlled, pre-fab hell." Scroll down for the splendid 'Amp Du Jour' tour/tech diary.