and ) : C

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An incredible multi-touch controller - ghetto style

If you've lusted over the Lemur, but you can't afford it, and you're not Bjork, so you can't get hold of a ReacTable, help is around the corner. This is an amazing video of the Multi Touch Console in action a some supergeek conference - it was also at the Superbooth at MusikMesse this year. It's an open source design, put together by designers/programmers in Berlin. It runs on a cheap PC, a bog standard projector, an OEM camera, some wood, some reinforced glass, some lights and a projector screen. The software is free. See it for real at the next Dorkbot London.
UPDATE: Always the first at the party, Microsoft have now annouced 'Surface', a clone of this product (and ReacTable). It will cost $5-10,000 and comes complete has the lamest sequence of product videos you'll ever see.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jamming with a 150 year-old Helmholtz siren (and other vintage sirens)

Bram writes to direct me towards this wonderful, strange and geeky clip of a Helmholtz Double Siren in action - it's a little wood and brass gadget powered by compressed air, which was used by Hermann von Helmholtz in the 1860s while he was researching is interesting-sounding book 'On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music' It comes across half way between Goodiepal and this guy.
Incidentally, there's quite a thriving community of people who collect and restore vintage police/fire sirens - There's Siren Man (warning, some pages play sound files), who sells police sirens for up to $750, and here's a great feature about the scene by Michael Lamm: "I felt as though I could reach out and touch the sound, or lean on it or even sit on it, maybe even pick it up with a shovel or swim in it."

Finally, here's the genius of Bill Bailey on Foreign Police Sirens.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Five incredibly vile pianos worth $1.2m

Through some unfortunate twist of fate, many of the world's most unpleasant-looking pianos are simultaneously for sale on eBay US:

1) Swarovski Bosendorfer - $750,000 Here's an idea. Take a fantastic piano. Cover it in silver spray paint. Attach fake jewels. Attempt to sell for three quarters of a million dollars.

2) Hand Painted Kawai Grand - $19,500 Got a piano? Got a crazy wife with a paintbrush? Got a divorce? The description says: "All the work was done in Europe. All the art on the piano was made by hand by a European artist." What is that, an excuse?

3) Deck of cards Steinway - $32,000 Maybe in 1943 (when this was made). Maybe in a casino in Vegas. Maybe. But in some frat-boy banker's pool room?

4)Yamaha Disklavier - $299,000 Only 5 in the world? Thank God. Looks like a £40 home keyboard mated with an old Hewlett Packard PC. Does it have light-up keys?

5) 1897 Steinway B Cherubs $125,000 Sure, it's old. Does that make tasteful? It's not even French...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mada Guitars are moulded from pure hemp

Mada Guitars are a semi-acoustics, built in Austria from hemp pulp by Neubauer Guitars. The whole body is moulded from hemp, so it has no internal bracing or support or plastic binders. Confusingly, the 'HempStone' it's made from was developed in Austria but commercialised in Australia. Like most people, my reaction to anything made from hemp is to run away from the hippies and look for something made from radioactive panda leather, but these look great - I like the soundhole/handle in the top. Pickups are custom made in Germany by Haeussel. They go on sale in June for €2950. For which price, incidentally, you could buy about 2.5kg of cheap cannabis...

Handmade USB-powered felt-covered calculator synth

It's like the whole 2007 zeitgeist rolled into one. Last month, Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree, who are part of the collective who created the awesome and now-sold-out Monome, ran a four week workshop in LA called 'Felt Circuits'. They started by making vegetable dyes, then used them to dye wool which was then hand-rubbed into felt. Then they designed, etched and populated noise-making circuit boards which were then put into the felt creatures. Lots of Flickr pics of the process here. Kelli writes: "Here's the creature I made during the class to show each step... a roughly 8"x 6" calculator. it plugs into the usb port [for power] and makes a bunch of noise when you touch the metal contacts sewn on the bottom." There are not immediate plans for more Felt+Circuits workshops, although a NYC run could be possible.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Supernatural 2.21 Promo

Supernatural Season 2 Episode 21 - "All Hell Breaks Loose (I)"

Sam and other "special children" are abducted by the Yellow-Eyed Demon and taken to a ghost town, where the ultmate battle must start.

Heroes - Episode 22

Heroes Season 1 Episode 22 - "Landslide"

Angela Petrelli is forced to play a bigger role in Nathan, Peter, and Claire's life. The truth about the death of Nathan and Peter's father is finally revealed along with his true identity. When Nathan finds out that he may have a chance to become more than a Congressman, he is confronted with a decision that he must make. As election day nears some try to leave NYC. HRG and Matt learn another surprising secret. Also, Sylar is eating another hero's brain. Hiro's dad returns.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ken Parker's $30,000 archtop guitar

There's a great piece in the new New Yorker about guitar design and Ken Parker, who founded Parker Guitars, making carbon fibre guitars in the late '80s with funding from Korg. He sold the company to Washburn in 2003, and is now making Ken Parker Archtops, which are made from wood, carbon, composites and gold leaf. And cost $30,000. Along the way, we meet:
The Tonequest Report, super high-end guitar mag
Tom Murphy, who's paid by Gibson to 'age' their new custom shop guitars ("To imitate years of belt wear, he held an old buckle aainst the back and whacked it a few times with a hammer")
Juha Ruokangas, a Finnish guitar maker who makes expensive and ugly guitars using the shinbone of a wild moose as the nut
This guy who makes guitar parts from fossilised walrus ivory
And finally, the history of the lute.

New invention: Tweak your knobs with your feet

The Third Hand, by Tone in Progress is a rocker foot pedal attached to a extension tube which connects directly, physically, to a knob on another effect pedal. So any control can be tweaked with the pedal. It's a tiny, delightful bit of mechanical genius for £95. I don't know if you can get longer cables, which could snake up to a modular synth like some kind of steam-powered high-tech pedal steel. I discovered the 3rd Hand on the site of Jam Guitars, a fantastically boutique guitar shop in my home town of Bristol (yes, England).
UPDATE: Looks like it was inspired by the Electro Harmonix Hot Foot, which does pretty much the same thing.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tiny Music: Cologne Airport has a song

Jon writes: "Did you know that the International Airport at Koln/Bonn has its own completely brilliant tekno-pop song? Go to their site and click on the 'Music' link at the bottom. A player pops up and you are away. It gets better as it goes along. Funky guitar at the end. I have no idea who is responsible for it."

I'm not totally taken with the track, but it has an interesting history. It was written by Plus49 - and started out as a five second chime, played 200 times a day at the airport, and heard by 22 million people since 2003. What you can hear on the site is the extended full-length version, which appeared on the album that Plus49 made with the money they got from the airport commission. Brian Eno et al would be proud of them. (Pic via Ozan)

Awesome custom-made pedals in tweed and snakeskin

Apart from one hideous snakeskin superstrat guitar, I love everything that Basic Audio make - a snakeskin covered wah/filter pedal, a tweed theremin, a ring modulator wrapped in 100 year-old chestnut, and fantastic custom multi-pedal enclosures. They also have a brilliant range of t-shirts - logos from Hammond, Arp, Sequential Circuits, Echoplex etc. I wonder if they'd make me a tweed MPC? (Thanks, Tridact)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

In UR modulez upgradin UR filterz

Yes, it's been a while. Thank you to everyone who's sent fantastic stories over the last week, sorry they haven't been posted yet. I've had several dozen suggestions each for: The monstrously ugly steampunk guitar, the worms making music on a circuit board (circuit bending getting half a million views on YouTube? This old thing was never so popular) and the making of the '80s version of the Dr Who Theme music. I'm on holiday this weekend, but sporadic updates will be resuming soon. (Thanks to Mikey for the image. He doesn't think anyone else will get this joke, but I'm pretty sure you will)