Les Boites Mécaniques are a set of four automated boxes that produce music out of wood and metal. These experimental instruments enable anyone to explore the magic of making sound by pressing buttons on a remote, which activate each respective device to vibrate, knock, and rub materials.
The boxes were developed by Kogumi‘s Anatole Buttin and Yan Godat for educational electronic music workshops, and can be played either solo or in unison. There’s even a mode that allows users to control it all via MIDI notes on a computer.
With an accelerometer and capacitive sensing, even a beginner can produce some great tunes with this DIY device.
If you like making beautiful music, but would rather not actually practice this skill, perhaps this thumb piano and controller by producer/DJ Rob Blazey would be a good instrument to pick up. His project, called “Kalimbo,” employs an Arduino to translate manipulations of metal rods, along with movement of the piano itself, into Open Sound Control (OSC) messages. These are then be used to produce music. (more…)
The Roland TR-808 was released in 1981 and was meant to replace a human drummer for practice purposes, but was instead used to produce music itself, helping to birth the electronic, techno, and hip hop genres. Moritz Simon Geist and the Sonic Robots collective, however, decided to turn this on its head, with a machine made to look like a gigantic ‘808, but containing real instruments.
With a variety of hardware, including an Arduino Uno and Mega, an audience can program the MR-808 using a tablet and get down to the grooves they create themselves!
While exploring new tangible interfaces, designer Martin Hertig wanted to do something a bit different. He chose to transform the zippers on a guitar bag into a fully-functional instrument. Rather than strum the strings of the guitar, he simply pulls the bag’s zippers to jam: one zip for playing notes or chords, another for changing the bar, and a third for the vibrato.
As Hertig explains, the case was converted into a MIDI controller using an Arduino and conductive thread stitched along the zipper, while a Raspberry Pi synthesizer hidden inside produces the guitar sounds. (more…)
For the release of his latest EP, Dario Marturano brought together electronic music, technology, science, and dance to create an awe-inspiring music video called “Pyrite.” The artist (and STEAM advocate), who goes by the stage name Holograph, built a set of illuminated cubes using plexiglass boxes and LED strips that are MIDI-triggered via Arduino circuitry. (more…)
Designed by Montreal studio Daily tous les jours, Mesa Musical Shadows is a public installation that turns the sidewalk of Arizona’s Mesa Arts Center into a super-sized dance pad which reacts to the shadows of passersby with the sounds of singing.
Shadows cast on different tiles trigger different voices, all while singing in harmony. Length of shadow is dependent upon the season, the time of day and the weather; meaning, a visitor may never quite cast the same shadow twice. The sounds themselves also change with the angle of the sun, which makes interacting with the installation a dynamic experience in the morning, midday, evening, and in the middle of the night. As the day turns into night, the tracks shift from upbeat, Pitch Perfect-like acapella to creepier, ominous tones. (more…)
What do you get when you combine 64 floppy drives, eight hard disks, and two scanners? An incredible computer hardware orchestra that can rock out like Kurt Cobain. Created by Pawel Zadrozniak, the Floppotron is not only capable of covering ‘90s hits like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirt,” but can play other tunes ranging from Darth Vader’s Imperial March to the theme song of the TV series “Hawaii Five-O.”
As for how the old-school tech synthesizes such tunes, Zadrozniak explains:
Every device with an electric motor is able to generate a sound. Scanners and floppy drives use stepper motors to move the head with sensors which scans the image or performs read/write operations on a magnetic disk. The sound generated by a motor depends on driving speed. The higher the frequency, the greater the pitch. Hard disks use a magnet and a coil to tilt the head. When voltage is supplied for long enough, the head speeds up and hits the bound making the “drum hit” sound. The disk head coil can also be used as a speaker to play tones or even music, but… that would be too easy and too obvious.
Every column of eight floppy drives is connected to one 8-channel controller built on ATmega16 microcontroller. One controller acts as one voice with envelope simulation – the higher the volume, the more drives are playing. This allows to make ADSR-like shape and simulate a musical instrument, like a piano (exponential decay) or string instrument (sine, “vibrato”). The boards which were made a few years ago, were designed as a standalone “players” with optional USB-to-UART bridge and was not intended to be chained. My goal was to re-use old stuff and get the job done as fast as possible, so I used the on-board ISP (which in fact is a SPI interface) connector to link 8 drivers in a SPI chain. Long SPI chain with unidirectional communication is not an example good and reliable design, but it did not require any hardware modification and took a minute to build a controller network, so let’s call it… good enough for this kind of project.
Scanner and disk head controllers share the same base with floppy controllers, but have a different “instrument interface.” For driving the coils, I used two push-pull outputs (H-bridge) built with discrete SMD MOSFETs. Scanner head controllers were built using of-the-shelf boards – an Arduino Uno (firmware also builds for ATmega328) and L298 breakout to save time needed to draw and etch the boards. PC interface (another Arduino board) receives the data over UART (USB-UART), buffers the messages and keeps the timings while passing packets to “musical instruments” over SPI interface, so a Windows hiccup will not affect the playback. It can also be driven by anything else like Raspberry Pi, Android smartphone (with USB-UART or UART-over-Bluetooth adapter) or another microcontroller.
Russian artist ::vtol:: is no stranger to the Arduino blog. His latest project–which was designed for the Polytechnic Museum Moscow and Ars Electronica Linz–is an autonomous light-music installation called “Divider.” The wall-mounted soundscape consists of seven lasers that send rays horizontally through 42 PC cooling fans, acting as divider-modulators, to turn the light signals into rhythmic impulses. Seven photo sensors on the end monitor the presence or absence of light, while four Arduino Mega boards control the system. (more…)
German composer Oskar Schuster recently uploaded a YouTube video showing off a new project he is working on: an Arduino-controlled upright piano. Called Utopiano, it’s described as an electro-mechanical device that replaces the traditional mechanical piano action and enables him to control the 100-year-old instrument with a computer keyboard. Amazing!
Electronic musical instruments are fun for Makers. With some cheap tools, know-how and passion, anyone can become a real synth geek. Just ask software developer Liam Lacey, who happens to also be a sound coder and freelance hacker. He recently won element14’s Open Source Music Tech design challenge for his Vintage Toy Synthesizer project — it’s an acoustic wooden toy piano converted into an open-source, standalone polyphonic digital synthesizer running on a BeagleBone Black and an Arduino Pro Mini.