Archive for September, 2009

Interface Amnesty at Static

September 27, 2009

Yesterday a few of us from the Liverpool Hackspace group went down to Static for a day of playing around with electronics to make music noises. It was an event called Interface Amnesty, organised by Sound Network as a fringe event for the Abandon Normal Devices Festival. Is that enough links?

The day was split into two parts. First off was a Maker Faire-style show-and-tell where people were demonstrating what they’d made, and then in the evening the space was cleared of trestle tables and a few of the artists present gave performances of their work.

The Hackday

Most of the rest of the people with stalls at the event were just showing off what they’d already made. We were embracing the hackspace mentality, and were building stuff as well as showing things that were finished.

It took us about three-quarters of an hour to get an Auduino up and running, which was pretty good given that it was my mate Andrew doing the building, and he hadn’t even touched an Arduino before yesterday morning. So that build time includes him downloading the Arduino IDE and getting it installed on his laptop.

Here’s a short video of it just after we got it working

I hadn’t heard the Audino before, but was impressed with how good it sounds, and it’s just five potentiometers and an Arduino. You could build one for much less than £30. Plenty of the other musicians there were really impressed with what a lovely noise it makes.

Our “already made” contribution came from Ross. At the past couple of hackspace meetings he’s been playing around with infra-red distance sensors, an Arduino and some python MIDI code and had got his IR Guitar ready just in time for the event.

And here’s a video of Ross demonstrating it.

I think the next step is getting the distance from the sensor to control something, such as different notes or different volume, but waving your hands about in mid-air is a fun way to play an instrument.

I had hoped to build some of the Chiptune Orchestra instruments too, but although I’d made sure I’d bought all the parts I needed from their partslist, I didn’t spot that there isn’t a circuit diagram available yet. We did start playing around building an oscillator circuit with the chips I’d bought, but there was too much going on to really get stuck into it. Maybe at the next hackspace meeting…

The Gigs

The music in the evening was a great way to round off a fun day. If I remember correctly, the line up was…

PixelH8, playing songs on his Nintendo DS synth.

Then Mike Blow played a couple of pieces, including this atmospheric one built up from a field recording in a tunnel under the river Elbe. I’m still not quite sure how he managed to get the cathedral bells outside to start up at such a perfect time in the dying moments of the work.

Stretta was up next. I can’t find anything that shows what his stuff was like to experience live, but this video and about 3 minutes into this video give you an idea of the sorts of thing he was playing with and using to create his music. The Monone interfaces he was using are beautifully designed and made.

And the night finished with The Amazing Rolo playing stuff through his Wiimote software and his musical jam jars. You can get an idea of what it was like by watching this, but there’s more music on his website.

Next Liverpool meeting – Tuesday 8th September, 7pm

September 3, 2009

For this next meeting we’re heading over to the Bad Format Social Club near the flyover. In addition to the usual playing with bits of hardware and chatting about code and electronics and whatever else comes up, we’ll be having a play with some of the hardware that Scott (who runs Bad Format) has been collecting.

As he said in a recent email to the mailling list…

“[Scott is] looking to recreate the look and feel of old computers from the 50’s/60’s but add functionality with screens and web connections, etc.  So the badformat community, in theory, could manipulate the features of the bar remotely.. from the bar playlist to visuals to the operation of machines.

I have a budget for cool ideas and am building up a stock of portable tv’s http://www.hizone.info/data/2002/12/16/images/realistic-portavision.jpg old games, old synths, tons of random electrical stuff, nixie tubes http://pictures.retrossance.com/nixietube/nixie01.jpg, and all of that old electrical stuff that will make everything look like some sort of fucked up apocalypse bunker from 1952.”

There are details of where the bar is on the upcoming page for the meeting.