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Cool $59 pocket synthesizers from Teenage Engineering

Teenage Engineering, makers of the amazing $850 OP-1 synthesizer, have designed three nifty $59 pocket synths: the PO-12 "rhythm" drum machine, the PO-14 "sub" bass synth, and the PO-16 "factory" melody synth. The Verge has a first look.

Despite their spartan design, the synths have a host of smart features that make these devices far more powerful than they might appear. Each device has two 3.5mm ports, which lets you output audio to a mixer as well as chain all three devices together, with a master unit setting the tempo and patterns for the other "slave" units to follow. Another low-tech (but no less useful) design decision is the small wire stand on the back that lets you prop up the devices for easy use on a table. Even the power source is clever — the PO series runs on two AAA batteries, something I haven’t used outside of remotes in years.

Trippy Wurlitzer organ commercial (1972)

Psychedelic TV ad from 1972 for Wurlitzer's Orbit III organ: "It may just change your mind!" (via Weird Universe)

Video: circuit bending pioneer Reed Ghazala

In the studio with Reed Ghazala, "the father of circuit bending."

20syl music video (gear porn)

Video for 20syl's "Kodama," directed by Matthieu Le Dude and 20syl.

The greatest synths

John Twells tallies the synthesizers that shaped modern music. tl;dr: Minimoog, Odyssey, Prophet-5, Fairlight, PPG Wave, Juno, Yamaha's CS-80 and DX7, and Korg's MS-20, M1 and Triton. Oh, yes, and Roland's 303 and 101. [via MeFi, where a good tally of travestatious omissions accrues]

Jad "Radiolab" Abumrad's home studio


Wired visited the home studio of Radiolab's Jad Abumrad. It's a minimal set-up, and I dig his appreciation for vintage synths like the Moog Sonic Six and Roland Juno-60. "Sound Scientist: Inside the Home Studio of Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad"

Stevie Wonder's Superstition clavinet, dissected

You probably caught Stevie Wonder playing with Daft Punk, Pharrell, and Nile Rodgers at the Grammys on Sunday night. My favorite Stevie Wonder jam remains "Superstition" (1972) due in part to the epic clavinet riff. Listen how complex that iconic bit o' funk is by watching YouTube user Funkscribe dissect its intricacies by isolating the multiple parts in the multitrack recording files. Below, Stevie plays the song live in 1973.

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Portable organ, radio, phonograph from 1976


From the @boingboing Instagram feed, my snap of a Silver Star ORP-1803 organ, radio, phonograph (c.1976) at Groove Merchant, SF.

Chris Carter talks about DIY synthesizers

I Dream of Wires is a documentary now in production about the resurgence of modular synthesizers, restored classics from the 1960s and 1970s and new components. As with the early days of computers, the earliest synthesizers were mostly DIY affairs or commercial kits. I Dream Of Wires' directors recently visited the studio of BB pal Chris Carter who handbuilt many of the instruments for his pioneering musical groups Throbbing Gristle and Chris & Cosey. (via The Quietus)

Soviet synthesizer bridged occultism and electronic music

You don't play the ANS synthesizer with a keyboard. Instead you etch images onto glass sheets covered in black putty and feed them into a machine that shines light through the etchings, trigging a wide range of tones. Etchings made low on the sheets make low tones. High etchings make high tones. The sound is generated in real-time and the tempo depends on how fast you insert the sheets.

This isn't a new Dorkbot or Maker Faire oddity. It's a nearly forgotten Russian synthesizer designed by Evgeny Murzin in 1938. The synth was named after and dedicated to the Russian experimental composer and occultist Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (1872–1915). The name might not mean much to you, but it illuminates a long running connection between electronic music and the occult.

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Korg expands monotron lineup

Korg, maker of miniature synthesizers such as the Monotron and Monotribe, have two more analog pocket-synths for me to noodle around with for 20 minutes then put in a drawer: the Monotron Duo and Monotron Delay.

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Innovation and unpredictability: everyone needs a 303 (but not for $1,500)

Photo: Kleine Gelbe Ente

This post is brought to you by Columbia Pictures "Moneyball"

The novelty of disruputive technology soon becomes second nature. Social networking made the web intimate, a lingua franca to even the barely computer-literate, but its real achievement was to make itself mundane. Apple gobbled the Walkman market whole in just a few years. But the iPod is already at least three revolutions ago in Cupertino. In consumer electronics, the light always burns bright and brief.

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The "world's most irritating instrument" is for sale

Behold "the World's Most Irritating Instrument," a handmade noisemaker that has yet to find a single bid on its imminently-ending eBay action. From the description:

It makes a clicking sound that is varied by a turn of a knob. It has a momentary on/off button and a LED light that moves with the beat of the clicking. ... This is a One Of A Kind instrument by circuit bent artist MaXbEnDeR! Runs on a 9 volt battery

The auction lacks sample audio, which leaves us to speculate on exactly how accomplished Mr. MaXbEnDeR is at creating irritating noises. A search online does, however, suggest mastery of the genre. In any case, the seller's claim must be incorrect, because everyone knows that the world's most irritating instrument is the bagpipe.