Master maker Tim Jacobs created a fantastic business card that's actually a Stylophone synthesizer complete with MIDI capabilities. It's based on the original 1967 Dübreq Stylophone, a small synthesizer played by touching a built-in stylus to the metal keyboard. The Stylophone was famously used on David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator."
From Jacobs' project page about his StyloCard that ended up costing a bit more than $3 each:
Printed Circuit Boards as a business card are a great gimmick. I'd seen ones with USB ports etched into them, which enumerate as a keyboard and then type a person's name or load up their website. It's just about possible to build them cheap enough to hand out as a business card, at least if you're picky about who you give them to.
A couple of years ago I took a stab at making one for myself, but I didn't want it to be pointless. I wanted it to do something useful! Or at least entertain someone for longer than a few seconds. I can't remember quite how I got the idea of making a MIDI-stylophone, but the idea was perfect. A working midi controller, that's unique enough in its playing characteristic to potentially give some value, while at the same time costing no more than the card would have done otherwise, since the keyboard is just a plated area on the PCB, as is true on the original stylophone.
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Boing Boing pal and maker superhero Mitch Altman, creator of the amazing TV-B-Gone, spent several years designing a simple-yet-powerful DIY music synthesizer that he could use to teach creative electronics and also digital signal processing to kids and adults. The result is the ArduTouch Music Synthesizer! And it's only $30! Demo videos below. Mitch wrote about the method behind his maker madness in IEEE Spectrum. From his essay:
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As a kid with a lust for music, I was rocked by the Moog synthesizer sounds of 1968’s Switched-On Bach. I needed to learn how to make those sounds! Thus began a lifetime of learning and synthesizer making while I made my way in the tech industry, where I ultimately created the TV-B-Gone, a gadget that lets you turn off almost any model of remote-controlled television. Since the popular success of the TV-B-Gone, I’ve created many fun, open-source, hackable hardware kits for the maker workshops I give around the world. In these workshops, newbies learn to solder, tinkering their way into electronics and microcontrollers. Remembering my own youth, I wanted to provide them with a kit that was simple to assemble [PDF] and use but still a fully fledged music synthesizer.
The result was the US $30 ArduTouch. This project incorporates, on a single board, a touch keyboard, an ATMega328P (the same processor used in the Arduino Uno), and an audio amp with a speaker. It also has a software library that can serve as an entry point into the world of digital signal processing.
Your supervisor would like to speak with you today at 10:53am. Good thing you have a great tasting sandwich to deal with that unreasonable feedback.
In the 1980s, Pennsylvania-based Michele Mercure was composing music for theater, film, and TV animation. After a trip to the Netherlands, she became inspired by the German kosmiche music scene of Kluster, Tangerine Dream, and the like. But Mercure cut her own path into experimental electronic music, weaving her synthetic, rhythmic soundscapes with strange samples and cut-up vocalizations, resulting in tracks that move between abstract and ambient dreamscapes and mechanized intensity. For decades, Mercure's self-released cassettes (under the name Michelle Musser) moved through underground trading circles but many of those recordings will now reach a wider group of heads. Beside Herself is a gorgeous 19-track Michele Mercure retrospective released today by the esteemed curators at RVNG Intl. and Freedom To Spend labels. To celebrate the release, Mercure and Mary Haverstick created the wonderful "Electronumentary" above. Below, one of the album tracks. From RVNG:
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Mercure’s artistic path never ran through creative meccas New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, and then moving to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in her twenties, Mercure was already an adept musician when she encountered a local and lively theater scene, and was asked to score an unorthodox performance of Waiting for Godot. The experience was pivotal in marrying music and image for Mercure, and so she began making music for film, television, dance, and theater. It wasn’t until a long sojourn in Eindhoven, however, that she became transfixed by electronic music (ala Conrad Schnitzler, whom she would correspond with for years) that would inform her music to come.
Moog is finally releasing a new polyphonic analog synthesizer, its first polyphonic model since production stopped on the Memorymoog in 1985, and a direct descendant of the iconic-yet-monophonic Minimoog Voyager released in 2002. Above is the only image released so far of the new Moog One. It's priced at $6000 for the 8 voice model and $8,000 for the 16-voice model. From Sweetwater
Powered by a sound engine with the most advanced architecture ever conceived for a Moog synth, Moog One is available in 8- and 16-voice versions that can simultaneously articulate eight or 16 voices, depending on the configuration of your instrument. The Moog One tri-timbral architecture lets you easily assign, split, layer, and stack voices with up to 48 oscillators in Unison mode...
Clad in a handcrafted ash cabinet, the Moog One aluminum front panel is fitted with 73 knobs and 144 buttons, welcoming hands-on interaction with all the sound-sculpting and performance controls. Extended on-screen functionality is accessed via More buttons (one for each module) that serve up additional parameters in the center-panel LCD to deliver the most intuitive and efficient synthesis experience possible.
Via Moog Music, a couple fine uses of the prior Moog Polymoog Synthesizer released in 1975:
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Roland has announced the AX-Edge, a brand new keytar for synth players who want to "step into the spotlight." The AX-Edge, approximately $1000, features 49 full-sized keys, hundreds of preset tones, ribbon controller, and modulation bar, and Bluetooth MIDI. It's available in black or white and the "edge blades" on the instrument can be swapped to change the look.
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Love Hultén is a designer who builds gorgeous devices that merge faintly-retro stylings with digital guts (previously, previously, previously, and previously).
Now he's created the Bivalvia Synthesis, which is adorable and -- as this video shows -- capable of some lovely sounds ...
As he describes it:
The Bivalvia Synthesis is a small synthesizer toy based on Axoloti core, the open source hardware synth created by Johannes Taelman. The casing is handmade from wood and unfolds like a clamshell to reveal six dial/fader controllers combined with 15 high quality Cheery MX keys - 12 MIDI notes in chromatic scale, octave up/down and patch shifting. For output, there's stereo output on the back and a built-in full-range 15W speaker. Combined with Axoloti Patcher software - a user friendly and very graphic modular environment, you can create your own effects and sounds using oscillators (from subtractive to FM), filters, modulation, and much more. Simply connect the Bivalvia Synthesis to your computer via USB and start making objects. Build your own personal patch bank and store it on the built-in SD card.
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Moby is selling more than 100 vintage synthesizers and a slew of other musical equipment to benefit the animal rights group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. His Reverb marketplace store opens tomorrow, April 26.
“This is the equipment I’ve used to make all my records,” Moby said. “I have so much equipment and almost all of it has profound sentimental value to me, including synthesizers I started using in the 80’s. But rather than keep it all in storage, I want to sell it for a good cause.”
Among the items that Moby is parting with is a Roland Jupiter-6 that he calls the "crown jewel" of his synth collection, having used it on "almost every techno record I made, from Go to U.H.F. to Thousand." Before Moby acquired the Roland, it is fabled to have actually belonged to early techno musician and legendary producer Joey Beltram.
Other synths Moby will be selling include the Yamaha SY22 Vector that Moby used to rework “Laura Palmer’s Theme” from Twin Peaks for his song “Go” (the first single he released under his own name), a Yamaha SY85 he used on “Feeling So Real,” a Roland Juno-106 synth used to create the basslines on song “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” and “We Are All Made of Stars,” and a rare and unique Serge Series 79 Modular unit.
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On this 1980 episode of 3-2-1 Contact -- the excellent PBS kids TV show about science -- legendary experimental electronic musician Suzanne Ciani explains the basics of synthesizer technology. If you aren't hip to Ciani's music that spans avant-garde, classical, cinematic, and new age genres, I highly recommend you check out the fine anthologies and reissues of her work from the good people at Finders Keepers Records. Below, her stunning track "Paris 1971" from the compilation "Lixiviation 1968-1985." And you can check out Ciani live at this May's Moogfest in Durham, North Carolina.
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In 1986, Canadian musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland recorded a stunning cycle of expansive, meditative, and uplifting synthesizer songs called Keyboard Fantasies. Self-released on cassette, that "New Age multilayered synthesizer music to relax, dance and sing with," as Glenn-Copeland described it, went mostly unheard even as he continued to compose soundtracks, musical theater for children, wrote for Sesame Street, and performed on the Canadian children's TV show Mr. Dressup. Now though, a beautiful reissue from the excellent Seance Centre label has brought Keyboard Fantasies into the sunlight where it belongs. Above, "The Lake Sutra," a brief documentary film following Glenn-Copeland, now in his 70s, to Huntsville, north of Toronto, where he recorded Keyboard Fantasies.
Beverly Glenn-Copeland's Keyboard Fantasies is available from Seance Center on vinyl and, of course, cassette.
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Get ready to go down a rabbit hole of musique concrète documentaries, of which this one from 1979 was by far the most informative, with this clip especially interesting.. Read the rest
Working from a traditional score by Ron Grainer, Delia Derbyshire created one of television and electronica's most distinctive works of music: the theme tune to Doctor Who. For her pioneering work with synthesizers, often in crudely sexist and exclusionary workspaces, she is being posthumously awarded a degree by Coventry University.
Due to BBC policies at the time, Grainer – unwillingly – is still officially credited as the sole writer.
Derbyshire stayed at the workshop for 10 years, recording sound for Inventions for Radio and Cyprian Queen – all in the days before modern synthesisers and machines. She was later approached by Paul McCartney to work on a backing track for the Beatles hit Yesterday.
But despite her talent and credit from her peers, Delia failed to gain widespread recognition during her lifetime, eventually becoming disillusioned with the industry and finding work as a radio operator in Cumbria.
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Justin Delay breaks down and recreates the otherworldly 1980s synth sounds of Vangelis's stunning score for the original Blade Runner.
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Morton Subotnick is an 84-year-old avant-garde composer whose pioneering electronic music, and approach to musicmaking, influenced the likes of Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, Four Tet, and countless techno artists. Subotnick helped Don Buchla design what was likely the first analog music synthesizer and used it to create his seminal psychedelic masterpiece, Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), the first electronic music work commissioned by a major record company, Nonesuch/Elektra. (Fan-made video below.) Just a few years before, Subotnick co-founded the iconic San Francisco Tape Music Center that became a creative home for Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, and so many more incredible composers. And he's still making sounds. Now, Toronto's Waveshaper Media, the production company behind “I Dream Of Wires" and the forthcoming “Electronic Voyager" film about Bob Moog are working on a documentary about Subotnick. Support it on Indiegogo.
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In 1948, Robert Moog, age 14, was inspired by classical Theremin performer Clara Rockmore to build his own Theremin. Then in 1964 Moog designed a brand new kind of electronic instrument, a modular voltage-controlled synthesizer. That instrument and Moog's work since transformed the sound of modern music forever. To hear how, dive into this fantastic 10-hour Moog playlist:
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Moog just unveiled a new showcase of artists using their instruments. Sonic Origins starts things off with Russell E.L. Butler of Black Jeans, who thinks of the sounds "as an initiator of dialogue." Read the rest