Last Saturday, March 20th, after the Austin Handmade Music workshop I was lucky enough to catch performances of two cool experimental electronic groups at the Salvage Vanguard Theater: Loud Objects & Bodytronix.
Loud Objects is a duo from New York who in real time create 1-bit noise circuits on a glass plate on top of an overhead projector. It starts out silent, obviously, and then as the circuit gets built and they play around with connections you can hear the noise change. Its loud and noisey and I wouldn't call it musical, but it was definitely interesting to watch and hear. It was probably one of the most unique art sound performances I've seen. Below is a picture of Loud Objects creating the circuit, you can see the two guys below huddled over the overhead projector.
Here's a another picture of the progression of the circuit during the performance.
You can see more pictures of the circuit on my Flickr page if you're interested.
The second group I got to see was Bodytronix which is an Austin duo made up of Eric Archer and Erich Ragsdale who do live electronic jams with a couple tables overflowing with odd handmade electronic instruments and retro gear. The philosophy behind Bodytronix, jamming with homemade gear & retro gear, isn't new but what is so appealing about this group is the musicality of their jams. They are able to take this mish-mash of oddball gear and make music that is refreshing but has a musical sensibility about it. They walk the line between experimental and popular music with a mad scientist edge about them. The prize piece of gear at the show was Eric Archer's new vocal synthesizer which he had singing in english throughout the performance. The heart of Bodytronix is the spontenaity of their live performance, but their recordings stand up as well, so I suggest checking them out on MySpace if you get a chance. Below is a pic I took of the group jammin' out.
Saturday night my friend Alex Keller, Austin sound artist, video game sound designer, and mobile sound engineer extraordinaire, and I made our way to the opening celebration of a new store in Austin, Switched On. Switched On is a Music Electronics shop that specializes in "providing repair, restoration, education, consultation and an array of vintage musical instruments".
The opening started at 7pm and we got their around 7:30 to check out the store and and hear Eric Archer play a set of his unique jam-style electronic music. The store was packed with people gawking at the array of vintage synths and drum machines lined up on the walls of the store. There were headphones available so folks could plug in and play around with the gear. I almost felt like I was in a synth museum as I wandered past the Mini-Moog, Korg Mono-Poly, Roland Juno Six, Rythm Ace drum machines, Farfisa organ, etc etc.
The party also extended to the Victory Grill across the street. Where they were serving up free beer and live electronic music from a handful of Austin electronic bands. We hung out there and caught some music and some beers and called it a night. I left the event thinking that Switched On was a cool concept but perhaps they have made too small of a niche for themselves. They seem to focus mostly on vintage synth gear and a smattering of boutique electronics from various local sources (Bleep Labs, 4MS Pedals). Most of the vintage gear, while extremely cool, is very pricey, difficult to maintain and appeals only to a small subset of people who create electronic music. Boutique gear is also very cool but again only appeals to a small niche. My thought is that in order for Switched On to survive they will have to look at also stocking new synths, controllers and (gasp) software. Regardless I wish them luck as I think the store is cool.
Its about that time again for another Austin Handmade Synth workshop at the Salvage Vanguard theater! The workshop will take place February 28th. This month we are making a stepped tone sequencer called "Pico Paso" and a delay module called the "Space Baby" designed by Nathan Wooster of Wooster Audio. You can sign up HERE
Here's a preview of the Space Baby
I'll have more pics and sounds after the workshop! Stay tuned :)
On Sunday, January 18th, I attended the 4th Austin Handmade Music workshop at the Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin, put on by the Church of the Friendly Ghost.For this workshop we made a little synth called the Nebulophone, created by John Michael (Dr. Bleep) from Bleep Labs.The Nebulophone is a little bit like the Stylophone in that it has a little metal keyboard that you run a stylus type device on… its an alligator clip on the Nebulophone.This arduino based synth features an arpeggiator, an LFO that modulates an analog filter, as well as a waveform generator, which allows you to choose between: saw, square, triangle & noise wave forms.The arpeggiator can be clocked over IR and can hook up with the other devices we have made in previous workshops:
This little guy sound great and is really fun to play with. I think this is my favorite kit we've done in the series so far! The next workshop is on February 28th at the Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin TX.For more information or to sign up for the next workshop go HERE
It's about time for the first Austin Handmade workshop of 2010 brought to you by the Church of the Friendly Ghost! On Sunday, January 12th at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre in Austin John, Eric & Dann will hold another DIY synth workshop. This month the advanced class will be making the Nebulophone, a creation dreamed up by John Michael (AKA Dr. Bleep) from Bleep Labs. The introduction class will be making a noise maker called the SimSam. The kits sound cool, can't wait to make them!
On Sunday, December 20th, I went to the third Austin Handmade Workshop at the Salvage Vanguard Theater put on by the Church of the Friendly Ghost. We were originally scheduled to build a Nebulophone Synth designed by John Michael of Bleep Labs at this workshop. Due to the release of his new Thingamagoop 2 for Christmas, the Nebulophone project was postponed until January. Instead, we made a drum machine... a different version of the one we made previously in the first workshop.
Andromeda Space Rocker mk-4 is the official title of this new Eric Archer creation. This drum machine produces an analog bass kick with adjustable tuning & decay as well as a primitive loop sequencer. As with all of the Andromeda Space Rocker line it syncs up with the other models via infrared. The drum box also has a filter that is controlled by a photo cell. This is why you see footage in the videos of people waving flash lights at these things. ;-) The drum machine also has the option to be triggered externally instead of using the onboard sequencer. This can be done via a jumper on the circuit board.
One thing I also want to mention is that if you want to run your drum machine off of a midi clock, as I do, there is a MIDI-IR synch box available from www.woosteraudio.com.You can buy a completed box or if you like to solder you can buy the kit as well.
Aside from getting to make these cool kits in the presence of their creators: Eric Archer, Dann Green (4MS Pedals) and John Michael (Bleep Labs) the workshops are an excellent opportunity to meet other amazingly creative electronic musicians and artists.At this workshop Chris Palmer who was nice enough to show off his Monome controller in an Etch-A-Sketch case… yes it is as cool as it looks.I also got to see Shawn of Lustigovi perform some very interesting music with some bizarre homemade gadgets made with wood, bells, springs, rubberbands and contact microphones.So once again the Austin Handmade Music workshop delivers the goods: awesome new electronic instruments and insteresting people.
On November 15th, was the second Austin Handmade Music workshop at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre in Austin, which I attended and had a great time at. Sadly I must admit I was pretty busy in November so I didn't do a post on it. We made these incredibly cool autonomous bassline generators that were made to synch up with the drum machines we made in October. The bassline generator was designed by 4MS Pedals. You can buy the kits online so chek it yo.
Next is workshop #3 which I will be attending on Sunday and I promise I'll be more forth coming on the post for that one :) However in anticipation for workshop number #3 here is a short video that I made from footage I took of the last workshop.
If you're in the Austin area and interested in attending future workshops the info is: HERE