Besides organising the whole thing with my Hackoustic co-conspirators, I had 2 installations present. I had a variation of my Hummingbird installation,I replaced the twitter-control on it with a simple button as I was having issues with my code.
Once the button is pressed, it plays a random beat for 8 bars and then is lost into the ether, never to be heard again!
The concept was a lovely one, and one that Charles worked insanely hard to pull off. Installations included Pressure Sensor triggers, Flowers that when you blow into them they sing back at you, Capacitive Tree hugging, piezo-mic’ed Park Bench and a Tree-Harp and a camera based build that played different sounds depending on what colour flower you were pointing it at!
Participants were shown around the garden then assigned an instrument for the performance, which was led by 3 great musicians for a final collaborative performance:
My Springything has become a staple instrument wherever I go and whatever event it is I am at. The range and variety of noises and textures I’ve figured out how to conjure from this instrument always amaze me considering how simple an instrument it actually is.
It works using one of the most basic and fundamental principles of physics. If you’ve ever heard me talk about my instruments at any event I will have mentioned it: Faradays law of Electromagnetic Induction.
All you need for induction to occur is a coil of wire, a magnetic field and vibration.
On a guitar you have the vibration of a string, interacting with the magnetic field of the pickup, which induces an electeical current in the coil the exact same shape/frequency as the vibrating string.
On the springything, I have small magnets on the springs close to the coil. When the spring vibrates the magnet vibrates and that induces an electrical current the same shape as the vibration.
In both cases the small electrical current is sent to an amplifier which makes that small current much stronger and sends it to a speaker cone. Which, incidently, uses the same law of induction to turn the current back into physical vibrations on the speaker cone.
It’s all very clever but also surprisingly simple.
So, to build your own springything, you’ll need a coil, a magnet and a spring. The exact configuration of the build is up to you and whatever you can find to build it. The coil would have 2 ends of wire in it, they simply get attached to the two pins of a mono jack socket. Then, using bits of wood/metal/whatever you have to hand, get the springs and magnets vibrating near the coil and plug it all into an amp!
Every MTF event is incredible and I always come away from them with new ideas, new friends and a replenished sense of enthusiasm and motivation.
For this workshop, we had a group of 14 local Belgian kids, from Age 11 up to 16. Each built their own 2-stringed guitar using piezo mics as pickups, followed by introductions to capacitive touch via Bare Conductive, Breadboard Synth building with Helen from Do-It-Kits, Raspberry Pi based step-sequencers with Stefano Piermatteo, DADA MAchines and Puredata and a fantastic narrative addition of tying everything together as a storytelling of a sci-fi band for a performance from Alexandra Antonopoulou. It was a lot to squeeze in for an afternoon workshop but we had a fantastic team of people!
This installation uses hidden audio signals that travel along lengths of wire, by placing the pickups close to the wire you can reveal and mix the audio in your own way.
I first showed a prototype of this at a Drake Music hackathon, and then showcased it at the Tate Moderns first ever Tate Lates night with Hackoustic. (If you got any photos/videos of this please let me know! I was too busy that eve with other things to even see it in action!)
Here’s a small compilation of some of the beats it’s produced:
It uses a python script on a raspberry pi to look at my twitter account, in then takes the user id of the last person to interact with me and puts it into PureData. From there i’ve got it doing a bunch of maths before throwing the right MIDI notes out to the DADA Machines.
I am one of the very very lucky few to get their hands on a DADA Machines Automat Kit already. I’ve known about this product since I met Johannes in Slovenia for MTF and have wanted one ever since then! He launched a very successful kickstarter a few weeks ago and achieved his goal within 6 hours! So it won’t be long before lots of other people get to play with this fantastic bit of kit.
It allows you to control the physical world via digital controllers by converting MIDI signals to electrical signals. Which sounds simple, but without this kit would take aaaaagggggeeeesssss trying to get right. It is INSTANTLY plug and playable, I first connected it up to my phone using a very basic MIDI app and it worked, then I connected it to my tablet, and it worked, and then I tried a bunch of different free programs on my laptop (reaper, pure data, Tabit) and they all worked too! There was next to no set-up required for any of the MIDI interfaces I tried so it genuinely is plug-and-play.
I invited Johannes over to showcase the kit and to get the general public to play with it, tinker, make their own music and instruments via our Hackoustic network. The highlights of the evening are here:
So what can it control? Anything that requires electricity to function, which is quite a wide range of things!
In the video above the most common thing being used are Solenoids, which are little devices that make a rod quickly move forwards when a current is added to it, and then releases when the current is stopped. There are attachments that can be added to make the solenoids control beaters or attach to round objects etc. all of which are included in some of the Automat Kit bundles.
I have used solenoids and the Automat kit for my #MTFBerlin hack previously:
Motors can be used with the Automat kit, I’ve used motors a lot in my instruments to excite strings and springs and even just create disturbances in pickups. So there’s a TON of exciting things that can be done with motors and the Automat.
LEDs can be driven direct from the Automat, it’s range is between 12 and 24 volts which you can easily find LED strips to work with that. If you’re wanting a bit more excitement, you can use a 24v Relay on a mains circuit to control the mains 240v! (110 in USA). With this nifty trick you can control standard lamps/lights, power tools, hair dryers, blenders, all sorts!
I have been experimenting with the kit and finding new things to control and ways to have it interact musically with physical things. Most of my findings I’ll post to my Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/vulpestruments) if you’re interested in seeing my progress on a more regular basis.
My latest result has been having it interact with Pure Data running off of a Raspberry Pi, I’m using my python script from the Hummingbird instrument to send twitter data to pure data which then controls the midi being sent to the Automat! I’ll do another post about all that later on.
I’m certain we will all be hearing a lot more about DADA Machines in the future, and I’m pretty excited to be involved with it all from the beginning. I’ll be bringing it to most events I do in the future as an easy way to interact with some of my instruments and it opens a whole new avenue of new possibilities for instrument creations.
I have been very very busy lately with a bunch of different projects. Most notably with Hackoustic, a group/collective/events series I have been running with Tim Yates and friends. We have 2 exciting events coming up including one that I will be running a workshop in:
My newest commission for Belgian musician Quentin Stinglhamber.
It uses the coil of an electric fan as it’s pickup, with an additional piezo pickup at the far end. Two knobs control the levels between the 2 pickups and one for volume. The strings are excited by a small piece of string attached to a motor while the pitch is controlled and bent in a variety of different ways.
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