Film/animation: Lillian Schwartz
Moog: Gershon Kingsley
Michael Una's work investigates how vibrating waves of energy and human consciousness interact. He utilizes traditional musical instruments, handbuilt analog electronics, video processes, digital synthesis, and repurposed objects to build harmonic wave patterns. These patterns are projected into physical space, creating a unique and temporary audiophysical experience. Michael Una is an active contributor to the popular webzine and community site known as Create Digital Music and is a signed artist represented via the multimedia label known as Psymbolic.
Film/animation: Lillian Schwartz
Moog: Gershon Kingsley
There’s an article in Chicago’s NewCity this week called Breakout Artists 2009: Chicago’s next generation of image makers. And who is one of these breakout artists? Moi. Does it matter that I’m not much of an image maker? Not in the slightest.
Head on over to their site to check out the story, or grab one from the box if you’re a Chicagoan.
Also, work on the sequencer/drum machine continues, as evidenced by this video (which also features a guest appearance by Roger the cat):
I’ve found some new little JamBoxes that have a sweet pitch bend. All the individual hits are playable, and the kick drum is especially fatty. The preprogrammed beats are also weirdly sequenced- whoever engineered this thing has never heard funk in their life, which makes for some crazy glitchy tweaks.
I’ve got nine of these babies for sale at michaeluna.etsy.com, with more on the way.
A “mini beatbox,” which selectably plays a handful of funky beats, has been circuit-bent to control tempo and pitch. The resulting sounds are glitchy, IDM-like drones and rhythms.
Fans of Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and the like will enjoy the sounds this little device makes. Any electronic musician looking for unique sample sources need look no further.
You can purchase one here
Multiples of this item are available- I found a treasure trove of these little guys.
I ask you: what is the foundation for rhythmic electronic music? I suggest that the humble step-sequencer is the backbone of many of today’s musical genres and memetic evolutions. To have electronic rhythm, you need to start with a clock and go from there, dividing it into fractions and multiples. Then start assigning sounds to those divisions and you’re pretty much there- techno is happening.
I’ve been working on prototyping a sequencer-synth and in doing research, I’ve come across numerous projects that tackle this idea with great enthusiasm. Because a sequencer can drive any type of electronics, projects tend to fall into two categories: audio, or visual. Additionally, I’m seeing two main drivers for the sequence itself: the nimble arduino, and the CMOS 4017 Decade counter IC. I’ll survey here some of the finished projects to give an idea of what’s possible. Come with me, won’t you, on an exploration of the world of DIY sequencers.
First up, a few excellent audio sequencers:
This “basic arduino sequencer” by Nikolaosh is undeniably fun. Looks like four potentiometers controlling software synth parameters, with the Arduino doing the sequencing as well. Basic, but effective nonetheless. You can see more details and grab the code here.
This “Beatsequencer” by Kamil Garbacz also uses Arduino to drive a matrix of LEDs. Looks like the top row indicates the position of the step, while the bottom 3 rows indicate on/off status for the beep assigned to that row. A matrix of switches turns each step on and off, 808-style. It’s a very compact design with a minimal interface, but it seems to work.
This “Cigarduino Punk Console” from frogstar has a lot of great elements- nice pulsewave synthesis from the Arduino and a fun cigar-box case. It’s a little light on the LEDs though- don’t we all like our sequencers to have big banks of LEDs pusling through their paces?
In the 4017 category, we’ve got this nice little box from Note!. It nicely marries the Atari Punk console to the 4017 running as a 4-step sequencer. Good glitchy tones get put through their paces.
This sequencer from 9volts really opens up the possibilities here- he’s using the 4017 synched to a drum sampler, triggering circuit-bent devices and controlling gating and filtering. That’s what I’m talkin’ about right there.
This experiment from h.cosas uses the 4017 to drive an LCD display with interesting results. Dig those color bars!
This LED pattern sequencer by WootsPC is very nice to look at- this should give you an idea of what can be done with a basic sequencer, some LEDs, and an eye for animation.
What I take away from all of these projects is the idea that a sequencer can drive pretty much anything, and the most fun and interesting projects lie not in the sequencer itself, but in what is driven by the sequencer.
I’d really like to see someone who combines these LED animations with a good sounding, nicely-interfaced sequenced synth that’s syncable to MIDI clock input, but I think I might have to build that one myself- I’m working on my own like-minded project, and I’ve realized I’ve got a ways to go before I’ll be satisfied with the results. In case you’re curious, here’s my little project Sequence It as of two weeks ago. I’ve made some modifications since then, but you get the basic idea.
Is anyone else working on a sequencer project? Please post it in the comments and tell us how it’s coming along.
Please welcome Michael Una, the artist utilizing traditional musical instruments, handbuilt analog electronics, video processes, digital synthesis, and repurposed objects to build harmonic wave patterns.
Stay Tuned to future news from Michael Una.
The latest Beep-Its are now in a smaller, more durable plastic case. The old one had a lot of empty space and was prone to cracking. Also, I'm working on getting circuit boards printed. You can see the first revision here
So, Handmade Music Night was a total success. We got about 18 Beep-its up and running, many of those assembled by people who were learning to solder for the first time. The other projects were quite awesome, and the folks at 3rd Ward were very gracious hosts.
Big thanks to Peter @ CreateDigitalMusic, Eric @ Etsy, and Phil & Collin @ MAKE- all of you people are fantastic.
Beep-it, the optical theremin synthesizer designed and built by Michael Una, is now for sale at Etsy
A short video documenting the various sounds one can obtain from this wondrous device can be seen here
For those who know their way around the 555, this is half of an “Atari Punk Console,” or APC as the kids call it these days. I chose to go with the single oscillator because it offers more stable control. The values in the circuit have been adjusted to obtain maximum useable range.