The sound lathe

The Sound Lathe produces audio data, saw dust, noise and wood chippings. With this human powered machine, turned spindles are shaped into complex sounds such as tones, glitches and beats. Unlike many electronic instruments, the Sound Lathe produces a unique wooden object at the end of each performance. This object serves as a memory of the performance, slightly faulty and incomplete as it represents the conclusion rather than an accurate recording of the process

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free Virtual Instruments and Plug-in Effects for OS X

free Virtual Instruments and Plug-in Effects for OS X

This list is a compilation of free plug-in effects and virtual instruments. For more complete lists check out these links at

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Pianolina, the interactive Piano

Pianolina, the interactive Piano by GROTRIAN

Play with the floating tones, create new atmospheric melodies and let yourself be fascinated by the charm of the Pianolina.


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Theremin Ensemble

Love this

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Options for embedded MP3 player


This is an interesting OEM module allowing MP3 playback from a USB key on any embedded system.Vinculum – Binding USB Technologies

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Arduino Sound – Part 1

This Microcontroller Blog has an excellent article on Arduino Sound – Part 1. I have put it here for others to access, but also for me to remember. I have a number of projects using the SoungIN chip, and am interested in getting further into the possibilities the Arduino offers in this area.

And here is part 2

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Ideas on Composition

I was recently asked to write a page titled: Thoughts for young composers – I thought I’d place it here for comment and discussion.

Thoughts for young composers:

Music is about sound. Much of the teaching you will have received is about the abstract formal strictures of music – harmony and counterpoint, the range of instruments and their function in orchestration, but I would protest that all this is somewhat irrelevant if you can not feel, see and engage with the qualities of sound itself.

IS the sound heavy, dense, thin, light, sparkly, sharp, intense, dynamic etc – I think of composing as sculpting – I think of the sound as a viscous, fluid medium, sometimes I think of it as a lump of clay on a pottery wheel and we can draw it up and make it into forms of our choosing to represent something of our experience in the world. You can use one note/sound to call into being the entire universe, to create a vast emptiness as though in front of you is contained all the planets of the solar system in a peaceful solace. Or, you can use a single sound to send a chill up the spine, to make the space intimate, clammy, scary and threatening. What this means is that your music has the power to condition the space you and your audiences occupy – to change the scale and the emotional energy of that space. Good film music is a masterful example of this approach to composition, and you will see that it often engages electroacoustic techniques. The sound effects and the music work together to create the emotional world of the film. The same is true in theatre and music for contemporary dance.

All of the above illustrates some of the ways in which we engage in music as sound – as pure abstract communication. Electronic processes allow the expansion of an acoustic instrument or found sound to express a multitude of emotional states. Edgar Varese often called for new electronic instruments in order to realize his dream of a music “set free from the crippling forces of tonality” – the only purely electronic work he made was Poeme electronique (1957-8) for the Phillips Pavilion at the 1958 World Fair. His other work Deserts (electronic tape music and orchestra), 1953 was the first of these two electronic works he wrote after not composing for nearly 20 years due to his frustration with the strictures of tonal music and acoustic instruments. Around this same time John Cage composed Imaginary Landscape no.1 (1939) for magnetic tape, and Stockhausen completed Studie I. All these composers were actively engaged in seeking sounds beyond the acoustic instrument and the formal notions of harmony and counterpoint. An explosion of electronic and electroacoustic works came there after in the 1960’s and onwards – there are many works worthy of your consideration.

These works may not be to your liking – you may never have heard music like it, you may therefore need to learn to listen in a different way, but I strongly encourage you to listen to them, to think about the use of sound as raw material for sonic composition, and to think about how important Timbre is to musical composition. Strange then that we are not able within the Western Music Notation system to notate timbre, except by the limitations of orchestration techniques, mutes, bow positions etc.

Great music understands the integration of more traditional composition techniques and a deep feeling for the quality, the texture, weight etc of the sound, and thereby creates a rich and rewarding musical experience.

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