Project: The “Non-Violins” Synthamajig

2016-07-24 16.46.54Here’s a little something I cooked up while special-guesting at Motor City Steam Con, July 22–24, 2016:

The “Non-Violins” Synthamajig:



Here’s a static view, front and back:

The "Non-Violins"—'cause it ain't a violin no more
The “Non-Violins”—’cause it was a violin, but it ain’t no more!
Rear view of the guts of the Non-Violins
Rear view showing the guts of the Non-Violins

So what’s going here? Some of it is standard steampunk greebles (e.g., that faux wind-up key, the old vacuum tube being lit with a modern LED mounted behind it, some obtuse knob and mounting hardware choices), but the guts are a combination of totally legit early prototype circuits from my book (e.g., a four-2016-07-24 14.21.38step version of the Bleepbox Sequencer, of which only three of the steps can be pitch-controlled) and simple versions of a few others I hacked together on the spot (the voice is a stripped-down Single Chip Space Invader Synth driving a simplified Dirty-Cheap Amp).

2016-07-24 14.21.11


Why did I do this?  ’cause Emmy Jackson asked me to.  Emmy is a really swe2016-07-24 14.21.01ll guy, and did me huge solids at both Motor City Steam and Penguicon (where he both handled book sales for me and the other authors on hand, and offered a safe space for my son if he should lose track of himself or get freaked out).  He showed up at Motor City Steam with four rejected violin bodies, on 2016-07-24 14.21.05the condition that I rework at least one to fit in with his Dieselpunk aesthetic.  I gladly gave it my damndest (another instrument from this same weekend, the Diddley Fiddle, is still in development—as is, it’s a fine lil diddley bow, but damned if I don’t want it to be at least a tad more electromechanically rad-as-hell).


Here’s some video of me presenting the Non-Violins Synth to EmmyJ at Motor City Steam Con:

Dave wishes the Non-Violens a fond fare-the-well

WATCH ME: “8 1/2 Mile”


I basically 180-degree disagree with H. Perry H on the watchability of such a film—I would watch the shit out of this!—but love the opening graff of his post:

The internet is a Sarlacc pit of information: stuff goes in and it never comes out, the bodies just keep piling one atop another until they’re all digested into a sludge the individual elements of which are indistinguishable, it’s just a big, messy, congealed pile of videos, social media posts, other assorted viral moments, and mostly porn.

And I love the trailer itself:

Holy Shit! You Will Not Believe Weezer’s Creative Process

Artists: Even if you are lukewarm on Weezer, this interview with Rivers Cuomo (the band’s frontman) is so worth your time.  I’ve got more than a little experience with collaboration, creativity under duress, constrained writing techniques, and Oulipo-like methods, and yet I’ve never come across a process like this, which is at once ornately technical (spreadsheets, demo files, something akin to A/B testing) and is so meticulous in the interest of harnessing randomness and stripping context and formal planning out of the creative process.

Weezerians: To those who dig Weezer already, know this: The stories in their songs are not stories they wrote, but stories you wrote in response to the fragments they gathered and the formulae they use to collect and organize those fragments.

Public Service Announcement: Song Exploder is consistently awesome (for example, it introduced my 9yo to Iggy Pop and made him an instant fan).  So worth subscribing and supporting.

Seeing Sound: Couscous, Steel Cafe Tables, String Instruments, Math

Note that the different Chladni (say “clad-knee”) Figures he generates corresponds to different pitches (i..e, frequencies) and timbres (think “flavors of sound”), and that he does this by creating a node (which is technically any point in a wave where it crosses zero, and literally the places where a vibrating thing—like a guitar or cello string—is not moving).

All of which is neat, but mostly I just posted it because it looks hella sweeeeet!

Josh Burker’s Scratchbox Turntable

Josh Burker—an early reviewer of my latest DIY book, Junkyard Jam Band—didn’t just build a sweet-ass Scratchbox (although he did do that)

Josh went one better and adapted it to a hella rad turntable interface.




I love this sooooo much! Check it out:

Wanna build your own Scratchbox (or Scratchbox-inspired awesomeness)? Check out my full illustrated Scratchbox build instructions on the MAKE magazine website.

For a brief history of the credit card magstripe that makes this all possible, check out the first bit of this Planet Money podcast: Episode 695: Put A Chip On It : Planet Money : NPR:

(thx Josh!)

“Junkshop Percussion” in the Wild: Techno Goes Acoustic

I’ve been wrapping up my new book, which dedicates an entire section to “Junkshop Percussion”: washboards and cajons and spoons and buckets, and all the great “instruments” that are just detritus-plus-panache.

So, folks like this–who take a musical form that arose from digitization and mechanization via insanely expensive studio gear, then make it a dirt-cheap, no-tech, hands-on, all-acoustic expressive art form–just tickle me pink.

Like this guy, he’s a pure delight with the speed, steadiness, and raw sweat of that drum-n-bass:

Around the 2:15 mark this guy emulates a classic EMD filter sweep with his foot muting a bar; wünderbar!!!

Or check out the Pipe Guy’s PVC-and-flip-fop electro trance:

OMFG! I *love* old-school analog drum machine claps (like you get on a Roland 808, or my treasured Boss DR-110)–and he’s getting that sound from a goddamned flip-flop! *Outstanding!* I especially dig the point near 2:55, where dude launches into a cover of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”, then abruptly segues into the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” (although I’m kinda disappointed that this never becomes a cover of the Knight Rider theme, ’cause it hovers right at the cusp of doing so).

There is a future where these dudes appear on a Skynet-hosted show called HUMANS GOT TALENT. Howie Mandel continues to host, because he is a cylon.

At any rate, more to the point: If you dig things like these dudes are doing, then you might dig my next book (out in July). If you can’t wait to start building instruments and making sweet-ass sounds, you can start *right now* with a free download of the two most popular music projects from my fist DIY book:

Get your Junkyard Jam Pack download NOW!