New Instruments and Soundmakers
Date: November 1, 2013
The only instrument that can match the sheer range of sounds available to the human voice is the synthesizer. While not capable of the incredible variation of tone, timbre and resonance of the voice, the synthesizer has a similar capability to create a diverse palette of tones and mix them in myriad unique combinations. Over the last 40 years, the synthesizer has been synonymous with the electric keyboard for most people, but now that computing hardware is smaller, more customizable and more economical, the capability to synthesize sounds is breaking out of the keyboard and into a variety of artistic tools. Developments such as Kickstarter, the Maker movement and "hackable" technology like Raspberry Pis and Arduino kits are allowing a whole generation of tinkerers, composers and sound artists to add tools to our musical imagination. While no means extensive, here are some of the more interesting ideas that have risen to the surface in recent months.
This Raspberry Pi-based project measures electrical resistance to generate pitch. Nothing new there-- the theremin has done the same thing for years. The theremin, though, doesn't also help you fill a basic food group.
Looking like something from a high school science project, this kit of leads and a processor allow you to make anything into the "keyboard" or playing surface for an instrument (anything conductive, that is).
The Imaginary Marching Band
This tool begs for a collaborative music and dance project: finger triggers for a MIDI synthesizer. Since it's based on MIDI, it can be run through other sound processors or editors as well, meaning it could be put to endless performance and recording instrumentation.
The Recycled Orchestra
Finally, while not a synthesizer project, a worthy reminder of finding music in odd instruments-- and a bit of perspective the next time we all bemoan the state of our funding.