Friday, 22 October 2010

'Strat-o-Synth' On Hold

It is with great regret that today I am putting my 'Strat-o-Synth' project on hold. The university deadline is still not that far off but after the amount of times I've stepped into my room to 'finish off' the hardware and walked away with it incomplete have pushed me to the point of rethinking the idea entirely. If I had a drawing board, I'd be going back to it right now.

I'm not sure exactly how I'll be doing it yet but the project will have be scaled back somewhat. The problem of squeezing everything inside the guitar produced more problems than I've mentioned here, including damaging the circuitry, forcing bits that shouldn't be touching to touch and various other issues that ended up with me fixing the project on most occasions.

Right now things are in a bit of a mess and certain bits are broken so I'm taking a break from both working on it and thinking about it. Hopefully the money and time I've invested into the project won't go to waste but I struggle to think how to change things whenever the project pops into my head so perhaps a break is best. Maybe I'll work on some of the software side for a while then think how I could apply some hardware control, I'll see.

Right now I've got other projects to work on as well people to chase up from other group projects that are dwindling slightly, this particular project will have to wait.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Monotronic - Mini Review For A Mini Synth

Today, after an extremely long period of waiting, I finally got my hands on a Korg Monotron! I placed an order at several months ago - when the site said 'in stock' - which was getting pushed back so much I finally asked for cancellation and a refund this week and ordered from the UK...yesterday. Less than 24 hours later and I'm living in pocket analogue synth heaven.

As you may know - or can at least see in the picture - this small device, about that of an average digital camera, sports a slim ribbon controller and just a handful of knobs. The inside however is an all-analogue, with a filter descended from the old Korg MS-20.

Playing around with the VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator) on the ribbon controller is quite a bit of fun - I hijacked a spare Nintendo DS stylus on account of my inaccurate fingers - especially as battery power and a built-in speaker mean you can carry it all about the place. However, my favourite part of this synth is the audio input that lets you utilise that awesome filter. Hook up to a set of decent speakers, whack in some drum or instrument loops and then prepare to get lost in a knob twiddling trance.

I picked this up on the way out of my flat when leaving for my girlfriend's earlier so I've been limited in its application so far, as soon as I get back to the rest of my gear however, I can't wait to hear how it sounds. 4 stars.

  • All-analogue goodness, MS-20 filter.
  • Sleek form factor, fits right in my pocket.
  • Awesome price, under £50.
Possible Improvements:
  • Option for non-battery power, I'll be rinsing the AAAs.
  • The ribbon controller doesn't give a great amount of playing possibilities.
  • Needs a bigger brother model, more options for audio ins/outs & MIDI input.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Project Updates - October

Having started the first semester of my final year at university, I thought I'd just give a quick word about some of my ongoing projects.

Guitar Virtual Instrument

I've made some more progress with the guitar project, which I'm now tentatively calling 'Strat-o-Synth', although I have fallen a little behind schedule with the hardware stage. Despite making measurements beforehand, I appear to have cut the board that I'm attaching wires and other components to slightly too wide to fit inside the instrument, meaning I can't get the scratchplate fully back on. As a result, I'll have to tighten up the arrangement of the wires and components so that I can compact the board a tiny bit more!

Despite this space issue, the circuits are performing as I hoped they would so I should be able to post some photos of the complete hardware before too long and finally make some more progress with the actual software instrument.

Museum Installation - Charms Of The Sea

Along with my virtual instrument project, the same university module focusing on interactive and alternative interfaces also requires myself and other students to create an interactive audio-visual installation. In order to best apply our skills for this task, our lecturer has arranged - in conjunction with Mark Hildred of Apollo Creative and Scarborough Museums Trust - for us to create an installation for a brief set my the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough.

The piece will be based on the various charms collected by naturalist William James Clarke in the early 20th Century from all over the world, in particular those from the sea. This installation is part of the lead-up to an exhibition for the Cultural Olympiad inspired by his work, coming in 2012.

I myself will be working in a four-man team to create a section on 'Health' charms, one of four overall sections making up the installation. As part of the assignment, I will be required to blog regularly about both my group's and my own progress throughout the project. A link to this blog will be posted soon.

The installation will be open to the public at the end of November. 

Other Projects

After the expanded performance of 'Dinner In Three Movements', myself and other members of the collaborative music and contemporary dance group 'Flambé' have begun various preparations for our next piece. More information will be available in the coming weeks as well as a brief video documenting the creation and realisation of the September performance.

As always please feel free to visit my website and get in contact with me for any more information. Thanks for reading.