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June 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in instruments, youtube

This is a 3D printer:

YouTube Preview Image

It’s frickin’ awesome. It builds up layers of polymer into an honest-to-god pokable structure. And I want to use it to make a musical instrument.

I thought of this after yesterday’s daydreaming-about-metalworking post, realizing that I probably am not likely to a) get a metalworking shop into our rental apartment without some serious landlord hassles; or b) acquire the necessary expertise to squish a tuba into a cube (A CUBA! Hell yes!) without squishing its tubes totally shut. I’d probably just kinda whack a bit of copper pipe with a hammer and then get all mopey when it doesn’t even let any air through, let alone make noise.

However, G. already has mad autocad and 3d printing skillz (architects have ALL the fun) which combined with my slightly less useful — but more geeky — experimental physics, could totally result in the realization of all my Platonic-solid instrument dreams. Or at least a really, really weird looking kazoo.

Now there is just the tiny problem of, errr, getting our hands on a 3D printer.

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Lituus Play

May 31st, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in classical music, instruments

A graduate student (Who seems to actually accomplish things. Bastard.) recently helped to re-introduce an extinct, and ridiculously unwieldy instrument back into the wild. The impractical device in question is called the Lituus, and it’s a basically a really long horn. Over 8ft long, in fact (that’s two-and-a-half-ish meters, metric folk). Can you imagine trying to pack that baby up at the end of a concert? Yeah. That’s probably why no-one has been using it for the last 300 years.

Despite not having a drawing of what the thing looked like, or even a proper ye olde description of it, the researchers used vague hints about it’s shape and tonal range to come up with a design using witchcraft and/or simulation software. And it works. They even played BWV 118 with two of the little beasts this year. No YouTube video yet. There is a short clip of it over on the BBC website, though.

I’m curious about the software they used to design this thing. I wonder if instead of optimizing it to be a simple straight line, they can make it really, really complicated instead. Like with TONNES of twisting and spiraling and turns and crap. Maybe you could fold it into a sphere, or a cube. You could have a whole set of platonic solid shaped horns.

Reason number 5,183 why I want a metal-working shop in my garage.

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Plinky plonky

January 19th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted in instruments, music

The piano/physics/block-slinging little internet game of the day (and believe me there was a LOT of competition for the title) is this entry from Germany. I’d give you some pointers as to how to wrangle the little beastie into submission, but half the fun is working out for yourself what all the knobs and little colored squares do.

I love the tidy little color palettes in the akkord section, that’s a beautiful way of visualizing the harmonies in a chord. A chord. Akkord. Is that where the word chord comes from? Wiktionary says… no. It actually comes from the Greek word khorde which means “string of gut”. Interestingly the same word is also the root of “cord”, as in rope. Huh. That’s one of those things which seem incredibly obvious in hindsight.

No wait a second. That’s not obvious at all. It’s actually completely surprising that chord and cord come from the same source. I think that means it’s bedtime. After all, you know how the old saying goes: “words start overlapping/lie down and start napping”.

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Harmonic Generation in a Whale’s Belly

November 30th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted in instruments

Via oddmusic:

Dunno what it sounds like, because the ain’t got any samples up on the website yet. Coming soon, they say. This beast a beauty though, in appearance at least.


Mistery Noises

September 10th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted in instruments, non music, technology

If fate had worked itself all wrongly, and had made me into one who makes music (I thought) then I would definitely, definitely write a piece for foghorn. Foghorns are sexy. And intimidating. They are the roars of our largest artificial animals. Here is a fun foghorn fact: it is impossible to find a video on youtube of one which does not involve one of (a) wind static, (b) ADD cameramen, (c) some dude who attached one to the roof of his ScionxB. Well, there might be a few others:

I can see from your eyes that you have a great desire to learn more about foghorns. Let me share with you a few secrets unraveled in the Great Internet Foghorn Adventure of the last half hour. It turns out that the “classic” foghorns — diaphones — are an endangered species. They are all getting replaced by electronic diaphragm style ones. This is sad as the diaphone has a rich and exuberant (well, maybe not exuberant) history. Check it out:


Air comes in from the left, and that piston in the middle is cut away on its left side: that’s why it looks weird, it’s actually symmetric and shaped like a top-hat. It starts with the piston in the top position. Air pushes the rim of the top-hat down, until this exposes the channels which let the air escape up through the hollow center of the piston and out of the top of the cone. In the process the piston is forced back up again, causing it to vibrate up and down.

This is kind of like a half flute/half reed type mechanism for producing a noise. There is a column of vibrating air (like a flute) but instead of this being due to purely the dimensions of the device, it is due to being actively oscillated by a mechanical, err, thingy (like a reed). This mechanism originally came from a (rarely used) stop on an organ, invented by the same guy who created the Wurlitzer. I think it’s really cool that there is a little piston in there. It’s like a half instrument/half machine.

Still not convinced that foghorns are sexy? Perhaps this will change your mind:

diaphone thong

I’ve GOT to get me one of these bad boys.

They are available from the store at gamewelldiaphone.com, if you are interested. This is also the site where I found that awesome animation up there. For further foghorn-based entertainment (and I know you know that’s the best type) check out the wikipedia entry on diaphones.

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