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Entries in instruments (25)



Always wanted to play with virtual physics-based objects in a playful way? Andrew Stewart Allen is a programmer, researcher and composer based in San Diego. His recent work is mainly focused on researching and programming physically-informed real-time interactive audio systems. His system Ruratae, which he also wrote his dissertation on, is exactly this. Ruratae is a collaboration of him with visual artist Susanna Var, who created the unique visual style and UI.

For some reason, procedural audio is still not widely used. In software and games, the same sample is often loaded and played, making for quite static behaviour. Procedural audio can make a simple interaction seem like a living, breathing thing, even if it’s just another tidbit of code. George Lucas, Danny Boyle, etcetera, they’ve all been known to say that sound is a very important part of a film. In interactive media, interactive audio has been scarce, which is a shame. The effect is very clear in Ruratae, where the smallest change makes for a totally different sonic beast!

People like Drew are pushing the boundaries and opening up lots of new possibilities with something like Ruratae. Being able to create your own instrument from scratch in a virtual world, according to physical rules, with no DSP knowledge whatsoever is a very interesting new take on audio in games and other software. If you’re a Windows user, you can try out Ruratae yourself!

As Drew is not only a technical guy but also a composer, we’ve invited him for the Five Sound Questions next week!



On Everyday Listening we hardly every post about novel instruments. I don’t exactly know why. Is it because most instruments are not as aesthetically pleasing to the eye? Do they not get documented that well?

In any case, this half-instrument, half-installation is definitely pleasing to the eye. New York-based sound artist Sebastien Leon created the Carileon, which can be played by the wind and a performer simultaneously. In the video you see multi-instrumentalist Loup Barrow (who plays some awesomely strange instruments) with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop.

Some say wind chimes are the most basic form of generative music. In this installation, the generative nature and performance come together, which I think is quite interesting.



Teaching Music Technology brings back additive synthesis, year by year. For some students the concept of every harmonic sound being a multitude of frequencies is hard to grasp. Visualizing it is always a good way of crarifying things. FS/Partial would come in handy during those lessons. 

FS/Partial is an instrument created by Dogo Tudela and is meant as a visual way to perform additive synthesis in live contexts. Eight partials can be controlled by the user, by pushing the columns up and down, increasing and decreasing the volume of the sine waves:



An interesting question: what happens if you put 14 acoustic guitars on the floor and play them randomly? You would assume it would result in uninteresting noise, but listening to Playa by Ruben Dhers proofs the result can also be quite enchanting. 31 DC motors play the guitars using fans, and a computer controls the installation. The speed of the fans varies, causing a pleasant change in dynamics, and when they swing back and forth a higher speeds it feels like we’re listening to waves of guitar strings. 

Playa can be seen in real life at the Neues Museum Weimar, Germany. 


Power Model VII

Power Model VII (White Power) is a sound installation by Henrik Rylander. All white keys of three electric organs are pressed down with clamps, creating a suspenseful soundscape that sounds surprisingly un-static. 

Playing all those notes at the same time results in a massive sound blanket. Watch the video for an impression: 



If you can’t play the piano, you can build a machine that will play it for you. Maybe that’s what Akko Goldenbeld was thinking when he created Stadsmuziek. The installation resembles the system of an old hand-operated street organ, but now the resulting music is certainly a bit more ‘experimental’. 

I like the idea, and the fact that the system isn’t perfect. The screeching sound of the turning wheels complements the sound of the piano nicely. If only it could be played with a bit more expression..


La Chambre des Machines

Have you ever heard of Luigi Russolo, the writer of the manifesto The Art of Noises? He was the one who in the first half of the 20th Century introduced noise as a musical element. To create this noises he built his Intonarumori, instruments that produced noises similar to the machines that came into being during the industrial revolution. 
La Chambre des Machines, created by Martin Messier and Nicolas Bernier shows us a nice contemporary version of those noise makers. 


Stop/Run by Ed Devane is a collection of nine strange, hand-made instruments. He asked seven composers to create a piece for this ensemble, to be performed at the opening of a week long installation in Severed Head gallery, Dublin, Ireland.

The combination of acoustic and electronic means give the composers a wide range of sonic possibilities. Listen to the pieces recorded on during the opening event:

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Ice Music

More icy sounds of winter, made by Terje Isungset from Norway. Since 1999 he has been working with ice the main material to build his instruments. His first Ice Music album was recorded in the Ice Hotel in Sweden in 2001.

The sound of the ice instruments is never the same, as the material changes and changes in temperature change the timbre of the instruments. And apparently, the colder it gets, the better the ice sounds. For a list of concert dates visit Terje Isungset’s website.


Lego Tinguely 2: a Lego Rhythm Machine

Last year I saw Pierre Bastien play live. Interesting how machines can act as a musical instrument and provide musical layers to improvise on. But it also appeared hard to keep it interesting as there is not much variation in the turning of a wheel. 

Roman Gerold was kind enough to share his latest experiment with me: Lego Tinguely 2: a mechanical rhythm machine made of Lego. A great idea to use such simple building blocks to generate noise and rhythms. Its sounds could play a role in a musical setting as well, if used in moderation.