Using Lab equipment to make electronic music


Don’t we all love to experiment with new sounds, well some are taking this quite seriously. As field recordings have become the new hype among electronic artists some prefer to create those unique sounds with test equipment. Like the German synthesist Hainbach for example who explores an early electronic music technique.

But while we are at it let’s also check out some other cool experimental stuff, so make sure to check out ::vtol::’s latest creation, an electro-acoustic instrument and how to play in zero-gravity.

Here’s what he has to say about the live performance:

In which I go to the roots of electronic music by playing laboratory tools, among them a 26kg sine generator.

I have had a fascination with test equipment ever since I heard Stockhausen’s early works at university. The challenges the composers of that time faced were unique, both musically and technically. So when I first visited the Waveform Research Center in Rotterdam run by Dennis Verschoor an idea started in the back of my head, that I put into reality over the past two weeks: to have my own test equipment setup to compose on.

This is the very first piece I made with this setup. I still have lots to learn, but I am looking forward to expanding and combining this with tape techniques.

Learn more on Hainbach here >>

Of course you can go much weirder then this with an instrument that is designed specifically for astronauts to play in the zero-gravity expanse of space. And although it is not lab equipment it sure fits with pushing the boundaries.

The Telemetron is the first electronic musical instrument to be designed specifically to be performed in zero gravity,” Sands Fish, one of the co-creators (with Nicole L’Huillier) of the futuristic instrument, told Digital Trends. “We were interested in capturing the poetics of motion in zero gravity, so we built a chamber with a number of elements inside that we call chimes. While they don’t make any audible sounds themselves, they each contain a gyroscope that can detect how fast each of the chimes are spinning in any direction. We take these rotational speeds and wirelessly transmit them to a nearby laptop, where they are transformed into sounds.

However if you are more into the more traditional sounds why not go the electro-acoustic route with this newly released instrument.

DVINA is the first electro-acoustic experiment created by Soma. This unique string instrument was inspired by classical Hindustani music but lends itself to Western music just as well. References include the bowed instruments Sarangi and Dilruba, although more in common spirit than in design. DVINA produces a similarly full, warm and organic sound using modern technical innovations.

A key feature of DVINA and its sound is that there is no pick-up inside. Instead, the electric signal is taken directly from the strings that vibrate in the strong magnetic field of a neodymium magnet, hidden in the neck. Sound is generated by strumming, plucking the strings (pizzicato) and by playing with a bow (not included). DVINA has a minimalist design – no one part can be removed without losing the functionality of the instrument.

The length of the neck is 88cm, and the scale length is 52cm. The instrument weighs 1.2kg. The DVINA in the demo video is tuned C#, G#, but other tunings are of course possible. You can also use strings with a different gauge. Aside from the wooden body, an integral part of DVINA is the special step-up transformer that boosts the weak signal from the strings enough for further processing. After the transformer, the signal is ready to be put into stompboxes, mixer or a guitar cube. The final part of DVINA is a custom built high quality pre-amp with one-tap delay and a soft distortion in the delay’s feedback. This is the pre-amp used in the demo. You can of course use your own processing chain instead, but the Soma pre-amp does play a role in shaping the unique sound of DVINA.

Like with Soma’s other instruments, there are some underlying concepts to DVINA. There is the minimalism in design, and the link to the Hindustani tradition’s meditative roots that can help the contemporary person focus on their inner state.
“Two sticks, two strings, no frets, it’s as simple as possible, everything unnecessary has been removed,” said Vlad. “It’s only you and your spirit, mastery and imagination. This is a very simple but powerful instrument, with a strong connection to your body.”

And certainly we cannot round this article off without showcasing ::vtol::’s latest creation:

Sonometer is an automatic sound object (monochord) which changes string pitch (tension) by using an ultra-slow motor. It takes 40 minutes to reach the highest note and 36 minutes to drop it down. Because of extremely low speed, it’s almost impossible to recognize changes of the pitch in the realtime, only by comparing the pitch after at least 30 seconds.

It uses electromagnetic coil feedback bow aka eBow to activate the string and piezo pickup. Additional electromagnetic solenoid is used as retrigger and random rhythmical element.