Composer, electronic musician, improviser

Experimental Musical Instrument Workshop @ MakeHaven

I am pleased to announce another experimental musical instrument workshop in New Haven, this time at MakeHaven (266 State Street New Haven CT.)  The event page is below.  From there you can RSVP if you are interested in coming!


Just in case you’re still not sold on the idea of whacky musical instruments, here’s a video of me “performing” on an Udderbot that I made at work today.

Filed under: Current Projects, El MuCo, Miscellany, Music, Phase 1

Love Local Design: video

Here is a great little animation Heather Strycharz did in After Effects. It promotes her new business and design concept Love Local Design. I did the little piano ditty. Check it out and check out her site!

Love Local Design from hstryk on Vimeo.

Filed under: Miscellany, Music, , ,

Electronic Music from “How Things Work” c.1970

On a recent outing to a local bookshop I encountered a 4 volume set of books titled “How Things Work.”  It is a wonderful compendium of knowledge in simple but not simplistic language with really great illustrations.  The four volumes cover everything from knitting to jet engines.  Naturally what caught my eye were all of the electronic devices and processes; everything from how tape recorders, phonographs, and records (LPs) are made and function to broadcast television and electronic music.  I here submit them to you for your enjoyment. The pages are available in two ways, a scanned pdf of the entire section and the individual pages as jpegs.  You can download the pdf from Scribd, and the jpegs you can download by clicking on them to bring up the image page.  Enjoy!

Here is the electronic music section (pg.s 202-214 in volume IV) as jpegs.

I have not researched the origins of the book, but they are obscure.  From a review on Amazon:

It is a 4 volume set, originally published in Germany or Switerzland around 1970. It was translated into English soon thereafter and is now out of print, but you can buy it used on EBay, or Amazon, or ABE Books.com.

A puzzling thing about the English edition of the book is that it does not include the name of the editor or author(s), nor does it include the publication or copyright date. Odd. The only name mentioned is the illustrator, R.J. Segalat.

In this case the reviewer is mistaken.  The illustrations were only “researched by” monsieur Segalat according to the forward of the English edition.  Any comments with information about these volumes are appreciated!

Filed under: Miscellany, Music, Phase 1, , , , ,

DSO Nano V2: unboxing, upgrading, using


If you don’t know what a DSO Nano is, but you are in the market for a cheap (<$100) oscilloscope and don’t want to risk one of the totally awesome, but possibly janky analog ones on ebay, then you are in luck having found this post.
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: El MuCo, Miscellany, , , , ,

Scott gets a Marxophone

Marxist-phone-what?  Heather’s parents got me a gen-u-ayn Marxophone (a fretless zither!) for my birthday.  (Thanks Jim and Karen!)  Imagine my surprise when they showed up with several boxes of fantastic electronic toys to dissect, the culmination of which was this fantastic instrument.  (I might add, I had never heard of nor seen one of these in my life!)  While it doesn’t plug in, this instrument has a lot to like.  I don’t know if it is the “invention of the century” as it was touted to be in the early 1900s, but it makes some really neat noises!

Now before you Tea Party faithful start commenting on the destruction of the American way of life at the hands of Marxophonists like myself, I assure you this instrument has nothing to do with THAT Marx, nor is the instrument itself a socialist (see picture of american bald eagle with flag below.)  We will leave the owner out of this discussion for now…

From the “Marxophone Homepage:”

The Marxophone was produced by the Marxochime Colony of New Troy, Michigan which was in business from about 1927 to 1972. Henry Charles Marx (1875-1947), the founder of the company, oversaw the production of the Marxophone. Marxophones were also produced earlier by the International Musical Corporation of Hoboken, New Jersey under 1912 Patent #1044553.

My instrument lived for a very long time in a box in someones attic, so it was extraordinarily dusty and out-of-tune when I got it: just the way I like it!  There’s nothing better than the “sands of time” method of tuning for curing what ails you (*$&%# equal temperament!)  You can see the instrument demonstrated on youtube (like everything else) so I won’t launch into a lengthy description of how the instrument is constructed and played.  However, I will post some picture details of the instrument itself along with some audio.

Below is the setup I used to record the marxophone.  The only thing missing is the Shure SM58 microphone that was resting over the instrument on the mixer.  This has become my favorite setup**: cheesy Dell D620 with PureDyne Linux using qjack and Ardour to record, and Audacity to edit; Behringer 1204FX mixer with USB AD/DA converter; Shure (mentioned above); and of course my trusty and stylish Panasonic headphones.  You can see the “Marxophone” plate which is supposed to be used to hold music cards.  Beneath this is a row of metal hammers on flexible metal arms.  When depressed and held, the flexibility causes the hammer to repeated strike the string in a sort of mandolinesque fashion.

Below is the chord tuning indication sticker below the leftmost 16 strings.  This sticker indicates the tuning of the four-string chords, C-G and F major triads and a D7 to round it out.  Note that the lowest note of the “G” chord is incorrectly notated as an A on the sticker even though it says “G” directly beneath it.  Awesome!  Also awesome is the chord spacing, the D7 especially.  Someone would have failed freshman theory…

And finally, here is a closeup of the American eagle emblem above the sound hole.  America loves Marx!

Finally, here is what you have been waiting for, some sound!  This recording is the instrument as I received it, tuned by countless years in an attic, and played in as normal a fashion as was able.

With the mic resting only centimeters above the instrument and directly behind the hammer apparatus, I was able to capture the fantastic mechanistic sound of the levers in action.  If you are like me, this sound is much more interesting than the typical hammer-on-string sound.

And finally, the instrument as it was intended to sound by Marx himself… or at least close.  It took 11 minutes to get to the point that this recording comes in: 1 chord “tuned” and 4 notes of a hexachord almost up to snuff.  I continue to attempt to tune the instrument, but by the time I get the G and A in tune, the C, D and E are fantastically flat.  I probably should have put a warning on this post for persons with perfect pitch…


** I have several Macbook Pros laying around with a MOTU traveler among other interfaces at my disposal.  The idea, though, of making great recordings/music with hardware that totals around $350 bucks and contains no proprietary software really tickles my… fancy.  Perhaps this all smacks of communist propaganda (again!) but working on-the-cheap gives me a warm feeling inside: it’s nice to know I don’t have to drop $4,000 on gear and software to make art.  I plan to post about this in the future.

Filed under: Current Projects, Miscellany, Phase 1

Analog Ring Modulation Circuit

Above is a video and below are some pictures of a simple ring mod circuit I whipped up last night. The circuit is the classic circuit, and I’m simply running two oscillators from a hex schmidt 6-oscillator IC through the circuit as the carrier and modulator. The frequencies of the hex schmidt are being controlled by a PSR (photosensitive resistor) and an FSR (force sensing resistor) respectively. The video shows fairly well how the PSR reacts to the light. The function of the FSR is a little less clear visually, but you can hear it pretty plainly. I can throw up (!) a schematic of the circuit if anyone is interested, but you should be able to find one by doing a google search.

The project requires a 5V power source (batteries only!) a bread board or project board, some wire (i prefer solid-core) two diodes, two capacitors (0.1uf), 1 133k (or thereabouts) resistor, one PSR, one FSR, one hex schmitt oscillator (mm74c14n) and an audio cable or female 1/8 audio jack to run into a) an amplifier, b) a mixer, or c) your computer.  In this case I have two alligator clips attached to the cut-off and split end of a 1/8 audio cable, the other end of which is running into a mixer and then out to small speakers.

Next on the agenda I think I’m going to build me an ADSR for it. This site has a really great page on ADSRs with diagrams, circuit board patterns, etc.

Filed under: Current Projects, Miscellany, Phase 1, , , , , , , , , ,

EeePC + Ubuntu 10.04 + Arduino (Mini-Tutorial-of-Sorts)

1. I’m not good at tutorial writing. This is not because I do not have the willingness or ability to write tutorials, but because I lack the patience to write tutorials. However, because I seem to have 3x the number of difficulties that everyone else does doing anything, I have started taking copious notes whilst undertaking any dubious technological task and therefore find myself in the position of being able to at least expound in some detail the products of my activities.

2. There are better and more informative tutorials on the web than I could ever hope to write with one caveat: all tutorials approach the same subject in different ways with different levels of detail. All have a slant. The particular slant of the tutorial you find on the web may or may not suit your aims and may or may not solve your problems. Therefore, it is better to have too many than too little tuts, even if they overlap in many details.

3. A warning: all information on this post is from personal experience only, and in no way guarantees success for you, or even that following the steps listed below will not erase your hard drive and explode your Arduino. Having said that, there’s a good chance (37%) that Linux Gnomes* will erase your HD and explode your Arduino at any time anyway, so you might as well proceed!

4. Some links. (Here? Honestly? I mean, it’s like I don’t even want you to keep reading…)


While I disagree with her choice of beverage (Merlot with Arduino?!?!? Really, this is a scotch project board if ever one was invented!!!) Limor has tonnes** of awesome pages on a really fun web site that will “learn you” something fierce!


So Here Goes

I was recently bored. While I have a perfectly working and configured Arduino workstation/setup on multiple Macs, I figured I would get one up and running on my little EeePC as a means of expending spare time as I hurtle through space.


I downloaded the linux package here and just unzipped the package to my home folder.


Open a shell and navigate to the arduino-0018 folder and run the arduino script (./arduino.)


You must set your board type and serial port in the Arduino application itself under the Tools menu. If you’ve forgotten what board you have, the model is printed on the board itself, and the IC type is printed on the IC itself (ATMEGA 168, for example.)

I had two little problems:

1.) On the Linux installation page here, one is instructed to install the avr library (avr-gcc avr-g++.) I’m using Ubuntu 10.04 and the looking to install avr-g* failed, so I installed gcc-avr. (The same thing, right?) Nope. You need to install the avr-libc package or you will get the error (error: avr/io.h: No such file or directory) on compile that is mentioned on the arduino page.

2.) The second little problem that gave me a little pause was that I didn’t seem to have the File, Edit, Tools, and other menu items that I know exist and are necessary to configure Arduino to work with your board. The problem was so silly I hate to even mention it, but it was that the color of the font for these items perfectly matches my system theme, so they were effectively invisible (see pic.) Clicking in the ether, however, proved they did exist. :P

Aside from these, getting my arduino up and running was easy-peasy. Yours will be too!***

* Yes, they are real! linux gnomes!
** a British measurement equivalent to 2.798 metric tons and spelled “tonne”
*** This is not a true statement! Yours may not and probably will not be as easy…

Filed under: Miscellany, Phase 1, , , , ,

Stockhausen: Étude (musique concrète) 1952

I recently ran across this piece which I had not previously heard. It is the first piece of musique concrète by Stockhausen composed in 1952-53 at the RTF in Paris.

A quote about the work by Stockhausen from an online source:**

“First I recorded six sounds of variously prepared low piano strings struck with an iron beater, using a tape speed of 76.2 centimetres per second. After that, I copied each sound many times and, with scissors, cut off the attack of each sound. A few centimetres of the continuation [steady state], which was – briefly – quite steady dynamically, were used. Several of these pieces were spliced together to form a tape loop, which was then transposed to certain pitches using a transposition machine. A few minutes of each transposition were then recorded on separate tapes.

I was only allowed to have the studio with a technician for a few hours each week.Therefore, I hammered a nail into my desktop at the student hostel, laid a metal tape hub on the nail, fastened a ruler horizontally onto the desk in front of me, and placed a series of hubs with modulated tapes and one hub with leader tape next to each other at the rear of the desk. Then I cut many short pieces from a roll of white splicing tape and stuck them next to each other on the edge of the desk.

I then chose, according to my score, one of the tapes having a certain sound transposition, measured the notated length in centimetres and millimetres, cut off that length, spliced it with a little piece of the splicing tape onto a lengthy piece of white leader tape, and wound the white tape plus the first little piece of magnetic tape around the metal hub on the nail. For this I used a pencil which was inserted into the outer hole of the hub.

Next, I chose another prepared tape, measured and cut off a piece, and spliced it onto the previous piece. Whenever the score prescribed a pause, I spliced a corresponding length of white tape onto the result tape. Occasionally, my winding apparatus did not function, and tape salad was the result: I then crawled around on the floor under my desk searching for one end of the fallen tape. Once found, the confusion of the entangled tape was unravelled with great difficulty, and it was wound around the hub again.

When my studio time came, I synchronized two of my spliced tapes using two play-back tape recorders, recorded the sum on a third tape recorder and copied this result again – depending on the polyphony desired – on top of a further zebra-tape of bits of brown tape and little pieces of white pause. Already upon hearing two synchronized layers, and even more so hearing three or four layers, I became increasingly pale and helpless: I had imagined something completely different!

On the following day, the sorcery undespairingly continued: I changed my series, chose other sequences, cut other lengths, spliced different progressions, and hoped afresh for a miracle in sound.”

From another source quoting Stockhausen:**

“I can no longer recall exactly how many weeks I carried on this cutting and splicing, with ever-increasing perfection of my winding-skill. Anyway – on this CD released in 1992 – the world can now hear my Concrète ETUDE of 1952, which for many years I had presumed lost until I finally found it again in a pile of old tapes.”

While hyperbole and useless, flowery, and overtly descriptive language often accompanies any description of this piece online, I feel it is both important and necessary to describe it as awesome.  I wonder if the score is laying around in a pile somewhere… I sure would like to see it!

**all quotes from the sources above were taken from: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Compact Disk Number Three; Electronic Music 1952-1960, from the complete edition (Stockhausen Verlag), accompanying booklet.

Filed under: Miscellany, Phase 1, , , , , , ,

Recommended for Advanced Listeners Only

Some goodies inspired by (and some taken from) Delton T. Horn’s book titled “The Beginner’s Book of Electronic Music.

While the book is an excellent resource as a “hole”, there are some particularly great passages such as that on musique concrete and the Discography at the end (from whence comes the warning issued in the title of this post.

The hilarity aside, the book has a ton of really great analog circuit designs including parts lists (which need to be updated… future post) for voltage controlled oscillators, filters of many types, amplifiers, and more. The book can be picked up online at the link posted above. The book (published in 1982) also has a bunch of great reviews of then current and older synthesizers, including a modular Moog, the Korg VC-10 vocoder, the Prophet 5 and 10 series sythns, and more.

Filed under: El MuCo, Miscellany, , ,

Towards a Little Chaos

I’ve been reading through Leonard Smith’s Chaos: a Very Short Introduction in my spare time (twice a month.) It is truly fascinating reading (depending on your definition of fascinating) and absolutely enlightening to a recovering philistine groping at the previously eschewed topics of mathematics, physics, and philosophy*. I’m going to post some of the algorithms/systems he describes, realized in the SuperCollider programming language. This may be of some interest to others in my position**.

Full Logistic Map

“Subtract X2 from X, multiply the difference by 4 and take the result as the new value for X.”

If X is given a value of 0.5, the results are relatively uninteresting. (0.5,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0…)

However, if the value 0.876 (that of the example in the book) or something similar is used, the results are more interesting.

r = Routine.new ( {
y = List[];
x = rrand(0.869, 0.883);
250.do ( { y.add( {x = 4*(x-(x.squared)) }.value) } );
} );



As the author points out, notice that while a statistician may pronounce the results random, the physicist may find predictability. It should be noted that in the author’s example, x was always 0.876 and therefore the system was deterministic. By changing x to a random number (linearly picked from a given range) I’ve made the system stochastic.

AC Map (Stochastic Dynamical System)

Any dynamical system whose rule does not require a random number may be said to be deterministic. Any dynamical system whose rule requires a random number may be said to be stochastic.

“Divide X by 4, then subtract 1/2 and add a random number R to get the new X.”

r = Routine.new ( {

y = List[];
x = 1;

250.do ( { y.add( { x = (x/4) + rrand(0,1) }.value) } );

} );



Note: this system is incomplete without defining R. The random number picking algorithm is a system of its own. In the above, a linear distribution with even 0-1 float return was employed. The author notes that it is sufficient to specify (for R) what distribution is used (linear, Gaussian, etc.)

I’ll try to add more of these as I read. They may also appear in new posts.

*I was a lofty romantic — the only “reality” to me at one point was the realization of idealized sound-art (composition.)

** The likelihood of any other person actually finding themselves in anything that could be considered remotely close to “my position” is statistically very small. Realizing this, this post is then for my personal edification.

Filed under: Code, Miscellany, Phase 1, , , , , , ,

G O I N G S O N : L O C A L (ISH)

fritz Art of Fritz Horstman
kane Music of Brian Kane
fritz Hartford Phase Shift
fritz Hartford Sound Alliance
Lique Art of Philip Lique
Lique Music of Matt Sargeant
strycharz Art of Heather Strycharz
uncertainty Uncertainty Music Series

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INI new haven

Handmade instruments by Scott Petersen and Brian Kane at Artspace New Haven