Composer, electronic musician, improviser

Casing the Casio SA2

There are a lot of sites/posts online with either audio or video of bent Casio SA2s. One site in specific has a lot of great, detailed information on the Casio series, and that is CasperElectronics‘s site.  In fact, his site should be required reading by anyone looking to learn anything about hardware hacking.

That said, it is way more fun to explore an instrument than it is to read about it!  Just doing what’s been done, or just following directions kills what makes HH such a joy — the thrill of the chase!  The key to exploration is knowing how to sail (ahoy, amass those Sprogs n make fer thar swaggy!) and where to sail (say, is that the edge of the world?  forward, ho!!!)

El MuCo prefers to lick-n-stick first, and read second (if at all…)

Here is the SA-2 with the top case off showing how it looks prior to having the case sealed up again.  You will notice that work not described here as already been done.  This is the problem with non-linear pictorial placement.

Here is a close up picture of the part of the circuit where bridging some of the resistors results in pleasing sonic/musical results. In the recording below, I was simply using a 4k resistor on 1 with a quick, light touch.

Click on it to see the 1024×728 version.

Here is a recording made tripping the resistors marked 1 & 2 above.

Here one can see the connections we’ve added in the form of wires soldered onto specific legs of the two integrated circuits.  The white box at the left is the timing crystal.  Note the black wires next to the timing circuit.  These were soldered in place of a resistor which we removed because the wires were easier to “play” as indicated in the “tripping the resistors” comment above.  Unfortunately, it turns out, pulling resistors from circuits and maintaining the overall resistance is not as easy as measuring the resistor and putting in a substitute elsewhere.  As any electrical engineer (and now El MuCo) can tell you, length and thickness of the conductive materials will affect resistance.

Another View

Because we couldn’t fit the pots in the case, and there was already a dearth of space from all the wires, we decided to annex the control interface to another enclosure.  In the below picture you can see the wires from the board running out through holes drilled in the case.

Here is the control module.  The box is a standard Radio Shack project box with three bends, each with its own on/off switch.

We never put the keys (musical keyboard) back in the Casio case as it was deemed superfluous.  One can find images of hacked SA-2s all over the web, many showing bends built-in to the original case.  Our decisions were not purely aesthetic; we had a show in a week, and needed to get this thing wrapped up.  Having said that, the modular approach is appealing for a number of reasons.  We plan on cutting the wires to the module and building in an RCA patch bay.  This way, the two units can be taken apart for transport.

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El MuCo: Birth of The Growler!

Less than two weeks after the completion of  the JankoTunes (real name pending) Kane and Scacinto have finished the second El MuCo instrument!  Witness the birth of THE GROWLER!  In its previous life, The Growler was a PC Picture Phone: a pathetic and annoying toy whose only purpose was to entertain tiny people with underdeveloped brains.  Over a series of hours, Scacinto and Kane worked with surgical precision, paying attention to every aesthetic detail, and transmogrified the PC Picture phone into the glory that is now THE GROWLER!

The Growler is a sick man-machine equipped with one mega-potentiometer, one 100k pot, one 6-position rotary switch (though we only use 4 of them), one jTouch sensor (carriage bolt), 8 switches, one 12-button matrix, and one thumb-clicky-thingy (formerly the receiver switch on the phone.)

Below you will find pictures and recordings showing off The Growler in all its resplendence.

PLEASE NOTE: these recordings are for advanced listeners only!  Scientific study has shown that prolonged exposure to noise can lead to an unsettled constitution, nervousness, panic attacks, and even psychosis. (this isn’t a joke.) LISTEN ONLY IF YOU ARE SURE YOUR PSYCHE IS CAPABLE OF HANDLING EXCRUCIATING, LASER-LIKE WAVES OF NOISE!!!!

Here are the capable hands of Kane doing some last-minute soldering.

Kane Soldering the Growler 1

The completed Growler basking in the light of the overhead.

The Growler: glowing

The maiden voyage of The Growler in tantalizing digital audio!

The Growler 1

The Growler 2

The Growler looking retro hanging out on the wooden table.

The Growler looking 70's retro

Scacinto makes a pleasured monkey-face while giving the Growler a test run.

Scacinto plays a face-melting solo on the Growler

It sounds so good he can’t but laugh hysterically!

Scacinto bemused by the Growler's insouciance

Kane sets up for the maiden voyage of the Growler.

Kane setting up the Growler's first recording

Setting levels for the first recording.

Kane coaxing the sweet sounds

Kane working a pot

Working it!

Kane making some clicky nastiness

A sweet little overdubbed piece of Muco chamber music. Featuring two JankoTunes and a baritone Growler.  

Kane working the buttons on the Growler

Some cheezy effects to bring out the growls. Reverb, phase, granulation, EQ.

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Maiden Voyage

On Saturday the 18th of July, the first El MuCo instrument was completed and taken for her maiden voyage. Enjoy some pics of the instrument and a sound clip of scacinto introducing her sonorous loveliness to the world (not for the first time, but for the first time as a complete and beautiful lady…)  Also keep your eyes open for our “name the instrument” poll where YOU, the seething and relentless horde of mindless, rabid, zombie-like El MuCo faithful will get to name the new instrument!  EL MUCO!!!!

Maiden Voyage

JankoTunes complete 1

JankoTunes complete 2

Scacinto pondering the JankoTunes in a Kanelike manner

Euphoric Scacinto and the JankoTunes

Apelike Kane places finger on the JankoTunes

Kane and the JankoTunes

JankoTunes, from the other side

JankoTunes, from the other side

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El MuCo: Custom JankoTUne (KidTunes) Post-Evisceration Construction

Once the PC Picture Phone and the KidTUnes were eviscerated and frankensteined back together in a manner more aesthetically pleasing to both eye and ear, it was time to re-house the KidTunes.  The aesthetic of painted toy plastic is nauseating to both Scacinto and Kane so a plexiglass housing with stainless (when possible) hardware was decided upon to both provide working functionality and “playability.”  Additionally, we decided that we didn’t want the re-housed instrument to cover any of the modification or original circuitry, so plexi was the natural choice.

Here are a few pics of the guts of the two instruments, both completely torn from their original housings.



Splayed-out PC Picture Phone

Splayed-out PC Picture Phone

Splayed-out PC Picture Phone 2

Splayed-out PC Picture Phone 2

Splayed-out PC Picture Phone 3

Splayed-out PC Picture Phone 3

Here follows the construction of the JankoTUne instrument.  For the project we picked up three pieces of plexiglass (about 12 x 14”), a scoring tool, a few bags of 1” and 1.5” screws with nuts and washers, and two carriage bolts for the touch controls with two nuts and two washers apiece (so connections can be made simply by clamping the wire between the washers.)  Additional tools included a pair of snips, a drill with a number of different sized bits, a piece of scrap lumber, and some MuCo Majicke.  The snips are useful for just about everything from cutting molded plastic housings to metal screws and tiny annoying bits that keep your potentiometer from laying flush against the plexiglass.

This first picture shows the keyboard/main circuit which has been mounted onto the plexiglass with three 1” screws with 1/2” 6-32 spacers (1” spacers we cut in half with the snips.)  In the front, we used two 1” screws with spacers as supports only as there were not mounting holes on the front of the circuit board and we didn’t want to risk drilling them from scratch.  The holes at the back of the board did have to be bored-out a little for the screws to fit without risking cracks.

KidTunes Main Board Mounted

KidTunes Main Board Mounted

KidTunes Main Board Mounted 2

KidTunes Main Board Mounted 2

Next we mounted the switch circuit using the same method as the main board.  The drill bit size for this sort of thing should be, as with other projects, just slightly smaller than the size of the screw.

KidTunes Switches Mounted

KidTunes Switches Mounted

Here is the back of the board showing the first two mounted circuit boards.

KidTunes Underneath

KidTunes Underneath

This shot shows Kane fitting on the potentiometer onto the control panel.  The control panel piece of plexiglass was from the same piece of plexi as the main body.  We scored the glass 3-5 times and it snapped easy-peasy and clean.  The control panel is mounted on with 1.5” screws and 1” spacers with nuts.

KidTunes Mounting Component Panel

KidTunes Mounting Component Panel

KidTunes Mounted Component Panel

KidTunes Mounted Component Panel

Here is the finished control panel with potentiometer, two switches for stacatto and legato (sustain), two 1/8” audio jacks for connecting a speaker and running audio out to a mixer/computer, and the two carriage bolts in the foreground which act as touch controls so we don’t have to fidget with the actual board as much.  The touch controls are really reactive and vary much more than simply touching the wire connections.  Touching the top versus the side, and even moving around the surface all changes the resulting sound.

KidTunes Mounted Component Panel 2

KidTunes Mounted Component Panel 2

KidTunes Mounted Component Panel 3

KidTunes Mounted Component Panel 3

(Kane says: just to give a bit of info on what all the doodads are going to do (from left to right, top to bottom), 1) a megapot which replaced the timing resistor, 2) two mini-jacks for speakers, lines-out, whathaveyou, 3) switches to turn on and off “sustain” mode and “staccato” mode, and 4) two customs touch nodes–aka, the jTouch©, just to get all proprietary and jCapitalist on you–which add extra tastiness to the sound.)

Showing off…

Scacinto with the almost-finished JankoTUne

Scacinto with the almost-finished JankoTUne

JankoTUne Almost Complete

JankoTUne Almost Complete

And now follows a few words of caution for anyone who would attempt a project like this.  First, protective eyewear is your friend.  Working with drills and plexiglass eventually = flying shards of sharp nastiness.  Second, when working the plexiglass, especially smaller pieces which are more likely to snap/crackle/pop, be sure that you support the entire piece of plexi when you are working with it to reduce chance of breakage.  When drilling plexi, use the smallest bit possible and lay the plexi flat on a piece of scrap wood, or two pieces (supporting either side of the drill hole.)  When the bit is too big, the plexi can get caught and chunk or break off around the drill hole.  Go easy on the pressure and high on the speed of the drill — too much pressure and the plexi will a) crack, or b) the bit can gouge chunks out of the board (on the backside of the drill direction.)  As always, patience is a virtue.  Take your time, measure twice, drill once.*

*All of this advice is true and sound: we didn’t take any of it and injury, breakage and sadness abounded!

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El MuCo: Meeting Notes and Current Plan of Action

Members of El MuCo:

The intricately lain plans of this evening are here reproduced in all their glory.

meeting notes - December 17, 2008

But, for those who could not make the meeting, some interpretation may be necessary. Here follows some of the decisions arrived at in tonight’s meeting.

1) We’ve settled on a server-client model where the server is stupid rather than attempting to program intelligence: it will basically be a glorified router of sorts.  This is in accordance with our agreement that the first version of the system should be as simple as possible.

2) The server will connect each individual to each other.  Each individual is responsible for creating an interactive instrument that responds to specific OSC messages.  The individual is autonomous and is responsible for creating his/her own instrument. The instrument can be anything, but must incorporate the following key-value pairs (received via OSC messaging) in some way.

\tr: 0 or 1

\float: 0.0-1.0

\int: 20-16k

\arrayF: 16 indexes (elements) each a float with a range of 0.0-1.0

\arrayI: 16 indexes (elements) each an int from 0-11

\string: a string (“ElMuCoRules”) with no white spaces — A-Z only

The messaging system will be of type ‘broadcast’: the individual will select from whom they will accept messages.  (The messages sent by the individual will be available to all, but must be selected by the other individuals.)

The exact nature of the server has yet to be ironed out.  I will post with progress on the server model, code, questions, polls, etc.  If I’ve left anything out, please post a comment.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Saturday January 24th, 2008 at 1pm.  (The Kling’s Birthday!  Happy future birthday The Kling!)

Filed under: Current Projects, El MuCo, , , , ,

meeting on the 17th

Hello all:

It has become apparent, because of concert schedules and holiday plans, Wednesday is the only day this week we can meet.  Lets aim for Wednesday at 5:15 at the Anchor Bar like the last meeting.  We will discuss the server structure in-depth and plan for the next meeting.


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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