tirsdag den 13. november 2012

Concerto for Floppy Disks

As you might've seen in my showcase-video for DIEM, I've been experimenting with recording sound to the magnetic tape inside floppy disks. Since I first saw it done by Jeri Ellsworth, I've been in love with the odd combination of obsolete consumer electronics and analog sound effect box.
I joined the forums on Open Music Labs where we discussed how to get this to work.
About a year ago, I got it working (watch here) and since, I've been contemplating how to make this into a proper music instrument.

This month, I was asked if I had some new material ready for a yet another concert at the Music Academy in Aarhus. Fortunately, I'd just finished a floppy disk drive, I wanted to encase, and decided to make an entire concert with just the floppy drive.

I used a 555-timer circuit for stepping the stepper-motor and a switch for selecting between auto-step (555) and manually advancing the stepper with a push-button. Then there's a switch for selecting between two mini-jack connectors so one can quickly switch between in- and output signals, as it is only possible to either playback or record sound from the disk. I powered both the drive and the timer-circuit with good 2950 mA batteries.
We tried to put together a op-amp circuit with a TL072 operation amplifier but we didn't get any sound from it. As I had to have something ready for the concert, I disassembled an old walkman instead, and encased it in a wodden box with input and output, very minimalistic.

The direct sound from the drive can be experienced here, it's going through an EQ on my mixer, nothing else is done. Just the raw sound from the disc.

Concerto for Floppy Disks (excerpt) by dogenigt

 The evening of the concert approached and I brought an old Sine Wave Generator I got from my friends dad, who's a physics teacher. I think it's from the 50's, danish design and all - just gorgeous!
I used it for adding a ground note to the concert and also for recording directly to the disc.
I had a cassette tape player with me aswell, which I used for playing audio to be recorded on the disc.


I think it went really well, it was a great way to test how the floppy drive works in the context of live performance. I had a great time and was absorbed in the hypnotic tape-distorted rhytms on stage.
My brother was so kind as to come and document the concert on tape. The event was 1 hour, with 3 artists performing, so we had 20 minutes each, where I decided to it was time to faded to black after 15 minutes.
So the full concert is recorded for your pleasure :)

In the future there'll be a post around a Floppy Drive Sampler v2.0 but so far, here's a schematic I've drawn around the build. It's an old idea of how I wanted a finished build to be, the op-amps doesn't make a lot of sense but you can use the drawing to wire up the stepper motor and heads.

onsdag den 7. november 2012

An electromagnetic week with Christina Kubisch

A month ago, we had Christina Kubisch visitting the academy for a workshop during the week. She'd brought her custom made headphones with induction coils and some special amplifiers which allows the person wearing the headphones this temporary ESP of all the hidden magnetic fields constantly surrounding the urban population. In other words, the coils pick up the electromagnetic radiation from various electronic devices, powerlines, generators etc. and translate it into audiable signals for the listener.

Listening to LED commercials with Kubisch and Kaj
It turns the city into one giant instrument, or a stage with various objects one can wander around and listen to. Cash machines become vintage syntheseizers, supermarkets turn into weird alien spaceships and everything with lightbulbs or LEDs become morse-codish messages.

The first day, was spent on trying out the equipment and getting to know the interesting places in Aarhus. The next days we drew maps for 'Electric Walks' for each other. Making compositions with the city, plotting in several hot spots worth listening to.

Electric Walk Map drawn for train station and shopping center.

We recorded each walk and combined them into one giant compostion, and it actually turned out really well! The sounds created harmonies with each layer. Then we made a compostion each, with the best material according to us. At friday night we held a minor venue where people could listen to the compositions we'd made with the sounds from the workshop.

Here's my composition:

Veins of The Robot by dogenigt

It includes sounds from ATM's, parking-ticket machines, trainstations, cars, hi-fi stores, automatic stairs in shopping malls etc. Thanks to Christina for a very interesting workshop!