During the spring/summer of 2013, I needed a hobby. At the time, I was working a contract for UNISYS and their ACOL services, and wanted to learn something new and challenging to offset the continued time in front of a computer screen hammering out designs for web page layouts, reading and writing emails, and attending skype meetings.
My ex-partner had an obsession with old moog analog synthesizers which I caught a small cause of. I had the chance to play with a moog liberation, mini moog and moog prodigy while we were together. He did some clean and restoration of them and seeing the electronic circuit boards in them was intriguing not to mention the sound they generated.
So for my first electronics project, I added a midi input to my gakken sx-150 toy analog synthesizer. It was a project I found on the internet and with all the steps, seemed like something I could do. I ordered the necessary components from Mouser Electronics and two days later, on Friday, they arrived. The project involved programming and Arduino microcontroller which I was very excited try as I had been reading about many projects which use Arduino microcontrollers. I spent Friday night and all day Saturday assembling the circuit on the a breadboard and programming the arduino. I soldered two wires on to the circuit board of my toy analog synthesizer and collected them to the breadboard circuit. I connected the power. Nothing happened.
I checked over the entire circuit but could not find the problem. I became frustrated and tired, and decided to call it a night.
The next morning, I woke up and sat down in front of the circuit board. Looking at it, I said to myself, “Hey! That diode is backwards!” I turned it around, and to my delight, the circuit worked! I had midi control of my toy analogy synthesizer.
This began my new hobby. My next creation was a Looper built on an arduino microcontroller. I posted my process and the final instrument on instagram and received a lot of encouragement and enthusiasm. Daniel Huffman of New Fumes commented that he’d like one, and I was so thrilled that a musician would want me to make an instrument for them that I told him I’d be so happy to send one his way.
In December of 2013, I travelled to Europe and for the month of January, I completed an artist residency in Berlin at the Institute for Everything Possible. During that time I attended some electronics workshops with local artists and learned to make square wave oscillators built in the CMOS 40106 and 4093 IC chips. SOUND MACHINES were born. Along with another arduino Looper, I created two multi oscillator sound machines. At the end of my residency, I had an open studio and people could play with the instruments while I had their audio output connected to speakers and also to my computer where the audio signal was used in generate a visual projection via a program I had created in Processing. It was an exciting and rewarding experience.
I returned to Nova Scotia in March of 2014, and continued to make more SOUND MACHINES. I was then contact by Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips who was a friend of Daniel Huffman about my machines. He wanted them right away because we was going to be recording with Miley Cyrus in the studio that weekend. Being in rural Nova Scotia, I told him I could not get them to him overnight and that he should borrow Daniel’s sound machine until I could send some his way. He thought that was a good idea.
I sent the three machines I created in Berlin. It generated a look of attention and excited on my instagram and twitter accounts. Miley Cyrus even followed me on Instagram. Wayne and I discussed me possibly doing an art residency at The Womb, a venue he owns in Oklahoma City and remained in touch.