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Preview: National Electronics Museum Electronica Fest 2009 (2009.09.05)

Electronica fest

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01. MP3: Richard Lainhart – Thonk from Buchlaworks
02. MP3: The Megadrives – Snow Rising Tai Chi from Press Start
03. MP3: Jerohme Spye – Yellow Sun from sunday one play

Last year, you may remember the Baltimore SDIY group hosted a festival housed at the Hexagon featuring the likes of noteNdo and a host of other chiptuners.  Looks like this year they’ve got an expanded event at larger space and with a wider variety of performers, presenting the Electronica Fest 2009 at the National Electronics Museum in Linthicum.

The festival is a veritable who’s who of local instrument makers and tinkerers including Art Harrison (who you may recognize from DC’s vaudeville-punks the Cassettes), Karl Ekdahl (founding member of the Hexagon, operator of the True Vine Repair Shop) and Peter Blasser (whose fantastic RadioZither we demonstrated a while back).

Harrison’s company manufactures the early electronic instrument known as the theremin.  Some may affectionately recognize its eerie, wavering sound as the source of a sizable portion of observatory exhibit music and science fiction soundtracks.  Its reach extends as far as home-country hero Dmitri Shostakovich’s compositions to popular music to the avant-garde.

It is the only musical instrument played without physical contact, instead operating by principles of electric fields, where the player’s hands act as capacitance plates.  As the hands move closer to the antennas, the capacitance increases and the frequency is lowered, leading to a higher pitch when  subtracting the frequency of the hand-dependent oscillator from a fixed oscillator.  The other antenna controls volume, as a hand gets closer to it and decreases the voltage across the fixed oscillator circuit, decreasing the voltage across the amplifier.

Ekdahl recently finished work on the Ekdahl Moisturizer, an exposed spring reverberator.  Spring reverbs translate the vibrations of springs into reverb effects on the sound being passed through the springs.  Having exposed springs allows much easier manipulation of their sound, making it easier to achieve the crashing, thunderous effects that are typically made by shaking enclosed spring reverbs.  The Moisturizer also allows you to create sounds independent of a sound source.

Head on out to the fest and check out all of the cool exhibits and presentations, maybe even learn how to make your own theremin!  Don’t forget to get some fresh air and poke your head outside by the outdoor stage where performers include The Megadrives, The Duc D’Anelos Quartet, Jerohme SpyeArt Harrison and Amber Dunleavey, Tone Ghosting, and Richard Lainhart.

Down the Vine Vol. 3

By popular demand, Jason and I filmed a little demonstration of the Radio Zither and the Sidrassi Organ mentioned in our last update.

Behold, and give major kudos to Peter Blasser for his genius work. More videos and pictures including of Karl’s work after the jump.

Radio Zither Demonstration by Jason Willett & Greg Szeto from Greg Szeto on Vimeo.

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