Last spring I photoshopped together a quick image to accompany a blog post about a Resistor Color Band game I had created. I posterized a pic of a resistor, superimposed it over a typical propaganda poster background, and added the word RESIST! with a fake Cyrillic font.
I posted it here on my blog, then on Reddit, and received responses including…
“I don’t suppose you’d want to make a bigger version? I’d love have that as a poster.”
“I’d definitely get that poster sized.”
“If he/she offered a poster I’d buy it on a heartbeat”
Because of poor acoustics, students in classrooms miss 50 percent of what their teachers say. Patients in hospitals have trouble sleeping because they continually feel stressed. Julian Treasure presents a call to action for designers to pay attention to the “invisible architecture” of sound.
Julian Treasure studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it. He is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses — offices, retailers, hotels — on how to use sound. He asks us to pay attention to the sounds that surround us… How do they make us feel: productive, stressed, energized, acquisitive? Treasure is the author of the book Sound Business and keeps a blog by the same name that ruminates on aural matters (and offers a nice day-by-day writeup of TEDGlobal 2009). In the early 1980s, Treasure was the drummer for the Fall-influenced band Transmitters.
You don’t play the ANS synthesizer with a keyboard. Instead you etch images onto glass sheets covered in black putty and feed them into a machine that shines light through the etchings, trigging a wide range of tones. Etchings made low on the sheets make low tones. High etchings make high tones. The sound is generated in real-time and the tempo depends on how fast you insert the sheets.
A nearly forgotten Russian synthesizer designed by Evgeny Murzin in 1938, the synth was named after and dedicated to the Russian experimental composer and occultist Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (1872–1915).
The political tides turned against the Russian avant garde by the time Murzin began working on the ANS in 1938. As Isobel Clouter explains in an episode of the BBC radio show The Soundhunter, most early sound art projects were destroyed. Engineers were forced to work on art projects in secret and had little access to parts. These conditions slowed down the development of the ANS. According to Stanislav Kreichi, Murzin’s assistent and only surviving operator of the ANS, Murzin didn’t have access to a lab in which to complete the ANS until 1958. The delayed completion may have saved it from the fate of the other avant garde sound art machines. Yet according to Smirnov and Pchelkina it was the last Russian sound art creation not based on Western prototypes. The future of electronic music would belong to Western and Japanese companies, not Russia.
The ANS went on to be used in the soundtrack for the Andrei Tarkovsky film Solaris in 1972, but today it sits behind a rope at the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture. A few artists have recorded albums with it over the years, mostly notably the late occultists/electronic musicians Coil who traveled to Russia in 2002 to record their album ANS and the follow-up COILANS. Because, according to the liner notes, the band had only a three days to work with the machine, they opted to etch their own signals onto sheets and convert these into sound rather than try to deliberately compose works.
I love this three-part BBC series that reviews the history of electricity starting with Isaac Newton & Francis Hauksbee and ending with levitating, room-temperature super conductors.
Episode 1: Spark
Episode one tells the story of the very first ‘natural philosophers’ who started to unlock the mysteries of electricity. This is the story about what happened when the first real concerted effort was made to understand electricity; how we learned to create and store it, before finally creating something that enabled us to make it at will – the battery.
Episode 2: The Age of Invention
Just under 200 years ago scientists discovered something profound, that electricity is connected to another of nature’s most fundamental forces – magnetism. In the second episode, Professor Jim Al-Khalili discovers how harnessing the link between magnetism and electricity would completely transform the world, allowing us to generate a seemingly limitless amount of electric power which we could utilise to drive machines, communicate across continents and light our homes. This is the story of how scientists and engineers unlocked the nature of electricity in an extraordinary century of innovation and invention.
Episode 3: Revelations and Revolutions
Electricity is not just something that creates heat and light, it connects the world through networks and broadcasting. After centuries of man’s experiments with electricity, the final episode tells the story of how a new age of real understanding dawned – how we discovered electric fields and electromagnetic waves. Today we can hardly imagine life without electricity – it defines our era. As our understanding of it has increased so has our reliance upon it, and today we’re on the brink of a new breakthrough, because if we can understand the secret of electrical superconductivity we could once again transform the world.
MAKE contributing editor Charles Platt proposed a “Hypothetical Tremolo Wheel” in his article about online DIY guitar stomp-box communities (MAKE Volume 15, page 82, “Stomp Box Basics: Tremolo and Fuzz”).
Well, it’s hypothetical no more. [MAKE] took Charles’ cue and built this Optical Tremolo Box, which reads a patterned disk with a light sensor to create a warbling volume effect (tremolo) that you can custom-program with any pattern you like.