Monday, October 27, 2014

Bil Herd and the Buchla

After my recent build of a Buchla 208 clone (one 1/2 of the Music Easel) revealed some problems and after gazing ineffectively for hours at the original 1973 hand drawn schematics like they were some kind of Magic Eye puzzle, it was time to call in the help of the pros.

Fortunately, I had just met legendary electronics guru Bil Herd (Commodore, Hack a Day, Herdware). After getting familiar with the ODD (Old Don Design) Buchla layout and functionality, he had the problem isolated in no time: a missing trace from the Enable A from the Envelope board to the Enable A to the Pulser board. A little Telfon wire later and I now have a working 208.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Chemnitz: Max Kohl, c.1905.
HELMHOLTZ, HERMANN VON. 1821-1894. Chemnitz: Max Kohl, c.1905.

A wood and brass sound synthesizer built by Max Kohl after the design by Hemholtz. 39½ x 29 inch mahogany base with turned feet, fitted with 11 small wooden platforms, each marked with a number and the words “aus” [from] and “ein” [to], 10 of the platforms fitted with tuning forks and accompanying brass Helmholtz resonators, the tallest measuring 18½ high, each pair ranging in size according to their graduating frequencies, 11th platform fitted with 1 large horizontal master tuning fork. All 11 platforms connected together with wire filaments, which are in turn attached to a keyboard fitted with 10 African ivory keys, each numbered and marked with the tones ut [Do, or C] to 4 octaves, mi [E] to 3 octaves, and sol [G] to 3 octaves. Each key is paired with 2 brass knobs, one each on the wooden panel above the key, and one each on the panel below. Opposite end from keyboard fitted with 2 anodes and 2 cathodes, each with accompanying brass knob.

The Helmholtz sound synthesizer was the first electric keyboard. Specimens of these are extremely rare, with only one similar but smaller apparatus located in a US institution that we know of. We have not seen another as large or finely made as this one. The synthesizer was used to combine timbres of 10 harmonics to form various vowel sounds. The system is driven by an intermittent current provided by a large horizontal master tuning fork on numbered wood base, and was operated by pressing on the various keys which sent the current to the corresponding electrically driven tuning forks. These forks, fitted with Helmholtz resonators tuned to the same frequency, would then reproduce the desired tone.

Helmholtz invented his resonator to identify the various frequencies of the pure sine wave components of complex sounds containing multiple tones, showing that the different combinations made could reproduce vowel sounds. Max Kohl of Chemnitz is perhaps one of the most famous scientific instrument makers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His work was distinguished by its exacting craftsmanship, and high quality materials.

Currently at auction:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Buchla Electric Music Box syncing Bleep Labs Bleep Drum

Open-air test of a little voltage converter/tempo sync I built for the Buchla Electric Music Box to Bleep Labs Bleep Drum. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

alka gltch card for the Buchla 208 module clone

Having installed a prestopatch on my EMS Synthi and creating DIY resistor cards for it, I decided to try my hand at making a card for Roman Filippov's Buchla 208 module clone. After discovering the pitch is not standard on the 208's edge connector, unlike the Synthi's I realized I would need to design and etch my own card rather than use stock copper stripboard. This is the result. 

This design is for producing glitch and circuit bent-style sound effects.

House Margaret

So... here is why I haven't released any proper music(k) in ages. May I present some random photos showing the resulting details from my restoration of an 1893 Victorian era brick home in Woodbury, New Jersey, home to alka's Angels Den recording studio (not pictured).

Having an extremely limited budget, I am unable at this point to accurately return the building to its original layout as it was seriously altered in the 1950s when it was turned into 3 separate apartments. Most details shown are more akin to an artistic process rather than a historically accurate restoration. Many items were found cheaply in antique shops, thrift stores, and other people's trash. However, I feel I have been respectful to period details as much as possible and it feels like home.

As with any Victorian house restoration, it is a work in progress and these photos are certainly not the end of the story...

Regarding the name House Margaret, one of the photos features a framed photo of my Great Grandmother, Margaret O'Brien Kuhn... who I remember being a very strong-willed woman. She was born in 1896, a few years after this house was built... she is my physical link to the Victorian era! So I named our home, a symbol of family, after her.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tracey Moberly’s TWEET-ME-UP! – Tate Modern :: Aug 24

Tate Modern

Tracey Moberly kindly invited Evan Wilder to help get artists involved for her show involving mass participation, TWEET-ME-UP! at Undercurrent: Young People’s Festival at Tate Modern’s The Tanks: Art In Action. London.

Cloud People contributed 2 new installments in the Wild & Shit series: #17 PLUR & #19 Whistlin’ Wild.

At Work supplied the new video to “Indiscernible Structures”—a song from the latest album, A Very Slow Collapse.
Tate Modern The Tanks Tracey Moberly Tweet Me Up
Photo: Tate Modern

The show is one day only, August 24, and runs from 11am till 5pm at Tate Modern’s new space, The Tanks.

Tracey Moberly Text-Me-Up!

Tracey Moberly’s latest book, TEXT-ME-UP!
published by Beautiful Books.

Also participating: Alka, Drexciyan DJ Stingray, The Multi-Purpose Solution, Phil Ritz, Jason Carr, Maya Moksha, Dev79, Chris Moss Acid, Reggie Watts, Marie A. Roberts, David Liebe Hart, C Sides, Helium Ointment, and Calla Donofrio amongst many others.

Tracey Moberly’s official site
TWEET-ME-UP! at The Tanks, Tate Modern