Contact Mic Synth & MIDI Device + Meng Qi Wingie 2

Suss Müsik created a video demonstrating a handmade contact mic synth and customized MIDI device, built from recycled 1990’s computer hardware. (You can see the hard drive housing that serves as a sort of “plate reverb”). One channel was run through a Meng Qi Wingie 2. Reverb and delay pedals were controlled via footpedals; vocal samples were triggered by another handmade device using pads. The piece was largely improvised and recorded live in September 2022.

Stereo Resonance

Suss Müsik recently acquired a Meng Qi Wingie 2. This little device takes any audio input and converts the signal to a resonated series of tones. The results are quite beautiful.

To optimize the utility of this device in Suss Müsik’s sound world, a DIY contact microphone was built from a reconstituted heat sink pulled from an old Dell computer. Placing a sheet of aluminum on the top of the instrument allowed for additional signals to be picked up via the “alleys” of the heat sink. Combined with a customized MIDI controller built into the housing, the sonic possibilities are endless.

DIY MIDI device with heat sink contact microphone

Here are a couple of YouTube videos demonstrating the instrument at work.

Beige Nostalgia

“Beige box” is a term applied to older personal computers with dated aesthetic appeal and, by today’s metrics, substandard performance specifications. It’s typically used in derision when referring to consumer technologies made by IBM (and their ilk) in the 1990’s.

Suss Müsik is old enough to have used such devices unironically. Syquest drives, Iomega removable media drives, La Cie CD-writers, and (yes, admittedly) the odd IBM Model 30 have all graced Suss Müsik headquarters at some point or another.

For nearly two decades, these “beige box” devices have occupied space in Suss Müsik’s attic. There they sat, resigned to a status as dusty relics of a long ago time before iPhones and high-speed wifi freed us all from the shackles of 56k modems and 16-color graphics cards.

What those devices did have, however, were enclosures of exceptional strength and agility. They were often made from electrogalvanized steel, sufficiently rigid to protect their sensitive inner guts yet pliable enough to drill and cut holes. In other words, the perfect housing for a DIY synth or customized MIDI device.

Suss Müsik, ergo, has given these 25-year-old devices new life as sound-making implements. The first is an Iomega Jaz Drive from 1999 or so; the next piece is a removable SCSI backup drive. Perhaps the next project is an album inspired by technology of a long forgotten and underappreciated era.

Jaz Drive and SCSI backup drive from 1999 or so

front of Jaz Drive synth

back of Jaz Drive synth

DIY Electronic Instruments

Suss Müsik’s DIY praxis continues to evolve. Along with a number of handmade sonic devices comes new prototypes for the customized Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1. New editions include built-in oscillators with modulation and MIDI control functions. Demonstrations can be viewed from the Suss Müsik Instagram and YouTube channels. A couple of examples below:

The visual overlays are cultivated from images of the sky taken with a 1940’s Graflex 4×5 camera. The images are then manipulated to represent eight stages culled from the history of mechanical reproduction: plate etching, Daguerreotype, mezzotint, four-color halftone, sliver print, color film, scanned pixels, and digital glitch using a μ-law algorithm.

The vocals are refactored according to Michel Chion’s theory of acousmatic sound, the result of removing semantic (verbal) context from verbalized text and leaving only the voice as an inherent sonic attribute.