Suss Müsik designed and built a weird instrument called the Vactrol Cyanbox. You’re obviously wondering what it does.
Inside the box are two vactrols. What’s a vactrol? It’s another term for a photoresistive opto-isolator, which is an exceedingly fancy term to mean “a light that blinks into a sensor and turns something on and off.” The word vactrol is derived from a trademark by Vactec, Inc. Now you know.
So there are two vactrols, each a single white LED directly facing a photocell resistor and encased in a black rubber tube. Each vactrol controls its own voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO).
One VCO plays a continuous tone. The pitch is controlled by the rate at which the LED blinks, adjustable by two knobs with a single 1/4″ output. The other VCO can also play continuously or be controlled via pushbutton, with added knobs for pitch, modulation and density.
In the video below, a third (!) vactrol distorts the playback of a hacked cassette Walkman. Not shown are two Moog pedals that control filtration and a prerecorded glitch loop played via an offscreen iPad.
Yet to be announced: some live* (!!) Suss Müsik performances!
Suss Müsik built upon the Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1 with a DIY synth attachment, played via touch-sensitive ring with built-in modulation. DIY synths are fun.
The first demo is a little improvisation with fake strings played on the Arti as fingered chords, with sustain/pressure variances controlled by footpedals. Sound is generated on the synth by gliding one or two fingers along the outer ring.
The added text is the first paragraph of Oku no Hosomichi (meaning “Narrow Road to Oku”), a 1702 work written by Matsuo Bashō. Translated to English, the text reads as follows:
“The months and days are the travelers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them.”
The Quarantine Concert series shall continue for as long as the pandemic does.
Suss Müsik continues to explore the world of DIY synthesizers, this time building a haptic (touch) controlled ring modulator. Here it is performed with phased loops of little sticks being struck together. It’s a wild time.
While quarantined from evil viruses, Suss Müsik spent a chunk of this past summer experimenting with DIY electronics. Among the results was a DIY instrument that creates sound from light. Marc Weidenbaum of Disquiet (origin of the excellent Disquiet Junto projects that occur every week) wrote a very kind description. Here’s a little glimpse of how this weird thing works.
Suss Müsik continues a very fruitful collaboration with visual artist B.G. Madden. The latest piece, titled Dotto, was rendered from audio scans of Madden’s most recent work.
Given current pandemic conditions, Madden delivered his contributions via US mail in the form of handmade post cards. The new pieces are beautifully reminiscent of post-modern “picture theorists” from the late 1980’s: Richard Prince, Annette Lemieux, and especially the late John Baldessari. The scanned output was then filtered through grain synthesizers and Moog modulation boxes.
Suss Müsik has lagged behind the Quarantine Concert series. Dotto will likely be the next piece “performed.” Or maybe something different. The new social archetype is ambiguity, and Suss Müsik embraces it.
In related news, Suss Müsik’s piece entitled Attaché (also a collaborative work, this time employing Madden’s art as graphic notation) will be featured at this year’s New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF). Again due to the global pandemic, the entire concert series is taking place virtually. Some great work there to be heard, however, and you don’t even have to leave your house.
Given these weirdly unsettling times, it’s gratifying to see many homebound musicians and artists taking to social media as a way to connect with their audiences. It’s a nice thing.
Suss Müsik doesn’t have an audience commensurate with any of these folks; however, home confinement does present interesting opportunities to provide a real-time window into the creative process.
With this in mind, Suss Müsik has begun releasing small-scale performances to an audience of one: a lonely little houseplant who seems to appreciate the extra attention of late.
The first video is a live performance of “Foraging,” inspired by the sculpture of Richard Serra and the architecture of Tadeo Ando. Both of these visionaries transformed the brute aesthetic of their chosen materials into delicate studies of ever-shifting light and form. Sounds are created and manipulated from an audio scan of artwork by B.G. Madden.
The second video is an impromptu demonstration of a Suss Müsik-designed custom frame for the Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1. The frame makes the device easier to play on one’s lap while holding it upright. The piece is attached to the instrument via three 1/4-20 nylon thumbscrew, with a little notch to accommodate a shoulder strap. Specifications, materials and final 3D-printed manufacturing by WALT3D.
In this video, the device is played with a combination of tapping and “bowing” while using the Violin setting. It’s something like playing a Chapman Stick, except Suss Müsik is nowhere near the caliber of Tony Levin.
More video performances to come, pending length of current quarantine conditions. Everyone stay safe, healthy and sane.
Apparently, Suss Müsik’s obsession with Pontic Greek folk music has instigated the creation of a video for Throumoulizo. This version is slightly edited from the original to a more manageable running time of just under eight minutes. Enjoy.