Robot Drummers & Knock Sensors

Suss Müsik continues making weird things that make weird sounds. The most recent addition to the DIY instrument family is a percussive trigger device, which uses piezo “knock” sensors to send MIDI information to a sampling synth.

knock-sensor midi device

The first prototype utilized handmade knock sensor drum pads that, when struck, trigger damaged text-to-speech output. In this video, a hidden foot pedal controls the amount of distress put on the sound. A weird sort of phasing takes place when a pad is struck multiple times.

The next video features an upgraded firmware that plays chord clusters in various pentatonic scale composites, in this instance replicating the sound of a string quartet. A little companion device controls bow pressure, string noise, harmonics, detuning, and scrape with joysticks and knobs.

The third and final video feature the above device with handmade synth instruments built from various 1990’S computer parts. Readers of this space are familiar with Suss Müsik’s obsession with repurposing hardware from the detritus of consumer technology.

In this instance, a robotic “drummer” controlled via two servo motors plays a simple Krautrock beat, the output passed through a Meris Enzo pedal. As of this writing, the robot drummer is nameless although it seems to respond to being called Xavier.

Samples of spoken conversation were triggered by the knock-sensor percussion device, played by mallets striking against the pads. A Glitch Storm Mk II adds electronic coloring.

The piece is provisionally entitled “Multiple Undoings.”

All of these pieces were recorded live to TASCAM 8-track in February and March 2024.

“Soft Refusal” Video Performed on DIY Synths

Suss Müsik continues to build strange electronic devices that make strange sounds. The latest is a midi-sampler that triggers AI-generated audio. Built from a 1990’s Syquest drive, it resembles a steampunk adding machine.

midi-sampler built from a 1990's Syquest drive

You can see and hear the device in action in a performance video of “Soft Refusal,” a piece from Suss Müsik’s latest release New Hopes.

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.

San Francisco Maker Music Festival

Suss Müsik is honored to be included in the San Francisco-based Maker Music Festival, taking place virtually as of this writing. Some really amazing work being presented, not the least of which is a contribution by artist Sudhu Tewari and experimental music royalty Fred Frith (swoon!). Group participants include London’s Hackoustic (London), MakeMe from France and San Francisco’s own Center for New Music. Suss Müsik’s contribution is the vactrol-controlled Cyanbox. Thank you to creators Joe Szuecs and Sherry Huss for pulling this community together.

Maker Music Festival Website

DIY Synths & Cassette Hacking

Thanks to ongoing life in the quarantine era, Suss Müsik continues the DIY silliness with two new instruments. One is a combination oscillator and cassette tape looper, built from a hacked Walkman whose amplifier nodes were manually distorted and given a variable-phasing effect. It looks like this:

DIY cassette looper

The second instrument is a synth using built-in filtering, pitch-control and modulation. It can be played either continuously or via a small push-button.

DIY Synth

Just to prove that something musical (well, sort of musical) can come out of all this, Suss Müsik has posted a new piece entitled Chagrinningly. Getting the loops to synchronize with other instruments is both challenging and exciting. It’s a possible new direction to explore.

DIY Synths, Artiphon Attachments, and “Dovum” Live

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 second is a live performance of Dovum, a piece built around audio scans of B.G. Madden’s artwork.

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.

DIY Photosynthesizer

Suss Müsik continues an obsession with building handmade synth devices that make odd (and sometimes beautiful) noise. The latest one is a dual-ouput synth controlled by flashlight, each channel with a built-in VCF control. This recording was made accompanied by a fake string quartet (not shown on camera).

Latest in a series of Suss Müsik Quarantine Concerts, along with this little ditty composed with the Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1. The device’s default modulation functionality is controlled by external foot pedals, leaving the internal accelerometer free to manipulate other sounds.

Suss Müsik will be making some exciting announcements in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for those (or don’t).

Rubbery Collaborations Using Lines

Another in a series of collaborations with visual artist B.G. Madden, this time using his rendering as a scaled audio map. Larger images with more white create higher frequencies, with the scan following the dark lined pattern. The tiny lines resulted in digital “grit” artifacts. The piece is titled Vincula, which represents a band of connective tissue that holds a ligament together.

Artistic Collaborations

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.

NON Released

NON coverSuss Müsik has released a new album entitled NON to close out 2018. NON is described as “four electroacoustic pieces based on live improvisations using piano, percussion, Moog synthesizers, electric guitar, primitive electronics, sampled wind instruments, hitting things, obfuscation.” This is as good a description as any. NON is available on Bandcamp and will soon be released on the usual commercial channels.