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.

Derrida’s Dilemma

Suss Müsik created a little video using the Artiphon INSTRUMENT1, six simultaneous MIDI channels, two Moog analog processors, three electric piano chords, the occasional burp of a grain synth module, and ever-increasing dollops of harmonic reverb.

Here’s the description of process:

Deconstructivism is a philosophy once taught by Jacques Derrida, who believed that absolutes were confining and that multiple meanings cannot be reconciled within a singular work. Think of it as a way of discovering hidden meanings within a structure intended to subvert them.

Deconstructivist architecture is designed to give the impression of fragmentation within a wholly composed building. The style is characterized by non-linear shapes that appear to distort predictable forms into controlled chaos.

With this in mind, Suss Müsik tested the Artiphon INSTRUMENT1. The intention was to see if a complex polyrhythm of interwoven phrases could be built up, broken apart and played in real time. Each phrase is built around a variation of a simple F chord, their timbres and timings controlled manually.

A total of nine component phrases (each with its own voice and notation) were looped with slight variations in the base chord fingering. This allowed subtle phasing between 3-note and 4-note sequences on the Artiphon.

Eventually the pieces dissolves into an ambient wash, signifying the release of absolute structure. When the parts are reassembled, a glitch filter and two Moog processors distress the remaining bits — a semblance of fragmented reminders.