I got to know ChrisMicro in 2012 during a New Year's Eve soldering event at the KulturGüter-Schuppen (CulturalGoods-Shed), an art space run by Jördis Drawe and Uwe Schüler in Dusslingen, Germany. At a workshop with students 2017 again at the KulturGüter-Schuppen, Chris helped us a lot writing code for Klopfer, a motordriven percussion tool designed by Uwe Schüler.
Unfortunately, I did not make it to New Year's Eve Soldering this year, where Chris, Uwe and Ralf Schreiber (sound artist, inventor of sound tools and a long time electronic bird sound designer) revived an old project by ChrisMicro: A bird sings driven by a little motor. In the end, they called it Motörbörd. Since that session Chris, Uwe and Ralph are still working on the circuit to have different versions at the start.
Video by Ralf Schreiber
Chris, when did you start with electronics and programming?
Since the age of 12, I have been dealing with electronics because I got a electronics kit from my grandfather. At age 15, I developed my first computer with a Z80 microprocessor. That was even harder than today because you had to copy documents in journals and libraries and there was also no affordable development tool for me as a teenager. Computer technology, in particular, had developed more and more the ability to eat my attention and time.
When and how did you start with MotörBörd?
Around 2007 I was contacted by the SGMK (Swiss Society for Mechatronics and Art - The SGMK projects have an affinity for sound and music), because at the time I was busy with small, mobile craft robots and I was supposed to hold a workshop. At the SGMK Homemade Week was Ralf Schreiber, who gave a solar bird workshop. The components of the analog circuits had been relatively expensive, so I wanted to use a microcontroller. What then succeeded after some optimizations to the clock frequency and at the end also the power consumption.
How did the first solar birds work?
The solar birds have the property that they begin with their beeping in the sunshine and they can not be influenced by humans. Originally I had tried to equip the solar birds with environmental sensors to influence their "singing", so that the sound sequences are more diverse. But over time it seemed better to make a directly influenced sound generator out of it. With the experience of building the solar birds and the desire for a battery-free, durable device, I came up with the idea to produce electricity with a generator, which then drives the mirocontroller.
When did the solar bird become a motor?
Originally, I had the first Motorbird built around 2011. It consists of a Faulhaber motor for relatively high voltages (I think so around 24V) without cogging torque, an Attiny13 microcontroller with connected piezo as sound generator. The power supply is made via a diode for reverse polarity protection and a capacitor as energy storage. For a Motorbird to work well, the engine must have certain characteristics. It should be designed for higher voltages, because it can then deliver sufficient voltage for the circuit even at low speeds in generator mode, because the axis is indeed turned by hand. It is also very good if the engine has no cogging torque, because it makes it easier and more pleasant to turn.
But now, around New Year's Eve you restarted the Motorbird project and it became MotörBörd.
Since I was on New Year's Eve at KulturGüter-Schuppen this year Uwe found some promising engines, I started to pick up the idea again. I had almost forgotten the idea, but everyone was enthusiastic about the generator-powered sound production and Ralf Schreiber came up with the idea to call the whole "Motorbird". Now we (me, Ralph and Uwe) decided to call it "Motörbörd". The name reminds me of the image of a slightly subversive bird with a penchant for heavy metal, a mix of Motörhead and Road Runner.
I got to know Klaus Rindtorff and the Moduletta in June 2016 during my workshop "Labor Sound" (University of Art and Design Linz) as part of the Festival Zukunftsmusik. Klaus Rindtorff is a certified computer scientist with many patents and a hobby electronics designer and technician. His work focuses on digital and analogue sound generation and colored light sculptures. Of particular interest is the digital sound generation inspired by the circuits of Stanley Lunetta.
Soldering the Moduletta is not a matter of two hours. It is a modular synthesizer with many inputs and outputs, eight CMOS-chips, countless resistors and LEDs that need to be soldered. The Moduletta synth is a crossover between modular synthesizers and Lunetta circuits. Through plug-in connections, the analog and digital modules can be combined for sound generation. Included are voltage controlled oscillators, filters and PWM, as well as counters and shift registers for sound and rhythm. At the university workshop eight students started with the Moduletta and all worked fine. One student is performing live with her Moduletta.
Interview with Klaus Rindtorff (January 2019)
Q: Klaus, when did you start designing autogenerative music machines and why?
Klaus: I guess it must have been the day when I discovered Lunettas on the electro-music.com forum. I always liked building circuits with digital logic elements, starting with TTL and later with CMOS chips. Lunettas use logic chips in a very creative way to generate sound. The fact that they are based on logic quickly leads to combining them with binary sequences to create patterns. The results are often surprising.
Q: How long lasted the process from the first ideas to the final concept and to the printed circuit board of Moduletta?
Klaus: I created many small Lunetta circuits in 2014 and 2015. Later I started mixing them with analog circuits using operational amplifiers as well. Early in 2016 I came up with the idea to combine them and create a small synthesizer that combines ideas from the Lunetta circuits with ideas from modular synthesizers, in particular the ability to create patches. It took me about three months to complete the design. That included a lot of experimentation to come up with a minimal, yet complete, set of modules to generate interesting sounds.
Q: Can you describe your Moduletta in some sentences.
Klaus: The Moduletta is a cross-over between analog circuits for modular synthesizers and Lunetta circuits. Most of the modules are implemented with logic chips. A few of them also create or accept analog control voltages instead logic levels. To create sound you connect the modules using patch cables, just like in a modular synth. The whole design is deliberately minimalistic and has a focus on providing as many possibilities as possible rather than generating high-fidelity audio.
Q: The Moduletta is a tribute to Stanley Lunetta, a musician who has developed countless circuits with CMOS chips and has influenced many musicians and designers. How strong had you been inspired by Stanley Lunetta?
Klaus: That influence is certainly very strong. I had built a few TTL based audio circuits a long time ago. Discovering the Lunetta circuits taught me many new tricks that are possible with only a few CMOS gates. The most fascinating circuits to me are those that generate small tunes from a handful of logic chips. Some produce just beautiful noise, some surprise you with even a bit of musicality in the patterns they produce. Have a look at the Chip-Tune circuits for example. You wouldn't expect a few chips to generate melodic tunes that run for minutes without repeating.
Q: The Moduletta is the most beautiful instrument I've ever
soldered myself? There is so much possible with it. Is the project complete for you or do you have any new ideas to further develop Moduletta?
Klaus: For now, the PCB boards are all gone and the project is at rest. However, I had a few ideas for additional circuits that could not fit on the board at that time. Plus a few new ones I came up with in between, like the combinatorial circuits to generate patterns, and oscillators that can be controlled by logic levels rather than control voltages to generate micro-tonal scales. Maybe even include a small micro-controller for some of the effects that otherwise would need a lot of hardware... And here we are again, the hardest part in the design is to limit yourself to the essential elements needed to achieve the goal you set for yourself. I would love to create a newer, bigger, version of the Moduletta that can contain them all, but first need to find the time for it.
Stanley Lunetta died March 3rd 2016.
drkmbnt is an unpushed or hidden project of mine, a kind of lab to produce not clearly defined music with self-soldered sound tools and instruments. The artistic goal is to present a live set as drkmbnt in the near future.
Last week I've spent some time with GRAINS developed by Jan Willem Hagenbeek who runs his modular music hardware company Ginko Synthese in Den Haag, The Netherlands. What is Grains? Willem keeps his explanation simple: "This complete and easy-to-build DIY kit Grains is one of the cheapest ways to get a voltage controlled oscillator in your modular and sounds completely different than all other oscillators! It can do minimalistic clicks and plops, screaming leads, fat basslines, weird noises or chiptunes." Grains is a code driven environment based on an Arduino Nano with 3 potentiometers, 3 CV inputs and 1 audio output. You also can add samples to your code - see link.
How does Grains v.2 work: CV in1 is routed via potentiometer 1 and safety diodes to Analog input 2, CV in2 is routed via potentiometer 2 and safety diodes to Analog input 1, CV in3 is routed directly to Analog input 3 via safety diodes, Potentiometer 3 is routed directly to Analog input 0 with 5V on one side of the potentiometer and ground on the other.
My setup for the music piece "Grains" consisted of: 1x Grains, 3x ATinyPunk Console (ATPC: see edition 3 of this series), 1x Dude (Mixer). It was connected like this: ATPC with "Fail U 03" Sync out into ATPC "Sweep" Sync In. ATPC "Sweep" Sync out into Grains CV in 2. ATPC "Fail U 04" Sync out into Grains CV in 3. The code I used for the tune "Grains" has been coded by Falafulur "falafel-raps-changed-v2 PCB v2". All sounds you hear in this tune are coming out of Grains and the "falafel-raps-changed" code. No effects, no extra granular stuff, no time stretching, just DAW editing.
Falafulur added some extra informations to his code:
* Granulising samleplayer for GinkoSynthese Grains
* Based on Rob Bothofs modification of speaker_pcm arduino example by Michael Smith (http://playground.arduino.cc/Code/PCMAudio)
* Finetuned by Leoš Hort (Bastl Instruments)
* The basic sample is encoded from Harrogath theme of DIABLO 2 LOD soundtrack for experimentation purposes.
* To encode your own sample, download Processing app and take a look here: sample encoding: http://highlowtech.org/?p=1963
Ginko Synthese: http://www.ginkosynthese.com
Write your own code:
Wolfgang Dorninger Dec. 15th 2018
Circuit Control is a festival "for a creative use of the soldering iron" organised by Alwin Weber and Steffen Koritsch from Dresden.
The workshop was held October 1st till 5th at Zentralwerk* in Dresden. October 5th late night there was a Ambient Showcase in a basement of an occupied building near Bahnhof Neustadt and October 6th there was the final party in the bar of the old ballroom of Zentralwerk.
In 2011 I made an excursion with students of the University of Art and Design Linz to the first Circuit Control and since that time I have returned every year to solder, play live and to see what other sound-tool-hackers and inventors have created during the year. Many participants became friends and I invited some of them (Jördis Drawe, Uwe Schüler, Alwin Weber, Steffen Koritsch, Claudio Matina and Peter Heß) to Linz to the Art University to present their research, sound tools and know-how at my workshop "Labor Sound" (Sound Lab).
Claude Winterberg midified his "FlipSynth" and "4093 Step Synth" with an Arduino Micro. Alwin Weber presented his distortion-FX "Screamo" and the noisy "Touch Synth Deluxe", Steffen Koritsch presented the upgraded version of "ATiny Punk Console", the "Noisio Delay" and the "Photonotron" - a lightsensitive kind of Theremin, while Matthias Schmidt aka Curetronic presented the upgraded "Fon", a fully automatable 8 step sequencer & synth. Jo FRGMNT brought two very nice tools I have to solder the next time: "SNU" (SpecialNoiseUnit) & "fm transmit".
Schrägerunde distorted the air with "FeedbackHeaven" and Uwe Schüler was
working on kickdrums and snares.
What did I solder during my stay at CC18?!
In recent years I have soldered two "4093 Step Synth" and also two "MS20 HP-LP Filter" from Claude Winterberg and so it was clear to me that I would midi-fi his synths with an Arduino Micro. I added also Claude's "FlipFloater Delay" (Edition 2 of this series) and I soldered his new "FlipSynth" a 4093-4070 based synth with rhythm section and two oscillators. So I needed some time to prepare my stuff for the new setup but after a while everything worked fine and I was able to send midi signals to my new setup! I have to mention that Claude built a bigger setup and performed with it live at the final party of Circuit Control. A pure acid-techno-soundsystem with the extra fun factor.
I also soldered the upgraded version of the "Atiny Punk Console" and the "Bleepbot".
Liveshows at Circuit Control 2018
Alwin & Steffen organised the so-called Ambient Night in a basement of an occupied building near Bahnhof Neustadt. Alwin Weber aka "StÖRenFrieD" played live a set with ATiny Punk Console, his Screamo distortion and other stuff, while Steffen Koritsch with a musical partner (name of the band?) had a huge setup from guitar to ATiny to drumbox. FRGMNT did a short set with sounds so unique that I felt like I was dreaming. I also forgot what he used to create this aural orgasm. I lost the flyer of this hidden showcase so I forgot the name of the opening act.
"Krach der Roboter" from Berlin opened with his robot performance and music out of the modular system which grows every year. After Krach "Flip Floater" from Basel played with his midified-new-system (see picture above) a funky electro set. Then "Gelbart" from Berlin presented excellent videos with great music hard to describe in a range from Zappa to vaudeville and electro. Then "Stefan Tiefengraber" from Linz pushed the bass to the maximum just using his fingers in battery driven toy stuff. Best bass show ever with great videos just out of his analog audio signals. "SBZ" from Dresden played a phatt industrial electro set with extremely nice elecronic sounds. "Kasia Justka" from Berlin played a great set with self-built stuff and analogue synths and great analog visuals similar to those of Stefan. After Kasia the author, Wolfgang Dorninger aka "The Smiling Buddhas" played some techno stuff to start the dance party which was finished in a great way by "Lazenbleep" from London. A great party with visuals by 48hoch8 and StÖRenFrieD.
Circuit Control: http://www.circuit-control.de/
Circuit Control 2017 - a video documentary by Krautmovies:
Our mascot 2018:
Lazenbleep live at CC18: https://youtu.be/grQoV72Xr2E
The Smiling Buddhas live at CC18:
The ATtiny Punk Console by Steffen Koritsch has been presented at Circuit Control 2017 in Dresden, Germany where Steffen lives and works. He has a degree in fine arts but is working mainly in the field of sound art and electronics.
I met Steffen at Circuit Control for the first time about three years ago. At that time he was developing FX-pedals to expand his guitar sound. 2017, as a member of the Circuit Control team he decided to present something special for the community: The ATtiny Punk Console. I took one kit home with me and and ordered immediately a second when the first was soldered. Mine are generation 1 but meanwhile Steffen made some technical upgrades and created a fancy box for the ATPC.
The ATPC is an easy to build synthesizer-kit based on the ATtiny85 microprocessor which is one of the smallest but also powerful members of the ATMEGA family (you probably already know by Arduino). The ATPC squeezes out the most of this little beetle.
"The synth is equipped with 4 potentiometers with body-contacts to tweak the sound. It's powered by a center negative plug or 9-V battery. You can trigger events by a push-button or via the programmable sync in- or -out line. On the output side you'll find a variable low-pass filter and a volume controlled buffer stage to push out true 8-bit sound. Because of the parallel 3.5 mm and 6.3 mm jack plugs you are able to link them in line as well as to interconnect and synchronize with other gear." (Steffen on the ATCP)
What do I like is that I can programm my own tunes, can flash them on the ATiny and best I can sync many ATPC's. If you are familiar with programming Arduinos you can create your personal tunes. All you need to do is to use your Arduino as an in-system programmer (ISP). There is a lot of information in the internet about this topic (see link Flashing Code). Steffen made a kit to flash ATtiny84s or 85s. With this it's even more simple to transmit own code to these tiny microprocessors. Steffen presents on his homepage different tunes and explains how they work. My favorite is the Failure_Unit code.
Steffen sells ATtiny Punk Console kits quite cheap for 39€ and pre-assembled units for 59€. They all will reach you with an ATtiny85 chip pre-programmed with the code of your choice. An additional one will sets you back 5€. Arduino as ISP-programmer kits are also in stock, which can be purchased for 7€ without or 9€ with a blank ATt85. Send an email.
The Flip Floater Delay designed by Claude Winterberg (Basel, Switzerland) has been presented for the
first time at HOME MADE 2017 in Switzerland.
I met Claude Winterberg aka Flip Floater the first time at the Circuit Control Festival 2014 in
Dresden, Germany. Claude brought the "Step Synth", a nice 8-step sequencer with a built-in
CMOS-synth and nice features for sound manipulation to the festival. One year later Claude
presented a filter in the Korg MS-20 style at his workshop at Generate Festival 2015 in Tübingen,
Germany. I soldered four of them to have a stereo pair for the studio and for my live-setup. In 2017,
Claude brought the Flip Floater Delay (FFD) to the Circuit Control Festival, which immediately set
me on fire and I started soldering the delay right away. A few days later, I used the FFD right in my
Claude, do you use the Flip Floater Delay (FFD) in your live set? If so, in what nice cases can we
see the delay?
"Basically, the FFD is standard in each device of mine. The complexity of the FFD depends on the
synth. I use the fully bent Flip Floater Delay - your version - in my new live ambient music set,
which I am currently working on. The most complex version of FFD is installed within my Atari
Why did you develop your own delay? What did you miss with other delays?
"The PT2399 Delay is the simplest delay chip available. I liked the sound from the beginning. I also
use it often as a reverb replacement for short reverb. As a circuit bender and developer I always
have the urge to tease out something else that was not intended."
What does the technical structure look like?
"The delay is the standard circuit as shown on the data sheet plus bendings. Most effects occur
when a resistance is hung between the decoupling capacitors."
Why did you add these nice features to the FFD like the drone function or this granular sounding
"These are characteristic effects of the chip. The possibilities are complex and often sound similar
but not the same. In the end I had to decide which bendings are the best for me."
Flip Floater Delay In Action
You can contact Claude Winterberg aka Flip Floater through email
You can book Claude Winterberg for a workshop and/or Flip Floater as live act.
The series "The Circuit Controllers" continues monthly on Electronic Cottage. I will only present
sound devices that I have soldered myself and of developers I know personally and appreciate as
Thanks for your interest and feedback, Wolfgang
Next edition: SCREAMO, a distortion fx designed by Alwin Weber (Dresden, Germany)
Claude Winterberg - http://flipfloater.net/
Wolfgang Dorninger - http://dorninger.servus.at/
Flip Floater live at Circuit Control 2014 at Ostpol, Dresden
Chaos Oszillator designed by Uwe Schüler (Kulturgüterschuppen Dusslingen, Germany) for Circuit Control DIY Soldering Festival at Ostpol (Dresden, Germany) June 2011.
Description of the circuit by the designer
A square wave generator consists of 2 CMOS inverters with variable frequency ("tone frequency") and is connected to an adjustable stabilized voltage of about 1 to 5 volts ("supply voltage control") and a variable internal resistance of 0 to 100 kOhm ("bad battery") and an adjustable filter constant ("power supply filter"). This results in feedbacks on the operating voltage, which lead to unstable and chaotic oscillations.
"Normally, measures are taken to keep electronic circuits stable, including stabilization of the operating voltage, decoupling capacitors, and low-impedance leads to the consumption points," says Uwe Schüler, and if these rules are disregarded, then you can freak around with the most vital sounding synth you can imagine. I got experienced and jammed with the Chaosz for weeks. I soldered some more units with different modificatios. Best is the original version, the Ostpoti by Uwe. Why Chaosz sounds so great is easy to explain: Uwe has spent a lot of effort to produce a maximum unstable and dirty power supply instead of developing a clean standard oscillator. This reverse path strategy masters the studied electronics engineer Uwe Schüler perfectly and tempts the possibilities to the maximum.
I created 90% of the sounds for "2nd Movement" ("Analoge Systeme", CD, base, 2016) with the Chaosz, also the drum sounds. Only the the polyphonic soundscapes come from another analogue synth. The live session with the Chaosz took approximately 2 hours, the editing of the sounds 2 days and the music was finished in 4 hours.
The series "The Circuit Controllers" continues monthly on Electronic Cottage. I will only present sound devices that I have soldered myself and of developers I know personally and appreciate as friends.
Next edition: FlipFloater Delay from Claude Winterberg (Basel, Switzerland)
Soldering is the new hometaping