If you haven’t yet played with Arduino, the low-cost open source hardware that’s captured the imagination of geeks and artboys alike, then you should really try one out (Berlin retailers: Tinkersoup and Fritzing). The chip is incredibly versatile and easy to use, and you can customize it will a million different components and do tons of cool hacks. If you’re a n00b like me, then just getting the LED light to blick is satisfaction enough.
On June 20 – 21, Anton (Tinkersoup) and Arnon (Artuino) organized an Arduino workshop at IMA Design Village in Berlin. Over 100 musicians, designers, and hardware hackers came to play with wires and circuit boards. Each group was given some design goals, and from an assemblage of old electronics and nimble Arduinos, we built mini games and toys. Our group ended up gluing together an inverted pinball game made out of CPU cooling fans and a retro switch controller. The goal of the game was to blow a balloon into a wire hoop, which triggered a digital camera to take a goofy picture of you.
There were a lot more sophisticated projects at the workshop, including two musicians exploring how to tear away from hunched over, laptop-bound harddisc jockeying. Instead, they wanted to build instruments that allow musicians to move around and perform, while having all the electronic techniques available like looping and filters. Onyx Ashanti (video) wowed the crowd with his “beat jazz”, a blend of dance music looped live from a MIDI clarinet. The instrument is hooked to a mixter and laptop steered by a Playstation controller and iPhone — incredibly complex but wonderful to listen to. Marco showed us his “Ast / Tree Branch”, a handmade free-standing instrument that the musician controls by sliding his fingers along the branch’s neck. Very cool sound and a real chance for artists to compose electronic music while having analog interaction.
Hopefully there will be more opportunities for all these creative folks to get together again. I know I certainly had a lot of fun and learned a lot. Thanks so much to the organizers and to the participants!