The Vostok Suitcase Synth

a powerful amount of modular synthesiser power into one small suitcase.

The Vostok is a sort of modular analog synthesizer with a cover that doubles as a suitcase: add a handful of solar cells and you’ll have the companion of choice to make noises on the field for synthesizer lovers and nans alike. The synthesizer is certainly appealing and promises endless hours of modular patching or EMS pinning, plus tons of weird cool sounds. Drawbacks? maybe the price, £1499 -modular synthesizers tend to be expensive. Also, an article in the sound-on-sound magazine pointed out some other issues, especially the behaviour of the digital oscillator, but the last version has replaced it with an analog one. This said, the Vostok looks superb as a portable semi-modular synth and I would take it everywhere, except airports: it wouldn’t be easy to convince the person behind the scanner that that thing actually is a music instrument (let me show you -I just have to switch it on, connect this pin, and it’ll make awesome sounds! the bass is so powerful, it can blow… the speakers I mean…).

ps. I have just found another modular-in-a-box (second thumbnail from the left). It’s not as sexy, but the case looks much more reliable.

From here to Moroder

This is a great video featuring Giorgio Moroder playing one of his most famous hits, “From Here to Eternity”. Moroder was one of the greatest contributors to the electronic music scene in the seventies and eighties, producing music for countless artists (i.e., Donna Summer) and a handful of soundtracks, like The NeverEnding Story, Top Gun or Midnight Express, for which he was awarded an Oscar. In some aspects his music hasn´t aged very well, but he was a pioneer, and many of his songs will remain fresh forever. My personal favourite: chase!

Remembering synthesizers

It is curious, this of trends. I remember the synthesizer boom around the second half of the eighties. And I say it is curious because the “synthesizer phenomenon” is much older. More than fifty years ago, avant-garde composers (Ussachevsky, Subotnick, etc…) were already using electronics in their music. However, I recognize that I identify myself more with the seventies´ boom and Schulze, Tangerine Dream or the megapopulars Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. Continue reading Remembering synthesizers

Forecoming gadgets: round, interactive and shaky

When I first wrote an article on Hitachi’s waterscape, I defined the device as a “study for new, more intuitive ways of accessing data in electronic devices”, also pointing out that the technology could also be useful for playing interactive videogames. Now, it seems that other major companies Continue reading Forecoming gadgets: round, interactive and shaky

Modular behaviours: cube world&cubees

Play with one or stick two or more cubes together to build an interactive world(…) As you stack, they’ll interact and visit one another’s cubes.

(…) if you interconnect additional Cubees, the one on top of the singing pyramid will belt out the lead while the others “sing” back-up.

Even though the possibilities of interaction between electronic toys has been already explored for a while (like in the most recent versions of the Tamagotchi or the Digimon), it looks as though there’s a new generation of toys on the horizon which are characterized by their ability to interact with each other regardless of the active presence of the user.

These toys generally come shaped as cubes which provide special connectors on several of their sides. Each cube is entertaining by itself, but in order for the interactions to happen, the user should Continue reading Modular behaviours: cube world&cubees

Shake that waterscape,

or the maraca PDA

To allow browsing of information in a passive and relaxed way, we have developed a prototype personal digital assistant (PDA) terminal with no buttons at all. By operating the terminal with simple tilting and shaking gestures, contents such as movies and music can be enjoyed.

In a former article (see below), I wrote about the increasing importance of what I called “gestural control”, which I had already been following in relation to musical intruments and seems to be slowly finding its way into everyday life (it even went mainstream when it was used in the videogame “Black&White”, for instance). In this case, Hitachi shows us a little neat device, merely a screen, where several icons (bubbles) literally “float” around. Tilting the device will displace those bubbles in such a way that when one of them gets to a “hotspot”, located in the center of the screen, it will reveal its contents, which the user can select in the same way. A second different gesture, that of shaking the device, provides a means to “go back” or deselect the current feature.

As a prototype, the waterscape is a study for new, more intuitive ways of accessing data in electronic devices. However, there are Continue reading Shake that waterscape,

Look up the lights, you know my number

Design is very often, perhaps even mostly, a struggle in between aesthetics and function. The masterpieces of design would then be those which excel in both aspects without compromising any, but usually though, tradeoffs are made in favour of either one or the other; the success of the result depends on there being a good reason for the imbalance, one which makes the bias worthwhile, and the ultimate proof of its success, the ability of the users to feel, even better verbalize, said reason.

I hope that the paragraph above will give a new perspective on the deep meaning of the at times blamed as shallow term “cOol”, as in: why do I like so much a clock so hard to read? because it´s sooo cOol!!! ;P

Ps: Actually, I found a different breed of “visual clock” that is easier to read : the TIX Led Clock.