Music hackers create crazy instruments

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

light drum
The light drum… because sitting down and banging on regular drums is sooo last year!

If playing a guitar sounds too mainstream for you, how about getting zapped by electricity-blasting Tesla coil machines that sing whenever you manipulate the bolts with your hands? That’s what ArcAttack’s wild performers use, and they’re just one of many high-tech musicians pushing the envelope of futuristic instruments. As part of a global movement called Music Hackspace, inventors and artists are coming together in over 1,000 workshops that “hack” instruments to create imaginative music-making contraptions.

There’s really no limits here, as creators design everything from edible instruments to motion-activated ones made of light. One hackspace member, Dominic Averso, sees this worldwide phenomenon as a sign of how much easier it is for people to make music without needing to practice on a physical instrument for years. “The technology lowers the bar to participation,” he explains. Plus, now that there’s so much music available, Averso thinks audiences will grow bored of listening to a single tune very quickly. He says, “Future generations might think it’s wacky to listen to the same song over and over again.”

In order to keep people’s interest, instruments and music will require greater interaction and original ways of making sounds. Take the Seaboard keyboard, for instance. It uses very touch-sensitive rubber keys that subtly change the sound based on how they’re pressed, shifting everything from volume to pitch based on the smallest pressures. Meanwhile, non-traditional gadgets like the Ototo pocket-sized synthesizer can turn any object into an instrument.

Getting even more far out into strange unexplored territory, there’s edible instruments that are ice-cream activated by the player’s tongue! Then, as wearables like smartwatches and Google Glass take off, expect to see more musical versions of this tech, like the percussion jackets worn by America’s Got Talent participant William Close that’s basically a noisy shirt.

Featured image courtesy of ArcAttack and William Close. Image of light drum courtesy of William Close.