There was a student who thought that he was writing something ‘modern’ when, in the fourth measure, he modulated from G major to Db major, then two or three measures later to B major. But within Db Major and B major he behaved just as tamely as in G major, where he used scarcely more than tonic and dominant. I showed him his error by transposing everything back to G major, uncovering for him the unimportance, the monotony, and the harmonic wretchedness of his melody in its true form. He caught on when I asked him if he considered it especially reckless to carry the same philistine behavior from G major to Db and B.
From Schoenberg’s Harmonielehre (1911)
“Harmonic wretchedness” is my new phrase.
I was going through some folders on my computer and came across this photo of my funk band from college, the Mutron 6.
Despite what the photo looks like, this is from about 2001, not the 1960s.
For the curious, here’s what our modal-Maine-funk sounded like:
Over the break, I took some time to put together an arduino-driven synth from this “instructable” by Brian Peters.
Yeah, inside the radio case
This is a synthesizer made from four SN76489 chips. These chips appeared as a cheap audio solution in a number of old computers and game consoles, including the ColecoVision, NeoGeo Pocket, Sega Genesis (although the Genesis had another chip capable of FM Synthesis).
Because these chips are cheap, this ends up being the cheapest synth on my rack:
$19.00 – Teensy 2.0 Board
$4.50 – 4x SN76489AN Chips (includes shipping)
$1.30 – 1.8432 MHz Oscillator
$0.10 – 4x 75k Resistors
$0.10 (or so) – 4x 10µF Capacitors
$5.00 – 4x 1/4″ Audio Jacks (these were way too expensive on Sparkfun)
$5.00 – Breadboard
$45.00 – Total (give or take)
So, it’s been about 15 years since I bought it, but I think that’s even cheaper than my Alesis Nanobass (appears in the background of these photos).
Why did I put it inside and old radio? Because that was what I found a Goodwill for $2 that was an appropriate size.
The aptly named Arduino “Teensy”
Teensy, SN76489 chips, and quartz clock ready for wiring
The rats’ nest
So what does it sound like? Here’s a quick and dirty demo:
I love this photo of Bartok I found on Composers Doing Normal S**t (warning: page title uncensored if you follow the link).
It’s especially enjoyable thinking that this photo was likely taken around the time he wrote this:
An inspiration to work on my string writing, parenting, and moustache.
Always looking for an excuse to open something up
For my latest “chiptune” project, I’ve put in some RCA jacks on my Super Game Boy.
Of course the Super Nintendo already has the possibility of a component out (via RCA jacks), but, since the Super Game Boy basically contains all the circuitry of the Game Boy, this mod bypasses the Super Nintendo altogether.
If you’re interested in trying this yourself, check out this instructable for step-by-step instructions.
Super Game Boy guts
Closed back up
So… Does it sound better? I don’t really know, and I don’t really have the time to set up a comparison, but this mod sure makes it easier to get sound to my mixer.
Here are a couple quick recordings of games I had lying around:
The thing I have to be careful of, though, is that the clock speed of the Super Game Boy (4.295 MHz) is 2.4% faster than the Game Boy (4.194 MHz). A minor change, certainly, but a significant one if I’m trying to keep my music in tune between different devices, and I’m switching between the SNES and a Game Boy.
…like the time I brought my NOPera to Germany, forgetting that Europeans don’t tune to A440.