How Many Commodores Does It Take To Crack A Nut?

It’s brilliant enough when composers make use of the “2SID” technique to double the channels in a Commodore 64 with two sound chips, but even then some people like to kick things up a notch. Say, five times more. [David Youd], [David Knapp] and [Joeri van Haren] worked together to bring us just that, ten Commodore computers synchronously playing a beautiful rendition of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy at this year’s Commodore Retro eXpo.

The feat is composed of nine Commodore 64 computers and one Commodore 128, all fitted with the SID chip. It is a notorious synthesizer chip for utilizing both analog and digital circuitry, making each and every one of its revisions unique to a trained ear, not to mention impossible to faithfully reproduce in emulation. The SID was designed by Bob Yannes at MOS Technology, who later went on to co-found Ensoniq with his experience in making digital synthesizers.

How this orchestra of retro computers came to be, including details on how everything is pieced together can be found on this slideshow prepared by the authors of the exhibition. It’s interesting to note that because of timing differences in each computer’s crystal clock and how only the start of the song is synchronized between them, they can’t play long music tracks accurately yet, but a 90-second piece works just fine for this demonstration.

These synthesizer chips are slowly going extinct since they’re no longer being manufactured, so if you need a new replacement solution, FPGAs can fill that SID-shaped hole in your heart. If you need the whole computer though, the newer Teensy 3.6 will do just fine emulating it all. Check out this beast of a display in action after the break. While we’re at it, this isn’t the only time multiple 8-bit computers have been combined as an orchestra, though these Commodores sound a lot better than a table full of ZX Spectrums.

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The Hovalin: Open Source 3D Printed Violin Sounds Great

[Matt and Kaitlin Hova] have created The Hovalin, an open source 3D-printed violin. Yes, there have been 3D-printed instruments before, but [The Hovas] have created something revolutionary – a 3D printed acoustic instrument that sounds surprisingly good. The Hovalin is a full size violin created to be printed on a desktop-sized 3D printer. The Hovas mention the Ultimaker 2, Makerbot Replicator 2 (or one of the many clones) as examples. The neck is one piece, while the body is printed in 3 sections. The Hovalin is also open source, released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license.

A pure PLA neck would not be stiff enough counter the tension in the strings, so [The Hovas] added two carbon fiber truss rods. A handful of other components such as tuners, and of course strings, also need to be purchased. The total price is slightly higher than a $60 USD starter violin from Amazon, but we’re betting the Hovalin is a better quality instrument than anything that cheap.

The Hovalin was released back in October. There are already some build logs in the wild, such as this one from [Emulsifide]. Like any good engineering project, the Hovalin is a work in progress. [Matt and Kaitlin] have already released version 1.0.1, and version 2.0 is on the horizon. Hearing is believing though, so click past the break to hear [Kaitlin] play her instrument.

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Gamelatron, A Fully Robotic Indonesian Gamelan Orchestra.

Last summer we got to have a little chat with [Aaron Taylor] about his automated Gamelan orchestra, Gamelatron. The robotic orchestra features a large collection of Indonesian gongs,  metallophones, xylophones and cymbals actuated using simple pull solenoids attached to mallets.  Gamelatron’s custom controller activates the various 24V solenoids using MIDI,  the whole thing is essentially a gigantic MIDI instrument that can be played by whatever sequencing device you so please.

[Aaron] has a variety of ways to pump MIDI into the controller including the “Padma Bhuwana”, a wooden box with 16 arcade buttons wired to an Arduino. The Arduino can either activate sequences on a computer running Ableton live or the MIDI sequence can be pumped directly out of the Arduino for a computer free interactive installation. [Aaron] also plugs his Akai MPD32 to the computer for live shows or he can just let the laptop do all the work for non-interactive installations.

The really interesting thing about having 170 or so simply actuated instruments is the ability to spread them out and fill every facet of a space. A great example of this was the Temple of Transition at Burning man 2011 where the gongs and what not else would span multiple floors. Here is a recent Wired magazine video published where [Aaron] gives a quick overview of the setup, or if you are too impatient for the ads check out a few videos of Gamelatron in at burning man and PEX summer festival after the jump. We also included [Aaron]’s kickstarter video which has a few more details on the setup (as well as irrelevant stuff about the kickstarter project that has since expired). With all the crazy midi instrument hacks we get around here it is not stretch of the imagination to see this has lots of interactive potential.

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