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Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking [Paperback]

Nicolas Collins

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Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking 4.7 out of 5 stars (3)
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Book Description

April 4 2006 0415975921 978-0415975926 1
Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking provides a long-needed, practical, and engaging introduction for students of electronic music, installation and sound-art to the craft of making--as well as creatively cannibalizing--electronic circuits for artistic purposes. Designed for practioners and students of electronic art, it provides a guided tour through the world of electronics, encouraging artists to get to know the inner workings of basic electronic devices so they can creatively use them for their own ends.
Handmade Electronic Music introduces the basic of practical circuitry while instructing the student in basic electronic principles, always from the practical point of view of an artist. It teaches a style of intuitive and sensual experimentation that has been lost in this day of prefabricated electronic musical instruments whose inner workings are not open to experimentation. It encourages artists to transcend their fear of electronic technology to launch themselves into the pleasure of working creatively with all kinds of analog circuitry.

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"Here we have, at last, an electronics book that caters to people who have ideas first, and electronics second…Collins offers a splendidly integrative look into the history of "sound art," basic electronics, and junk revisioning." --Make Magazine

"Nicolas Collins wants to tear apart your CD player..." --Wired Magazine

"...a brilliant, hands-on guide to electronic music making....[Collins] never ceases to amaze me with his latest bit of music or techno-logical innovation." --TapeOp Magazine

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rediscovers the simple facts of electronic music Jan. 7 2007
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Ever since products such as GarageBand took over the low-level tasks of producing electronic music and turned us all into application users, much has been forgotten about making music with low-level electronic components. In the case of younger electronic musicians, this may be an art form they never even knew in the first place. Although there is an advantage is computer musicians speaking a common language through a common application, something fascinating in the realm of experimentation has been largely lost. This book returns to the days of yesteryear with some projects in making your own electronic music with basic devices.

The book starts with some brief information on the tools you'll need plus the author's seven rules for experimentation. Part two is dedicated to listening. He shows you how to use radios and coils to find hidden electronic music, how to use the speaker as a microphone and vice versa, and how to use piezo disks to pick up tiny sounds, among other topics. Part three, on touching, shows you how to transform a portable radio into a synthesizer, change the clock circuit in toys to produce new sounds, and use photocells and pressure pads to "play" the modified toy. Part four, Building, shows the reader how to breadboard up some oscillators along with some controlling circuitry and produce gating, ducking, tremolo and panning effects. Part five, Looking, concerns translating video to audio using commonly found devices. The final section goes into depth on mixing circuits, how to build a good but cheap amplifier, connecting sensors to computers via game controllers, and a section on power supplies.

The book is written such that you should proceed from beginning to end, since the devices in earlier sections are used to assemble the devices in later chapters. By the time you finish you should have entire experimental musical instruments that you have assembled yourself.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go Beyond Circuit Bending Oct. 13 2006
By R. O. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Circuit Benders - if you are ready for something different get of a copy of Collins' informative book. It covers a wide variety of approaches for creating unusual sounds (and sights) in a low tech, user friendly manner. For example, the chapter on making an oscillator uses photos of the breadboard as well as schematics. As someone who finds electronic diagrams intimidating, Collins' approach made construction a snap. It also helped me better understand how to read schematics. Creating visuals with LCDs and by altering video cameras further expand the realms of hacking. The included CD features work by artists and musicians using devices found in the book. What a great idea. Very inspiring. I wish the Ghazala book (which is also great)had a similar CD. Sources for parts, websites and additional information galore make this a must have item.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great way to get your hands charged for the first time Feb. 13 2009
By Kuru - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is, apparently, compiled from course materials for what must be a very fun class. It mostly covers two broad topics. First, producing unexpected sounds from radios and the circuit boards in toys, and modifying those devices in simple ways, such as adding photoresistors or new circuit board connections. Second, building simple synthesizers from scratch. The skills taught are basic, and form the building blocks for infinite exploration. The tools and parts needed are all inexpensive (often costing mere pennies). The included CD is great fun, but best saved for later listening, since it contains "spoilers" of what some of the projects might sound like.

Because of the book's origination in a class situation, the explanations and pictures are not always ideally clear. There are a lot of typos. However, the writing is so engaging and the book is so much fun that it still deserves 5 stars. Where the book is incomplete ("how to I de-solder something?"), the Web is there.

The book is clearly aimed at musicians without any electronics experience. Nonmusicians might still enjoy it, but a joy in playing with sound is absolutely required. I suspect the book would be way too basic for people with any significant experience in electronics.

As sidebars, the book includes a considerable amount of history of electronic music -- who's who and what they've been up to.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, Great For Novices & Experienced Alike March 30 2008
By R. L. Nelson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a really fun book, with lots of projects for budding electronic musicians. But it goes beyond that: It's a solid intro to electronics and CMOS components. I went into this book thinking it might be too basic, yet I walked away with a lot of ideas, and some interesting new techniquess.

I wish that more electronics writers would cover the material with this author's style and accuracy. Also, kudos for providing parts sources and for using easy to find and inexpensive components. (I've seen many people, myself included, become frustrated by hard-to-find parts lists or the use of discontinued items. These projects suffer from neither of those problems.)

In the end, you'll be left wanting to know more about the components and techniques you've picked up. (You'll probably want to add Don Lancaster's classic CMOS Cookbook to your shopping cart. It will give you the details about many of these components.) Highly recommended. I'm looking forward to other books by this author.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you can't crack it open, it doesn't really belong to you. Aug. 14 2008
By R. K. Hobbs - Published on Amazon.com
A great guide to taking apart old electronic noisemakers and turning them into something new. Also includes simple DIY electronic circuits with all the steps. The projects are compelling and workable. Give this to a young person and change their whole outlook on DIY.

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