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Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking Paperback – Apr 13 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (April 13 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415998735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415998734
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 17.8 x 25.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #51,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'This book describes a valuable piece of research and further enhances our understanding of the complex systems, perceptions and inter-relationships that impact on pupils, their families and schools and the differences and similarities of these between permanently excluded and non-excluded pupils.' - Debate

About the Author

Nicolas Collins, an active composer and performer of electronic music, and has worked with John Cage, Alvin Lucier, David Tudor, and many other masters of modern music. Dr. Collins is Professor of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has led hacking workshops around the world. He has been Visiting Artistic Director of STEIM (Amsterdam) and a DAAD composer-in-residence in Berlin. Since 1997 he has been editor-in-chief of Leonardo Music Journal.

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a highly recommended, entertaining read. The instructions are clear and the projects can produce wonderful results.

This book is good if you are anxious to get started on a project and you want to make noise asap. There are about twenty or thirty projects that increase in difficulty, complexity and cost (e.g., more specialized parts, tools, components, etc). The projects can be independent, or can be sort of piggybacked and linked to create a few larger projects by the end if one were to follow the book sequentially (I did not). There are usually suggestions on how to expand each project, and the author always encourages the reader to experiment (though never with a wall socket!).

It is very light on theory, but the goal is noise and creative experimentation, not math. The author makes this clear from the beginning, but also points the reader in the right direction if he / she wants to know more.

The DVD is incredible. Little instruction videos by the author in his workshop; music; videos; art; weirdness. A unique collection almost worth the cost of the book itself.
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Format: Paperback
This is the most valuable book that I have in my possession. The basic concepts which Collins brings to light, presented in such an accessible way, I have found no other text. If you read this book front to back you will have new ideas and if along the way you try to some of the projects you will have new skills.
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By goosers on Oct. 17 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book outlines basics and provides documentation of sound artist work therein providing the practices of making work from the techniques provided. Great for people wanting to get some basic electronics made and work through ideas on their own.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really great. Starts off simple gets better and more complex, and funny! A must for anyone interested in home brew electronics.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 35 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Rediscovers the simple facts of electronic music Jan. 7 2007
By calvinnme - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Go Beyond Circuit Bending Oct. 13 2006
By R. O. Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Best musical circuit book ever Aug. 8 2011
By Analog Monster - Published on
Format: Paperback
Quite simply this book is fantastic. It starts off very simply, each project is explained in a way that is easy to understand. There is a logical progression and there is enough information provided that you can start experimenting yourself - I combined and modified some of the designs to make something of my own. The chapters are interspersed with inspirational descriptions of artist's related projects, and the included DVD allows you to see many of these.

This book has given me enough basic skills and inspiration that I have caught the bug. I have been to a few electronics/music workshops over the past couple of years and if the tutor does not recommend this book a fellow student does. I have since honed my skills and I am now running my own business designing and building guitar effects pedals and synthesizer kits. Get this book, you wont regret it
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great way to get your hands charged for the first time Feb. 13 2009
By Kuru - Published on
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
Excellent Book, Great For Novices & Experienced Alike March 30 2008
By R. L. Nelson - Published on
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.