a cool package
August 29, 2009 5:14 PM   Subscribe

a really cool idea that didn't work out. sounds like that creepy noise that can be made by rubbing a balloon.
posted by kitchenrat at 5:20 PM on August 29, 2009

That's really cool.
posted by brundlefly at 5:22 PM on August 29, 2009

I was convinced this was a double, but obviously not. Great post!

I'll add a SLYT to this: Moog's new guitar has built-in Moog filters, which can be controlled by a theremin... The sound is achievable in other ways, but the perfomance isn't!
posted by benzo8 at 5:22 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I saw this today I had to look up what a theremin was. It is very cool and even more so to include one in the CD packaging.
posted by caddis at 5:27 PM on August 29, 2009

Drawdio? Cool
Theremin? Cool
Drawdio == Theremin? False.
posted by DU at 5:41 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Similarly, a 3-CD set with a circuit-bent noisemaker in the packaging (and an artificial flower!): WOMEN TAKE BACK THE NOISE COMPILATION

I bought it and haven't had time to listen to the CDs yet, but I keep playing with the noisemaker...
posted by moonmilk at 6:19 PM on August 29, 2009

Here's the Wikipedia article on the theremin.

Obviously, a Commie mind control tool.
posted by Atreides at 6:49 PM on August 29, 2009

Moldover's toy is not a theremin.
posted by D.C. at 6:56 PM on August 29, 2009

Sweet, I'm glad this made it to the blue, and gladder that it was you who posted it nickyskye! (A piggyback tribute to all of your little add-ons.)

feuilleton had a great post recently that used Moldover's new album as a jumping-off point and included a few more good links (plus):

A potted history of the album cover from The Independent
Wikipedia on Physical Graffiti's album sleeve design
Tristan Perich's 1-Bit Music
and (my favorite part)
Buddha machines - fm3, zendesk, disquiet's collection of online buddha machine albums, Bb Buddha
posted by carsonb at 7:07 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Can I join some kind of support group for people who hate theremins?

Yes, but Omnichord worship is mandatory tor admission.
posted by davejay at 7:51 PM on August 29, 2009


A phototheremin.

Disappointing, but still really cool. Just not as cool as a real Theremin.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 8:27 PM on August 29, 2009

Moldover's toy is not a theremin.

He never said it was a theremin. Other people are saying this. He said it was a musical instrument, which it is.

I know a lot of you out there in the metafilter community take your theremins very, very seriously. Invariably metafilter would represent some kind of theremin-player mecca where all the dorks from band class who actually like the theremin would end up hanging out. I somehow knew this was true before I even clicked on the comments link. A little voice in my head went, "Man - people on metafilter are not going to like this - probably because they all take there thereminning really seriously - these people know a lot about theremins." And yeah, ya know, I was right. Half the comments are about how this is not a real theremin.

posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:01 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Radio Shack used to sell an assortment of random photoresistors in various sizes and values. Those are sadly missed (I was in a Radio Shack just yesterday, and they'd gotten rid of the electronic parts entirely, even the little ghetto of poorly sorted drawers was gone). I've stuck a photoresistor in like half the stuff I've ever built just because I had them around and they're fun, including many little noisemakers using the same circuit as this CD case, which is really cool by the way. I probably still have 3 or 4 in my junk parts drawer. Check this out, here's a circuit bender trick for you: take a photoresistor and an LED. Put them together so the LED and the element part of the photoresistor are facing each other, and glue them like that. Wrap the whole thing in electrical tape or color with black marker or paint, whatever makes it light-tight. You now have something like a vactrol.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:17 PM on August 29, 2009

Oh, and you're right that this isn't a true theremin, but the word "theremin" among circuit bending types has come to mean "anything where you vary the pitch by moving your hand", and is mostly used to refer to photoresistor circuits. A circuit bent toy where you, say, used a photoresistor to alter the pitch might even be called a theremin. Most circuits like this one (photoresistor controlling the pitch of some simple oscillator) also don't include a second element for varying the volume like a real theremin, mostly because you can't put two photoresistors far enough apart on a small case to be able to affect them with separate hands.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:27 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

The music industry is saved! The music itself becomes the free toy found in a package of music making stuff.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:49 AM on August 30, 2009

...noisemakers using the same circuit as this CD case...

Any chance you could clarify that a bit, DecemberBoy? What is the circuit used here? What kind of oscillator are we looking at?
posted by lekvar at 10:19 AM on August 30, 2009

> The music industry is saved! The music itself becomes the free toy found in a package of music making stuff.

The CD as a medium is saved. CDs themselves aren't necessary any more, except as durable backups, because so much music these days is already available in lossless or extremely high-quality lossy file formats.

I'm still enough of a throwback that I insist on buying all my music on CDs. I've got a few storage bins full of them now, and keep the music accessible on hard drives, carefully tagged, sorted, and archived in multiple file formats. The CD tends to cost a little more than the download does, but I get a booklet with the lyrics (if I want them), the artwork (worth a few minutes' study if the musician was savvy with their choice of artist and designer; ignorable otherwise), and detailed track credits (which piques my obsessive-compulsive streak; I probably know more about Jane Scarpantoni's career from the late-80s to early-90s as a session musician on alternative music albums than she herself remembers). Once the jewelbox and booklet have worn out their welcome, they get stuffed in a crate with all the other CDs and put in storage, possibly never to be seen again.

So using the music on the CD as a component of a package of art or craft... I'm okay with that. Trent Reznor, who as a musician I'm not a fan of but as a music industry businessman is a guy worth paying attention to, has already noted the CD's decline as purely a commercial music medium and sells his CDs as multimedia art packages (sound and visuals) in a variety of editions, leaving the downloads for those who are only interested in the audio component of the release.

Moldover's not really my cuppa tea either, but I love that he's turned the case itself into a musical device. The only way you could top that is by making the CD itself into a component of a musical device -- since the reflective backing surface is aluminum, it might be possible to exploit the CD as a component in the circuit, or print a layer of metallic ink over it make a variable circuit component depending on how the CD is rotated in the case.
posted by ardgedee at 4:57 PM on August 30, 2009

Any chance you could clarify that a bit, DecemberBoy? What is the circuit used here? What kind of oscillator are we looking at?

I don't know exactly how it's implemented in the CD case, but it's a simple square wave oscillator with the pitch varied by resistance. The resistance which varies the pitch, as in all "opto-theremin" circuits, is provided by an photoresistor, which outputs a variable resistance given how much light it's exposed to. Think of it like a knob (or potentiometer, if you're familiar with that term): move your hand closer to it, blocking the light, and the "knob" turns down. Move it away, letting more light hit the optical element, and the "knob" turns up.

There are any number of ways to build such an osicllator, the most popular method being an astable 555 timer, as described here (this is what the "Atari Punk Console" and most of the things you'll see described as opto-theremins use). I've also made square wave oscillators using two gates of a 4001 NAND chip, as described here. There are also ways to make simple oscillators using transistors, using opamps, and any number of other ways, but I've never used those and generally just go with the 555, as do most circuit bender/noisemaker-designer types. We're a strange breed of ghetto-MacGyver style duct tape engineer and avant garde musician.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:13 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

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