Music Technology

I just got back from an awesome Dorkbot DC meeting, with two very inspiring artists’ presentations, one by Andy Holtin, and one by Atau Tanaka. While the presentations themselves were fascinating, beyond that, one thing that struck me was the two presenters’ associations with Maker Faire and how the Faires are a great incubator of ideas and projects that go on to have lives beyond these single events.

We met Andy originally through Maker Faire Austin, when he was teaching at UT and put together a student art show for us. Atau teaches at Newscastle University, and is the Digital Media Chair of the Culture Lab there. When he and the Culture Lab heard that Maker Faire was coming to town, they knew they wanted to do something special. They put together a workshop and collaborative music performance piece called the Chiptune Marching Band. It was a great success at the Faire and they’ve now gone on to do it at six different festivals and events (and plan to continue). It’s a perfect example of taking a simple, clever electronics circuit (it uses two LM386 chips, one to oscillate, one to amplify) and some crafting supplies, cobbling them all together in the context of an educational and social event, and then immediately turning the objects-made into a fun performance piece, a maker’s marching band. All sorts of win!

Above is a video of the Chiptune Marching Band (which we’ve covered here before) — the Chiptune Marching Band even has a website.

I look forward to seeing what innovative, wondrous, and wacky things sprout from the heads and hands at this year’s Newscastle Faire… and all of the US Faires.

Maker Faire, Newcastle


Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn