Nick Yulman has been doing the whole mechanical music thing for sometime. In fact, the first time he came to our attention was at Maker Faire a couple of years back, when he had a cadre of small robotic instruments set up on a table in a quiet corner near the food stands. For ITP's Spring Show, Nick decided to share the love and brought along his Bricolo mechanical music system. Comprised of a number of different modules, Bricolo is meant to simplify the act of incorporating robotics and physical objects into the creation of "electronic" music. The two main pieces are a drum arm, which can be mounted on a mic stand and uses and uses a simple actuator to swing a drum stick, and a platform with a small solenoid that can produce either percussive rhythms or melodic tones. All of the pieces can be easily controlled by any MIDI instrument or sequencer.
The small platform that can produce actual musical tones converts notes from any MIDI source into a frequency that the solenoid can vibrate at, creating sound by striking a surface extremely quickly. In the video below you can see as an old hard cover book is turned into a bass synth. Interestingly, by opening and closing the book, varying the weight placed on the platform, you're able to create a filter effect. For the moment the tiny musical motors are largely a proof of concept -- exposed components attached to black or clear acrylic, but the hope is to eventually sell them to curious creators. Our composing skills might not be quite up to Mr. Yulman's lofty standards and we'll never write a bass line as good as I Want You Back. But, we are big fans of noise, and you can make plenty of it with Bricolo. Check out the video after the break to see it in action.