Though MIDI controllers are generally used for digital music making, the automat from dadamachines offers laptop or smartphone tunesmiths the opportunity to create something distinctly analog. A central control box acts as the go-between for MIDI software and a bunch of bashers and beaters that can be placed near such things as plastic boxes, metal balls or glass jars to sound the melody.
The automat toolkit combines a MIDI controller brain with accessories kits that enable everyday objects to become music machines, allowing music novices to experiment with sounds programmed in via music creation apps or seasoned MIDI pros to compose complicated acoustic creations in production software. At its heart is a 110 x 110 x 26 mm (4.3 x 4.3 x 1 in) Arduino-compatible box with 12 DC outlets to the top.
The outlets can be used to power solenoid beaters that tap, ping and bash items like metal bowls, water-filled glass jars or small percussion instruments when triggered by software running on a USB-cabled computer, MIDI hardware or app-driven mobile device – kind of like mini motorized musicians helping to pound out a rhythm or melody. They can also be used to add visual elements such as LED arrays, drive small fans or power DC motors.
Berlin-based DJ Johannes Lohbihler first came up with the idea back in 2010, and is now ready to get the modular MIDI lab in the hands of music makers. To this end, he's launched the project on Kickstarter, where pledges start at €89 (US$96) for a bare bones controller board, €169 for an automat controller and €299 for a controller and accessory kit. If all goes as planned, shipping is expected to start in September. You can watch the pitch video below for more on the system.