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This DIY Device Turns Your Table Into a Psychedelic Music Maker

It's not so simple to become an electronic musician. The equipment is expensive. There's not a good how-to book. It's sometimes a little unclear what exactly electronic music is. That's why the Contact musical interface is so intriguing.

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Half art project, half acid trip, this interactive projected digital instrument is stupid simple to use. It's powered in part by sound. Tap the surface with your finger, and it makes a clap-like sound. Hit it with the top of your wrist to trigger a kick drum sound. A Leap Motion sensor takes over from there, enabling a vast spectrum of effects based on different hand gestures and motions. Finally, a pedal lets you manipulate the sound.

But that's only half the fun. Felix Faire, the UCL student who designed Contact, built a complex and responsive visual component. This is where the acid trip bit comes into play. A dynamic grid is projected onto the surface and responds to your every move, almost as if the instrument were a giant guitar with strings that criss-crossed. There's one giant white string in the middle that can be plucked or pulled for different effects.

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Contact represents a beautiful fusion of newfangled technology and old fashioned interactivity. Over the centuries, we've become accustomed to playing musical instruments in a physical manner, and Faire makes that experience front and center in his very futuristic project. "For Contact, everything was built around the the act of hitting, tapping, beating, or scratching a physical object," he told Co.Design, "then everything else just sort of grew from there."

Real audio geeks will undoubtedly love the technical details behind the project. In brief, it's all DIY and built on top of existing technology. The sensors for the surface interaction are simply pickups for an acoustic guitar, and the pedal is something you can pick up at any music store. Then, of course, there's the Leap Motion for gesture recognition and a projector for visuals. The software element is a bit more complicated, but it all revolves around Ableton Live.

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It's unclear what Faire plans to do with Contact. There's a good chance it'll just exist as an interesting art-meets-design-meets-technology project that will live forever. Then again, he might decide to take it to market. Again, it basically turns any hard surface into a futuristic musical instrument. And lord knows, it's easier to carry around a couple sensors and a projector than it is to haul a bad boy like this. Plus it looks cooler. [Co.Design]

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DISCUSSION

Of course, the biggest hurdle to making good electronic music is not the technical end of learning the various hardware/software components that are out there. More important is actually listening to a broad range of electronic music and understanding the history of the genre. Why do I say this? Because the best musicians have always made do with what they had available to them in terms of music-making tools. Taste, on the other hand, is something that takes time and care to develop. There are too many would-be electronic musicians out there looking up dubstep tutorials and too few actually digging into the foundations of electronic music. Pertinent video attached.