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Art of Fugue Blocks

Build me a symphony.
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These are an early attempt at musical, orchestral blocks. If anyone has a more elegant solution to some of the technicals I'm all ears.

These blocks consist of a 'brain block,' which housed several speakers, a headphone / output jack, CPU, memory, MIDI interface, batteries and input / display screen with visual / audible metronome. Alternatively a computer peripheral could suffice.

The blocks interconnect in a construction toy manner. Each block has an instrument sound, (or group of instruments in the case of some percussion accessories), which can be sampled by mashing a button, sending a short range rf code to the brain block, which plays it through its synth-quality speaker set.

Each block has 2 colored LED's, a big button and detent wheel with preset rhythm and tone settings, each sending a different transponder code to the central block, which plays each individual block's sequence in their respective instrument.

Connecting blocks together and to the central block, interlinks their electronics such that they play, timed, together, each in their respective instrumental sounds, in the style chosen by the detent wheel or similar selection scheme.

The blocks have several modes of play:

Freeform instrument sampling.

Composition recording mode.

Musical coordination mode: each block plays its own selection of notes upon plugging in. You must choose which to add to the construct, and where. Can you put a harmonious song together or will it fall apart in cacophony?

A puzzle mode is included with varying degrees of difficulty. Can you recreate this tune / sonata / symphony and corresponding block puzzle? Basic levels start with nursury rhymes, broken into 2-bar segments. Intermediate levels play only a few notes per block, or only one selected note per block at its corresponding time intervals.

The set is expandable with more instruments and musical styles. Each expansion series centers around a musical style theme, but always includes a piece or two from another, entirely different style and locality. Imagine a 'sounds of India' expansion, a 'Jugband and Bluegrass' expansion, or an 'Oceana Adventure' set.

MIDI songs may be downloaded for musical expansion.

I can imagine a blocky bust of Bach's head slowly forming, while little fingers pound out the rhythm of millions of synapses firing off their own symphony...

included in the basic set:

the 'brain block'
10 piano
2 bass drums
3 snare drums
4 crash cymbal
5 ride cymbals
2 high hats
1 triangle / go-go bell / keys
4 tenor saxophones
2 soprano saxophones
1 baritone saxophone
1 oboe
8 clarinets
1 bassoon
3 guitars
1 bass guitar
10 violins
6 violas
6 cellos
1 piccolo
6 flutes
4 trumpets
3 trombones
3 baritones
2 tubas
4 french horns
2 English horns
1 panflute
3 tympani
1 xylophone
2 flugelhorns
10 'mystery pieces' which are silent themselves but which modify the sounds of those pieces they connect to.

in expansion sets:

electric guitars
cowbell
spoons
Pringles can
trash can lids
pots and pans
harmonica
chimes
banjo
jug
washboard
duduk
castanets
sitar
marimba
maracas
steel drum
mouth harp
nose harp
harmonica
musical saw
jug set
zither
hurdy-gurdy
tambourine
oboe
ocarina
shofar
zummara
wine glasses
accordion
bagpipes
moog synthesizer
steel guitar
rainfall pipe
didgeridoo
singing bell
police whistle
post horn

RayfordSteele, Jan 02 2008

Smart Builder's Piano http://www.amazon.c...Piano/dp/B00169LXC8
Looks like a couple of my fellow Rose classmates further developed the idea... [RayfordSteele, Apr 16 2011]

MIT’s solution is elegant https://ed.ted.com/...avid-merrill#review
Have them be aware of each other. [RayfordSteele, Apr 22 2018]

[link]






       Don't forget the didgeridoo.
pertinax, Jan 02 2008
  

       Would this have walnuts? mmm blocks of walnut fugue.
bungston, Jan 02 2008
  

       Ah yes, the didgeridoo, I could've sworn I had it next to the rainfall pipe. Fixed.   

       I've been searching for a way to combine building blocks with musical construct, with little success. The two constructs seem quite different in dimension. Perhaps someone else has a cleaner approach.
RayfordSteele, Jan 02 2008
  

       No, I don't. But you inspired a neato idea...
globaltourniquet, Jan 03 2008
  

       What about a harpsichord?
BJS, Jan 03 2008
  

       What about it?   

       I suppose in order to properly play Bach we must have a harpsichord...
RayfordSteele, Jan 03 2008
  

       Yeah, re-chord and play-Bach are essential functions.
pertinax, Jan 03 2008
  

       Could this idea be described as a rather specialised computer interface, whose advantage over, say, a PC and a sound desk is better visualisation of the contributions of different instruments? I'm not trying to belittle the idea, just to get my head round it. I love the idea of getting physically surrounded with musical clutter.   

       Oh, and does it make any difference which block you join to which other block, and in which orientation? I feel it should, but I'm not sure how.
pertinax, Jan 03 2008
  

       Yes, it makes a difference which block you join to which other block, for then they play their intonations together. The orientation I was meddling with but couldn't find a decent way to get the degrees of freedom to correspond in any meaningful way.   

       I could see it going 2 ways; one more focused around the computer for older children and the other focusing around more physical blocks for the younger set.   

       I could also see it with several levels of 'graduation,' like Duplo / Lego / Technic, where the fundamentals don't change that much but the play becomes more involved and complex.   

       I was also wrestling with the idea of reducing the whole thing to a software application, but then it effectively became a synthesizer program or synthesizer game program with a bad interface and the block aspect sortof fell apart as did the physical aspect of the play. I could see using the computer itself as the 'brain,' with some kind of simple I/O device, like a Lego Mindstorms infrared tower.   

       I didn't want to encourage a lot of 'computer time' with the toy. Kids get more than enough of that from unimaginative parents.   

       I would love to break away from the 'push button -> make sound' model of interface, but musical instruments don't generally stack that well, and recording / playback demands electronics at present. Maybe my next submission should be a musical babbage engine...
RayfordSteele, Jan 04 2008
  
      
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