Darsha’s sound electronics class is in session — and it’s a little different to what you’d normally expect.
Rather than a bunch of animations of electrons moving about, sound artist and educator Darsha Hewitt has created a long-form video tutorial around the world’s first commercial drum machine.
Wurlitzer’s Side Man 5000 is hardly practical by modern standards. The pioneering 1959 hardware weighs some 38 kg, and is controllable only via push buttons and a speed fader, pre-programmed to happenin’ grooves like “rhumba.”
Inside, though, this gadget is an electro-mechanical wonder. And taking it apart and making it work again is an opportunity to understand how that technology worked, introducing ideas ranging from the basics of how a tube works to some novel ideas of how to use moving wheels to produce rhythm. You’ll be reminded both what a cathode is and how machines can produce music.
Darsha Hewitt leads with a friendly, patient style accessible to even those with no electronics background — but if you are interested in the intricacies of this hardware, there’s plenty of detail for you, too. The SideMan she’s got is one of only a handful left, to say nothing of the few in proper working order. That means that this is also the most comprehensive documentation yet of the Wurlitzer device’s innards.
The series is presented in episodes, with the teaser out today and the first episode launching on October 6. Or meet Darsha and celebrate the series in person, if you’re around Montréal:
03.10.16 — Advanced Screening and Q&A hosted by Jonathan Sterne @ Mutek_IMG Montréal
04.10.16 — Side Man 5000 Sample Salon Workshop @ Goethe-Institut Montréal
It’s great to see Darsha completing this project, having collaborated with her on a past MusicMakers Hacklab for CTM Festival. I got to visit Side Man in person; it’s an amazing machine.
Disclosure: CDM did publicity support for the launch of this series (and a little video editing), for which we were compensated. (Our coverage of the machine is not sponsored, though — we think it’s a cool project!) Additional funding was provided as part of the “Art and Civic Media” program — Innovation Incubator @ Leuphana University — Lüneburg. Further support provided by Foundation for Art and Creative Technology and Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.
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