On the road in OCT-NOV-DEC 2017

Posted in Announcement on October 16th, 2017 by admin

05.10 – Vector Synthesis, SIMULTAN Festival, Timisoara RO (pictured)

09-10.10 – Field recording workshop, 7 DAYS of SOUND, Klaipeda LT

13.10 – Vector Synthesis, Meq Festival, Centre Dramatique National de Montpellier, Montpellier FR

14.10 – SoundBoxes workshop, Meq Festival, Centre Dramatique National de Montpellier, Montpellier FR

11.11 – Vector Synthesis workshop + performance, sound art festival, Copenhagen DK

18.11 – Vector Synthesis, Piksel Festival, Bergen NO

22.11 – Vector Synthesis, MuTe Festival, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki FI

24.11 – Vector Synthesis, Noisy November, Viljandi EE

27-29.11 – Vector Synthesis workshop, Piksel Festival, Bergen NO

04-10.12 – SoundBoxes workshop [w/ Björn Eriksson], Hola folkhögskola, Prästmon SE

11-15.12 – Neanderthal Electronics workshop [w/ Jeroen Vandesande], RITCS Academy, Brussels BE

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Vector Synthesis Library for Pure Data

Posted in Announcement on August 4th, 2017 by admin

The Vector Synthesis library allows the creation and manipulation of 2D and 3D vector shapes, Lissajous figures, and scan processed image and video inputs using audio signals sent directly to oscilloscopes, hacked CRT monitors, Vectrex game consoles, ILDA laser displays, or oscilloscope emulation softwares using the Pure Data programming environment.

You can see the latest version of the code here:


Audio waveforms control the vertical and horizontal movements as well as the brightness of a single beam of light, tracing shapes, points and curves with a direct relationship between sound and image.

The technique is based on the well-known principle of Lissajous figures, which are a mathematical representation of complex harmonic motion. Originally displayed by reflecting light between mirrors attached to a pair of vibrating tuning forks, we are most used to seeing them on the screen of an oscilloscope, where they can be produced using pairs of electronic oscillators tuned to specific ratios.

There is a wealth of such experiments from the 1950s onward by major figure such as Mary Ellen Bute, John Whitney, Larry Cuba, Manfred Mohr, Nam June Paik, Ben Laposky, Bill Etra, and Steina & Woody Vasulka, which were all highly inspiration to the development of this library.

You can see a demo video of the scan processing and 3D rotation functions here:

And you can see a two hour video presentation of this library here:

The author also wishes to thank the following people and institutions for their support of the project:

Aalto University Media Lab (Helsinki FI)
Marianne Decoster-Taivalkoski/CMT Sibelius Academy (Helsinki FI)
Jason and Debora Bernagozzi/Signal Culture (Owego NY USA)
Borut Savski/Cirkulacija2 (Ljubljana SI)
Lars Larsen/LZX Industries (Portland OR USA)
Spektrum (Berlin DE)
Andy Farnell
Ivan Marusic Klif
Dave Jones
Nathan Thompson
Roland Lioni/Akira’s Rebirth
Lee Montgomery

Derek Holzer Berlin July 2017

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Vector Synthesis Workshop Berlin

Posted in Announcement on June 8th, 2017 by admin



WORKSHOP (7hours/1day)
Level: introductory/beginners
Costs: 70 euro
Max number of participants: 12 people
Min number of participants: 4 people
Contact: macumbista@gmail.com
Sign up through this form:



The VECTOR SYNTHESIS project is an audiovisual, computational art project using sound synthesis and vector graphics display techniques to investigate the direct relationship between sound+image. It draws on the historical work of artists such as Mary Ellen Bute, John Whitney, Nam June Paik, Ben Laposky, and Steina & Woody Vasulka among many others, as well as on ideas of media archaeology and the creative re-use of obsolete technologies.


During this workshop, you will learn how to use a custom library in the Pure Data programming environment to directly control the vertical and horizontal movements, as well as the brightness, of a beam of light. You will then explore Lissajous figures, waveform representations, and other multiplexed, audio-driven visual shapes and forms which can be displayed and manipulated in real time on an XY oscilloscope, Vectrex game console, ILDA laser display, and other analog vector displays using a DC coupled soundcard.


We will also discuss hardware essentials such as how to modify a normal CRT monitor for vector inputs, how to hack together a cheap DC coupled soundcard, how to use a microcontroller such as the Teensy, Bela or Axoloti as a base for your vector synthesizer, and how to interface with the International Laser Display Association control protocol.


Please bring your own laptop. If you have a DC soundcard such as the MOTU Ultralight, please bring that as well. Many cheap USB soundcards can be adapted for DC use as well, you can find them on EBay or I will bring several for sale at the workshop. There will be a limited number of displays, so if you already own an analog XY oscilloscope, Vectrex game console, or other vector monitor, that would be very useful to bring. And finally, please get in touch if you have a CRT monitor you would like to see hacked (no guarantees!) during the hardware phase of the workshop. (Additional materials fee applies, we can discuss this.)





Derek Holzer is an American instrument builder and sound artist whose current interests include DIY analogue electronics, field recording, media archaeology and the meeting points of electroacoustic, noise, improv and extreme music.

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Posted in Documentation on February 7th, 2017 by admin

SKETCHES for VECTOR SYNTHESIS [2017][HD720] from macumbista

The VECTOR SYNTHESIS project is an audiovisual, computational art project using entirely analog synthesis and vector graphics display techniques to investigate the direct relationship between sound+image. Driven by the waveforms of an analog synthesizer, the vertical and horizontal movements of a single beam of light trace shapes, points and curves with infinite resolution, opening a hypnotic window into the process by which the performed sound is created.

This project is available as a live performance, a video installation or soon as a standalone audiovisual object crafted from handmade circuits and analog CRT tubes.

Informed by the discourse of media archaeology, my own personal interest in analog vector graphics isn’t merely retro-for-retro’s-sake. Rather, it is an exploration of a once-current and now discarded technology linked with specific utopias and dystopias from another time.

Essay “The Vectorian Era” here: http://macumbista.net/?p=4715

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Sirene by Phillip Sollmann

Posted in Documentation on December 8th, 2016 by admin


In 2015 I had the pleasure of working with Phillip Sollmann on his performance/installation Sirene. For the project, I researched how to control two very precise, high-tech Faulhaber motors with Pure Data over a serial connection. Originally designed for aerospace use, the Faulhaber motors became the engines for Sollmann’s air-powered, microtonal sirens which were presented at Oststation, Vienna in the spring of that year. The physical structure of the sirens was designed and executed by Paper/Christoph Blattmacher in Berlin.

SIRENE Dokumentation from pa bla on Vimeo.

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Pure Data Benjolin

Posted in Announcement on December 5th, 2016 by admin


The Benjolin is a standalone synthesizer designed by Rob Hordijk from the Netherlands in 2009 and available as an open hardware project online. This Pure Data implementation of the Benjolin was coded by Derek Holzer in SEP-NOV 2016 in Helsinki, after several years of producing customized hardware Benjolins from his Berlin studio.

Get it here: http://macumbista.net/?page_id=4690

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The Vectorian Era

Posted in Text on November 23rd, 2016 by admin


THE VECTORIAN ERA: an Investigation into Analog Computer Graphics

The Vectorian Era opens with a screaming across the sky. Analog electronic computers predate their digital counterparts by several decades, and one of the first practical applications of the analog computer was in controlling the trajectories of German V2 rockets as they traced their rainbow of gravity from Flanders towards London during the Second World War. As Friedrich Kittler has observed, the relationship of media technology to military tools of destruction was sealed by moments such as these.

Post-war developments continued in this direction. Tennis for Two, programmed in 1958 by William Higinbotham on an analog computer at Brookhaven National Laboratories in Long Island NY USA, using an oscilloscope as the display. It combined a two-player interface with physics models of a bouncing ball displayed as vectors in motion, and is arguably the first publicly-playable video game. The laboratory itself performed government research into nuclear physics, energy technology, and national security.

In the early 1960’s, the composer Morton Subotnik employed engineer Don Buchla to help him create “the music of the future”. Buchla redesigned the existing function generators of analog computers to respond to voltage controls of their frequency and amplitude. This gave birth to the realtime-controllable, analog modular synthesizer which was subsequently expanded by others such as Bob Moog and Serge Tcherepnin.

In 1967, the Sony Portapak revolutionized video by taking the camera out of the television studio and into the hands of amateurs and artists. And by the early 1970’s, an interest in cybernetics, systems theory and automatic processes brought the analog computer closer to the worlds of art, music, and architecture. Figures such as Heinz von Foerster, Gordon Pask, Nam June Paik, Steina and Woody Vasulka, Iannis Xenakis and R. Buckminster Fuller all speculated on the effect of computers on society, and used computer-derived forms in their work. The 1972 Rutt-Etra Video Synthesizer, used famously by the Vasukas in several works, employed an analog computer to manipulate and deconstruct the raster of a conventional video signal with very otherworldly effects.

Vector graphics were widely adopted by video game manufacturers in the late 1970’s due to their computational efficiency, and the wealth of experience using them that the history of analog computing provided. Perhaps the most iconic of these games is Asteroids, a space shooter released by Atari in 1979. Battle Zone (1980), Tempest (1981), and Star Wars (1983) all stand as other notable examples from this Vectorian Era, and also as rudimentary training tools for the future e-warriors who would remotely guide missiles into Iraqi bunkers at the start of the next decade. As electronics became cheaper, smaller, and faster in the 1980’s, the dated technology of using analog vectors to directly manipulate a Cathode Ray Tube fell out of favor and rasterized graphics, animations and moving image quickly took their place.

Informed by the discourse of media archaeology, my own personal interest in analog vector graphics isn’t merely retro-for-retro’s-sake. Rather, it is an exploration of a once-current and now discarded technology linked with specific utopias and dystopias from another time. The fact that many aspects of our current utopian aspirations (and dystopian anxieties!) remain largely unchanged since the dawn of the Vectorian Era indicates to me that seeking to satisfy them with technology alone is quite problematic. Therefore, an investigation into “tried-and-failed” methods from the past casts our current attempts and struggles in a new kind of light.

Derek Holzer
23 NOV 2016
Helsinki FI



–TOP: Derek Holzer, “VECTOR SYNTHESIS” study, August 2015, Berlin DE
–MIDDLE: “VECTOR SYNTHESIS” studies, January 2017, Helsinki FI
–BOTTOM: Early computer art created by anonymous IBM engineers, this pinup girl program is running on a SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) defense computer. Polaroid photo by Lawrence A. Tipton, 1959, Ft. Lee Virginia USA. Via The Atlantic.

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Atelier Macumba presents a Night of Primitive Electronics

Posted in Announcement on August 7th, 2016 by admin

primitive electornics flier dirty





17 AUG 2016 20:00 doors, 20:30 sound
55 Herzbergstrasse, Berlin-Lichtenberg

Event is held in the ground floor “cold hall”, next to the former Canteen.

GROWTH is a forest of ambiguities. It is an inward gaze, a state of being, and a largely improvised performance by the hands of Berlin based non-musician Lars Ennsen which may be classified in terms of minimal, ambient, and drone.

RANDOM SONIC ATTACK landed on planet earth approximately half a year ago. A collaboration between Goolyk & Damn Jar. Cassette tape album is in the processing state. In the meantime you can listen to one studio improvisation and one live recording here:

HÉLÈNE CANUET is a polymorphe French photographer, writer and performer. Rare on the art scene over 4 years , her work was only show in few galeries in Berlin. Lyrical, surrealistic or conceptuel her propositions are always very personal, almost intimate on the edge of poesie and social politic. Based on improvisation some of her projects seems done to snaked emotion and fired expectation.

For her collaboration with instrument-builder DEREK HOLZER this evening, Hélène will present her spoken-word texts as material for the DELILAH TOO VOICE ENCODING SYSTEM.

The students of SONIC COLLEGE [Haderslev DK] will present the results of their SOUNDBOXES workshop at 20:30 sharp to a limited audience in a separate, darkened hall. Please be ***pünktlich*** if you plan to experience this!

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Atelier Macumba on Hiatus!

Posted in Announcement on July 12th, 2016 by admin

Due to some studies at the Media Lab of Aalto University in Helsinki, I will be on hiatus for a while. Therefore:

I am no longer accepting any bookings for workshops or concerts until January 2017.

I am no longer accepting any instrument orders until June 2017, and even then my production line maybe undergo some changes.

Thank you for all your support as friends, customers and admirers over the last few years. It’s been a great ride. Watch this space or my more-frequently-updated Facebook page for updates: www.facebook.com/macumbistanet

XR-VCOs Custom Synthesizer

Posted in Documentation on July 12th, 2016 by admin


Another vehicle for interdimensional travel completed! This one features seven identical Thomas Henry XR-VCOs with three different timbre modulation options (hard sync, “skew” waveshaping and a J3RK/Stroh Modular crossfader between triangle/sine and square), all with voltage control, plus voltage-controlled frequency modulation, a summing mono output and even a headphone amp.

When I think about the human-hours that went into this instrument, I start going a little bit insane. Completing this would not have been possible without the assistance of Lars Ennsen and Damian Jaroszonek. Thanks düdes!

Videos someday….



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