Helsinki and Tallinn gig photos

Posted in Documentation on February 12th, 2013 by admin

Live set for analog synthesizer, speaker box, found objects and room, 09 Feb 2013, Kodu Bar, Tallinn Estonia. Photos by Terje Toomistu.

Live set for analog synthesizer, speaker box, found objects and room, 07 Feb 2013, Vapaan Taiteen Tila, Helsinki Finland. Photos by Antti Ahonen.

In the rush of CTM Fest and my annual Mechanical Sound Orchestra Workshop at TAIK (04-08 Feb 2013), I realized I completely forgot to post announcements of these two rather informal gigs here. Let’s hear it for my Facebook page, at least…

Thanks to Jukka Hautamäki, Ilpo Heikkinen, Lauri Hyvärinen, Taneli Viitahuhta, Ilia Belorukov, Antti Ahonen, John W. Fail, Marika Agu, Timo Toots and Terje Toomistu for their support in the various aspects of playing and documenting these two performances.

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Solstice SoundBoxes Wrap Up

Posted in Documentation on December 20th, 2012 by admin

The Solstice SoundBoxes were intended as small, portable and battery-powered electro-acoustic instruments. They can create a variety of drone and reverb-type sounds through feedback between a small speaker and a resonant piezo-electric microphone. A variety of other features were available, including transparent and backlit speakers, decorations within the box, line-outs and “circuit-bending” body contacts. They could also simply be used as cigar-box amplifiers for whatever other electronic instruments you might have.

On 11 December, I took a huge load to the post office and freed myself for a month-long holiday trip to Marfa, Texas. Out of an edition of 30, 27 were sold or gifted to people, which ain’t too bad for a week’s worth of promotional work. You can see the most of the run below. I plan on another edition in January or February. Stay tuned… and happy Solstice!

The roster of recipients [in no particular order]:

Sonny Rosenberg
Lars Lundehave Hansen
Peter Votava
Carsten Stabenow
Jason R. Butcher
Jonathan Lukacek
Steve Holzer
Juhani Liimatainen
Miki Brunou
David Massey
Walker Farrell
Björn Eriksson
Christian Schiller
Richard Quirk
Gregg Wilson
Rob Appleby
Stefan Paul Goetsch
Luka Ivanovic [not pictured]

Now Playing:

The desert…

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Derek Holzer vs Jelena Glazova

Posted in Documentation on November 18th, 2012 by admin

I recorded these pieces with Jelena Glazova already last Dec/Jan 2011-12, but they sat around for a while as two people with very busy lives tried to decide what to do with them. Thankfully, Jelena took the initiative in selecting and mastering some of the better moments and put them up in her Bandcamp page. Expect heavy slabs of drone with some nonlinear distortion skittering around the edges. I think Track 4 (“15th Session”) shows the best balance of our two different sound worlds. Thanks Jelena!

Derek Holzer vs Jelena Glazova by Derek Holzer and Jelena Glazova (2012)


1. 19th session 07:30
2. 13th session 07:46
3. 18th session 07:52
4. 15th session 06:40
5. 27th session 07:32
6. 11th session 06:48
7. 24th session 08:28
8. 26th session 06:09
9. 29th session 07:47

Improvisation sessions recorded during residency at MoKs Arts Center, Mooste, Estonia, winter 2011/2012, selected/mastered March – October 2012

Direct link:

Jelena Glazova is an artist and a poet based in Riga, Latvia. She is working in the interdisciplinary areas of contemporary art, combining in her works image, poetic text, experimental sound and installation. Experimental music activity field – noise/drone, usually constructed from processed vocals.

Derek Holzer is an American sound artist based in Berlin DE, whose current interests include DIY analog electronics, sound art, field recording and the meeting points of electroacoustic, noise, improv and extreme music. He has played live experimental sound, as well as taught workshops in noise art technology, across Europe, North America, Brazil and New Zealand.

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Machine Deva Soundtrack + TONEWHEELS photos

Posted in Documentation on October 21st, 2012 by admin

Machine Deva Sound Track by macumbista

Original soundtrack by Derek Holzer for the short film “Machine Deva”, by Steve Holzer (19min, 2012, TX, USA). A very abstract love story created directly on 16mm film, using familiar and not-so-familiar direct manipulation. Hand color and intervention on found footage with unusual transfer techniques put the visual experience somewhere between cave paintings and a hand-held video of a dream world.


1.0: brief introductions/those who cannot remember [6:06]
2.0: first mutation [4:34]
2.1: the lecture(“étant donnés”) [1:51]
2.2: take the elevator [1:04]
3.0: second mutation/the dance [4:43]

Recorded April 15-May 15 2012, RSS-82 Berlin.

Derek Holzer: analog synthesizer, electronics, pure data, organ, percussion
Steve Holzer: synthesizer(1.0), guitar(2.1)

I will have CDRs of this soundtrack and DVDRs of the film itself available in late November, and I will try to organize a screening in Berlin to coincide with this. Please note that the film itself will not appear online, due to the detailed nature of the film manipulations which lose much of their impact through compression. Unless you are lucky enough to visit a screening organized by myself or Steve, the DVDR will be the next best thing. Please contact me if interested.

TONEWHEELS France Photos

Photos from Pau performance by Alvaro Ayuso

Photos from Pau performance by Nicolas Godin

Photos from Pau performance by Sandrine Ferrer

Photos from Marseille performance by Pierre Gondard

On the Road Again…

22-26 Oct: Neanderthal Electronics Workshop, Det Jyske Kunstakademi, Aarhus DK
26 Oct: Macumbista live set, SPLAB, Aarhus, DK
29 Oct – 02 Nov: Neanderthal Electronics Workshop, Nordic Sound Art, Copenhagen DK
02 Nov: Macumbista’s 40))) birthday whiskey-sipping session, hosted by Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau, Copenhagen DK. RSVP for info.
05-09 Nov: Neanderthal Electronics Workshop, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki FI

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Posted in Documentation on October 16th, 2012 by admin


TONEWHEELS is an experiment in converting graphical imagery to sound, inspired by some of the pioneering 20th Century electronic music inventions, such as the Light-Tone Organ (Edwin Emil Welte, 1936 Germany), the ANS Synthesizer (Evgeny Murzin, 1958 USSR), and the Oramics system (Daphne Oram, 1959 UK). Transparent tonewheels with repeating patterns are spun over light-sensitive electronic circuitry similar to that used in 16 & 35mm motion picture projectors to produce sound.

The TONEWHEELS Hurdy-Gurdy presented at Acces(s) is not an “interactive” artwork in the common sense. While it does not reward the impatient museum visitor with flashing lights and noises at the simple touch of the button, it does invite participation in the process of technological music creation. Although it first appears to be a very traditional instrument known to many folk-music cultures, it functions in a very different way which can only be discovered by playing it.

The artist would like to thank Tobias Traub of Oroborus Customs e.K. and Carlo Crovato for their invaluable assistance in creating this instrument. Circuits designed by Jessica Rylan and Eric Archer are also used within the system.

More information on the TONEWHEELS project can be found at


This instrument functions by turning light into sound. The audience is invited to experiment with it, provided that they read the following instructions and handle the instrument carefully.


1) Pick the instrument up by the strap and put it around your neck. You will hold the instrument as seen in the painting shown below, “Jeune fille à la vielle”, by Jules Richomme (1882). Please handle the instrument by the edges. Do not handle the triangular area in the middle, this area is very delicate!

2) Activate the power switch and adjust the volume knob at LOCATION A.

3) Using your the fingers of your left hand, locate the pressure-sensors at LOCATION B. When you press these, you will see different lights turn on at the center of the instrument.

4) With your right hand, turn the crank at LOCATION C. This will spin a wheel printed with transparent patterns. These patterns break up the light which falls on several light sensors, creating the basic tone of the instrument.

5) The sound of the instrument passes through a filter which can change its tone. The controls for the filter are marked in green at LOCATION D. The switch controls whether low, middle or high frequencies are passed through the filter. The controls marked “LFO” can be used to modulate the filter, while the controls marked “FIL” are used to affect the frequency and resonance of the filter.

6) There is also a distortion effect, marked in red at LOCATION E. The distortion only works when the large button has been clicked, and the red light is on. The four controls marked “DIS” control different aspects of the distortion.

7) When you are finished, please gently set the instrument down flat on the table and turn the power off.


1) The speed of the wheel affects the basic frequency of the sound
2) The filter and distortion shape that sound, but can also produce sounds of their own.
3) A good place to start is with the distortion off and all the controls set to the middle position.
4) There are some control settings which may not produce any sound at all!

“Jeune fille à la vielle”, by Jules Richomme (1882)



This hurdy-gurdy project might be the most complicated thing I have ever tried to build, involving quite a bit more technical research and development by myself and several others than I expected at first. All in all, we took about two months to build something that really needed a year to do right. Live and learn, unfortunately in that order. So when it was all over, and I finally had my first free day in ages, I took a little walk in les Pyrénées with Vincent Meyer

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Catjar in the Rye

Posted in Documentation on September 30th, 2012 by admin

“Catjar in the Rye” (or “Betty”, as she is know to her friends) is an experimental sound instrument built for Swedish composer Andreas Catjar. It combines a chaotic Benjolin synthesizer, extreme fuzz distortion unit, a speaker/contact-mic feedback system and “circuit-bending”-style body contacts into one rugged flightcase. The Benjolin features several modifications, including patchable routing banana jacks, LED lights for the three stages of its analog shift register and an external audio input. I hope to post some sounds and video later on, when Andreas has time to make them.

My thanks go out to Rob Hordijk, who designed the Benjolin circuit, and to Pete Edwards/Casper Electronics for his help in working out the modifications. You can read a few of my thoughts on using analog shift registers for chaotic sound synthesis in this post.

This instrument really represents exactly what I would like to be doing more of these days: customized design and construction of personal sound instruments based on circuits freely available within the DIY electronics community. Please get in touch if you have a project in mind!

“Catjar in the Rye” was commissioned to appear in the Institutet/Markus Öhrn/Nya Rampen theater production “We love Africa and Africa loves us”. The premier takes place on October 5, 2012 at Ballhaus Ost Berlin.

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LAK Festival Copenhagen Documentation

Posted in Documentation on September 18th, 2012 by admin

The Rainforest project at the LAK Festival for Nordic Sound Art in Copenhagen was a complete success on many levels. The organizational team was fantastic, even without considering that this was their first ever event. While they planned for a modest 100 visitors for each day of the event, the total number turned out to be about 1500 in total. The Rainforest concert opened the festival, and continued as a live installation each day. Many thanks to Rainforest co-organizer (and true soul buddy) Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau as well as participants Anders Børup, James Brewster, Ejvind Juul Chang and Kristian Hverring for their energy and dedication, as well as to curators Jonas Olesen and Sandra Boss as well as the whole LAK team for a great weekend.

Photos by Hanne Budtz, My Lambertsen and Antonin Matejovsky. Full LAK photoset here

SNYKradio indslag om LAK festival og Regnskov 2012 by janstricker

Practice your Danish! SNYKradio interview with myself and Mads Bech Paluzewski-Hau at the LAK festival 2012 by Jan Stricker. Don’t worry, plenty of parts in English too…

Rainforest 2012 // Regnskov 2012 – LAK festival for nordisk lydkunst by My Lambertsen on YouTube.

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Video–Studio Improv 30 Apr 2012 + Norberg Report

Posted in Documentation on August 1st, 2012 by admin

Derek Holzer-Studio Improv 30 Apr 2012 from macumbista on Vimeo.

Getting the computer out of my live sound was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I work with the modular synthesizer, I feel like I have a piece of clay in my hands which I can squeeze in any direction I choose. This short improvisation was made during filming of the documentary “Learning to Listen”, on sound artists in several European cities by London College of Communication students Dann Linn, Marianna Sangita and Andi Spowart.

Soundbox at Norberg Fest, photo by possan

Norberg Report

I’m just back from my Swedish gig, where I spent the weekend gazing longingly at leggy blonds and red farmhouses, slapping mosquitoes, sipping expensive beers and teaching 25 people to build small noise-boxes in the summer sun. Concert went great, with a huge Function One sound system in the gigantic, resonant Mimer mine-shaft hall for that all-over body bass-massage kind of feeling. One of the best parts was that, some weeks ago, I dreamt that two friends from Estonia came to the festival with me. When I wrote them about it, they replied, “Roadtrip sounds like a great idea! See you soon!” So they did.

Big thanks to Sol Andersson and Johannes Ahlberg for the invitation and John Anker Corneliussen for the sound! Also managed to catch a few great sets, most notably by Carl Michael von Hauswolff and the lovely drone duo Kyrkan. Just as awesome, and tasty to boot, was James Brewster‘s Electro-acoustic cafe–a mic’ed up espresso stand with the option for extra delay or wah on your foamed milk.

Interior of the Mimer photos by possan, Derek Holzer live set at Norberg Fest by Rotwang @

Another great thing was the wide range of folks who dropped by to build these little Neanderthal instuments–people who by and large would never show up at an “experimental noise” gig suddenly discovered the insane, child-like pleasure of making their own noise. A selection of these good people can be seen above. Thony Ekström has posted a 28 minute video of the workshop presentation here. I like the part where the orchestra warms up in the beginning…

Norberg Neanderthal photos by Björn Eriksson and Rotwang @ (last). Tack!!!

Electronics Work

I spent quite a bit of July working on this chopper with a student named Alvaro Ayuso. He didn’t quite finish it… a problem if you’re a young Spanish dude with too many friends around I suppose. Synth building is a solitary pursuit. So consider this a work in progress. Good going so far, amigo, now let’s bring it on home!

Tech details: line input, mic input, 2 x line outputs, dual VCA, 2 x VCO, dual VC Slope, Utility LFO, DC Mixer, Steiner VC Filter, Wave Multiplier. All PCBs by Ken Stone/CGS.

And finally… here’s a Serge Power Supply Unit I built for my friend Richard Scott:

Yeah, I guess it’s been a busy month…

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SoundBoxes Helsinki Info + Video

Posted in Documentation on June 18th, 2012 by admin

The MUU Gallery requested info-sheets for each of the instruments I am showing there. A whole weekend of vector-scribbling later, I present these examples of my mad Inkscape skillz as testament to the fact that I probably should get more sunlight this summer…

Download the PDF catalog with photos here:

Wolf Tone Box
Derek Holzer

This box was created from a found children’s karaoke toy specially for the MUU Invisible Time exhibition, Helsinki (FI). It features a voice-changing circuit, condenser microphone and loudspeaker mounted in an antique wooden box, and has been equipped with “bend points” where physical contact with the circuit changes the sound.

1) On/Off Switch
2) Volume Knob
3) Input Jack
4) 9V Power Input: for battery or wall adaptor
5) Speaker
6) Bend Points: touching two of the screws together with your finger can “bend” the sound of the instrument, or flip one of the switches to hold a certain sound
7) Condenser Microphone with Flexible Neck

To Play:

A) Press the On/Off Switch, you will see a small light above the Speaker when the box is activated
B) Speak into the Condenser Microphone
C) Adjust the Volume Knob to lower the level, raise it or create feedback
D) Feedback can be also created by lowering the Microphone nearer to the Speaker
E) Experiment with the Bend Points using either fingers on the screws or the switches
F) If the sound dies out, speak into the microphone again

This instrument is for sale, price EUR 260.

Macumba Benjolin
Derek Holzer

The Benjolin is a circuit designed by Rob Hordijk from the Netherlands. It contains two oscillators (one slow and one fast), a band-pass filter and a circuit Hordijk calls the “Rungler”, which allows chaotic feedback possibilities between the different parts of the circuit. This one has been customized with an old silverware case, a built-in amp and speaker and a patchbay for further chaotic interactions.

1) On/off Switch
2) Inputs: the four left-hand-side jacks are inputs, don’t unplug these. The black connection with the red cable connects to the speaker. The other input jacks connect to different parts of the oscillators.
3) Outputs: the eight right-hand-side jacks are outputs, play with these. The black jack is the output of the filter. The others others are different parts of the oscillators.
4) Volume knob
5) Output jack, for plugging into other SoundBoxes
6) Speaker: this is turned off when something is plugged into the output jack
7) Filter Controls: these will only change the sound when using the black output jack
8) Oscillator Controls: these change the frequency and chaos levels of the oscillators

To Play:

A) Flip the On/Off switch upwards
B) Adjust the Volume Knob
C) Create feedback by plugging the blue cables from the left-hand side into the different output jacks on the right hand side
D) Listen to different parts of the synthesizer connecting the red cable from the black jack on the left-hand side to any of the output jacks on the right-hand side
E) Use the top row of knobs to adjust the two oscillators
F) Use the bottom row of knobs to adjust the filter, and remember you only hear the filter when the red cable is connected to the black output jack
9) The Macumba Benjolin requires two VERY FRESH 9V block batteries to operate properly

This instrument is from the personal collection of the artist. Customizations of many electronic music circuits are available on request.

M79 Super
Derek Holzer

The smallest synthesizer I have ever made, the M79 Super was built during the Piksel Neanderthal Electronics workshop in Bergen (NO). Here, three oscillators, a tiny speaker and two sound-reactive LEDs are placed inside a beautiful, old, palm-sized flashlight from the 1970’s.

1) On/Off Switch
2) Third Oscillator On/Off Switch
3) Oscillator Frequency Control Knobs
4) Output Jack: to connect the M79 Super to larger speakers
5) Very Small Loudspeaker
6) Two Audio-reactive LEDs: one of these displays the waveform of Oscillators 1+2, and the second displays the waveform of Oscillator 3

To Play:

A) Slide down the On/Off Switch located on the side of the object
B) Flip the Third Oscillator On/Off Switch up or down to activate/deactivate Oscillator 3, and notice what effect it has on the sound
C) Adjust the frequencies of the different Oscillators
D) You can make a filter by covering the small Loudspeaker with a cupped hand or your mouth

This instrument is for sale, price EUR 130.

Electric Spring II and III
Derek Holzer

These are simple, resonant drone boxes using the feedback between a simple contact microphone with a coil-spring and the speaker to make rich harmonic sounds or metallic reverb effects. These were created in an edition of three for the Electric Spring Festival in Huddersfield (UK).

1) On/Off Switch
2) Volume Knob
3) Input Jack: other kinds of microphones or instruments could also be connected here
4) Contact Microphone + Spring: this microphone picks up physical vibrations rather than sounds from the air. It has a resonant coil spring attached to it which makes the drone and also can be used as an “antenna” to search for new sounds
5) Speaker

To Play:

A) Turn Volume Knob all the way to the left
B) Place the Contact Microphone across the Speaker
C) Flip the On/Off switch upwards
D) Adjust the Volume Knob until you start to hear a tone
E) Adjust the position of the Contact Microphone + Spring and the Volume Knob to find new sounds
F) You may gently touch the Speaker with the Spring, but please do not press hard or you will damage the Speaker

These instrument are for sale, price EUR 80 each.

SoundBox I
Derek Holzer

This was the first SoundBox instrument I created in 2010. It uses feedback and the physical vibration of the speaker cone to create different kinds of chaotic sounds.

1) On/Off Switch
2) Volume Knob
3) Input Jack: other kinds of microphones or instruments could also be connected here
4) Speaker
5) Contact Microphone: this microphone picks up physical vibrations rather than sounds from the air. It has two “antenna” attached to it to search for new sounds.

To Play:

A) Turn Volume Knob all the way to the left
B) Place the Contact Microphone across the Speaker
C) Flip the On/Off switch upwards
D) Adjust the Volume Knob until you start to hear a tone
E) Adjust the position of the Contact Microphone and the Volume Knob to find new sounds
F) Place some of the found objects provided in the speaker and see how the vibrations move them around and change the sound

This instrument is from the personal collection of the artist, and is used frequently in performance.

SoundBox II
Derek Holzer

The second SoundBox I built, this one remains a bit incomplete–it looks better than it functions. Besides the normal SoundBox microphone/amplifier/speaker feedback loop, this one was intended to have a small synthesizer circuit which would alter the sound as it passed through. This part didn’t work out so well, but I left the controls to remind me that one day I should fix it!

1) On/Off Knob
2) Three Useless Controls
3) Input Jack: for Contact Microphone or other sound sources
4) Speaker
5) Contact Microphone + Spring: this microphone picks up physical vibrations rather than sounds from the air. It has a resonant coil spring attached to it which makes the drone and also can be used as an “antenna” to search for new sounds

To Play:

A) Turn the On/Off Knob clockwise, you will feel a click when the box turns on, but please don’t expect it to control the volume as well!
B) Don’t bother with the Three Useless Controls either, they’re only decorations at this point
C) Adjust the position of the Contact Microphone + Spring to find new sounds
D) You may gently touch the Speaker with the Spring, but please do not press hard or you will damage the Speaker

This instrument is from the personal collection of the artist, and is a work-in-progress.

Derek Holzer: live SoundBox Performance at MUU Gallery, Helsinki 07 June 2012. Video by Rita Leppiniemi.

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Wolf-Tone Box + Helsinki Report

Posted in Documentation on June 9th, 2012 by admin

Wolf-Tone Box

Wolf-Tone Box, Derek Holzer 2012. Microphone, speaker, voice-changing circuit, antique wooden box. Created for the “Invisible Time” show at MUU Gallery, Helsinki, 8-21 June 2012. For sale, inquire here.

Helsinki Report

The MUU opening went very nice, a good crew running the space with a nice selection of artists. My favorite moment was when a little girl, aged four and very shy at first, quickly learned how to play one of the SoundBoxes better than me! I brought 7 sound boxes in total, which remain available for visitors to experiment with for the next two weeks, as well as screened the nonlinearity and cryptography videos. Installation views below.

The travel was a bit rough, however. I’d been a bit sick the days before the flight, and when the plane landed in Helsinki, my left ear felt like it was going to explode. I asked a doctor, who said I might rupture my eardrum if I flew, and weighed the options of a trip by boat, bus and train back to Berlin. Things seemed best to use the airplane ticket the gallery already paid for, rather than spend money and time I don’t have on a 30+ hour overland journey. But the four hours I spent swallowing hard to keep my eardrum from bursting were pretty nerve-wracking…

Moral of the story: don’t fly with a flu. Trust me.

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