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
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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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:

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Berlin Workshops Nov-Dec at NK

Posted in Announcement on October 8th, 2010 by admin

“Ich bin ein Objekt”: Learning Pure Data as a Language
DATES: 13-14 November 2010 12:00-17:00
LOCATION: NK, Elsenstr. 52/2.Hinterhaus Etage 2
12059 Berlin Neukölln

Pure Data (or Pd) is a real-time graphical programming environment for audio, video, and graphical processing. This introductory workshop is ideal for new users of Pure Data who are finding the “vocabulary” and “grammar” difficult to grasp. We will learn Pure Data as one would learn any other language, taking a series of very basic examples from the Pure Data FLOSS Manual. This workshop gives a good starting point for more advanced Pd workshops, or participation in the Berlin Pure Data users’ group. The workshop will be taught in English ;-)

Participation is limited to 12 participants.

Registration: Pre-registration is required and can be done by sending an email to



Neanderthal Electronics at your Fingertips
DATES: 27-28 November 12:00-17:00 / Presentation 28 November 18:00
COST: EUR 35 + EUR 10 materials fee
LOCATION: NK, Elsenstr. 52/2.Hinterhaus Etage 2
12059 Berlin Neukölln

Learn how to use simple objects from our modern environment (resistors, capacitors, transistors, LEDs, integrated circuit chips…) to design and build your own personal, touch-activated primitive noise synthesizer. Each is a tiny world of its own, using primitive analog computers in combination with feedback, sensors and audio inputs to create a unique sound. Even from the same plan, no two are alike! Participants should bring some sort of box, container or other creative enclosure to put their circuit inside of–past workshops have seen synthesizers made in suitcases, flashlights, film cans, coconuts, children’s toys, super 8 cameras, cigar boxes, knaackebrod, books and hand-sewn masks. Check the videos on the Macumbista website for some ideas and inspiration. This workshop will end in a free public presentation of the instruments you have created, invite your friends!

Participation is limited to 12 participants.

Registration: Pre-registration is required and can be done by sending an email to



Now Splice the Tape: Working with Soundfiles in Pure Data
DATES: 04-05 December 12:00-17:00 / Presentation 05 December 18:00
LOCATION: NK, Elsenstr. 52/2.Hinterhaus Etage 2
12059 Berlin Neukölln

Manipulating recorded soundfiles is one of Pure Data’s most powerful features. However, the process of doing this remains one of the most confusing tasks for newcomers. During this two day workshop, we will cover the basics of loading soundfiles to tables, live capturing and looping, adjusting tempo and pitch, changing the looping, starting and stopping points of your playback and an introduction to granular synthesis. We will also examine ParticleChamber as an example of a full-fledged soundfile manipulation application built entirely with Pd. Some previous experience with Pd and/or participation in the “Ich bin ein Objekt” workshop is recommended. This workshop will end in a free public presentation of the instruments you have created, invite your friends!

Participation is limited to 12 participants.

Registration: Pre-registration is required and can be done by sending an email to

Links: (ParticleChamber)


About the Instructor:

Derek Holzer (1972) is an American sound artist living in Berlin, 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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Regnskog, Bergen NO 11-17 October 2010

Posted in Announcement on September 8th, 2010 by admin


Bergen Kjøtt, Bergen NO, October 11-17 2010

REGNSKOG: a Collaborative Workshop/Performance/Installation in the Spirit of David Tudor
Produced by


Over the past few years, a strong reaction against the sterile world of laptop sound and video has inspired a new interest in analog processes, or “hands dirty” art in the words of practitioner John Richards. With this renewed analog interest comes a fresh exploration of the pioneers of the electronic arts during the pre-digital era of the 1960s and 1970s. Artists and inventors such as Nam June Paik, Steina & Woody Vasulka, Don Buchla, Serge Tcherepnin, Dan Sandin and David Tudor all constructed their own unique instruments long before similar tools became commercially available or freely downloadable–and often through a long, rigorous process of self-education in electronics.


David Tudor, in particular, has become the focus of intense interest (c.f. Leonardo Music Journal 14, 2004). His transformation from John Cage’s concert pianist to an electronic performer and autodidact engineer in his own right is archetypal for the contemporary media artist, who also must oscillate between the creative and the learning processes. His work Rainforest also stands out as an exemplary model of the collaborative process within a technically defined, yet socially open system.

Rainforest used a series of transducers to play prerecorded and live sounds through various resonant metal objects suspended by wires in the performance space. It was also conceived as a workshop, involving different musicians and artists in a collaborative setting, each contributing their own sounds, ideas and energies to the performances, which often lasted four or five hours! A complex mixer system allowed the sounds coming from one resonant object to be directed through another, spawning chaotic generations of new sound patterns. The sounds played could be heard through loudspeakers as well as the objects themselves, however they could also be physically felt by touching the objects. Tudor was especially interested in two audiences: children and the blind.


Regnskog is conceived as a contemporary re-interpretation of Rainforest as a workshop, performance and public installation. In the spirit of Tudor’s work, much of the equipment and materials will be built by the participants/performers themselves.


Harald Fetveit, Oslo
Signe Lidèn, Bergen
Ryan Jordan, London
Derek Holzer, Berlin
Julien Ottavi, Nantes
John Hegre, Bergen
Jørgen Træen, Bergen
Gisle Frøysland, Bergen

Now Playing

bitchin bajastones & zones lp[2010 important]
burnburn 7″[1990 revelation]
chen santa mariachen santa maria[2008 gssd/shit on]
drudkhhandful of stars[2010 season of mist]
elehrepose[2010 touch]
j.d. emmanuelwizards[1982/2010 important]
prince ramashadow temple[2010 paw tracks]
seijiro murayama4 pieces with a snare drum[2010 petit label]

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Mechanical Sound Instruments workshop, TAIK, Helsinki

Posted in Documentation on March 20th, 2010 by admin

Images from a Pure Data + Arduino motor & sensor workshop I taught for students of the Media Lab at TAIK (Taideteollinen korkeakoulu/University of Art and Design) Helsinki, 8-12 March 2010. Thanks to Antti Ikonen for inviting me!

Photos by Liisa Tervinen

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Coincidence Engines

Posted in Documentation on February 15th, 2010 by admin

Hypnotized by the unfolding synchronicities of [The User]‘s Coincidence Engine One: Universal People’s Republic Time, at the Transmediale Festival 2010 (Collegium Hungaricum Berlin). Inspired by György Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique For 100 Metronomes, the work features hundreds of cheap plastic clocks, each with its own imperfect little heart. Seconds come like a light rain, and minutes like brief hailstorms. Photo by Elena Kaludova.

This piece reminds me of another, Ligeti-inspired work which I helped Helsinki-based composer Libero Mureddi realize using Pure Data in 2006. Déploration pour la mort de G. L. is a rhythmical canon with 88 voices for Disklavier. Each key plays a constant tempo, the lowest being 40 bpm, with a 0.3 bpm increase per key, starting from low A.

The effect of this piece on the player piano is that dynamic ripples and reflections are created up and down the keyboard as keys move in and out of phase with each other. I think Libero was as startled as I was when we “performed” it for the first time during the Pd workshop!

Video by Egle Oddo.

Now Playing

Lars von TrierAntichirst[2009 film] (fucking wow!)

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Pure Data Workshop + FLOSS Manuals Book Sprint

Posted in Announcement on January 28th, 2010 by admin

Pure Data Workshop + FLOSS Manuals Book Sprint
Tusday 23 – Friday 26 February 2010, 17.00-22.00 [GMT +1]
NK Elsenstr. 52 2HH 2 Etage 12059 Berlin, Germany

Contact Derek Holzer: derek AT THE DOMAIN mob: +49(0)176 2812 5845
Or contribute online! #flossmanuals

Pure Data (or Pd) is a free + open source, real-time graphical programming environment for audio, video, and graphical processing. Because all of these types of media are handled as data in the program, many fascinating opportunities for cross-synthesis between them exist. Pd is commonly used for live music performance, VeeJaying, sound effects composition, interfacing with sensors, cameras and robots or even interacting with websites.

A book sprint brings together a group of writers, editors and artists to produce a published book within several days. This sprint will combine a workshop within it, where new users will learn to create basic patches in Pd, documenting them along the way for the FLOSS Manual. This is an exciting opportunity both to acquire new skills as well as share them with others in the form of a book!

This sprint is a long-distance collaboration between FLOSS Manuals, the Berlin Pure Data users group and ITP/Tisch School of the Arts, New York.

Please bring your own laptop with Pure Data Extended installed. The workshop is free, with the expectation that participants will contribute to the FLOSS Manual.

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Posted in Announcement on December 30th, 2009 by admin

Just back from the beautiful (and internet-less) mountains of southern Bulgaria, loved every second of it. Found some small sound treasures there that I will post later on. In the meantime, I decided to pimp my page to see if it can generate some new interest in the workshops that I do.

For those who don’t know, the School of Everything is a website that got started a couple years ago in the UK as an alternative educational resource. The idea is simply to use the same kinds of social networking platform that others use to…um, well, uh, “tweet” and whatever it is they do with it, to hook up people who want to learn specific skills with those who can teach them.

In general, I find this self-education idea much closer to my own way of thinking than the traditional academic model. In fact, I’ve always maintained that the only thing that separates artists using technology now from David Tudor and the other electronic art pioneers of the 60s and 70s is the internet. Whereas Tudor, the Vasulkas, Buchla, Paik, Sandin and the rest had much more limited channels to find the information they needed, we have an almost limitless supply. Which is of course the other half of the problem–trying to get the signal out of the noise.

As a result of all this, the models of teaching and learning that I use have become quite tuned towards self-initiation and self-discovery. Having someone hand over all the answers to you doesn’t really stimulate the brain, and in fact could hardly be called learning at all. So most every lesson or workshop that I do is project-oriented, to encourage that process of teaching people to teach themselves.

You can check my teacher profile at:

And I have listed the following as one-on-one lessons:

Circuit Bending & DIY Electronics
Circuit Bending & DIY Electronics
Field Recording Techniques
Field Recording Techniques
Audio Recording & Post-Production with Ardour
Audio Recording & Post-Production with Ardour
Introduction to Pure Data
Introduction to Pure Data
Sound Art Technologies
Sound Art Technologies
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