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Hug a Mellotron

Kristin and I recently covered a Ben Folds song for our song-a-week blog called "You Don't Know Me". I was trying to figure out how he had made the brass & strings, which had a decidedly "sampley" sound to them, and I suddenly decided that it must be a Mellotron.

The Mellotron is an ingenious instrument; an analogue, electro-mechanical "sampler" that uses strips of pre-recorded magnetic tape to reproduce the sound of actual instruments. Each key has its own little magnetic playback head, and a strip of tape with 3 tracks of audio on it; say, flute, guitar and organ. You press down a key, and the tape strip begins to play a sample of that instrument playing the corresponding note. When you let go of the key, the tape strip springs back to the beginning and waits for the key to be pressed again. Each strip of tape is 8 seconds long.

Analogue tape guts

Probably the most recognizable occurrence of the Mellotron in popular music is the eerie flute sound used in the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever".

Candor Chasma goes into great detail of the inner workings and various models of the Mellotron. And the guys at Streetly Electronics (Mellotron repairmen!) offer numerous samples of Melltron sounds for your listening pleasure.



The Melloman

In the DIY world of circuit-bending, we have the Melloman, built by Mike Walters, which uses 14 walkmans mounted in a beautifully designed chassis.
It turns out that no Mellotron was used in the making of "You Don't Know Me", but I found this out too late to prevent me from having so much fun.

The Robot Rights Movement
I recently stumbled onto this article from the May 1963 issue of Modern Mechanics. Pre-70's issues of any technology-related magazines are always a real treat, for the images and advertisements alone.

Apparently, the “TransfeRobot 200 mechanical midget", built by U.S.I. Robodyne, was actually expected to pay union dues! The subject of robot ethics has always fascinated me. When and if, in the U.S., robots develop actual consciousness, will they be treated as actual citizens and given rights? Will they have representatives in Congress? Who will advocate for them?

I posed this question at a conference on robots at Cornell several years ago. Have a listen:
2007-01-19 Cornell Robot Lecture
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I was actually a little bit shocked at the suggestion that robots will have to just duke it out for themselves. I, for one, will be there when the revolution comes, fighting for such causes as "robot marriage".
2010 Powell Valley Choir Reunion DVDs
UPDATE (02-13-11) The second order round is finished; order will be shipping out within the next couple of days! Thanks again to everyone who participated in making this a very special event. - love from Norm ____________________________
Banging on Steel Panels: the sound design for Agora

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Noemie LaFrance’s “Agora” is BIG. It was staged in a 50,000 square foot abandoned swimming pool.
READ MORE about this sound-for-dance audio collaboration at echolaliamedia.com.

“Michael Jackson: A Life”
The Norm Scott Recording Archives presents one from the vault: This was recorded in 1985, when I was about 12. I stumbled across it literally by accident just a few days after MJ died, and posted it on Facebook as a kind of tribute, where it experienced a brief stint of viral fame.
Speak To Me!
Though I was disappointed that we weren't selected as a semi-finalist for the Oregon Educator's Association "Working Wonders Video Contest", working on this video was a positive and powerful experience. The video was the brainchild of Speech Language Pathologist Christine Kleinhenz and Early Interventionist Karen Stevens. Please take a look (below) at "Speak [...]