Odd instruments at the Music Makers panel

Mark Frauenfelder, editor-in-chief of MAKE Magazine, hosts the Music Makers presentation at Asheville Community Theatre. Photo by Tariq Zeidan

Sometimes the synthesis of music and technology means making a piano out of bananas. And that’s just one of many projects that have resulted from JoyLabz founder Jay Silver‘s invention kit called MaKey MaKey. The kit allows users to attach alligator clips to any material that can conduct electricity (including food, water, plants, metals and even yourself). It then communicates that connection to a computer, which can generate sound.

Silver was one of seven presenters at Music Makers event presented by MAKE Magazine and hosted by MAKE‘s editor-in-chief, Mark Frauenfelder, at the Asheville Community Theatre on Thursday afternoon.

In one MaKey MaKey project, Play-Doh stuck on a notepad became a Super Mario Bros., controller. In another, a custom keyboard was created from alphabet soup letters. One young man won a talent show when he used the kit to play “The Star Spangled Banner” by eating lunch — the last note rang out when he mashed a pie in his face.

Silver talked as he played video clips of the projects that had been created by the MaKey MaKey crew, as well as video clips sent in by inventors ranging from established musicians to elementary school kids. Silver, who is also the is the first-ever maker research scientist at Intel, says that he is inspired by the makers movement and the belief that all people can be empowered to invent and create.

“I used to think that I wanted to build a Utopia,” said Silver in his closing statements. “Then I realized that the world I want to live in is one everyone gets a chance to design.”

Other presenters included  Forrest Mims, author of Getting Started in Electronics; composer Nicolas Collins, author of Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware HackingDrew Blanke aka Dr. Blankenstein, mad scientist of analog synthesizers and atari punks; and hacker/inventor Tom Zimmerman.

See video below to get a sampling of various MaKey MaKey inventions, many of which Silver included in his presentation:


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