Size: 4 HP
Size: 4 HP
17 things to know about Radio Music
- Radio Music is a virtual radio module, so it behaves a bit like a radio. It is designed to be a source of unexpected audio, not a drum loop player or a sample mangler. That said, plenty of people enjoyed it for playing drum loops or mangling samples.
- Radio Music has been a popular DIY project since 2014, and has been used by Chris Carter, Russell Haswell, Richard Devine, and Robin Rimbaud.
- In 2017, the module's firmware was completely rewritten and updated, bringing new features including pitch shifting, .wav file support and a new way to configure settings on the module. You can download the latest firmware here, which will run on any Radio Music module.
- It's a well documented project, with a lengthy Radio Music Wiki and an active issues list for people seeking help with a build.
- Like a radio, the module works on a series of banks and stations. Each of the 16 banks can contain many different stations. Each station is an audio file stored in a folder on the SD card. Choose a bank by pressing and holding the RESET switch. Choose a station by turning the STATION knob or plugging a voltage into TUNE.
- Radio Music runs on a Teensy 3.1 (or 3.2) microcontroller, which is programmed by USB and runs a very well documented Arduino-like language, so it's easy to hack.
- This clip of me tweaking the original prototype explains the concept:
- Because the audio streams from the SD card, it can handle long files easily. In the default setting, it switches between long recordings just as if they were radio stations — as if the audio was playing in the background.
There are multiple alternative firmwares for Radio Music documented in the github, including:
- Chord Organ is just an alternative firmware for Radio Music, but is also available as a separate module. You can turn a RM into a CO (or vice versa) at any time using a normal Micro USB cable.
- Telharfauxnium is an additive synthesis firmware.
- James Carruthers of Nobots has written several different firmwares, including a cool 808 drum machine
- I often use this Loop Divider firmware to sync everything to loops in a small case.
- Voltage Control Lab have produce a fantastic five-part series on Radio Music, covering preparing samples, alternative firmware, and the 2017 firmware update.
- This 👍 👍 👍 25 minute video from Future Music explains Radio Music (and DIY eurorack modules) in detail:
- One 32gb micro SD card can store about four-and-a-half days of audio in the normal Radio Music format.
- To get you started, Radio Music comes with a downloadable 8gb folder of Suggested Audio; a collection of strange things to feed the modular; radio stations from around the world, chunks of the Conet Project and many unusual recordings from the Ubuweb collection.
- This module was inspired by one of my all-time favourite music gear stories from Don Buchla: "Well, John Cage and David Tudor visited me at my studio in Berkeley and I remember that occasion. My studio at that time was ten feet wide and I worked out on the sidewalk. It was so crowded in there we hauled the workbench out on the sidewalk on good days and set up my oscilloscope and worked out there. Cage came by and for voltage control I had hooked up my keyboard to an FM module that I'd built, a little module that was an FM receiver and I could play stations on it because I had one of the first varactor tuned FMs. Cage, as you can imagine was, just enormously interested in the fact that I could tune each key to a station and then proceeded to play the radio. I had already met Cage while putting together some of his pieces that involved perhaps multiple radios, phonographs and so on" (from an interview transcript at the Vasulka archive
- After reading that interview, I built my own voltage controlled FM radio module which was great fun until I took it to the Brighton Modular Meet which at that time was held in a room surrounded by metal, much like a Faraday Cage. The radio module picked up nothing at all, so I decided to build a virtual radio module which would always work, and could play anything at all: AM/FM/Shortwave/Time Travel.
- Radio Music is a 1956 composition by John Cage. He first experimented with radio compositions with Imaginary Landscape No.4 which was written "for 24 performers at 12 radios", but was often rather quiet — if you tune radio at random, with the volume control randomly set, you're most likely to get quiet white noise; "the piece was essentially quiet through the use of chance operations and that there was very little sound in it, even in broad daylight, so to speak. The volume levels would always be very low." Because of this, five years later, Cage wrote Radio Music which "was written more or less to please the people who were disturbed over the Imaginary Landscape No. 4 because it was so quiet. I forget what I did, but it can be played so as to be loud." More about Cage, Stockhausen and radios in music.
- If you're wondering how hard it is to build a Radio Music, this video compresses the whole process into five minutes: