The Concertronica

The Concertronica is a controller instrument based around the design of a traditional Concertina.

Each of the two ends has 10 momentary push buttons, whilst the ‘bellows’ action – rather than using air – uses strings on a pulley system that have been hacked out of some old gametrak playstation controllers.

The 4 strings each give a distance measurement as well as an X/Y position, so 3 parameter readings for each string. The base of each string has a pair of RGB LEDs which makes for a really spacey light show when the instrument is being played!

The analog signal is carried from one end to the other using a 26 D-sub connection which I have soldered a bespoke cable for, not something I would recommend doing to anyone else! The instrument is powered via a USB connection to an Arduino which is housed in one of the ends. I am using Max/Msp to convert the signal into midi which I am then sending to Ableton Live.

Each of the wooden ends is made from an old Concertina case. I had thought of using broken instruments but generally Concertinas that look lovely and old are lovely and old (and worth a lot even when broken!) and it would have been a travesty to start chopping them up.

The leather hand straps were purchased from a chap who builds and repairs real concertinas, they are straps to fit an Anglo Concertina. The buttons I made from scratch using wooden dowling and then stained with some wood varnish. They sit on the analog ‘push to make’ switches as shown in the right hand image below.

 

 

 

 

 

So far I have been using the Concertronica as a live sampling instrument for my own voice as well as for harp. The buttons serve either to trigger samples, create loops of turn effects on. While the motion of the strings is mapped to the parameters of the different effects. It has been used live for concerts with William Adamson as well as a performance of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ at London’s Barbican centre last year. However its found its rightful home in the new folk project that I have started – scroll down the page to watch a video of it in action…

Photography by Adam Luszniak

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