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In Writing

Portal: links for the aspiring hacker

March 2013

The Wire Salon in February – The Way Of The Hacker – brought together contemporary experimental musicians to discuss the practice of designing and building new audio interfaces. Here, two of the panelists, Tom Bugs and Sam Underwood select websites and forums for makers, builders, hackers, technological artists and modular enthusiasts.

Tom Bugs:

Muff's Modules & More
The forum hub for modular synths. I really think the great rise in prominence of modulars owes a lot to Mike McGrath's forum – whether it's the sharing of quite technical information, promotion of new modules, feedback during design stages, etc, the forum has covered it. It's places like this that allow small-timers to connect straight in to users.

This DIY music site, and especially its circuit discussion oriented forum, has been really important for me.

For electronic parts in the UK, I really like Rapid: not too bewildering like some of the bigger names, decent pricing, great service and their self-sourced products tend to be very good quality for the price (and no, they don't sponsor me!).

Much of my learning of electronics has been down to learning from others, so here are a few key publishers who I really rate:
Thomas Henry (with Scott Stites)
Ken Stone's Cat Girl Synth site
Ray Wilson's Music From Outer Space

Sam Underwoood:

Electronic Music 411
I used to be a regular on this community page. It provided a place for discussion and critique on a variety of (mainly) electronic music issues. It has been a very nurturing environment and one that provided me encouragement for many years.

STFU music
An off-shoot of EM411, an STFU night in Edinburgh provided me with my first ever public solo live performance opportunity… and crucially, these nights drive the whole making side of things too as people will try kit and techniques out at these before refining and taking it out on the road.

Sonic Weekend
EM411 also led to me going to my first Sonic Weekend, which fundamentally changed the way I approach music making.

Making (& Community)
A good source of fun learning projects.

A great resource of often wacky projects, with step-by-step instructions. I signed up to this so I could download instructions as PDFs.

A lot of links with makers/builders came to me tangentially. For example, the online radio show Phantom Circuit has helped to drive a number of my collaborations, including my work with Dr Kate Sugden at Aston University. Also, discerningly edited blogs such as Everyday Listening help to inform and delight, which all drives my enthusiasm for making.

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