“Will You Be Checking-in Any Baggage, Mr. Litt?”

When Steven Litt opens up his suitcases, you won’t see socks, shirts and a hairdryer tumble out. (Well, maybe a hairdryer – could come in handy, sonically speaking.)

Instead, you’ll find a small mixer, a mess of wires, hacked doorbells and effects pedals hammering out a somewhat industrial heartbeat. Steven is the inventor of CrudBox, basically a super analog robot drum machine.

photo from Steven Litt

photo from Steven Litt

Steven describes his project this way:

“CrudBox is a 16 step, 8 channel step sequencer which replaces digitally created or analog synthesized sounds typically associated with sequencers and electronic music with the amplified sounds of whatever electronic or electromechanical devices are plugged into it.

There are many new possibilities for sonic experimentation with the diverse combination of sounds and musical structures which can be created with CrudBox. Solenoids and motors can be plugged in and sequenced while striking or otherwise moving or vibrating any physical material and their sounds amplified in real time using Piezo contact mics. These mics, or any other sound source, can be plugged into hacked guitar pedals and effects boxes which can then also be sequenced by CrudBox. Cassette decks, reel to reels, turntables, power tools, and any other sound generating devices can also be hacked and sequenced.”

Here’s a quick demo of the CrudBox:

Steven presented CrudBox at ITP’s Spring Show 2009, and he’s performed with it at Handmade Music events in Brooklyn.

This week at my office in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, I asked Steven about creating this new musical instrument and what’s next for his suitcase sequencer:

There’s something beautifully retro and organic about CrudBox, and its percussive possibilities seem limitless due to the variety of scrap materials and devices that can be used with it. There’s no software or computers involved at all, and though it probably has just as much musical flexibility as something you might manipulate digitally, CrudBox can also receive MIDI information from a program like Ableton.

I can’t wait until Steven sells a kids’ version of CrudBox to Fisher-Price, a gift to the exasperated parents of budding musicians everywhere. 🙂

Jocelyn Gonzales

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