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 Forum index » Reviews, Editorials and Commentary » Reviews, Reports and Interviews
The Cracklebox - Great things come in small packages
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mosc
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 8:59 am    Post subject: The Cracklebox - Great things come in small packages Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Steim CrackleBox

The CrackleBox is a tiny battery-powered portable electronic musical instrument that you can take with you almost anywhere. Designed by Michel Waisvisz when he was with Steim back in the mid-seventies, this was one of the first bent instruments. The CrackleBox may not have the legendary status of a Mini Moog, but this instrument is destined to be a classic.

CrackleBoxes aren't that well know in North America. I first saw one at the Nord Modular meeting in The Hague back in 2004. There as a big show of nearly 100 vintage synths. One guy there had a CrackleBox; I fell in love with it. Of all the synths at the event, the CrackleBox made the biggest impression on me. (I even took a picture of it, ).

In 2004, Michel started a new manufacturing run of 500 CrackleBoxes. They are obviously hand-made. I ordered one and got number 130. It is wonderful. There is a web site for the CrackleBox, http://www.crackle.org/CrackleBox.htm , were you can read a very interesting history of the device - well worth the read. Michel Waisvisz was a pioneer of bent instruments, and the Crackle Box may be the seminal bent instrument.

The CrackleBox doesn't come with a manual or instructions - it's completely intuitive. You play the CrackleBox by first turning on the power switch labelled "aan" and touching the front panel. It ships with the 9 volt battery installed, so you can start enjoying it immediately. The sound comes up through 24 small holes. I don't think it is possible to figure out what these touch-pads exactly do because with changes in humidity and your skin resistance, you are constantly getting different sounds. Playing the CrackleBox is a process of constant discovery.

When you don't touch anything, the box is silent, so you can articulate different notes by touching and releasing the playing surface. You won't be able to play melodies in a conventional sense, but the device is very musical. If you have every played a bent instrument, you'll love the Crackle Box. You can get it to make very low pitches, even discrete pulses, and very high pitch wails and squeaks. It's loads of fun.

I'm used to carrying a harmonica along on walks in the park and on trips. I like to make music whenever there is an opportunity. My new CrackleBox is going to replace my harmonica.

There are a few improvements I'm going to make to my CrackleBox when I get the time. These are:

1) a headphone jack
2) a line out jack
3) a volume control

You don't have to buy a CrackleBox, you can build one yourself. On our DIY forum there is a discussion about that already, or check out this page. I wanted to get an original CrackleBox. I'm glad I did. They say money can't buy happiness, and maybe that is true, but to me at least $70 US for a CrackleBox makes me pretty darn happy. Happy, happy, joy, joy...

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Last edited by mosc on Tue Apr 11, 2006 7:49 pm; edited 5 times in total
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softfreak



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 9:24 am    Post subject: Re: The Crackle Box - Great things come in small packages Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:


1) a headphone jack
2) a line out jack
3) a volume control

Crackle Box makes me pretty darn happy. Happy, happy, joy, joy...


true, I^m absolutly addicted to mine.
Must have been a strange day when I ordered two of them ...
Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Here are some pics to give a bit of an idea of the atmosphere around the kraakdoos ( that's how the crackle box was called back then). In the mid 70ties I went to an exhibition a bit like the one depicted. It was great fun as all those weird devices could be played and touched !
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mtvic



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 5:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I purchased my Kraakdoos @ steim while visiting Amsterdam oct 04
The institute was closed for a private recording session but I granted access being an american in search for a "craklebox".
It was an experience I will never forget.
Jan Werner of Mouse on Mars fame is now director of steim
My box is great I usually take it with me everywhere I go.
It freaks with peoples heads .
I like to use it with a weak battery.
It is packed away at this time so no photo
but it will accompany me at the electro-music 2006 festival.
As for adding an output I read somewhere that Michael advises not to
I use a microphone.
Here is a photo of a demo I did for the PHILCON this year you can see my
box upper right next to powerstrip.


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mi_dach



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I am NOT touching THAT.
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ocp



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Demos anyone?
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

hey ocp
I'm sorry as I said in my last post my craklebox is packed away due to basement studio refurbishments.
Even so the stock crakle box from steim has no output and one would need a microphone to record a demo.
I have no recordings of my box that would demonstrate the sonic qualities of the box of cracks blips and drones out in front
actually i have no real recordings of the box at all.
I would try but my craklebox is packed away due to basement studio refurbishments.
Areal cool thing to do with a cracklebox is have one person hold three left sidecontacts and another hold three right side and then touch oneor the others body tomake the circuit it a gasser.
Here is more info :

http://www.crackle.org/forums.html

if you would like to hear a full cd of michel waisvisz crackle music:

http://www.sonig.com/

michel waisvisz "in tune" sonig 45cd
to be released end of march 2005
in tune is waisvisz’s first album since 1978. it is comprised of live recordings made between 1977 and 2000. none of these recodings have lost any of their relevance to the present.
moving to and from between serious and light music, michel waisvisz, director of the STEIM (studio for electro-instrumental music) in Amsterdam, already collaborated with laurie anderson, steve lacy and the san francisco symphony orchestra among others. his manifold and varied activities are not making it easy for the listener. but all his experiments with self developed sound generators – in which one is always able to discern the outlines of songs and flashes of wonderful harmonies amid all noise which is morphing along – are each in themselves absolutely special and surprising. for years and years, fans have made all possible efforts to realise another release by their master. "in tune" is a premiere in so far as it is here that one gets to hear waisvisz’s crackle box-sounds, the electroacoustic soundmodulations of the steim-software lisa, his playfully absurd music for theatre and his anarchic arrangements for drums all in one album.
www.crackle.org


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mosc
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

OCP wrote:
Demos anyone?

Here are a couple of tracks made with the Cracklebox. A dynamic microphone was used. One track is naked - just a straight recording. One track has some signal processing done with the G2. All tracks are real-time - no editing or post processing.


cracklebox-plain.mp3
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Plain Cracklebox recording...

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cracklebox-with-g2.mp3
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Cracklebox with some signal processing...

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 Filename:  cracklebox-with-g2.mp3
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seraph
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
OCP wrote:
Demos anyone?

Here are a couple of tracks made with the Cracklebox.

at first I thought my computer was getting sick Shocked then I realized it was the demo playing Wink

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 4:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Nice demos mosc Smile
Also found a few here: http://www.eam.se/kraakdoos/

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The Crackle Box is a very cool thing. I love the samples Mosc! Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

We had relatives over for the holiday. (The Morman side of our family often comes to celebrate Passover with us.) There were a couple of kids - 10 and 13. The kids loved the CrackleBox, but the adults, except for me, found it very annoying. It was interesting to see that the two kids each played it quite differently than I did. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing them play. In it's own unique way, it is a very expressive instrument.

I wish I had the money to buy about 20 of them to give as gifts.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

the so called "Crackle Synth"

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

" ...this unit contains three crackleboxes, three preamps, a giant speaker,
three control knobs, an on / off switch, and 22 brass contacts for human interaction ... "




build by http://www.notbreathing.com/

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

That is an extremely cool little artifact.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2006 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

softfreak wrote:
build by http://www.notbreathing.com/


What a great site - in our DIY links section - http://electro-music.com/forum/links.php?id=28 . Lots of terriffic stuff there. Cracklebox Extreme:

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

On this page: http://www.notbreathing.com/noise.htm

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:

On this page: http://www.notbreathing.com/noise.htm

the one I prefer is "Chock Full o' Jesus Christ"
holy cow Shocked

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 1:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mtvic wrote:
Jan Werner of Mouse on Mars fame is now director of steim


Ah- We were both wondering where that mouse had got to. now we know!

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softfreak



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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 5:32 pm    Post subject: crackle sound Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

actually I did a small crackle session yesterday
in the kitchen of a dear friend who was performing
some solo ...
there are two crackles involved
and a nice akg stereo mic.

http://www.sendling.ch/music/projects.html

on top there are three links.

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Unearthed my craklebox.
It is very photogenic


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PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 2:13 pm    Post subject: Re: crackle sound Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

softfreak wrote:
actually I did a small crackle session yesterday


Very nice. Crackle 1 is my fav. Crackle 3 is mislabeled, BTW.

Maybe we should have an international streaming cracklebox festival on radio.electro-music.com

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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:23 am    Post subject: Re: crackle sound Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:

Very nice. Crackle 1 is my fav. Crackle 3 is mislabeled, BTW.

Maybe we should have an international streaming cracklebox festival on radio.electro-music.com


thank you... labelling has been corrected.

I didn`k know you had a radio on electro-music.com.
where is it ?

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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:52 am    Post subject: Re: crackle sound Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

softfreak wrote:
electro-music.com.
where is it ?

It's broken most of the time. Embarassed

We have a server with shoutcast. We run it when we are streaming live events. Blue Hell used it for his Noodle Radio experiment. Anywho, I'd like to have a full-time internet streaming radio running here in the not too distant future.

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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2006 5:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'll be sure to get one! Can you pick them up directly in Amsterdam? (I've never been to STEIM, it appears that I should.)
Mosc's demos remind me of playing my vacuum-cleaner (but these are more portable!).
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2006 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

FLechdrop wrote:
(I've never been to STEIM, it appears that I should.)


After all it's just about at walking distance :-)

I'd phone them first though, as it was a limited series they made.

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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2006 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Exactly! Smile

It appears as if they are still being sold through their website, so I'd figure that there are still some in stock, wouldn't you?

http://www.steim.org/steim/cracklebox.php
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