Monday, October 08, 2012

Mindstorms And Music And One Smart Brick

Over the weekend I saw a video on YouTube that someone uploaded about two years ago. I’d never seen it before, but it struck me as one of the most interesting YouTube videos I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t show anything visually wild or extraordinary, but to me—interested in synthesizers and music notation and technology (and toys)—once I saw the video I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

And it’s not just me. One of the comments at the blog where I first saw the video echoes my own reaction:

This is just amazing. Such an uncomplicated construction and program yet it does something so interesting.

Kudos for the NXT Sequencer!

Andy, at the NXT blog
August 31, 2010

I don’t have a lot to say about this right now, but I want to do this post because this is a topic I’ve almost touched on a lot of times, but I’ve always—for one reason or another—decided to never really get into it here at the blog.

Computers, Language And The Goblin Universe

Two Schools Of Thought About Computer Science

So here in this post I’m going to embed this cool video, and then include a bunch of related links. At some point in the future—maybe not this week—I’ll come back to all this. It is very good stuff, all extraordinary.

Here’s the video. It is a music sequencer somebody built using the Lego NXT 2.0 kit. There’s a link to the kit below, along with some related books. I’m not going to get into this today, but these are all wonderful things.

Oh, and I want to mention, too, that the Teenage Engineering OP-1 synthesizer company in Sweden I posted about a few months ago in Beautiful Queen Of All The World’s Gadgets recently announced an “accessory pack” that includes attachments for mechanically interfacing with the Lego NXT environment. It is all insanely expensive, but it sure looks fun. (I’m very proud of myself about this—I’m terrible at managing money, but I’ve controlled myself and I have not purchased an OP-1 synthesizer! And in fact I haven’t ever purchased a Lego NXT kit. However Seymour Papert’s “Mindstorms” approach to mathematics and constructivism has shaped my thinking about math and algorithms for more than two decades now, and everyday when I do programming Mindstorms is part of me. ((And what is any puppet, or stop-motion video, but a MicroWorld constructed and shared?)) So sooner or later I’m going to break down and get the NXT and, probably, someday, an OP-1.)


Here’s the video. Again, it doesn’t look like much on the surface. But to my eyes it is extraordinary in the way it encapsulates the reality of what a sequencer does, the circular nature of the experience, and visually makes the reality available for creating little melodies by literally constructing them on the floor in front of you. This is something fundamentally different from carrying the abstraction of a sequence in your head, or as a linear expression in music notation. I love this little video a lot, and I love this whole world of “Mindstorms.” There is a great deal to this, and as you can see with Teenage Engineering’s release of the NXT attachments, it is a global phenomenon that grabs your affection and thinking and never lets go.

More to come. But it starts with this:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(Just as a personal note,
I kind of think of
“Mindstorms” world as
the opposite, somehow,
of the world I posted about

Seymour Papert’s “Mindstorms”
at Wikipedia

Logo (programming language)
at Wikipedia

Lego Mindstorms NXT
at Wikipedia

at Amazon

at Amazon

at Amazon

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