Synthfarm produces synthesizers embedded in interactive wooden enclosures. Their latest project, The Primatone, is a 4-voice polyphonic digital synthesizer built into wood milled from naturally fallen logs, from their own “magical woods”. It’s designed for musical and non-musical interaction and “excels in prepared performance and improvised performance of experimental note groupings.”
Elusive and exclusive
Aaron from Synthfarm has a remarkable approach to synthesizer manufacturing. He designs and builds beautifully earthy devices of wood and electronics and sells them on Etsy. The remarkable bit is that they are completely temporary. He makes a few, sticks a video on YouTube and then once he’s moved onto something new he kills the marketing, deletes the video and you’re never quite sure if it ever existed.
Last month he was offering a “Double Jupiter” synthesizer that looked like a wooden pair of bongos – but I can’t find any information on that now. Aaron says he won’t be making any more of those but has plans for something with a similar form of synthesis but a radically different body. He’s also very interested in solar power. I don’t think the Primatone is exactly the one he spoke of and he also indicates that The Primatone will be around regularly and is available for order.
The Primatone is a rectangular instrument with 6 wooden, touch sensitive bars, and a couple of knobs. The 4 bars on the right are the “Play” bars, the 2 on the left are the “tuning” bars. The play bars work like keys on a keyboard and can be triggered with a slap, stroke, press or tickle. The tuning bars are used to individually tune each of the play bars. You can change the frequency to whatever you want creating a unique range of pitches.
Tuning while playing can create an evolving range of sounds and pitches and becomes part of the instrument itself.
Inside the xylophonic exterior is a 32-bit Cortex M-4 processor, loaded with 100 waveforms designed for the device. Waveforms are stepped through by holding both tuning bars and tapping a play bar. One of the knobs controls note length or decay/release time and the other is a volume knob. There are headphone and line level outputs and the whole lot can be powered by three AA batteries for about 8 hours.
The Primatone conjures up a lot of descriptive terms such as rustic, interactive, simple, touchy, responsive, experimental. I really enjoy Aarons attitude and desire to build interesting synthesizer instruments that are temporary and somehow elusive. I think there are a lot more creative instruments to come from Synthfarm – you just have to keep your eye out or you might miss them.
The Primatone is hand-made to order for £180.27 plus shipping from the USA. More information at the Synthfarm Etsy store.