Electronics Faire: In Space, Aliens Can Hear You Scream: A DIY Synth Workshop

Electronics Faire: In Space, Aliens Can Hear You Scream: A DIY Synth Workshop

In this workshop, we will solder the Alien Screamer, a small, classic desktop synth developed by Ray Wilson in the 1990s. Along the way, we will touch on various topics: “open-source” hardware, DIY synth economy and ethics, PCB layout design and fabrication, soldering technique, and analog synthesis concepts. Wilson, who passed away in 2016, was a stalwart of the DIY synth community. He published a book on designing analog synthesizers (Make / Analog Synthesizers: A Modern Approach to Old-School Sound Synthesis, published by Make Magazine). His website Music from Outer Space features dozens of schematics for synth voices and utilities which can be developed into hardware by both amateur and professional synth builders. While Wilson sold his own PCBs and kits for some of these devices, like the Alien Screamer, he made them freely accessible to all, catalyzing informal technical learning across the world. Thanks to an agreement with his family, the website is operated today by the supplier SynthCube.

The Alien Screamer noise box as described by Wilson:
"This is a great project for beginning your synth-diy journey or if you’re already building sound gear this is a great project to make for that imaginative young person in your life. It’s a great introduction to synth-diy (the oscillator is a ramp core driven by an exponential V to I convertor). Don’t expect to play this as a traditional instrument (although it does a decent imitation of a theremin in the right hands) but do expect to have a lot of creative, imaginative sound making fun. From star trek communicators to birds tweeting you’ll find a wealth of coolness."

We will build a version of the Alien Screamer which I have designed based on Wilson’s schematic. The small desktop form factor makes it ideal for performing on the go. My version, developed for this and future CCAM workshops, features algorithmically generated artwork based around Wilson’s Alien Screamer motif.

About the Instructor:

Garrett Laroy Johnson is a sound and media artist, researcher, and theorist. His transdisciplinary work engages Guattarian process theory, politics and the production of subjectivity, computation and materialism, and post-psychoanalysis. Garrett is co-director of CCAM, the Center for Concrete and Abstract Machines, an artist-run platform at the nexus of art, technology, and contemporary thought.

Friday, April 26, 2024
2:30pm - 4:00pm
Makerspace, Scholars Studio in Charles Library
Main Campus
  Digital Scholarship  

Registration is required. There are no seats available but a waiting list is available.