Check this out. (Be patient, it doesn’t really get good until 1:10)


This is a remix of Radiohead’s song “Nude” from their recent album “In Rainbows.” Radiohead held a remix contest, selling the individual tracks of the song on iTunes, and this was one of the results. Here’s the instrumentation, as listed by remixer James Houston on the YouTube description:

Sinclair ZX Spectrum – Guitars (rhythm & lead)
Epson LX-81 Dot Matrix Printer – Drums
HP Scanjet 3c – Bass Guitar
Hard Drive array – Act as a collection of bad speakers – Vocals & FX

And as you can see in the video, these aren’t samples he manipulated, they’re the actual hardware hacked together to play the music live. I’m reminded of the early days of electroacoustic music when the composers were coaxing music out of supercomputers and telephone equipment. Houston is a 21 year old recent graduate of the Glasgow School of Art in the UK. As of right now this video has gotten 152,952 views.

[Update 6-12-08: fixed video embed.  Current view count: 161,629]

8 thoughts on “The Long Tail of the Avant Garde”
  1. Hahaha… that’s awesome! I remember drooling over Sinclair Z80’s back then. You should get that on YouTube somehow with a DonkeyKong style console video. 🙂

  2. Jeff, I just had to dig this out for you… from 1981, my machine-code software (yes, written in binary to save cycles) of a stereo four-voice music program that I called “Quaver”. It had an upper-level section written in BASIC that compiled entry data from simple ABC-type codes, and even had a waveform shape designer. Then the m/l routine took over to play it. Unlike almost all microcomputer software of the time, it had four independent voices and didn’t change every pitch on every note — and was not hardware dependent (other than a pair of output DACs, just resistor ladders in this case). It was written for a Tandy Color Computer overclocked to 1.8 MHz. Those were some hot megahertzes back then!

    So far as I know, just this example survives, but I do have the original software and documentation somewhere:


  3. Way cool! Digital editing, both audio and video, has worked wonders for our musical horizons.

  4. As one of those early coaxers, I love it. I tried to do rhythms with a TRS-80 and Teletype in the late 1970s, but got no further than having the thing sputter erratically. So I turned my interest to the buzzophone… 🙂


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