Koka Nikoladze’s Drone Box No.1 lets you attach and make music from physical objects

“A pinecone adds rich buzz… a paper cup makes the sound rounder and a brass coil provides resonant overtones”

Drone Box No. 1

Koka Nikoladze, a composer and artist based in Oslo, has released his self-made four-voice polyphonic synthesizer called Drone Box No.1. It generates sound as you attach objects such as a pinecone, spring, cardboard box or even an egg, as he demonstrates in a YouTube video.

Four rotating stepper motors sit on top of a wooden box that is the audio engine. On top of these motors, objects can be attached which create new vibrations resulting in different timbres and characteristics of sounds. In the video, you’ll see how the pinecone provides a much harsher “rich buzz more like a square wave synthesizer”, as Nikoladze puts it, while a paper cup offers a “rounder sound”.

Each of Drone Box No.1’s four voices can be played individually or collectively thanks to the machine’s automatic voice management mode. It’s also, as you’d expect, compatible with MIDI from either a computer or a keyboard.

In a statement about the invention, its creator Nikoladze has said: “Selecting and attaching the objects is like physical mixing. A pinecone adds rich buzz and makes the sound more like a square wave synthesizer, an egg doesn’t do much and leaves the work to the box, a paper cup makes the sound rounder and a brass coil provides resonant overtones. I exchange objects all the time.

“You can control the box with MIDI… There is also a clever automatic voice management mode, so you can improvise without thinking which motor to turn. I’ve added pitch bending, vibrato, different kinds of tremolo and some other expressions.’”

This is just the first version of the machine, with the artist promising to design and build more. The second iteration of the box, he says, will include a “single button on the side, so you can create a playlist of MIDI files on a SD card” so you can “play music during your morning coffee, just like with any music player. I’ll design more drone boxes.”

Check out more Koka Nikoladze’s inventions at koka.one.

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