A Quest To Lost Arts In Chicago To Build My First Hyve Touch Synthesizer

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I started out creating sound experiments while in high school, circa 1980 with circuit bent hardware and a cheap Casio keyboard.

I then entered the working world and forgot all about making music. Fast forward 30+ years, and the itch to make experimental music overtook me again, but now technology had changed drastically. I no longer needed hardware. I discovered apps on my iPhone, and music platforms like SoundCloud and Bandcamp were all that I needed. I was immediately obsessed.

Within a couple years, I had filled over seven free SoundCloud accounts, and two Bandcamp albums  as well as an artist page  with experimental music, and having a great time doing it. But, I started to grow tired of using the same software.

stylophone synthI yearned to use hardware/instruments again, but not being able to play an instrument is a definite hindrance 🙂 I searched for cheap keyboards on the net. I soon discovered the “Stylophone” and ordered one ‘sight unseen’. It was unique, inexpensive and fun, but quite limited in sound variety. I started mixing the Stylophone with app produced sounds/music, as well as other “found sounds”. (I really appreciate the functionality of software based mixing apps, which are almost essential to my creations these days). I then stumbled upon a couple of user videos of the Hyve synthesizer, and knew I had to have it. It was clearly non-musician friendly (and looked so different, cool and fun).

Then came the disappointment … You can’t buy one! (BUT I HAD TO HAVE ONE!!!) Turns out, the engineer/designer guru behind this awesome device (Skot Wiedmann), has work shops in the Chicago area, and you can go build your own, ( very inexpensively ). I knew what I had to do. I looked at a map, saw that Chicago was about 8 hours away, and realized that I had to go build it. I started to plan the trip. I knew that a fellow SoundCloud musician and Facebook friend (Leslie Rollins) lived in Berrien Springs, Michigan, about 2 hours outside of Chicago.

This presented a twofold opportunity. I could hopefully, meet Leslie face to face, and hopefully have a place to spend the night. I contacted Les and everything was A-OK! I purchased a ticket to build my Hyve, and started to plan my road trip. The workshop was going to be from Noon to 3pm, Saturday Sept.24 in a cool space called Lost Arts in Chicago.

I had the whole week off from work, because I was overseeing a contractor doing extensive yard work at my house all week, and I was hoping to leave Friday so as to arrive at Leslie’s place in the late afternoon or early evening, spend the night, and leave for the workshop Saturday morning. Alas, plans rarely work as hoped.

The contractor wasn’t finished until Friday afternoon, and Les wasn’t getting home from a business trip until late Friday night.
New plan! Early to bed Friday. Early to rise Saturday (2:30 am), and depart for Leslie’s place in Michigan. It was an easy drive, and I got to Berrien Springs (a beautiful sleepy little university village) around 8:30 am. Met Leslie, and got to trade stories over a great breakfast in a local cafe. Then, I quickly admired Leslie’s impressive modular synth racks at his home studio “Convolution Atelier” and then left for “Lost Arts” in Chicago.

Lost Arts is located in a cool old industrial complex. The workshop provided everyone with a surface mount board with the touchpad on one side, and components layout on the back. A sheet listing components and placement was also handed out, along with tiny plastic tweezers. Everyone then had their component side “pasted” with a solder paste applied through a pierced template, in a process similar to silk screening. Everyone then started to receive their very tiny components from the parts list. Following the placement locations, the components (chips, capacitors, resistors, etc) were set into their pasted areas with the tweezers (magnification and extra lighting was a must). Once all the components were placed, they were carefully “soldered” into place by simply holding a heat gun over each component until the solder on the board had adhered it. Once this was done, everyone had their 9v battery and line-out jacks hand soldered into place by Skot , and then … the moment of truth, Skot tested each one for proper operation.

It was a fascinating process and great experience. I met a lot of cool people at the workshop, both builders and staff/helpers! I can’t say enough what a fantastic experience this was, and what an awesome, diverse and versatile device the Hyve is. I doubted my sanity when planning this trip, but it turned out to be very rewarding!

Leslie and I then went back to Michigan, stopped at a local brewery in Berrien Springs (Cultivate) and sampled a few of their excellent brews, and then proceeded to Convolution Atelier to play with Leslie’s modular system. (I’m a newbie to all things modular, and I received a great crash course from Leslie on his very cool array!) Then it was out to dinner with Leslie and his wonderful wife Lisa, and finally back to their house where I stayed for the night, and finally hit the road towards home the next morning. It truly was a great adventure! For the Silo, Mike Fuchs.

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2 Comments to A Quest To Lost Arts In Chicago To Build My First Hyve Touch Synthesizer

  1. Thanks for the update Mike- great work on the Hyve case build! Looking forward to hearing more from you, good luck with all of your upcoming musical adventures.

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