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He Blinded me with Synth (and an LED Lab Coat) #WearableWednesday

Tom Borax has created a lab coat that reacts to his analog synthesizer. Just the cool factor on the synth alone warrants a post, but seriously, coupled with the lab coat, this is music madness. He calls the project “Labcoat of Many Colours”, and watching him perform proves the title. He apparently was inspired by more than just music for this project — he’s in love with light and admits to being an LED fiend.

I’ve often used visuals with electronic music performances. Video projections usually get the focus of the audience, even when the music is being performed live right there. Lighting, I’ve found, by contrast, enhances the music experience but doesn’t seem to draw the audience away from the actual performance of music by the musician. Going further, I thought it would be exciting to “break out” the busy lights of the synth to my body, giving the feedback of electronics and body an obvious link (not to mention that I twitch like Joe Cocker when I perform). Also, I thought it would be cool to have my back to the audience like Miles Davis.

Although Tom is an experimental musician and filmmaker, he’s also pretty good with engineering. His synth is a custom arrangement of some boutique eurorack modules with a hand-made power supply.  As for the lab coat, it uses a FLORA micro-controller and individual NeoPixels. We were especially curious how he handled the link from the synth to the jacket.

The inputs are direct from the synth. There are five simple analog circuits on the coat which divide the “hot” synth voltages down to safe levels for the FLORA analogue pins.

If you look closely at the video, you can see the PCBs used for the circuits. In fact, the video is great because it artistically makes the connection between body and technology. It’s exciting when the body becomes part of the art, and we’re looking forward to seeing Tom perform with his coat. Road trip to Maryland, anyone? Well, if you aren’t up for the travel, maybe you can just whip up your own music madness. You can start with our LED Ampli-Tie tutorial. Go music, go 8-bit, go blinky…

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