PIFcamp 2017 – Day 2

On the second day a good dozen of us started our day with yoga. Gea, our flexible yoga instructor, dedicated a good portion of our session to meditation and relaxation, while the rest was spent in various poses. We definitely got a good morning stretch.

Right after breakfast Staš Vrenko took care of the mandatory morning dose of knowledge-sharing. He led an introduction to circuit schematic drawing and  shed some much needed light on the principles of etching. Some circuits will be drawn and etched tomorrow.

The electronic accordion by Vincent Groenhuis and Mojca Miklavec is getting along quite nicely, but Cindy and her group didn’t manage to fly their kites. There was no suitable wind… Their spirits are nonetheless high, and they will try again in the forthcoming days.

The group that joined Rosen Ivanov in making a carbonated mate drink added wild yeast, ginger bug, whey, water kefir and kombucha to several glasses containing mate tea with sugar that was prepared yesterday. They tried out different ratios in order to find the combination with the right amount of carbon dioxide, which would also taste good.

After lunch some of us chose to go on a short stroll along the Soča river with our wild man Dario Cortese. We searched the nearby meadows to rob them of their aromatics and other edible plants. The summer savory,  wild carrots, wild garlic and nettles we gathered ended up in salads that accompanied one of the delicious meals prepared by our lovely chefs Tereza, Maruša and Tea. They are truly spoiling us.

We were joined by Hannah and Mika from KOBAKANT today. They shared the timeline of their project in which they will combine wearables with local plant life and sounds.

In the afternoon quite a few PIFparticipants made their own simple echo sound effect under the watchful eye of Peter Edwards. As there are so many musicians on PIFcamp this year, we can expect to witness and take part in many jam-sessions and performances.

When something turns out to be an excellent idea, it is bound to become standard practice, so like the first evening we went into the woods to gather wood and make a bonfire before it turned too dark. After another delectable dinner we were graced by the visit of the local chaplain. And after that the happening transformed into a super birthday bash – chocolate cake and all. The atmosphere grew more electrifying by the minute as sounds from modular synths permeated the evening air. John Dinger, who celebrated alongside Lio, had the honour to set the vibe to the pleasure of everybody present. It was not hard for Peter Edwards and Václav Peloušek to pick it up and make this night a thing to remember.

The PIFcrowd was enthralled also by Bernhard Rasinger, who use the nearby treetops as a screen for his laser wizardry.

Time flew by as August shooting stars this sweet night of music, dancing and passionate debates, and the sky was turning back to blue when the last man standing went off to his well-deserved rest.

PIFcamp 2017 – Day 1

After the initial introductions and some time to get to know our surroundings, we lent an ear to the first project presentations and started to plan the week that approximately 50 avid lovers of technology, art and science from all across the globe will spend in the beautiful Soča Valley for the third year in a row.

Peter Edwards, an American currently living in Czech Republic, is among us once again! He works with Václav Peloušek and Tomáš Niesner, who are part of BASTL Instruments, a company and a collective based in Brno. Some of the PIFparticipants familiarized themselves with their modular synths before their first PIFdinner.

Another guest of this year’s camp is Andrew Quitmeyer, who started the day by demonstrating how to use a drone and in the evening also explained all about laser cutting on various surfaces such as plant leaves and wood.

Some also got a chance to delve into the world of oscilloscopes. The man who brought them to Soča is Bernhard Rasinger, who wants to explore ways to integrate modular synth circuits, oscilloscopes and lasers.

Our very own agricultural dissident Dario Cortese announced several walks into the wild, where there will be heaps of opportunity to gather medicinal and edible wild plants growing in nearby pastures and woods.

A novelty of the camp this year is a focus on the development of workshop programmes for youngsters, which will be led by Cindy Regalado and Kristijan Tkalec, also a part of the Rampa Lab and BioTehna team, co-producers of the 3rd PIFcamp. Cindy explained all about her PIFnode, which involves flying kites, equipped with a camera, over the PIFvenue and its surroundings. With the kites she plans to take aerial shots of the area, and combine them in order to generate its map.

Naturally we are excited about all PIFprojects. Yair Reshef and Zohar Messec-Fara will create electronic lollipops, for example, and the Dutch-Slovenian connection – Vincent Groenhuis and Mojca Miklavec – are working on a modular accordion. We are also waiting impatiently for the arrival of Hannah Perner-Wilson and Mika Satomi from the KOBAKANT collective, as they will design and execute a new and “all-natural” wearable technology.

The nutritional enthusiast Rosen Ivanov completed some of the initial phases in his quest to find ways to use carbon dioxide formed in the course of fermentation in the creation of fizzy drinks. He plans to use wild yeast, whey, water kefir and kombucha. We might get to try out his creations from yerba mate by the end of the week.

A proper anthropological study of the knowledge-sharing processes at PIFcamp by Ahac Meden is apparently forthcoming. No wonder, since PIFcamp encourages all forms and the creative use of modern technologies while emphasising active project co-creation and the free distribution of knowledge, ideas and experiences.

Looking forward to the coming adventures!

Bio-fermented Mate Drinks

“Materva” has become a symbol of Cuban diaspora and nostalgia of pre-Castro Cuba, “Club Mate” is the preferred and signature drink of most post-Fordist alternative engineering cultures (a.k.a hackers), and “Nativa” became a known Coca-Cola market flop in Argentina. What unites those three drinks is the idea of carbonating the famous mate tea into energizing soda pops, or gasiosas de mate.

This project by Rosen Ivanov comes from his passion for ilex paraguariensis, or yerba mate, and its fascinating social history and traditional uses. After working on a soda-pop from yerba mate in the local Barcelona biohackerspace, Rosen decided to try various methods of natural carbonation for brewing traditional tea fizzy drinks.

On the first days of the camp, he invites you to experiment with him on different ways of using fermentation’s CO2 for making sodas-pops. He’s intending to try the following cultures, but any other methods we can work with are highly appreciated: ginger bug, whey, water kefir and kombucha.

Environment reading sensors

Photo by Hana Josić.

With the help from Kristijan Tkalec (BioTehna) participants will submerge into a collection of sensors and use Arduino microcontrollers to assemble new devices, which will help them to sense the surroundings more efficiently. The node is open to all aspiring explorers who want to familiarize themselves with the basics of programming, Arduino use and sensors. The goal will be to make as diverse and interesting little exploration devices as possible. They will be used for tracking temperature, humidity, the UV safety according to the UV index, the amount of carbon dioxide and so forth. The most interesting specimens will be recreated in the workshop for children, which will take place on PIFcamp’s Open Saturday.

Prepared circuits

Project Prepared circuits by Staš Vrenko is based on the creative and individualized exploration of the basic principles of sound circuit integration and connectivity. Taking a hands-on approach the participants will therefore be able to familiarize themselves with the concepts of non-linear feedback, logical circuits, circuit bending and physical sound processing.

In the first part of the project participants will assemble the electroacoustic instrument and tool for the physical manipulation of sound Soda v0.5b.

Soda v0.5 is a semi-modular instrument with several inputs and outputs, which enable intervention into the circuit’s signal path. This signal starts with a jack input, which can be used for plugging a contact microphone, a synth, a guitar magnet and so forth. We can then amplify the signal, filter it and much more. What follows is a voltage controlled oscillator (VCO), which is turned into a live ramp waveform according to the range of the signal’s amplitude. In the circuit’s output phase the signal physically manifests itself in the form of a line output and an internal power amplifier which powers the speaker.

In the second part of the project participants will add various external circuits and physical contraptions for sound manipulation to the device. They will be chosen on the basis of personal musical/sound preferences.

The expansion process of the formal and consequentially functional features of the basic instrument will therefore serve as a possibility of the further individualization of instruments and sound generators.

Piezo invasion of integrated circuits by Anton Prykhodko

Ever been wondering how to use a contact mic with your DIY synthesizer? Say, as a trigger for the envelope generator or as an impulse to the resonant low-pass filter? If you think of contact microphones in modular fashion, this is just a pinch of what they are capable of.

Piezo electricity is there to be a transducer, the medium between electronic and acoustic domain. Meaning the piezo disc can pick up vibes as well as vibrate itself like a regular speaker. When both of these functions get together – with one mic listening to its own electrical signal from another mic – you get feedback which is nothing but an oscillator.

The contact mic also allows building processing units from solid materials. Turn slinky into a spring reverb effect, make a crumpled plastic case into a band-pass filter, boost the lows with a balloon equalizer or let piezo itself, considering its high voltage output, drive the op-amp overdrive unit.

Anton Prykhodko will spawn a plethora of contact microphones to explore interaction between electronic and piezoelectric circuits. To get all those squeaks and creaks he will plug sound modules into a mixer matrix with multiple outputs and feedback paths.

P/i\Fcamp Solar Power Plant

The goal of this project by Staša Guček will be to create small, efficient, portable solar power plant from plants for all noise fans, hikers and hackers. P/i\Fcamp Solar Power Plant will be able to power a microcontroller, LED lights controlled by touch or maybe even a small noise machine, synth, theremin to noise away in the forest or on the mountain top.

P_lant (or Microbial) F_uel C_ell will be the source of electrical energy which will with boost converter power different preprogrammed microcontrollers or other devices.

First we will jump into the forest undergrowth of the valley where Soča River flows and gather moss, plants and suitable soil which will be our base for microbial fuel cell (MFC). Microbial fuel cell is one of the renewable energy alternatives that generates electricity through breakdown of organic matter. Plants always produce more sugars than they need and the excess is released through their roots into the soil and dissolve into protons and electrons, therefore MFC system with electrodes in the soil can catch the plant waste.

In the next step we will built simple low-power boost converter, therefore we will be able to get enough energy to power microcontrollers. Later we will have to show (off) our programming skills in Arduino, program microcontrollers (ATtiny) and make this plant-moss-light installation interactive, sensitive to touch or use it as a battery for our synths and other instruments.

Last part will be for optimisation of the P/i\Fcamp Solar Power Plant, so that it will be wearable and portable (and we can hike to nearest mountain and make some noise above 2.000 m.)

Oscilloscopics with Bernhard Rasinger

Bernhard Rasinger will join PIFcamp for the first time to come and play with modular synth circuits, oscilloscopes and lasers. There will be basic analogue oscilloscope training to visualise sounds and other electric signals in real time. Once you are acquainted and are all tangled up in a knot of cables, it is time to let the electrons fly. The dance of signals will take you on a journey, where sine- triangle and square waves are your travel companions.  The oscilloscope will tell you little stories about the circuits you are probing.

With the help of the oscilloscope you can visualise behaviour of electric architectures and enjoy the magical beauty of the electronic maze.

We will talk about obsolescence, alternative energy sources and phase modulation.

As a personal goal Bernhard will try to hack and modify existing circuits and improve the vocabulary of performance. There will be highly hypnotic audiovisual laser performances in complete darkness and laserjams.