When I was 17, a music professor of questionable sobriety announced to a restless gaggle of Electronic Music Lab 101 students that ... wait for it ... "Music is an Extension of Philosophy."
In other (less sophisticated) words, "Anything Goes."
We aren't just talking about angry, bearded college dropouts with electric guitars and Marshall stacks here. We're talking about air-raid sirens and aircraft engines synchronized to banks of player pianos. We're talking about building musical sculptures out in the wildnerness, designed to make "music" for hundreds of years ... without being heard by a living human being. We're talking about pieces of anti-music in which the score calls for machine gunners and napalm to kill the audience. Above all, we were talking about cutting loose with crazy, mysterious electronic components and suitcase-sized, reel-to-reel tape recorders.
As you might guess, "Music is an Extension of Philosophy" never made it into heavy rotation.
I mention that to perhaps expand the boundaries of what you may have previously considered "music" to be. It worked? Great!
The Thingamagoop and Thingamakit are devices that hold out the promise of bringing benevolent bleeps and bloops to your "music"- (or "noise"-) making endeavors. They use one or two optical sensors to detect light. Audio output is modulated depending upon the light's variation.
In other words, whereas a Theremin uses variations in the proximities of the performer's hands (and other body parts) to change its creepy tone, the Thing family of noise friends uses changes in light to vary its squawky, goopy output. [If you don't know what a Theremin is, you need to find out pronto, particularly if you're a fan of 1950s-vintage SciFi flicks.]
The Thingamagoop has one built-in light source: an LED on the end of the flexible LEDacle sticking out from the top of its box. The Thingamakit offers TWO LEDacles and one additional control. The Thingamagoop comes fully assembled while the Thingamakit lives up to its name.
If you're a "normal" person with friends and a steady, predictable job who has a tendency to hum along with the music in the elevator, the Thing family of sound generators isn't for you. In fact, unless you're fairly deeply ensnared in an alternate audio universe where melody and harmony are strictly optional, a Thing of one flavor or another won't hold your attention for more than, say, 37 seconds.
But if you're a suspicious "loner" type whose musical ideas sometimes make your buddies nervous -- and especially if you have DIY electronics chops that you don't want to put to use on a more constructive project -- you should take a peek at the bleeper.
Over the holidays, I apparently had too much time on my hands. So I bought a Thingamakit, customized it, and attached it to a child's harp I found on the web. The inevitable name is "Harpamagoop."
Since I've played with the store-bought Thingamagoop and built the Thingamakit, I can say with a certain (but not infinite) amount of confidence that they are well done little doodads. The Thingamagoop can be ordered in a number of different color combinations and is a great conversation starter, even if you never plan to take it on stage at Carnegie Hall. The Thingamakit's instructions are straightforward, making it a good kit for electronics tinkerers who are looking for a confidience-building project on which they can practice soldering skillz.
Finally, I think it is nice to support Dr. Bleep, who is just a little guy working out of an evil laboratory somewhere in Austin, TX.
Is it time to extend YOUR philosophy?