Synth workshop to celebrate Pink Floyd

Tara Pattenden is an artist and instrument maker based in Glasgow, who performs as Phantom Chips and ran a special workshop at the V&A to go with the museum’s Pink Floyd exhibition ‘Their Mortal Remains’.

How did you come to be doing a drone workshop at the V&A?

I was invited by Music Hackspace to come to London and give the Lerango Drone workshop. Music Hackspace is a community for innovators and hobbyists passionate about music technology and sound art. They are based at a studio at Somerset House in London and organise regular DIY workshops and events. They were organising a workshop for the V&A as part of the Pink Floyd exhibition. Susanna Garcia, one of the Hackspace directors wanted to make a drone machine from the use of drones and DIY with Pink Floyd.

What was the objective?

The workshop was for 16 - 19 year olds to build and decorate their own Lerango Drone machine. The aim was that they would leave with a working musical instrument, learn skills and gain knowledge in electronics. In workshops I want to communicate that it can be easy and fun to get started with electronics without needing to know a lot of theory. Hopefully they will pick up a soldering iron again soon.

What are Lerango Drone machines?

The Lerango Drone machine is an instrument I build and sell that creates drones and atonal rhythms. It first came about when a friend of mine wanted a simple drone machine with individual volume and pitch control. After the first one, more people asked me to make them and I’ve been building them for over 2 years. It’s built using a fairly common circuit based on a 40106 chip. I spent a while experimenting with the development and this simple circuit worked best. I’ve had printed circuit boards produced now, the first ten or so were built using strip board.

What did people have do to make them?

We started the workshop with Susanna giving a presentation on drone sounds, those used by Pink Floyd as well as other artists such as Éliane Radigue. We then got hands on with electronics and built a basic oscillator on a breadboard. Testing out different components to see how the sound parameters changed. After lunch we started soldering the components to the board and finished Saturday with a visit to the Pink Floyd exhibit. By Sunday lunchtime we finished soldering and assembled the electronics into boxes. We plugged them in to play loud!

How did people customise them and make their own sound?

We used vinyl stickers to decorate the boxes and it gave them a great individual style. Everyone’s drone machine had the same audio circuitry but they all had a different technique with playing.

It was interesting to watch the pace and tones people would use.

What were your favourite moments?

You always meet really interesting people giving workshops and it was nice to hear what people were up to. There was a moment early on when we were prototyping and everyone had a working circuit. A few people tuned their oscillators to similar pitches and the sounds blended together to create a richer sound. They spent a while doing this and it mimicked the resulting sound of the Lerango Drone they were about to build.

They seemed to enjoy it and some people said they will build more things in the future.

Are you doing any more workshops like this soon?

Yes. I will be giving a one day version of this workshop at Music Hackspace at the start of July.

  • Read more about Tara’s music-making as Phantom Chips in this interview, plus her tour diary from Denmark.

Phantom Chips - pic Louise Brady