Tocante Bistab is my latest instrument acquisition from Ciat-Lonbarde. Order at SynthMall. Tocante is yet another masterful creation by Peter Blasser. It is one of his more pure designs: a wholly self-contained electronic instrument, powered by solar-charged batteries, having a miniature speaker, and which can be played only by touch.
The Tocante line of musical instruments is “about” and “touching” the materials of electronics. Each touchpad represents a pitch according to industry “preferred numbers,” chosen by old wartime engineers for non-musical purposes. Here they form a unique and haunting musical scale, not unlike that of a gamelan or the neutral intervals of Persian music. Beyond these base pitches, three golden sandrodes flank each touchpad; touching these androgynous nodes yields intermodulation, pitch and timbral shifts, and emergent chaotic masses. The instruments come in three flavors: thyris the triangle, bistab the square, and phashi the circle. The oscillators sound like a bowed string, a most powerful clarinet, and a howling serene whistle, respectively. Each responds to touch differently. Solar panels charge the onboard batteries, that power the oscillators and a speaker. They are the perfect self-contained instrument for nightly music at the campground.
Tocante has 24 independent oscillators, each heard by means of a touchpad. On Bistab, which uses square wave oscillators, the touchpads are square. On Thyris they are triangular, and on Phashi round. Touching a pad with a finger creates an electrical continuity through the resistance of the skin, primarily impacting amplitude. The pads are etched on one side of a printed circuit board, with surface-mount electronic components on the reverse. Moisture increases conductivity. The 24 pitches are fixed, but due to component tolerances are slightly different for each individual instrument, yielding a unique tuning. Pitch bending and crazy cross modulations are done with the ‘sandrodes’, the bars across the middle of the Tocante, each ending in a small pad that’s close enough to bend a finger onto.
Tocante is heard through its own little speaker, and has a mono output jack for processing and amplification. It also has a power inlet for charging the battery when natural light is scarce.
The second is made only by breathing on Tocante. It’s a little horrifying in places, so I called it Horror Breath.