Modded consoles are pretty awesome, letting people tap into the raw computational power of gaming machines to run emulators, custom software, and more. But what if you combine a modded console with a modded musical instrument? And not just any musical instrument, but a modded pipe organ? Well, that’s what someone just did, using an old Game Boy to play music on a refurbished church organ. The results are pretty awesome.
UK-based musician and electronic instrument hacker extraordinaire Sam Battle, who performs under the moniker Look Mum No Computer and is no stranger to working with video game consoles as musical instruments, recently hooked up a modded Game Boy (which I am obligated to say is spelled as two separate words) to some musical instruments. After writing out a full song to be played on a more modern modular synthesizer via the Game Boy, the music hacker turned his attention to a church organ he’s rebuilt and outfitted with lights and microphones (I’m so jealous). Check it out here:
Battle acquired and started rebuilding the church organ last year. The instrument was recovered from a house in Bristol, UK, where it had been reassembled after being removed from a church some time before. After making its way to eBay, the organ was snagged by Battle for a price he says was “cheaper than just going and getting a run-of-the-mill synth” (though it certainly looks heavier than my Moog Grandmother).
After doing some extensive work to rebuild the instrument over the last year, Battle rigged up the organ to receive commands from a digital source via the Musical Instrument Digital Interface standard (MIDI), a technology developed in the ‘80s to synchronize synthesizers and send commands to turn notes and functions on and off in a musical fashion.
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That’s where the Game Boy comes in: running LSDJ, a console-based tracker synthesizer, and with an Arduino soldered into the unit (though you could also do this with a USB Game Boy cartridge), Battle is able to program in a series of notes that get sent to the modded pipe organ, creating lovely musical sequences. Writing music like this takes a while, as you need to work one note at a time. But damn, are the results cool.