Nice Cube of White Noise had quite a journey to end up in its current
svelt form. It in fact started its life as an electronic learning toy
called the Talking Spell N Learn
(manufactured in China for Radio Shack, year unknown) that has a beautiful
British female voice. It was actually my
first serious (albeit clumsy) attempt at circuit-bending with an instrument
as a goal, and you can see from the photo remnants of my early modifications.
This is the one that taught me never to leave my modified gadgets powered
on for more than 30 minutes at a time...
I had just finished the unit (which I called "eniac") the day
of a show I was about to perform (Omnimedia v.03, January 24th, 1998.
for more details on the Omnimedia experimental trickle-down electronic
music festival series) and it worked beautifully for sound-check, producing
large white-noise ambient soundscapes, stuttering glitchy voice ryhthms,
and dark ambient drones as planned. Done, up I went to set up a myriad
of other audio/visual gadgetry and forgot to unplug the unit
from its wallwart. Bummer. When it was time to perform, a few hours later,
eniac was quite dead. Dead, dead, dead.
So, I hung on to the gadget, knowing full well that one day I would have
the knowledge to resurrect it.
Then, years later, I was digging thru some crates of electronic toy fodder
in my storage when I came upon old eniac and decided to give it a go.
I opened the case, pulled off all the old modifications, and found the
culprit: a poorly soldered power line. Dumb.
I exhumed the circuitboard completely from the Talking Spell N Learn
unit and poked around for some time. For the truly daring, you can see
some constrution and etc. shots here.
Designed as a counterpart to the Evil Cube of Black
Noise, The NCoWN is an interesting and unique gadget in that you trigger
the myriad sounds by rapidly touching two of the 3 metal disks on the
front and side surfaces. It uses your body's natural electrical impedance
to completely mess with the logic of the sound chip, causing it to spew
things like super-minimal soft rhythmic tones and noise, harsh data noise,
the British female voice counting random numbers or asking "Is this
a plant?", and long glitchy phoneme dumps. Even the LCD display goes
The funny thing is, everybody's impedance is different. Some people that
play with this gadget get completely different sounds out of it than I
can. And some people can't get any sound out of it at all! Weird...
The gadget requires light to work properly (via the optical resistor on
the top) while working from the internal batteries, and has a speaker
inside on the bottom with rubber feet to elevate it slightly for resonant
amplification. When it is plugged into an amplifier (via a 1/8" jack
on the back), the performing and audio characteristics change due to voltage
feedback from the amplifier and the optical resistor then becomes more
of a control source to guide the sound output. The switch on the top is
for turning the unit on/off and for resetting when it crashes (which occasionally
happens, based on the operators impedance and the gadget's disposition).
It is encased in a clear box that has been painted white on the inside.
It kinda looks like a cross between an iPod, an iBook, and a G4 Cube.