JAK is a modular synthesizer built by John Ferguson, Alex O’Donovan, and Kai Mohrholz during 2018 at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (QCGU). This page documents the creation of an instrument, public performance of a new composition, practical demonstration, and semi-permanent install in a public space. JAK follows on from Ferguson’s development of HST1d  (AKA as The Music Technology Frisbee), which revolved around the digital fabrication of a circuit board and a kit of electronic components that led to a handheld six-voice touch and light sensitive synthesiser.

JAK combines modules built using DIY electronics kits with self-designed and 100% unique creations. New music with a new instrument is one agenda. However, the research goal is to make music technology more visible and accessible. Articulating the life-blood of the underlying electronics is therefore important. Modules are made from transparent acrylic and JAK contains (very bright) voltage-controlled lighting, which runs from the same systems that control sound. This makes the instrument theatrical and ‘alive’, highlighting the potential of a modular synthesizer as a vehicle for exciting performance practice.

JAK celebrates hand-built electronics in pursuit of unique sounds and idiosyncratic performance practice. Influences include artists Suzanne Ciani and Alessandro Cortini, synthesizer pioneers Don Buchla and Alan Pearlman, YouTube sensation ‘Look mum no computer’.

In 2018 JAK was performed at Listening Museum 3, presented as part of Hidden Sounds at National Science Week and the Eco-Acoustics International Conference, and demonstrated at the Griffith University 2018 Open Day. Expensive/complicated instruments are often hidden behind closed doors, assumed to be difficult/requiring an engineering degree to operate. This is simply not true, so rather than being tucked away in a specialist ‘studio’, from 2019 JAK is destined for public exhibition and use in the main music technology corridor at QCGU. Come play, learn, and explore! Progress is being documented at http://www.jakthebox.com.