An extreme animal cry engine, the Morpheum is primarily a body contact instrument whereby the player conducts electricity through their own flesh in playing it.

A recent web posting from Reed:

"When I felt the jolts of electricity coursing through my body back in '67 as I began playing the Odor Box body-contacts, it struck me that I had become part of the instrument's circuitry, as in-the-matrix as any other component on the board. The circuit no longer was limited to dead matter. It didn't stop at its "ends" anymore... and neither did I. This is definitely a new creature, it lives and shares electricity... the same electricity that, if taken away, would cause each to die.

"What is this musical bio-electronic audiosapien? What place has this species in soundkind?"

The Morpheum is an animal/machine synthesizer. Unaffected it is very raw sounding, a very aggressive tangle-of-sound machine. It is best at garish, howling sounds and sharp, quick little voices. Through the use of effects (stop at nothing here, but include a volume pedal and a little ultra smooth reverb), a fantastically expressive alien lead voice can be created. Being an extremely sensitive body-contact instrument, the Morpheum as controller of effect chains is just outrageous... digital sounds, with real-time analog control of ultra wide pitch bending.

Morpheums can be worn with a strap like an accordion (with the addition of strap locks), or set flat like a keyboard.

Additions include two frequency dials (for setting the initial pitches of the two sample bank's voices), four large metallic body-contacts (bridged with the fingers for real-time analog pitch bending), speaker switch (for turning off the internal monitor speaker), gold-plated RCA output (for feeding effects, mixer and amps), power switch, and blue LED power indicator behind a vintage numbered or lettered glass pilot lens. Requires four "AA" cells.

Morpheums are finished in crackled fluorescent colors involving many coats of paints & glosses, including a dusting of holographic powder making the instrument shimmer with spectra in direct light. Control titles are hand-inked.

More from Reed's EMI article on the Morpheum:

"Unlike other sample banks discussed in this series of articles in EMI, the Morpheum relies heavily upon body-contacts for inter-flesh modulation as well as the ability to layer its digital recordings. "Has anyone recognized this instrument yet? The original device, like some of the circuit-bent devices discussed earlier in previous articles, was a children's toy, depicting an old-fashioned train. Its four wheels (now under the four pearloid accordion keys visible in the photograph) could be pressed for locomotive sounds. It carried eight animals (now under the computer keys) which when pushed released their own voice samples as well. The mechanical sounds consist of steam whistle, bell, engine, and railroad track rhythm; the animals aboard are rooster, lion, dog, cat, horse, goat, cow, and elephant.

"Circuit-bending adds to this instrument a set of four body-contacts, two potentiometers, a sky blue pilot light, a speaker cut-out switch, and RCA-type line output. Strap fasteners can be added to the upper housing sides so that the unit can be worn as an accordion, left hand on the four body-contacts, right hand on the keys.

"Most important of the circuit-bending additions are the conductive flesh contacts. These are chrome drawer pulls wired to sensitive traces on the circuit board. Each sample bank (animal and machine) contains a pair of these metallic mushrooms which, when bridged with the fingers, change the pitch of the sample in play. However, volume and disintegration effects are possible by cross-touching these separate pairs, bending between the banks as well as simply within each. In this way, either mechanical or animal sounds can be themselves modified or even blended into one another.

"Because slowing-down digital audio streams produces such fascinating results, each sample bank now contains potentiometers (variable resistors) dedicated to this function. These dials can be pre-set to create special voices far outside the sample's usual personality. Doppler effects, metallic notch filter effects, and many other single-voice modifications are possible by these means. Of course, after these banks are initialized in this manner, pitches and tones set, body contact changes as noted before are additionally possible to further reshape and combine the voices as electricity flows through the player's fingers, the musician having become a very active section of the circuit, truly a living electronic experimental musical instrument in the most literal sense."


The price is $1,200 plus shipping. This instrument is also available as a Bare Bends model. See the Bare Bends  Gallery.


POB 20181
Cincinnati, OH 45220