French engineer wrings music from obsolete computer drives

French engineer wrings music from obsolete computer drives


Arganalth makes music with hold floppy and hard drives. Photo: Arganalth/YouTube
Arganalth makes music with old floppy and hard drives. Photo: Arganalth/YouTube

Arganalth can look at an old floppy disk drive and see in it a second act.

The 23-year-old engineer from Lille, France, uses old computer hardware long overdue for the landfill to assemble an electronic orchestra that he conducts out of a suitcase for a growing audience tuned into his YouTube channel.

Arganalth — he prefers to use his YouTube name in interviews — creates strange but recognizable music with a network of hard and floppy disk drives powered by a Raspberry Pi.

His latest YouTube performance of The Animals’ classic The House of the Rising Sun has close to 8,000 views after only a few days. Some songs he creates get a couple hundred views but others, like the theme from Back to the Future, pulled in more than 145,000 views. He followed up that performance with Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” which got more than 90,000.

“I get some stick for being too geeky,” Arganalth told Cult of Mac. “I just want to have fun and share it with others. I get people joking that I can’t go through airport control with my suspicious luggage.”

He has made about 100 songs with the old drives, but only 28 have been good enough to be uploaded to YouTube.

Arganalth's original orchestra of drives for making music before using a smaller computer to make a more portable setup. Photo: Arganalth/YouTube
Arganalth’s original orchestra of drives for making music before he began using a smaller, more portable, setup. Photo: Arganalth/YouTube

Arganalth is not the first to create music with old computer drives. In fact, he got interested from watching the YouTube channel of sammy1am, who creates music — and generously gave a 10-minute video tutorial on assembling old drives for music.

The disk-reader motor of a floppy disk drive can hit note ranges between the first and third octaves, he said. As a complement, the vibration of the coil voice of the hard drive disks have notes between the second and fifth octaves, Arganalth said.

He uses MIDI files to obtain one channel for each drive to create the notes.

Arganalth uses the Raspberry Pi computer to make the music portable so he can take it places and play it for friends — or airport security.

“I squirrel away a lot of my old technology, thinking it will be useful one day,” he said.


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