The cost barriers to making, recording, and releasing music are lower than ever: A song can be captured on a smart phone or a laptop; there are plenty of options for free editing software; and sites like Bandcamp offer distribution services with no upfront cost. But while guitars, keyboards, or drums are available at relatively cheap prices, interesting modular synthesizers, drum sequencers, and other electronic sound creators can be harder—that is, much more expensive—to acquire.

About a year ago, Tara Goe, film librarian at the Music, Film & Audio Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, started researching the feasibility of creating an instrument lending program, envisioning a collection of guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, and the like. But after discovering the resources offered in a similar program at the Ann Arbor District Library, Goe expanded the concept. With the emergence of VIA Festival, Pittsburgh Modular, Pittsburgh Pedal Swap, and new energy in local free improv and electronic composition, the Pittsburgh music scene has shifted further into electronic realms. Recognizing this, Goe collaborated and consulted with local musicians, instrument makers, and well-informed library staff to refocus the CLP’s goals.

Madeleine Campbell tests the Kaossilator Pro+.

The resulting Music Gadgets collection @ the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which launches at the Main Branch in Oakland on Valentine’s Day, boasts a number of analog and digital synthesizers, drum machines, guitar pedals, microphones, and even a Moog Theremini. The Glassblock paid a recent visit to the library to learn more with Goe, music librarian Tim Williams, and digital strategist Toby Greenwalt. Joining us was local audio engineer and Accessible Recording founder Madeleine Campbell, previously profiled in The Glassblock’s VIA Festival 2016 feature. Watch highlights of our visit above!




Before you can get your Wendy Carlos or Holly Herndon or Delia Derbyshire on, there are a few rules for borrowing the instruments:

— You will need a library card that is current and in good standing
— You must be 18 years or older
— You can check out up to two items at a time (note that some are for in-library use only)
— Items are checked out and returned to the Music Department Reference Desk
— Items are checked out for one week
— Items are non-renewable and non-requestable (if you see something available you’d like to pick up ASAP, please call ahead to have the item set aside)

The Music Gadgets program officially launches on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2017, and to initiate borrowers to the new collection, the CLP is hosting two workshops: Intro to Modular Synthesizers (hosted by Richard Nicol and Michael Johnsen of Pittsburgh Modular Synthesizers) and Sound Recording Skillshare (with Madeleine Campbell).