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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Hardware


Arturia’s MiniBrute 2S with step sequencer, not keys, might be your pick

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 17 Jan 2018 1:56 pm

Now we know the whole story: Arturia’s new synths come with a choice of keys or pads+more step sequencing – and there’s are companion RackBrute cases.

So, if you like the ‘Brute synths, now you can choose.

Prefer a keyboard? The MiniBrute 2 (without the letter ‘s’) now has 25 full-sized keys. And it’s got the new patch bay for modular routing, plus a competent step sequencer and arpeggiator.

But prefer pads to a keyboard, or want deeper step sequencing? That’s the MiniBrute 2S.

To either, you can then add two cases for expanding with modular, making the MiniBrute the center of a patchable sound workstation. That’s what “Arturia Link” is – not some proprietary new sync format or something like that, but actually a physical connector attaching the accessories. (It’s a fancy name for some fancy holes, basically!)

Let’s talk about the 2S, because it’s already upstaging the MiniBrute 2 for some people. Little surprise: a lot of people aren’t keyboardists, people who are keyboardists generally already own keyboards, and most importantly, Arturia’s BeatStep line of sequencers were already beloved. Cross-breed that step sequencing goodness with the MiniBrute, and we may have a winner.

The pads on there reduce the overall footprint, and provide velocity and continuous pressure sensitivity.

The step sequencer is three parts – so, since this is a monosynth, that means in addition to making on layer for your melodies, you have two additional layers for automating parameters.

Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

1. Melody:
Sequence pitch, gate, and velocity – as per usual, and as on the BeatStep Pro – with ratcheting on gates if you so choose.

You can also set per-step glide.

2. Modulation:

There’s both a Mod 1 and Mod 2 tracks for adding layers of … other goodness.

So, Arturia tells CDM, you can use that track to generate envelopes and LFOs. Or you can make another Pitch track. Or a Gate track. Or an unquantized track of control voltages.

And naturally, this also is then patchable from the patch bay … or you can use this as a sequencer for external gear (including if you mount one of their new racks for your own modules).

The 2S combined with RackBrute, for a complete little modular setup.

It’s all very cool, indeed. Of course, you can still put a BeatStep Pro alongside a modular if you don’t care much for the MicroBrute synth. And indeed, I’ve noticed that Arturia piece glowing alongside modulars in many, many techno and experimental live acts lately – nice to see this inexpensive piece of gear next to racks of thousands of Euros/dollars worth of kit.

But this is also a powerful synthesizer meeting a powerful sequencer in one piece of gear, even without adding anything else. And if you do like the ‘Brute sound, then you get the usual edgy metallic timbres and filters, aggressive and wild knobs and modulation, and now the ability to expand your possibilities by patching. Having the sequencer built-in makes sequencing modulation and per-step settings easier, beyond just melodies – and you don’t have to pack an extra sequencer and cable.

So I suspect the MicroBrute 2S is going to find a lot of homes, whether it’s as a gateway to modular as Arturia are pushing, or as an equally strong choice for standing on its own or with other desktop gear.

Keyboardists will no doubt still like the arpeggiator and 101-style step sequencer of the MicroBrute 2, but the 2S stands out for programming patterns. Tough choice for those of us who do both – but Arturia’s done a nice job of focusing on what musicians want this round and gotten our gear year off to a rollicking start.

Pricing is $649 / EURO 649. Also shipping in February.

https://www.arturia.com/minibrute-2-landing

The post Arturia’s MiniBrute 2S with step sequencer, not keys, might be your pick appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

UAD for everybody: Arrow sound box is Thunderbolt, PC or Mac, $499

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 16 Jan 2018 9:00 pm

Universal Audio just brought their DSP platform – and top-notch audio interface tech – to a box that’s Thunderbolt, bus-powered, and under US$500.

Here’s the thing: if someone asks you the age-old question “which audio interface should I buy,” it’s actually pretty hard not to mention Universal Audio. While the company may have gotten started selling pricey high-end DSP cards for their platform of vintage gear emulations and sound tools, starting with Apollo, they also happened to make one of the best audio interfaces. The Apollo line boasts high-end converters and audio circuitry and rock-solid performance. And it’s been steadily reaching more and more people, with the smaller Twin bringing the price down, and Windows support following Mac.

The Apollo Twin is good enough, in fact, that you can almost recommend it just for its audio interface capabilities – not only as a gateway into the catalog of UAD studio effects and sound processors and the like.

But the Apollo Twin still represents some outlay of cash. And it’s portable, but not quite throw-it-in-a-laptop portable – especially once you figure in that power brick.

So, the Arrow starts to look really smart as an entry level device. Its estimated street is just US$499. It’s still 2×4 like the Apollo Twin – so you can have a separate monitor mix. And there are two mic preamps.

But it’s sleeker, prettier, more portable, and it runs on bus powered Thunderbolt 3 on both Mac and Windows. (Gone are the days of interface companies catering just to Apple – the press kit even came with shots both of a MacBook Pro and a Razer Blade, my respective favorite high-end Mac and Windows choices.)

Now, if you were just spending $500 on an interface alone, this might still not make sense. So then you have the value-add of the UAD DSP platform. While native processing is powerful these days – running VST and AU plug-ins and the like – it still means contending with some latency. So, you have to listen to the dry signal of your instrument or voice while you’re recording, and then add compressors and reverb and pitch correction and whatever else afterwards.

UA’s ongoing argument is that they can deliver their signal processors with near-zero latency, thanks to their onboard DSP (the “UAD SOLO” is what they call it). The mic preamps feature Unison technology, which models gain structure on the hardware for more accurate emulation of studio tools. And you can take your vocals and guitars and synths and keyboards and everything else and add their library of effects as if you’ve got the actual gear there, without hearing a delay as you track.

Those plug-ins don’t all come cheap, once you buy a lot of them. But the Arrow has newcomers to UAD in mind, bundling a full 14 full-featured “Realtime Analog Classics” in the box.

Ah, remember the days of expensive hourly studio time? Meet the bundled analog gear – software UAD form.

The bundle’s not too shabby, either. You don’t get the latest models of everything, but you do get the full UA 610-B channel strip for taking advantage of that Unison technology, ideal for recording. And there’s a nice selection of EQ, compression, and the like (from the still very decent previous generation), plus excellent Marshall Plexi and Softube Bass Amp room additions (great on instruments). You’ll want to budget more if you’re really in this for the UA stuff, but it’s not a bad start. UA of course hopes this gets you hooked so you buy more, so – here’s their explanation of their various hardware/software bundles:
UAD-2 / Apollo Plug-In Bundles Explained [scroll down]

Really, the only catch is that the Arrow has just one UAD SOLO processor. That means you can’t layer on a whole lot of those UAD effects at once – you’re limited by available processing power. I like the form factor of the Arrow enough that I hope UA will offer a DUO version with two DSP cores – my experience has been that on the Apollo Duo that’s more than enough horsepower for solo musician/producer needs. The single core, though, I suspect will feel a bit cramped for UAD addicts. (Those Legacy models in turn will be lighter on the SOLO, so there’s a certain wisdom to their inclusion.) Oh, and one other niggle – that extra x2 out is only on the stereo headphone jack, though – it’s missing the Twin’s separate rear channel jacks, useful for spatialization or other external outputs.

As a live device, though, and as an entry point to UAD, this one looks like a winner. UA keep iterating on their accessibility, and this one is sure to be a big breakthrough. That real-time functionality and library of plug-ins also makes it more fun to buy than competing audio interfaces, which only act as, you know, audio interfaces.

Arrow is shipping now. I’ll try to get one in to review.

uaudio.com/arrow

and about those plug-ins:
uaudio.com/uad-plug-ins.html

The post UAD for everybody: Arrow sound box is Thunderbolt, PC or Mac, $499 appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog unveils $599 semi-modular drum percussion: DFAM

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 11 Jan 2018 9:49 pm

First, there was Mother-32. Now, Moog has another affordable patchable desktop (“semi-modular”): Drummer From Another Mother (DFAM), for percussion synthesis.

With a US$599 street, that Moog name, and patchability without being overwhelming (or requiring a Eurorack investment) – all combined with musicians’ insatiable appetite for percussion – I suspect this one will be a hit.

So, what’s the angle? Basically, think 2 oscillators + 1 noise oscillator, 8-step sequencer, analog envelopes, and the signature Moog ladder filter — and then a mess of patch points for combining it.

There’s also a clever way of launching the instrument: starting tomorrow in Los Angeles, the DFAM will take over The Cactus Store on Echo Park Avenue, powering a … biofeedback installation? Hey, we’ve seen cute installations from team Moog before, so why not? Artists like Daedelus, Bernie Krause, John Tejada, Mike Dean & Bana Haffar are all slated to make appearances. So you’ll hear some of the experts take this for a ride – and get to go for a test drive yourself – if you’re in the LA area.

For the rest of us, it sounds something like this:

Full specs:

SOUND ENGINE: Analog

ANALOG SEQUENCER: 8-Steps With Pitch and Velocity Per-Step

SEQUENCER PANEL CONTROLS: Tempo, Run/Stop, Trigger, Advance

SOUND SOURCES: 2 Oscillators With Square and Triangle Waveforms, 1 White Noise Generator, 1 External Audio Input

FREQUENCY CONTROL: +/- 5 Octaves (10 Octave Range)

MIXER: Level controls for Oscillator 1, Oscillator 2 and White Noise/External Audio Input

FILTER: 20Hz-20KHz Switchable Low Pass / High Pass 4-Pole Transistor Ladder Filter

ENVELOPES: VCO EG w/ Voltage Controlled Decay and Bipolar Amount Control, VCF EG w/ Voltage Controlled Decay and Bipolar Amount Control, VCA EG w/ Voltage Controlled Decay and Selectable Fast/Slow Attack Time

PATCHBAY: 24x 3.5mm Jacks

PATCHBAY INPUTS: Trigger, VCA CV, Velocity, VCA Decay, External Audio, VCF Decay, Noise Level, VCO Decay, VCF Mod, VCO 1 CV, 1→2 FM Amount, VCO 2 CV, Tempo, Run/Stop, Advance/Clock.

PATCHBAY OUTPUTS: VCA, VCA EG, VCF EG, VCO EG, VCO 1, VCO 2, Trigger, Velocity, Pitch.

AUDIO OUTPUT: ¼” TS Line / ¼” TRS Headphones (Shared Output Jack)

INCLUDED POWER SUPPLY: 100-240VAC; 50-60Hz, +12VDC 1200mA

POWER CONSUMPTION: 3.0W

EURORACK CURRENT DRAW: 230mA (+12V – from 10-pin header)

EURORACK MOUNTING DIMENSIONS: 60HP (1”/26mm Module Depth)

WEIGHT: 3.5lbs

DIMENSIONS: 12.57”W x 4.21“H (with knobs) x 5.24“D

More:

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/semi-modular/dfam-drummer-another-mother

The post Moog unveils $599 semi-modular drum percussion: DFAM appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Buchla synth legacy secured, with new leadership, returning engineers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 11 Jan 2018 7:37 pm

There’s renewed interest in his pioneering synthesis techniques. But now the future of Buchla’s hardware brand looks bright, too – under new management.

Don Buchla’s ground-breaking approach to electronic musical instruments has gotten a second lease on life, as a new generation has embraced making sound with modulars – and, for that matter, weird and experimental sounds generally. That’s meant that Don’s place not only in the history of hardware, but alongside the San Francisco Tape Music Center (and composers like Morton Subotnick and Pauline Oliveros) has found a growing audience.

Alongside that, the re-invigorated Buchla brand saw the re-launch of the Music Easel plus the debut of the new 252e Polyphonic Rhythm Generator.

It should have been Buchla’s return to glory. But it was marred by Don Buchla’s failing health, then financial troubles at Buchla Elecronic Musical Instruments, legal battles between Don Buchla and the new owners of the company he had founded, and finally the loss of Don Buchla himself.

There was no doubt Don Buchla’s legacy would live on – but would new Buchla instruments?

As of today, we have a much better picture for Buchla the brand. Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments (and the original Buchla & Associates) are no more. In its place, meet Buchla U.S.A.

On today’s nicely-binary January 11, Buchla U.S.A. LLC has announced it has purchased the former Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments and all its assets. The new company will be headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the leadership of CEO Eric Fox. Fox is also owner of Foxtone Music, the US distributor for Buchla, Dreadbox, Polyend, and Black Market.

More good news: Buchla U.S.A. will bring back two Buchla protégées, engineer Joel Davel, who worked alongside Don for over twenty years, and Dave Reilly, who the company describes as “hand-picked” by Don to manufacture new hardware.

The legal address is in Minneapolis, but design and manufacturing will remain in the Bay Area. So don’t worry – you aren’t going to have to start referring to “upper midwest synthesis.” (Well, not to describe this, anyway.)

Now, you know CDM is not in the habit of quoting press releases very often, but this one also comes our way from Marc Doty, history guru, synthesist, and friend-of-the-site, who now has a coveted new “@buchla” email address. And in that press release, we get this charming quote from the new CEO:

“With such an amazing legacy I am really excited about telling the story of Don and working closely with Joel and Dave to develop new products in the spirit of Don… and even revisiting/reimagining some of his designs that never actually made it out into the wild!” said Buchla U.S.A. CEO Eric Fox, about this historic purchase. “I hope to involve as many of the artists and people that inspired Don as possible, moving forward. We owe it to him and the generations of new users to give them a sense of what he was all about.”

So got that? New products, plus vintage designs that never saw the light of day.

That sounds good.

After over half a century, it seems the Buchla story isn’t over yet.

www.buchla.com

Buchla fans may still be waiting for Buchlafest, but you get Maestro Morton Subotnick at Moogfest. Photo (CC-BY) Ethan Hein.

The post Buchla synth legacy secured, with new leadership, returning engineers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Behringer teases Oberheim, Roland remakes; hints at production delays

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 10 Jan 2018 9:05 pm

Behringer are busy teasing still more analog synth remakes. But messages from the company suggest they may be struggling to produce their Minimoog clone.

Right now, Behringer are shipping the synth that represented their first major foray into the synth business. That would be analog polysynth DeepMind 12 – a 12-voice keyboard loaded up with extras, including built-in Wi-Fi and a bunch of effects from TC ELECTRONIC and KLARK TEKNIK. And it represents a significant acquisition of engineering talent, as Behringer has brought the MIDAS team into the fold.

The DeepMind is unquestionably inexpensive for a polysynth and, from people I know who’ve had it for longer tests, at least reasonably good. If you don’t need 12 voices, you can get a number of great instruments, some of them for less than the DeepMind. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, Novation, Moog, Dave Smith and others have offerings, as well. But it is fair to say the DeepMind 12 has found a sizable market for itself, at least for now.

Irrespective of the price, the DeepMind seems to face the challenge all synths do at the moment: potential customers are far more familiar with classic instruments of the past. And remakes of a classic Moog, Roland, KORG, Yamaha, or even Oberheim or Sequential instrument seem to earn more immediate attention and recognition than anything new. (Make of that what you will.)

And so it is that Behringer have managed to upstage… themselves.

The DeepMind was itself accompanied by a whirlwind of teasers and spec-by-spec leaks from Behringer across social media and forums, and … then all hell broke loose. There was an unexplained “spy” shot of someone holding an SH-101 (with different lettering) on a day Roland planned a press briefing. There were threads asking users what remakes they wanted to see. There were random photos of gear and prototypes that might or might not represent something they would make. And then there was the weirdest moment of them all – various clones of drum machines and synthesizers suddenly appeared on the official Behringer website, only to be immediately followed by the suggestion that maybe that was all just a dream.

The Behringer synth story over the past twelve months has had as many unexplained appearances as a season of LOST. (Sorry, dated reference. Hey, you know – retro, like synths.)

In the midst of this, there was one synth we know to be real, and we know to be in production – a rack-mount model D based on the original Minimoog circuit design (minus the keyboard, of course). And Behringer got as far as bringing a prototype around for people to test and hear – with reasonably good results.

But while Behringer was busy teasing the Minimoog recreation – and many other synths – Roland went ahead and actually shipped their own compact Minimoog-style instrument, partnering with independent US maker Studio Electronics. Unlike the other Boutique Series from Roland, the SE-02 is analog – should you care about such things. The SE-02 has some extras, too, like a step sequencer, cross modulation, and filter feedback loop, and sound characteristics that come from SE’s Boomstar line.

And you can buy it now.

So what about the Behringer model D? Well, you should be able to buy it soon. I’ve seen preorders at Germany’s Music Store, though haven’t talked to anyone who’s got one in-hand.

Let me turn it over to Uli Behringer, then, who this week wrote:

Please allow me to clarify that the first batch of Model D’s had arrived at our German retailer Music Store right before yearend, which you can easily verify with them.

The next batch will hopefully leave the factory by end of coming week with some units being air-shipped to the US. The production is still relatively slow due to the fact that each unit takes over 30 minutes to warm up followed by a meticulous one-hour calibration and quality assurance procedure.”

Wait… back up. Couple things here.

First, this suggests that in the midst of teasing literally dozens of remakes, Behringer are stumbling on shipping just this first one. The Model D was shown publicly at Superbooth in Berlin in the first half of last year, with preorders taken early in the summer and shipping promised soon. This represents a significant delay – acceptable maybe for a small builder, but less so a massive instrument manufacturer.

Second, the Minimoog authenticity here may have gone a bit far. Recall that there are reasons other than cost that synthesizer engineers largely moved away from pure analog oscillators, opting for digital oscillators or digital-controlled analog oscilllators.

Thirty minutes to warm up? An hour to calibrate?

Some manual tuning is evidently involved in this instrument, just like on the original. And that’s consistent with the specs, which mention an A-440 tuning reference. Note that one feature of the Roland/Studio Electronics SE-02 is temperature-stabilized oscillators with automatic tuning. That plus the extra features on the Studio Electronics piece (and a better stock outlook) make the Roland look like a better compact Minimoog alternative than the Behringer.

Reading through Uli’s convoluted messages, it generally seems Behringer for all this hype are now lowering expectations for their analog clones.

And that should mean reevaluating their impact on the industry. Low price is one thing, but availability matters, too.

Of course, the model D delays are conveniently here buried by Behringer teasing still more instruments – based on the Oberheim OB-X and the Roland VP-330 vocoder / string machine.

But again, availability is an issue. There’s no pricing, and no ship date. There’s no information on the vocoder at all. And the OB-Xa is described as being fairly far off, if in the hands of the same Midas team who did the DeepMind:

Since this is more a labor of love than a commercially viable project, our engineers can’t work full time on this synth and will use some of their free time, hence the project will likely take more than 12 months.

So, here’s the current status:

DeepMind 12: shipping now. ($999 with 49-key keyboard, 12D without $899)
DeepMind 6: shipping now. ($699 with 37-key keyboard, six voices)
Model D: limited quantities, still a preorder. ($299)
Vocoder Plus: unconfirmed; status unknown.
OB-Xa clone: confirmed, 12+ months out, pricing unknown.

(Prices/availability confirmed for US retailers, starting with Sweetwater. Model D appears to be backordered both in Europe and stateside – though you’re welcome to “call and confirm” as Uli suggests.)

Everything else is just vaporware until proven otherwise.

And here’s the weird thing: Behringer have managed to steal the show from themselves and the fact that the full DeepMind range is shipping.

The post Behringer teases Oberheim, Roland remakes; hints at production delays appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Behringer teases Oberheim, Roland remakes; hints at production delays

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 10 Jan 2018 9:05 pm

Behringer are busy teasing still more analog synth remakes. But messages from the company suggest they may be struggling to produce their Minimoog clone.

Right now, Behringer are shipping the synth that represented their first major foray into the synth business. That would be analog polysynth DeepMind 12 – a 12-voice keyboard loaded up with extras, including built-in Wi-Fi and a bunch of effects from TC ELECTRONIC and KLARK TEKNIK. And it represents a significant acquisition of engineering talent, as Behringer has brought the MIDAS team into the fold.

The DeepMind is unquestionably inexpensive for a polysynth and, from people I know who’ve had it for longer tests, at least reasonably good. If you don’t need 12 voices, you can get a number of great instruments, some of them for less than the DeepMind. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, Novation, Moog, Dave Smith and others have offerings, as well. But it is fair to say the DeepMind 12 has found a sizable market for itself, at least for now.

Irrespective of the price, the DeepMind seems to face the challenge all synths do at the moment: potential customers are far more familiar with classic instruments of the past. And remakes of a classic Moog, Roland, KORG, Yamaha, or even Oberheim or Sequential instrument seem to earn more immediate attention and recognition than anything new. (Make of that what you will.)

And so it is that Behringer have managed to upstage… themselves.

The DeepMind was itself accompanied by a whirlwind of teasers and spec-by-spec leaks from Behringer across social media and forums, and … then all hell broke loose. There was an unexplained “spy” shot of someone holding an SH-101 (with different lettering) on a day Roland planned a press briefing. There were threads asking users what remakes they wanted to see. There were random photos of gear and prototypes that might or might not represent something they would make. And then there was the weirdest moment of them all – various clones of drum machines and synthesizers suddenly appeared on the official Behringer website, only to be immediately followed by the suggestion that maybe that was all just a dream.

The Behringer synth story over the past twelve months has had as many unexplained appearances as a season of LOST. (Sorry, dated reference. Hey, you know – retro, like synths.)

In the midst of this, there was one synth we know to be real, and we know to be in production – a rack-mount model D based on the original Minimoog circuit design (minus the keyboard, of course). And Behringer got as far as bringing a prototype around for people to test and hear – with reasonably good results.

But while Behringer was busy teasing the Minimoog recreation – and many other synths – Roland went ahead and actually shipped their own compact Minimoog-style instrument, partnering with independent US maker Studio Electronics. Unlike the other Boutique Series from Roland, the SE-02 is analog – should you care about such things. The SE-02 has some extras, too, like a step sequencer, cross modulation, and filter feedback loop, and sound characteristics that come from SE’s Boomstar line.

And you can buy it now.

So what about the Behringer model D? Well, you should be able to buy it soon. I’ve seen preorders at Germany’s Music Store, though haven’t talked to anyone who’s got one in-hand.

Let me turn it over to Uli Behringer, then, who this week wrote:

Please allow me to clarify that the first batch of Model D’s had arrived at our German retailer Music Store right before yearend, which you can easily verify with them.

The next batch will hopefully leave the factory by end of coming week with some units being air-shipped to the US. The production is still relatively slow due to the fact that each unit takes over 30 minutes to warm up followed by a meticulous one-hour calibration and quality assurance procedure.”

Wait… back up. Couple things here.

First, this suggests that in the midst of teasing literally dozens of remakes, Behringer are stumbling on shipping just this first one. The Model D was shown publicly at Superbooth in Berlin in the first half of last year, with preorders taken early in the summer and shipping promised soon. This represents a significant delay – acceptable maybe for a small builder, but less so a massive instrument manufacturer.

Second, the Minimoog authenticity here may have gone a bit far. Recall that there are reasons other than cost that synthesizer engineers largely moved away from pure analog oscillators, opting for digital oscillators or digital-controlled analog oscilllators.

Thirty minutes to warm up? An hour to calibrate?

Some manual tuning is evidently involved in this instrument, just like on the original. And that’s consistent with the specs, which mention an A-440 tuning reference. Note that one feature of the Roland/Studio Electronics SE-02 is temperature-stabilized oscillators with automatic tuning. That plus the extra features on the Studio Electronics piece (and a better stock outlook) make the Roland look like a better compact Minimoog alternative than the Behringer.

Reading through Uli’s convoluted messages, it generally seems Behringer for all this hype are now lowering expectations for their analog clones.

And that should mean reevaluating their impact on the industry. Low price is one thing, but availability matters, too.

Of course, the model D delays are conveniently here buried by Behringer teasing still more instruments – based on the Oberheim OB-X and the Roland VP-330 vocoder / string machine.

But again, availability is an issue. There’s no pricing, and no ship date. There’s no information on the vocoder at all. And the OB-Xa is described as being fairly far off, if in the hands of the same Midas team who did the DeepMind:

Since this is more a labor of love than a commercially viable project, our engineers can’t work full time on this synth and will use some of their free time, hence the project will likely take more than 12 months.

So, here’s the current status:

DeepMind 12: shipping now. ($999 with 49-key keyboard, 12D without $899)
DeepMind 6: shipping now. ($699 with 37-key keyboard, six voices)
Model D: limited quantities, still a preorder. ($299)
Vocoder Plus: unconfirmed; status unknown.
OB-Xa clone: confirmed, 12+ months out, pricing unknown.

(Prices/availability confirmed for US retailers, starting with Sweetwater. Model D appears to be backordered both in Europe and stateside – though you’re welcome to “call and confirm” as Uli suggests.)

Everything else is just vaporware until proven otherwise.

And here’s the weird thing: Behringer have managed to steal the show from themselves and the fact that the full DeepMind range is shipping.

The post Behringer teases Oberheim, Roland remakes; hints at production delays appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Roland R-07 wants to be your next recorder – and your phone’s friend

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 8 Jan 2018 8:22 pm

Smartphones have already changed how we think about cameras. So what about recording? The newest handheld in Roland’s poopular line has one answer to that.

The R-07 is a handheld recording gadget, in the tradition of Roland (and Edirol) recorders past. That already suggests it could be a good choice. This year’s model has various high-quality modes and stereo recording, including built-in stereo operation.

Now, that already can best the internal mono mics in your smartphone. Plus, add-on mics are kind of a pain – they require different connectors, may make you worry about battery life, and then require you to position your phone in the recording location. Plus, phones generally speaking lack tripod mounts (even if there are some solutions to that).

So the R-07’s innovation is to both respond to the sleek, small design of modern phones, and to couple with your iPhone or Android phone for added functionality.

This doesn’t look quite like any handheld recorder we’ve seen yet from Roland or anyone else. It’s incredibly tiny, with a sleek design that seems more consumer gadget and less chunky pro audio device. It still manages to include one-touch access to important features, plus USB connectivity, audio jacks, and a built-in stereo mic. But it does so in a pocket form factor.

Work with the R-07 and your smartphone (hey, trousers have two pockets for a reason?), and the device expands in power. First, there’s remote control functionality. You can stick the R-09 where you want it to go – especially important if you’re using that built-in mic – then record and play and manage recordings and set levels wirelessly, over Bluetooth. (They’ve even got a nifty Apple Watch app.)

The R-07 can also stream audio from the record to your phone, via Bluetooth. And refreshed technology can mean the fidelity of that is higher than you might expect. That’s thanks to new tech from chipset maker Qualcomm called aptX. Basically, it’s a higher-quality codec optimized for improving sound quality while simultaneously improving low-latency reliability. There’s a good writeup on Android Authority covering both aptX and aptX HD variants. (iPhones don’t support aptX natively, but some dongles do; I don’t know yet if the R-07 will be compatible with those.)

You can also use Bluetooth to monitor your R-07 with Bluetooth wireless headphones – and again, if those headphones support aptX, you’ll get higher-quality, lower-latency sound. (Now we’re beginning to see some added tax to living in the Apple ecosystem, since it seems Apple is going their own way with this.)

Apart from the phone features, the R-07 looks like a darned cute little pocket recorder – like one that would actually fit in your pocket. It also solves a really big problem that may be more important than wireless operation or how it works with your phone, and that’s that it has some features to prevent you accidentally recording at a volume that’s too high.

Each time you record, the R-07 actually makes not one but two recordings – one at full level, and one at a lower level. So when the full-level recording clips, you can go back to the lower-level recording that has more headroom – even just for the portion that clips. If you’d prefer this process to be automatic, something called Hybrid Limiting automatically splices in the lower-level bits you need. Neat. I’m curious to try this in practice.

(This is hardly a pro or consumer issue. For instance, I was once in a taxi racing to the Philadelphia airport and learned my taxi driver was frustrated with Zoom’s recorders because he kept clipping his recordings when he was playing drums with a heavy metal band. This is probably potentially relevant to half the world’s population. There you go. And obviously, pros and consumers have all screwed this up at one time or another.)

The R-07 can make two simultaneous recordings—one at full level and another at a lower level with increased headroom. If there’s unexpected clipping in the main recording, you can replace that section with a portion of the lower-level backup recording. Hybrid Limiting can even handle this automatically, so you get all the safety of limiting with none of the downsides.

Features:

Stereo WAV recording, up to 24-bit/96 kHz
MP3 recording, up to 320 kbps
Included stereo mics
One-touch access to scene setups (oh, lord, having done a lot of menu diving on Zoom devices, this is welcome)
microSD slot
USB connectivity, with USB class compatibility (so you can mount it on any computer, mobile device)
Jacks: headphone out, mic/line in (that’s a stereo minijack – it disables use of the mic, but it means you can use the R-07 for external line recordings, like from a mixer in a show)
Powered by two AA batteries or USB bus power
Black, white, or red, optional bags available

With the splashy marketing materials and a launch this week at the Consumer Electronic Show, it’s clear Roland hopes this recorder will reach out to a wide, wide audience. Hope we get to try one.

Watch the overview here:

More:

https://www.roland.com/us/products/r-07/specifications/

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Roland R-07 wants to be your next recorder – and your phone’s friend

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 8 Jan 2018 8:22 pm

Smartphones have already changed how we think about cameras. So what about recording? The newest handheld in Roland’s poopular line has one answer to that.

The R-07 is a handheld recording gadget, in the tradition of Roland (and Edirol) recorders past. That already suggests it could be a good choice. This year’s model has various high-quality modes and stereo recording, including built-in stereo operation.

Now, that already can best the internal mono mics in your smartphone. Plus, add-on mics are kind of a pain – they require different connectors, may make you worry about battery life, and then require you to position your phone in the recording location. Plus, phones generally speaking lack tripod mounts (even if there are some solutions to that).

So the R-07’s innovation is to both respond to the sleek, small design of modern phones, and to couple with your iPhone or Android phone for added functionality.

This doesn’t look quite like any handheld recorder we’ve seen yet from Roland or anyone else. It’s incredibly tiny, with a sleek design that seems more consumer gadget and less chunky pro audio device. It still manages to include one-touch access to important features, plus USB connectivity, audio jacks, and a built-in stereo mic. But it does so in a pocket form factor.

Work with the R-07 and your smartphone (hey, trousers have two pockets for a reason?), and the device expands in power. First, there’s remote control functionality. You can stick the R-09 where you want it to go – especially important if you’re using that built-in mic – then record and play and manage recordings and set levels wirelessly, over Bluetooth. (They’ve even got a nifty Apple Watch app.)

The R-07 can also stream audio from the record to your phone, via Bluetooth. And refreshed technology can mean the fidelity of that is higher than you might expect. That’s thanks to new tech from chipset maker Qualcomm called aptX. Basically, it’s a higher-quality codec optimized for improving sound quality while simultaneously improving low-latency reliability. There’s a good writeup on Android Authority covering both aptX and aptX HD variants. (iPhones don’t support aptX natively, but some dongles do; I don’t know yet if the R-07 will be compatible with those.)

You can also use Bluetooth to monitor your R-07 with Bluetooth wireless headphones – and again, if those headphones support aptX, you’ll get higher-quality, lower-latency sound. (Now we’re beginning to see some added tax to living in the Apple ecosystem, since it seems Apple is going their own way with this.)

Apart from the phone features, the R-07 looks like a darned cute little pocket recorder – like one that would actually fit in your pocket. It also solves a really big problem that may be more important than wireless operation or how it works with your phone, and that’s that it has some features to prevent you accidentally recording at a volume that’s too high.

Each time you record, the R-07 actually makes not one but two recordings – one at full level, and one at a lower level. So when the full-level recording clips, you can go back to the lower-level recording that has more headroom – even just for the portion that clips. If you’d prefer this process to be automatic, something called Hybrid Limiting automatically splices in the lower-level bits you need. Neat. I’m curious to try this in practice.

(This is hardly a pro or consumer issue. For instance, I was once in a taxi racing to the Philadelphia airport and learned my taxi driver was frustrated with Zoom’s recorders because he kept clipping his recordings when he was playing drums with a heavy metal band. This is probably potentially relevant to half the world’s population. There you go. And obviously, pros and consumers have all screwed this up at one time or another.)

The R-07 can make two simultaneous recordings—one at full level and another at a lower level with increased headroom. If there’s unexpected clipping in the main recording, you can replace that section with a portion of the lower-level backup recording. Hybrid Limiting can even handle this automatically, so you get all the safety of limiting with none of the downsides.

Features:

Stereo WAV recording, up to 24-bit/96 kHz
MP3 recording, up to 320 kbps
Included stereo mics
One-touch access to scene setups (oh, lord, having done a lot of menu diving on Zoom devices, this is welcome)
microSD slot
USB connectivity, with USB class compatibility (so you can mount it on any computer, mobile device)
Jacks: headphone out, mic/line in (that’s a stereo minijack – it disables use of the mic, but it means you can use the R-07 for external line recordings, like from a mixer in a show)
Powered by two AA batteries or USB bus power
Black, white, or red, optional bags available

With the splashy marketing materials and a launch this week at the Consumer Electronic Show, it’s clear Roland hopes this recorder will reach out to a wide, wide audience. Hope we get to try one.

Watch the overview here:

More:

https://www.roland.com/us/products/r-07/specifications/

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Get a kid to explain clock: Caitlin’s modular clock tutorial is must-watch

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 2 Jan 2018 6:15 pm

If The Mad Music Machine thought that getting young Caitlin in her Christmas crown to explain modular clock signals would grab attention … they were right.

Kids seem to have a natural affinity for synthesizers, after all – I know my love affair started early, and I didn’t have access to anything like this! And Caitlin’s video tutorial on signal is sharp, cheery, and to the point.

The idea: patching signal allows you to introduce time and rhythm to composition, here demonstrated on a Moog Mother-32 – a great place to start with modular concepts – and their Mutant Drums.

Within the modular paradigm, it’s also fun to subdivide rhythms – something musicians naturally do with beats, applied to the patch-and-plug metaphor. So they’ve also made use of the 4ms Rotating Clock Divider in the mix.

Good stuff – thanks, Caitlin!

And, of course, if you don’t have modular hardware nearby, now is a good time to mention our tutorial from last week, in which Ted Pallas shows you how to get up and running with VCV Rack. We present that tutorial without the assumption that you know how basic modules work in synthesis, so if you’re new to this, this can be a place to start:

Step one: How to start using VCV Rack, the free modular software

h/t Synthtopia

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Quick tip: how the Roland SH-01A and TR-08 trigger work

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 19 Dec 2017 4:25 am

A defining feature of the original SH-101 was its ability to take trigger ins as clock. Here’s what that means and how to use it on the new Roland SH-01A.

We often hear that cliché about how useful restrictions can be in music. But the key is to make those limitations interesting. So, here, instead of having an endlessly repeating step sequence that loops on every bar, we can quickly produce syncopations and polyrhythms. That’s a whole lot of fun when you’re jamming live onstage or in the studio, because it lets you quickly create something asymmetrical and add variety.

Normally how a step sequencer advances is from one step to the next. You can sync that to external clock, but each step advances at the same rate. The clever thing about the SH-101 and now the SH-01A is that you can trigger the move from one step to the next externally.

Any trigger signal will work, but here let’s use the trigger output on the TR-08. The TR-08 has a dedicated trigger part, so you can sequence any pattern you want. (Those of you with Eurorack setups and the like can get fancier from here, if you so choose.)

Let’s watch this in action:

Some tips:

  • Any monophonic minijack cable will work to connect the two pieces of gear.
  • Now that the SH-01A adds polyphony, you can also use this trick to create sequences of chords, not just monophonic melodies as here.
  • Remember that even with a signal routed to the external clock in jack on the SH-01A, you still have to press the play button on the 01A sequencer.

Roland SH-01A

Roland TR-08

Previously:
Video hands-on: jamming with the TR-08 and SH-01A is lots of fun

What you need to know about the Roland Boutique 101, 808 reboots

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Bastl’s tiny, patchable Kastle now more durable, sounds better

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 14 Dec 2017 4:31 pm

The tiny, 80 Euro, 8-bit Kastle synth from Bastl just got better. A 1.5 revision updates the case, sound, and features.

First off, in addition to batteries, you can now run on micro USB power.

The case is updated, too. It’s fiberglass instead of acrylic for added durability, and has a slick black matte finish, plus better patch points.

And then there’s sound. Bastl Instruments say they’ve done a total rework on the sound engine, improving smoothness, ranges, and anti-aliasing performance.

Two sound engines running in parallel deliver three new modes: formant synthesis, noise mode, and tonal mode. Plus there are the existing phase modulation, phase distortion, and track & hold modulation, each with new improvements.

Formants: Inspired by the 1865 Helmholz synthesizer, you get combinations of harmonics / vowel sounds.

Noise: This glitchy mode comes from granular playback of a piece of code that’s run from the sound chip – basically an edgy ultra-digital glitched-out wavetable/granular source.

Demo here:

More:

http://www.bastl-instruments.com/instruments/kastle/kastle-v1-5/

I’ll be in Brno, CZ Friday and Saturday this week and catching up with team Bastl, if you’ve got questions for them.

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BlipCase mobile music gear storage is now half off (USA, CA)

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 14 Dec 2017 1:21 am

You’ve got the gear. You’ve got the gifts. Now … a place to put it, on the go, or setting up onstage. That’s BlipCase, and in December it’s just $39.95.

BlipCase ships to the USA and Canada in time for Christmas, as long as you order by December 18. (We ship internationally, too, but shipping costs are most affordable in North America.)

Buy now – in stock and shipping – $39.95

You can read our introduction last year when we introduced the system:
BlipCase is a custom solution for toting your compact music gear

And here are some images showing the variety of gear that fits inside:

Buy BlipCase

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Behringer go nuts, plan to clone every historic synth, drum machine

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 13 Dec 2017 6:19 pm

The ARP 2600, Octave’s The Cat, the Synthi VCS3, Korg MS-20, the Wasp, the 909, the 808, and more… it seems Behringer are going to make cheap versions of just about everything.

In placeholder product pages on their site, you’ll see a whole bunch of remakes of historic classics, from synths to drum machines, Synthi to Roland. Product images aren’t there yet, but a lot of these will ship as keyboard instruments.

Also, in what could disrupt the boutique-heavy modular market, Eurorack versions appear to be planned for many or all of these.

Products:

Synths and Samplers at Music Tribe

Drum Machines

Pricing and availability aren’t there, either, but the timing now suggests that NAMM is coming – and Behringer seem to be in the habit now of pre-empting rivals by teasing stuff before they announce it. (Whether that’s meant to take the wind out of the sails of rival press events, or spook competitors, or amp up would-be customers, or a combination, tough to know.)

The models:

Synthopia break down the synth side of this, bringing together specs and including some videos of the original models:
http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2017/12/13/behringer-teases-arp-2600-wasp-synthi-clones/

But there are drum machines there, too: 808, 909, “999,” an apparent Linn Drum clone (LMX) and Oberheim DMX (OMX here). Synthananatomy.com has a run-down of those:

http://www.synthanatomy.com/2017/12/the-next-bomb-has-burst-behringer-teased-5-new-analog-digital-drum-machines-lmx-omx-rd-999-rd-808-rd-909.html

Some of the product names get slightly scrambled, but others don’t.

Of course, this also means Behringer are now getting into remakes of products whose creators and original brands still exist – KORG, Roland, Roger Linn, Tom Oberheim, and so on. It’s not unexpected – they’ve got access to inexpensive analog filters and oscillators that exactly replicate the originals.

But it does suggest a shakeout is about to happen in the business, especially if these prices are disruptive. Will customers still be willing to pay more for independent makers (let alone other big brands)? Will the availability of cheap remakes make it tough to bring out new designs – or, alternatively, will it effectively mandate coming out with something new to compete?

For now, we’re in the position we so often are with Behringer: speculating, as the brand gets way ahead of everyone else with a teaser, long before the specifics of price and design emerge. And that seems to be part of the design.

But this story may not end here. It’s possible giants like Roland and KORG could find legal reason to go after Behringer, depending on how the products are presented. They might also find other mechanisms in marketing and sales to take action.

You’ll find specs on Behringer’s site. Let us know what you think.

ARP image (CC-BY) Rosa Menkman.

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KOMA’s pedals are discontinued, but leave a mighty 7-year legacy

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 13 Dec 2017 5:53 pm

KOMA Elektronik are discontinuing their BD101 and FT201 pedals after a final limited run. 7 years ago, these products launched an upstart boutique brand.

The BD101 analog gate/delay and FT201 state-variable filter/10-step sequencer were released as two pedals in the now-distinctive KOMA white, way back in 2011. They launched that name in Berlin as the company’s first two products. Now, KOMA says they’ll use up their last parts in one final production run, not expected to last too far into January.

And seven years is a pretty decent lifespan for any product. But these particular pedals accomplished a lot – not only heralding the arrival of KOMA, but part of a generation of gear that marked a new age in boutique, independent devices, often emphasizing analog and underground sounds. Now much of that has been swept up in the Eurorack phenomenon, but it has surely included desktop gear, too.

KOMA for their part have gone on to a range of influential gear, a massive artist following, and even a music label, event series, and community space in their native Neukölln, Berlin. As recounted in the press release:

Over the course of their seven-year existence, the BD101 and FT201 have gone through four production runs, including a 50 unit special black edition and a special edition for Scottish post rock band Mogwai. Their sonic signature can be heard on a ton of records, and its signature white enclosures can be found in top notch recording studios as well as on stage with amongst others electronic musicians Alessandro Cortini, Pole, Addison Groove, Henning Baer, RAC, Jimmy Edgar and more rock oriented musicians like Lee Ranaldo, Vessels, Chvrches and a bunch of noise music legends!

Now, KOMA can take that know-how and make room for new machines. (The press release teases some new things to come. It’d be great to see more pedals, of course!)

CDM has managed to be there for some of this history, like the Musikmesse video I shot (really badly) in the back of a van, since KOMA couldn’t afford a booth at the time. That video makes it into the press release:

Jimmy Edgar walks through those pedals in his studio:

And we’ve had some fun Kodak moments with these things over the years:

Find the pedals back at KOMA – or go pay them a visit at their new community space for music electronics, Common Ground:

www.koma-elektronik.com

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The story of early tape music, microsound, and a Eurorack resurrection

Delivered... Oleg Shpudeiko | Scene | Tue 5 Dec 2017 9:02 pm

What connects 1930s Germany, post-War musique concrete, 1980s computer music, and a Eurorack module? Why – tape and microsound! This history explains.

Ukraine’s Oleg Shpudeiko, aka the talented producer Heinali, joins us again, drawing a connecting line from major electronic music history to a Eurorack module from MakeNoise. It’s a history lesson slash electronic sounds of the weird slash gear acquisition syndrome all in one. Don’t miss the previous episode, involving the 200-ton, building-sized Telharmonium:

A giant 1906 machine, and the Eurorack synth module it inspired

And now, in this episode, we get a history of tape and sound -Ed.:

The Roots of Morphagene

Morphagene is an Eurorack synthesizer module, a product of collaboration between Make Noise and Tom Erbe. Make Noise is the modular synth company from the USA founded by self-taught electronic musical instrument designer Tony Rolando. Tom Erbe is a University of California Santa Davis (UCSD) computer music professor, and author of the famous Soundhack sound processing software for Mac and PC.

The module is described by the makers as “a next generation Tape and Microsound music module that uses Reels, Splices, and Genes to create new sounds from those that already exist. It is informed by the worlds of Musique Concrète, where speed and direction variations were combined with creative tape splicing to pioneer new sounds, and Microsound, where computers allow for sound to be divided into pieces smaller than 1/10 of a second and manipulated like sub-atomic particles.”

The emergence of Musique Concrète in early 1950s France depends on the development of tape recording technology. A lot of electronic music technology is based on military technologies and its terminology even incorporated bellicose vocabulary that we use to this day. For example, we describe the initial phase of the sound as ‘attack,’ we ‘trigger’ a sample or an event and use a ‘controller.’ So let’s move a little bit back in time.

WWII and the origins of tape

It’s Second World War. The Allies are confused. They think they know the location of Adolf Hitler. Yet every time they listen to the broadcast of his live speech, it turns out it’s being broadcast from another city, not the one he’s supposed to be in, according to the intelligence. Maybe his speech was prerecorded? But it lacked the characteristic surface noise of disc or cylinder playback. As it turned out, what they were hearing was a new, advanced audio recording technology – magnetic tape recording.

The recordings were made on Magnetophon, a pioneering reel-to-reel tape recorder developed by German electronics company AEG in the 1930s. It was based on the magnetic tape invention by Fritz Pfleumer, who granted AEG the patent rights. The main difference between Magnetophon and other tape recording machines of its time was recording fidelity, which exceeded the quality of most radio transmitters. It was achieved by introducing AC bias to the recording, an inaudible high-frequency signal to eliminate background hiss.

Magnetophon from a German radio station in World War II.

Liberated tape, French experimentation

After the war, Magnetophon was taken to the United States and soon the technology became available commercially.
How does it relate to Morphagene? Well, Morphagene’s most basic functions are the functions of a reel-to-reel tape recorder. The recordings are made into reels, which are conveniently stored inside a SD card. The reels can be switched, loaded and erased. Playback speed can be manipulated and/or reversed with Vari-Speed knob control. And, as an additional nice touch, the recording quality of 48khz/32-bit still exceeds the quality of most contemporary radio transmitters and Internet streaming services.

1949, France: Pierre Schaeffer, a radio engineer, broadcaster, and a former member of French resistance, who had a special interest in music, met Pierre Henry, a classically trained music composer and percussionist. By that time, Schaeffer already experimented a lot, creating music with phonogenes, gramophones, and other equipment at his employer Radiodiffusion Française (now called Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, French Radio and Television Broadcasting). While Schaeffer was from a music family – both parents were musicians – he himself didn’t have a music education. He finished École Polytechnique with a diploma in radio broadcasting. Both men named Pierre collaborated on a multitude of musical compositions, forming together Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète (GRMC) in the French Radio Institution in 1951.

Pierre, squared: Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer in GRM.

Henry and Schaeffer’s meeting birthed a new studio dedicated to electroacoustic music. That studio had one very important detail that would have an enormous influence on their work and ideology: tape machines. With tape, they could record any audible sound and manipulate it afterwards. They had created recordings and montages prior to the availability of tape, via phonograph and turntables, including landmark electroacoustic works such as Étude aux chemins de fer (“railway study”). But tape machine brought much more freedom: apart from being lighter as a medium, it afforded a whole bunch of new editing and manipulation techniques.

Apart from various sound generators and filters, their new studio featured unique sound processing devices. Here’s a brief description from Carlos Palombini’s ‘Musique concrète Revisited‘:

In 1951 the French Radio presented the Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète, which at the time consisted of Pierre Schaeffer, the engineer Jacques Poullin and the composer-percussionist Pierre Henry, with the first purpose-built electroacoustic music studio ever. The collaboration between Schaeffer and Poullin, in its fourth year, was resulting in a three-track tape recorder, a machine with ten playback heads to replay tape loops in echo (the morphophone), a keyboard controlled machine to replay tape loops at twenty-four pre-set speeds (the keyboard, chromatic or Tolana phonogène), a slide-controlled machine to replay tape loops at a continuously variable range of speeds (the handle, continuous or Sareg phonogène) and the potentiomètre d’espace, a device to distribute live an encoded track across four loudspeakers, including one hanging from the centre of the ceiling.

Morphagene’s name quite unambiguosly resembles a combination of morphophone and phonogène (Phonogene is another module by Make Noise and Tom Erbe, that’s actually a Morphagene’s predecessor with very similar functionality).

The original morphophone.

Schaeffer and Henry experimented with recorded sound on tape and formed the idea and criteria for musique concrète, a concrete music, that is made from any recorded natural and man-made sounds. The main idea behind musique concrète was the transformation of the recorded sound into l’objet sonore, the sound object, a sound that would exist apart from human perception and would have no original context. They did it by employing a wide range of tape composition techniques, such as splicing, speed manipulation, reverse and others. André Hodeir writes:

Composers of musique concrète begin by recording various sounds (either musical sounds or noises of indeterminate pitch) and then, by speeding them up, slowing them down, filtering or inverting them, metamorphose these sounds into “sound objects” (objets sonores) whose origin it is not always possible to distinguish.

Any music could be understood from now on as a sequence of sound objects. And anything that can be recorded – a violin, a jackhammer, a train or a flock of birds – has a potential to become sound object.

The Sound Object had three plans. Here’s how they are described by Thom Holmes, author of Electronic and Experimental Music:

The Harmonic Plan (Plan harmonique): the development of timbre (tone quality) as a function of the entire range of audible frequencies over time.

The Dynamic Plan (Plan dynamique): the development of dynamic aspects of sound (amplitude, envelope) with respect to time.

The Melodic Plan (Plan mélodique): the development of pitch and tone sequences over time.

Try sound objects yourself, with the Morphagene module

According to the MakeNoise manual, Morphagene’s time scale for l’objet sonore is Splice and Gene. After making a recording, by pressing Splice button a new splice is created, a fragment of the recording. By manipulating Gene parameter with Gene knob the playback window is changed, from the whole splice (fragment) up to almost inaudible microsound fragments.

Plans of The Sound Object.

The Harmonic Plan can be approached with both Gene size and Slide knobs, by selecting a very short fragment of sound, looping it, and scanning through the bigger Splice, moving in time with the Slide knob. In this way, by selecting a sufficiently short playback window of a recorded sound and moving it in time, it’s possible to extract spectral characteristics of a sound’s timbre specific to a particular point in time.

The Dynamic Plan is accessible by the means of the Sound on Sound (SOS) knob, which acts like a crossfader between audio input and recorded audio, and control voltage (CV) out. The SOS knob can act as a voltage controlled amplifier (VCA). For example, patching an envelope to the SOS will transform the original envelope of the recording sound. CV out transforms the incoming and/or recorded signal into a control voltage envelope, for example extracting The Dynamic Plan from the recording, for further research and/or modulations.

The Melodic Plan is accessible by the the means of VariSpeed control, a knob that changes both pitch and playback speed.

For the processing of their recording and creation of sound objects, Schaeffer and Henry used a wealth of tape manipulation-based techniques: splicing, loops, delay, echo, speed manipulation, and reversal.

Tape splicing is achieved by literally splicing the tape with a knife or scissors and then gluing the splices together in a new order. By splicing at various angles, different types of transitions were achieved, as well as the transformation of a sound’s natural dynamic envelope. Splicing in Morphagene is achieved by the means of Splice button. Every time the button is pressed, a new splice is created. The organize knob and shift button control the arrangement of splices: by moving the knob or sending CV to it, a particular splice is selected and is played back as soon as previous one finished playing. Pressing a shift button or sending CV to it switches to next splice in order.

Tape looping is achieved by gluing together the ends of a fragment of tape. Morphagene makes loops by default – any recording will be looped automatically, unless a gate CV is sent to its Play input.

Tape echo or delay is achieved by positioning the record and playback heads apart and feeding the signal after the playback head back before the record head. In Morpghagene, tape echo is achieved by creating a splice, fixing a recording to playback ratio with the SOS knob, and pressing the record button. In this way, echo length is directly proportionate to splice length.

Tape speed manipulation and reversal is achieved by changing the motor speed or switching it backwards, in reverse. In Morphagene, it’s done by the means of Vari-Speed knob. By moving it clockwise, the direct playback speed is changed; by moving it counterclockwise, the reverse playback speed is changed.

However, in the process of making a composition, these techniques were rarely used just once. More than often a set of manipulations have been recorded to a new tape, which was manipulated as well and recorded to another tape, and so on, until the desired result is achieved. This type of iterative composition is possible on Morphagene thanks to its ability to record any manipulations to a new splice, in this way, emulating the classic tape composition process.

Here’s an excerpt from Schaeffer and Henry’s ‘Symphonie pour un homme seul’ (Symphony for One Man Alone), an important example of early musique concrète employing these techniques:

Meanwhile, in Germany

GRM wasn’t the only electroacoustic music studio with tape machines, and Schaeffer and Henry weren’t the only composers who experimented with tape. In 1951, at roughtly the same time GRM was being established in France, Studio für elektronische Musik des Westdeutschen Rundfunks (Studio for Electronic Music of the West German Radio), WDR, was established in Cologne, Germany. Herbert Eimert, a German music composer and theorist and Pierre Schaeffer’s ‘arch nemesis’ was among its founders. I’m only slightly exaggerating when I write ‘arch nemesis’.

An early view of WDR, Cologne, Germany.

While WDR had very similar equipment, and they even used the same tape editing techniques, their methods and ideology were in such opposition to GRM and Schaeffer, it seemed like they were in a state of war, with conflicting views on what music should be. Schaeffer was pushing music concrete, sound collages that are open to any recorded sound of any nature. Eimert discarded musique concrete as ‘fashionable and surrealistic,’ fit for film, theater, or radio, but not serious or academic enough. Instead, he saw his elektronische Musik as a development of the European tradition of the Second Viennese School, pushing Schoenberg’s twelve tone serialism to the whole new level – gaining control of sound’s most basic parameters. He would record the pure sine tones, and then manipulate them according to a strict set of rules, frequently employing additive and subtractive synthesis, as well as tape manipulation techniques.

However, this confrontation didn’t last very long; both Schaeffer’s and Eimert’s students and colleagues grew tired of the ideological restrictions. Ed.: I’m sure this moment in history could be debated, of course; suffice to say over the long run, the elements of each approach blurred into a larger understanding of electronic music – with elements of each of these schools of thought being frequented in electronic music today, even beyond the experimental or academic context. I’ll leave this open to some reader discussion. -Ed.

In addition to the German and French centers, the post War period would see the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center (1950s), and San Francisco Tape Music Center (1960s) established in the United States, leading to new approaches and directions in the electronic music, with such composers as John Cage, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Milton Babbitt, and many others leading the way.

Tape techniques are great, but what if you could make splices so short, it would be nearly impossible to perform them on tape? How about the atoms of sound? We’re entering the realm of granular synthesis and microsound.
Granular synthesis is based on a 1947 work by Hungarian physicist Dennis Gabor. Basically, audio signal gets broken down into very small splices lasting no more than 50 milliseconds, which are called grains. These grains are usually either too short to be heard or too short to contain any discernable information when played back instantaneously, but when they’re stacked together with various levels of overlapping, they create a new sound, forming a cloud. By changing the size of the grains, original recording they are derived from (their waveform), their overlap degree, spatial distribution, pitch and number of simultaneously played layers, the resulting texture is transformed.

Iannis Xenakis, a Greek composer and architect, is an inventor of granular synthesis technique and compositional theory based on granular synthesis. Here’s his Analogique A and B. In the first part, we will hear unprocessed orchestra recording, granular processing of the recording will be gradually introduced near the middle.

However, real time granular synthesis became availble only in 1980’s, since it required a lot of computing power, so all earlier examples of granular synthesis were processed offline and recorded afterwards. In his 2001 book Microsound, Curtis Roads, a composer and computer programmer, author of the first succesfull granular synthesis computer code (1975), offers an extensive research of the microsound practices, methods and technologies, that developed over time and become widespread due to technological progress and growing prower of musician’s personal computers. His one of the most well known concepts in a concept of nine timescales of music, quoted in Morphagene manual:

1. Infinite. The ideal time span of mathematical durations such as the infinite sine waves of classical Fourier analysis.

2. Supra. A time scale beyond that of an individual composition and extending into months, years, decades, and centuries.

3. Macro. The time scale of overall musical architecture or form, measured in minutes or hours, or in extreme cases, days.

4. Meso. Divisions of form. Groupings of sound objects into hierarchies of phrase structures of various sizes, measured in minutes or seconds. [This time scale is represented in the Morphagene by the Reel and/or Splice]

5. Sound object. A basic unit of musical structure, generalizing the traditional concept of note to include complex and mutating sound events on a time scale ranging from a fraction of a second to several seconds. [This time scale is represented in the Morphagene by the Splice and/or Gene]

6. Micro. Sound particles on a time scale that extends down to the threshold of auditory perception (measured in thousandths of a second or milliseconds). [This time scale is represented in the Morphagene by the Splice and/or Gene]

7. Sample. The atomic level of digital audio systems: individual binary samples or numerical amplitude values, one following another at a xed time interval. The period between samples is measured in millionths of a second (microseconds).

8. Subsample. Fluctuations on a time scale too brief to be properly recorded or perceived, measured in billionths of a second (nanoseconds) or less.

9. Infinitesimal. The ideal time span of mathematical durations such as the infinitely brief delta functions.

A granular synthesis comic strip by Ruji Chapnik: http://dondepresso.rujic.net

Morphagene delves into the realm of microsound either by creating a series of very short splices sending a gate to the Splice input CV, or shortening the playback window with the Gene Size knob. The Morph knob controls the level of the gene’s overlapping. For example, in the full counterclockwise position, we would hear just one gene, looped, with a short delay before next one. By moving it clockwise, at first a seamless loop is introduced with no delay before next gene, then the overlap of the several genes is introduced, so the next genes would sound before the previous one is silent. Near the full clockwise position, gene panning and octave pitch shift is introduced.

Further Reading

More on tape techniques: http://designingsound.org/2016/07/michel-chions-analog-tape-techniques/

Advanced tape techniques:

GRM: http://120years.net/the-grm-group-and-rtf-electronic-music-studio-pierre-schaeffer-jacques-poullin-france-1951/

WDR: http://120years.net/wdr-electronic-music-studio-germany-1951/

A guide to Pierre Schaeffer: https://granularsynthesis.com/guide.php

Granular synthesis: https://granularsynthesis.com/guide.php

Study of granular synthesis in composition: https://www.granularsynthesis.com/hthesis/xenakis.html

The post The story of early tape music, microsound, and a Eurorack resurrection appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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