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


Post-album techno: 9 years of live sequence data, from Shawn Rudiman

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 15 May 2019 5:45 pm

Here’s techno as it’s lived in the moment – the actual improvised grooves of nine years of live sets, echoed as a flood of glitchy, modem-like sounds from a war-tested Alesis MMT-8 sequencer.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Shawn Rudiman may not be a household name in the age of Instagram dance music, but his live reputation proceeds him everywhere he’s played. Shawn’s the kind of guy who leaves a gig – as does his gear – covered in sweat and grime. He’s someone who can power through bursts of improvised patterns as seamlessly as some people sync USB sticks.

This habit of techno as opus for headphones can be wonderful, but it clashes a bit with that world.

Well, here’s about as geeky and as close to the reality of machines grinding away for the dancers as you can get. The machine in question here, the Alesis MMT-8, is a MIDI warhorse if ever there was one – dismissed by snobs and deep-pocketed artists in its day, but quietly powering a whole lot of music since its late 80s introduction. The box looks like it’s a label printer or something, and doesn’t even bother with fancy extras like, you know, swing. But it sports 96 ppq resolution, is cheap enough for the impoverished, and does its job without question. (You might also know its sibling, the HR-16, which doubles as a drum machine.)

This is the box to horde just in case there’s an apocalypse and we need to figure out how to get through the last raves of the endtimes. It’s the jeep of sequencers.

And Shawn has taken the plunge and dumped years of live performance practice from his backups, in an irrationally specific media archaeology experiment for techno nerds. This beast was the audio dump for Shawn’s live sets, and now he’s dumping it on the rest of us for a few bucks.

You’re not supposed to listen to the audio, which means of course I did – I love that vintage modem-like sound of digital data encoded as sound. You’ll need one of those two Alesis boxes to make use of the data. Or someone can try to be clever enough to decode SysEx from the sound files – I had a brief hack on this and failed, but I know it’s possible. Once you have SysEx, a utility like Pete Kvitek’s will do the trick. (Windows only, but got it running on my latest 64-bit Windows 10 install – bless you, PC.)

Here’s what Shawn wrote:

FINEST QUALITY, BIG TIME DATA” an entire 12 track album of Alesis MMT8 tape dump, audio DATAs.

THIS IS DATA. IF YOU LISTEN TO IT, IT SOUNDS LIKE 90S MODEM CONNECTIONS. I WARN YOU NOW.

this is spanning 9 years of live sets.

i give you all the genetic codes to my live sets from these times. each “track” contains a full mmt8 memory dump. roughly 80+ riff/track/song amount of data for your use *****per track on the album!!!!**** . each is a full mmt8 dump (like 92% memory use) they are named as the original files i used were and dated for your perusal. there are also extra pics and some info for those that purchase it. Ill warn you .. it will take some deciphering!!!!!

all sequences were originally made on an mpc 3000. the mmt8 accepts 96 ppq timing. so there you go. mpc 3000 swing on alot of them.:)

te rest is up to you to figure out.:) merry xmas you freaks.

i talked the shit about doing it… now im walking the walk. 🙂

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – another crowd-pleasing, trend-following CDM linkbait post.

Have at it.

And, hey, if you can’t work out what to do with this data, dig into some great live music vaults deep in the Shawn Bandcamp collection. He’s been dumping some wonderful music, too – like the kind you can hear without decoding or if you’re human and not Alesis drum machine. (Me, I was raised by sequencers, so I speak both languages.)

https://shawnrudimanmusic.bandcamp.com/

If anyone does work out how to translate audio streams back to sysex data, I’d love to hear about it.

The post Post-album techno: 9 years of live sequence data, from Shawn Rudiman appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

One big, open standalone grid for playing everything: dadamachines composer pro

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 9 May 2019 12:58 pm

Various devices have tried to do what the computer does – letting you play, sequence, and clock other instruments, and arrange and recall ideas. Now, a new grid is in town, and it’s bigger, more capable, truly standalone, and open in every way.

composer pro makes its debut today at Superbooth. It comes from what may seem an unexpected source – dadamachines, the small Berlin-based maker known for making a plug-in-play toolkit for robotic percussion and, more recently, a clever developer board. But there’s serious engineering and musical experience informing the project.

What you get is an enormous, colored grid with triggers and display, and connectivity – wired and wireless – to other hardware. From this one device, you can then compose, connect, and perform. It’s a sequencer for outboard gear, but it’s also capable of playing internal sounds and effects.

It’s a MIDI router, a USB host, a sampler and standalone instrument, and a hub to clock everything else. It doesn’t need a computer – and yeah, it can definitely replace that laptop if you want, or keep it connected and synced via cable or Ableton Link.

And one more thing – while big manufacturers are starting to wake up to this sort of thing being a product category, composer pro is also open source and oriented toward communities of small makers and patchers who have been working on this problem. So out of the box, it’s set up to play Pure Data, SuperCollider, and other DIY instruments and effects, extending ideas for standalone instrument/effects developed by the likes of monome and Critter & Guitari’s Organelle. That should be significant both if you’re that sort of builder/hacker/patcher yourself, or even if you just want to benefit from their creations in your own music. And it’s in contrast to the proprietary direction most hardware has gone in recent years. It’s open to ideas and to working together on how to play – which is how grid performance got started in the first place.

Disclosure: I’m working with dadamachines as an advisor/coach. That also means I’ll be responsible for getting feedback to them – curious what you think. (And yeah, I also have some ideas and desires for where these sorts of capabilities could lead in the future. As a lot of you have, I’ve dreamt of electronic musical performance tools moving in this direction – I love computers but also hate some of the struggles they’ve brought with them.)

The hardware

I hope you like buttons. Composer Pro has a 192-pad grid – that’s 16 horizontally by 12 vertically. Add in the rest of the triggers for a grad total of 261 buttons – transport and modes on the top, and the usual scene and arm triggers on the side, plus edit controls and other functions on the left.

For continuous control, there’s a touch strip. And you get a small display and encoder so you can navigate and see what you’re doing.

There’s computational power inside, too – a Raspberry Pi compute module, and additional processing power that runs the device.

Connections

You get just about every form of connectivity (apart from CV/gate, even though this is Superbooth):

Sequencing and clock:

MIDI (via standard DIN connectors, 2 in, 2 out)
DIN sync (for vintage analog gear like the Roland TR-808)
Analog sync I/O (for other analog gear and modular)
USB MIDI (via USB C, for a computer)
USB host, with a 4-port USB hub
Ableton Link (for wireless connections, including to various Mac, Windows, Linux, and iOS software)
Footswitch jack

(There’s a dongle for wifi for Link support.)

Audio:

Headphone jack
Stereo audio in
Stereo audio out

The USB host and 4-port hub is a really big deal. It means you can do the things that normally require a computer – connect other interfaces, add more audio I/O, add USB MIDI keyboards and controllers, whatever.

Sequences and songs

At its heart, composer pro focuses on sequencing – whether you want to work with custom internal instruments, external gear, or both.

You have sixteen slots, which dadamachines dubs “Machines.” Then, you can work with simple step-sequenced rhythms or mono-/polyphonic melodies, and add automation of parameters (via MIDI CC).

Pattern sequences can be up to 16 bars.

There are 12 patterns per Machine slot. (16×12 – get it?)

Patterns + Machines = larger songs. And you can have as many songs as you can fit on an SD card (which, given this is MIDI data is … a lot).

The beauty of dadamachines’ approach is, by building this around the grid, you can work in a lot of different ways:

Step-sequence melodies and rhythms in a standard grid view.

Play live – there’s even a MIDI looper – and use standard quantization tools, or not, to decide how much you want your performance to be on the grid.

Trigger patterns one at a time, or in scenes.

Use the touchstrip for additional live control, with beat repeat functions, polyrhythmic loop length, nudge, and velocity (the pads aren’t velocity sensitive, though you can also use an external controller with velocity).

Now you see the logic behind having this enormous 16×12 grid – everything is visible at once. Most hardware, and even devices like Ableton Push, require you to navigate around to individual parts; there’s no way to see the overall sequence. You can bring up dedicated grid pages if you want to focus on playing a particular part or editing a sequence. But there’s an overview page so you also get the big picture – and trigger everything, without menu diving.

dadamachines have set up four views:

Song View – think interactive set list

Scene View – all your available Patterns and Machines

Machine View – focus on one particular instrument and input

Performance View – transform an existing pattern without changing it

And remember, this can be both external gear and internal instruments – with some nice ready-to-play instruments included in the package, or the ability to make your own (in Pd and SuperCollider) if you’re more advanced.

It’s already set up to work with ORAC, the powerful instrument by technobear, featured on the Organelle from Critter & Guitari:

– showing what can happen as devices are open, collaborative, and compatible.

When can you get this?

composer pro is being shown in a fully working – very nice looking – prototype. That also means a chance to get more feedback from musicians.

dadamachines say they plan to put this on sale in late summer.

It’s an amazing accomplishment from an engineering standpoint, from the hands-on time I’ve had with it. I know velocity-sensitive pads will be a disappointment, but I think that also means you’ll be able to afford this and get hardware that’s reliable – and you can always use the touchstrip or connect other hardware for expression.

It also goes beyond what sequencers like the just-announced Pioneer Squid can do, and offers a more intuitive interface than a lot of other boutique offerings – and its openness could support a community exploring ideas. That’s what originally launched grid performance in the first place with monome, but got lost as monome quantities were limited and commercial manufacturers chose to take a proprietary approach.

Stay tuned to CDM as this evolves.

https://dadamachines.com/products/composer-pro/

Press release:

dadamachines announces grid based midi performance sequencer composer pro

composer pro is the new hub for electronic musicians, a missing link for sketching ideas and playing live. It’s a standalone sampler and live instrument, and connects to everything in a studio or onstage, for clock and patterns. And it’s open source and community-powered, ensuring it’s only getting started.

Edit patterns by step, play live on the pads and touch strip, use external controllers – it’s your choice. Sequence and clock external gear, or work with onboard instruments. Clock your whole studio or stage full of gear – and sync via wires or wirelessly.

Finally, there’s a portable device that gives you the control you need, and the big picture on your ideas, while connecting the instruments you want to play. And yes, you’re free to leave the computer at home.

composer pro will be shown to the public the first time at superbooth in Berlin from 9-11th of may. Sales start is planned for late summer 2019.

Play:

Use a massive, RGB, 16×12 grid of pads
192 triggers – 261 buttons in total – but organized, clear, and easy
Step sequence or play live
Melodic and rhythmic/drum modes
MIDI looper
Work with quantization or unquantized
Play on the pads or use external controllers
Touch strip for expression, live sequence transformations, note repeat, and more

Stay connected:

MIDI input/output and sync (via USB-C with computer, USB host, and MIDI DIN)
Analog sync (modular, analog gear)
DIN sync support (for vintage instruments like the TR-808)
USB host – with a built-in 4-port hub
Abeton Link support (USB wifi dongle required for wireless use)
Stereo audio in
Stereo audio out
Headphone, footswitch

Onboard sounds and room to grow:

Internal instruments and effects
Powered by open source sound engines, with internal Raspberry Pi computer core
Includes ORAC by technobear, a powerful sequenced sampler
Arrange productions and set lists:
Full automation sequencing (via MIDI CC)
Trigger patterns, scenes, songs
16-measure sequences, 12 scenes per song
Unlimited song storage (restricted only by SD card capacity)

The post One big, open standalone grid for playing everything: dadamachines composer pro appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Welcome to YouTube Hell: A MIDI pack reseller silences criticism

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 30 Apr 2019 9:09 pm

YouTube is elevating new voices to prominence in music technology as in other fields. But the platform’s esoteric rules are also ripe for abuse – as one YouTube host claims.

The story begins with around a product, the Unison MIDI Chord Pack. This US$67 pack is already, on its surface, a bit strange. Understandably, users without musical training may like the idea of drag-and-drop chords and harmony – nothing wrong with that. But the actual product appears to be just a set of folders full of MIDI files … of, like, chords. Not real presets, but just raw MIDI chords. They even demo the product in Ableton Live, which already contains built-in chord and arpeggiator tools.

You can watch the demo video on their product page – at first, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. They claim that this will help you to create chords “with the right notes, in the right order” without theory background – except most of the drag-and-drop material is made up of root position triads, labeled via terminology you’d need some theory to even read.

It’d be a little bit like someone selling you a Build Your Own House Construction Set that was made up of a bag of nails… and the nails were just ones they’d found lying on the ground. Maybe I’m missing something, but I definitely can’t figure out this product from their documentation.

Ave Mcree aka Traptendo, a well-known YouTube host, decided to take on the developers. Calling the product a “scam,” he says he pointed to other, free sources for the same MIDI content – meaning that, as it wasn’t actually original, at best the Unison product amounts to plagiarism.

As if it weren’t already strange enough that these developers were selling MIDI files of chords, they then responded to Ave Mcree’s video by filing a copyright claim. At this point, our story is picked up by Tim Webb at the excellent Discchord blog, who choose a nice, succinct headline:

Fuck Unison Audio [Discchord]

I’ve reached out to Unison for further comment.

Ave writes:

A video about Unison Audio copyright striking my “Unison Audio Chord MIDI Pack Scam” video! This is a channel strike which is affects my monetization rights and could get my channel deleted. I don’t care if that happens because I’m not going to stand for people hustling you. It’s sad that YouTube allows shills and dishonest companies to strike honest reviewers. It’s censorship at it finest! YouTube as a company has lost all of it’s charm when it stop caring about the community on here. Do I like doing videos like these? No, but it’s necessary when people are using their influence for the wrong things. I’m not knocking their hustle by NO MEANS, but offer a product that is 100% YOURS!!!!!

What makes this story so disturbing: not only is YouTube’s lax structure vulnerable to abuse, it seems to actively encourage scammers.

The copyright claim appears to be based on the the pack included for demonstration purposes in his video. While I’m not a lawyer, this should fall dead center under the doctrine of fair use as well as the royalty free license provided by the developers themselves.

Here’s where YouTube’s scale and automation, though, collide with the intricacies of copyright law requirements (mainly in the USA, but possibly soon impacted by changes in the European Union). It’s easy to file a copyright claim, but hard to get videos reinstated once that claim is filed.

As a result: there’s almost nothing stopping someone from filing a fraudulent copyright claim just because they don’t like your video. In this case, Unison can simply use a made-up copyright claim as a tool to kill a video they didn’t like.

You can read up on this world of hurt on Google’s own site:

Copyright strike basics

After all the recent fears about the EU and filtering, automated filtering doesn’t result in a strike – strikes require an explicit request. The problem is, creators have little recourse once that strike is processed. They can contact whomever made the complaint and get them to reverse it – which doesn’t work here, if Unison’s whole goal was removing the video. They can wait 90 days – an eternity in Internet time. Or they can file a “counter notification” – but even this is slow:

After we process your counter notification by forwarding it to the claimant, the claimant has 10 business days to provide us with evidence that they have initiated a court action to keep the content down. This time period is a requirement of copyright law, so please be patient.

Counter Notification Basics [Google Support]

It was only a matter of time before music and music tech encountered the problems with this system, as YouTube grows. Other online media – including CDM – are subject to liability for copyright and libel, as we should be. But legal systems are also set up to prevent frivolous claims, or attempts to use these rules simply to gag your critics. That’s not the case with YouTube; Google has an incentive to protect itself more than its creators, and it’s clear the system they’ve set up has inadequate protections against abuse.

What kind of abuse?

Fuck Jerry, the Instagram “influencer” agency that ripped off memes and helped build the ill-fated Fyre Festival, used copyright strikes to remove a video critical of its operation.

And the system has produced a swarm of copyright trolls.

And it gets worse from there: the system can result in outright extortion, with Google proving unresponsive to complains. The Verge reported on this phenomenon earlier this year, and while Google claimed to be working on the problem, observed that even major channels needed their woes to go viral before even getting a response from the company:

YouTube’s copyright strikes have become a tool for extortion

This isn’t the only problem on YouTube’s platform for music and music technology. While the service is promoting new personalities, disclosure around their relationships with sponsors are often opaque. Traptendo also observes that videos touting various tutorials on working with harmony may be sponsored by Unison Audio, with little or no acknowledgement of that relationship.

That same complaint has been leveled at CDM and me not to mention… okay, all the print magazines I’ve ever written for. But we at least have to answer for our credibility, or lose you as readers. (And sometimes losing you as readers is exactly what happens.) YouTube’s automated algorithms, by contrast, mean videos that simply mention the right keywords or appeal to particular machine heuristics can be promoted without any of that human judgment.

YouTube has unquestionable value, and to pretend otherwise would be foolhardy. Traptendo’s videos are great; I hope this one that was removed gets reinstated.

At the same time, we need to be aware of some of the downsides of this platform. And I’m concerned that we’ve become dependent on a single platform from a single vendor – which also means if anything goes wrong, creators are just as quickly de-platformed.

And regardless of what’s going on with YouTube, it’s also important for humans to spread the word – at least to say, friends don’t let friends spend their money on … chords.

I don’t believe all music “needs to be free,” but I would least say triads are. Actually, wait… I could use some spare spending money. Excuse me, I’m going to slip into the night to go sell some all-interval tetrachords on the black market.

The post Welcome to YouTube Hell: A MIDI pack reseller silences criticism appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

AUM is perfect iOS music hub, now with Ableton Link and MIDI updates

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 24 Apr 2019 10:49 pm

Speaking of tools to glue together your gear and serve as the heartbeat of your studio – AUM. This iOS super-tool can serve as an essential hub for combining apps and hardware in any combination – and now it’s even more savvy with Ableton Link and MIDI.

You’d be forgiven for thinking AUM was just some sort of fancy mixer for the iPad. But it’s more like a studio for combining software with software, software with hardware, and hardware with hardware. So it might be a way to combine stuff that’s on your iOS device, or a convenient tool for mobile recording, or a way to let your iPad sit in a studio of other gear and make them play together, or a combination of all those things.

It does this by letting you do whatever you like with inputs and outputs, iOS plug-ins (Audio Unit extensions), audio between apps (Audiobus and Inter-App Audio), and multichannel audio and MIDI interfaces. It’s a host, a virtual patch bay (for both MIDI and audio), and a recording/playback device. And it’s a tool to center other tools. There’s also Ableton Link and MIDI clock support.

It’s worth bringing up AUM right now, because a minor point update – 1.3 – brings some major new features that really make this invaluable.

  • Ableton Link 3 support means you can start/stop transport.
  • You get “MIDI strips” for hosting useful MIDI-only Audio unit extensions.
  • You can import channels between sessions, and duplicate channel strips.
  • And you get tons of new MIDI mappings: program changes, tap tempo, loading presets, and even loading whole sessions can now be done via MIDI. I imagine that could see this used in some pretty major stage shows.

Jakob Haq has shown some useful ways of approaching the app, including MIDI mapping control:

Lots more tutorials and resources on the official site:

http://kymatica.com/apps/aum

The full feature list:

High quality audio up to 32-bit 96kHz
Clean and intuitive user interface with crisp vector graphics
Extremely compact and optimized code, very small app size
Unlimited* number of channels
Unlimited* number of effect slots
Inserts and sends are configurable pre/post-fader
Internal busses for mixing or effect sends
Supports multi-channel audio interfaces
Supports Audio Unit extensions, Inter-App Audio and Audiobus
Audiobus state saving
Highly accurate transport clock
Metronome with selectable output and optional pre-roll
Sends host sync to Audio Unit plugins and IAA apps
Send MIDI clock to external hardware
Play in time with Ableton Link
FilePlayer with sync and looping, access to all AudioShare files
Records straight into AudioShare storage space
Record synchronized beat-perfect loops
Built-in nodes for stereo processing, filtering and dynamics
Latency compensation makes everything align at the outputs
Separate Inter-App Audio / Audiobus output ports
Built-in MIDI keyboard
Fully MIDI controllable
MIDI Matrix for routing MIDI anywhere

The post AUM is perfect iOS music hub, now with Ableton Link and MIDI updates appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Pioneer Squid is a monster standalone sequencer for your gear

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 24 Apr 2019 4:41 pm

Forget for a second that Pioneer is the CDJ and DJM company. Their latest TORAIZ goes a radical new direction – making what might be the biggest mainstream hardware sequencer since the MPC and Octatrack.

But a deep sequencer with MIDI and CV, for 599€ (awaiting US pricing details) – that sounds like a blockbuster.

The rise of gear for making sound has left a fairly significant hole in the market. You’ve got tons of drum machines, tons of synths, tons of grooveboxes, and then a whole black hole of semi-modular and fully-modular instruments.

But what about making, you know – a song? There aren’t so many choices for actually pulling together rhythms and melodies on all those toys. You’ve got a mishmash of internal sequencing features and devices capable of multiple tracks. But there are limited options beyond that – used Akai MPCs, the Elektron Octatrack, and Arturia BeatStep Pro being most common. The Arturia piece is cheap and cheery – and shows up astride an amazing number of fancy Eurorack rigs, prized for its simplicity. But having just dusted mine off, I find its sequencing really limited.

So here’s the surprise: the company that promises a really deep sequencer, one with elaborate rhythmic features that happily get you off the grid and bending time if you want, is … Pioneer.

The SQUID is certainly in a funny position. On one hand, it’s a natural for real gearheads and synth nerds. On the other, it’s a Pioneer product, so you can bet marketing and DJ press alike will try to say this is about “DJs getting into production” or … something. (No! DJs! Stop while you still can have a social life and, like, money in your bank account! You’ll become broke antisocial hermits like the rest of us!)

But – who cares who this is for? What it does appears to do … is a hell of a lot. And while it might actually have too many features (that will be I think the main element of any test), what’s surprising is that it isn’t a me-too sequencer. Despite the pads and step structure, Pioneer have made an effort to let musicians get off the grid and bend and warp time – so maybe drum machines can have soul again.

First, the predictable bit – it is a pad-based step sequencer, yes:

16 multicolored LED rubber pads with velocity sensitivity
Step record patterns
Live / real-time recording
Scale mode
Per-step automation recording (at least it seems that way – “parameter locks” or p-locks as known to users of other hardware)
Interpolation – this lets you set a beginning, middle, and end on steps and let the machine transition between them, a bit like creating automated envelopes
Harmonizer with up to six chords assigned to buttons
Chord mode with 18 built-in chord sets (I’m curious how customizable this is, as I’d rather the machine not make harmonies for me)
Transpose phrases on the fly
Up to five MIDI CCs on external devices
Randomizer (which covers everything, even CCs)
Pattern Set – this is interesting; it lets you lock in a combination of patterns into an arrangement, a bit like you can do with scenes in Ableton Live

And you can run sequences in different directions (bounce, reverse, whatever), as expected.

Multiple loops. Trigger probability – yeah, Pioneer are ready to take on Elektron here.

Already appealing and powerful, but it’s the real-time manipulation features that go in a new direction.

Speed modulation: look out, locked-bpm techno, because the SQUID can modulate speeds via six waveform shapes (triangle, sawtooth – please tell me there’s a random/S&H mode, too)

Groove bend: yes, there’s Swing, but there’s also “Groove Bend” which lets you use a slider to change timing. (I really hope there’s a way to optionally impact pitch, too, CDJ-style.)

Instant double-, half- speed triggers, too.

You can also shift the Scale and Arpeggiator knobs in real time, meaning… yeah, you can go super free jazz with this if you want.

There’s even an automatic mode that saves your jams even when you don’t hit record. (Ableton Live recently introduced this feature, joining a number of DAWs that have had it over the years.)

And yeah, it works with USB, MIDI, 2 sets of CV/gate, clock and DIN sync. It’s ready for your hardware from the 80s until now.

There’s even software for managing sequence patterns, projects, and MIDI clips – so you can save your work librarian style for live performances, and finish off tracks on the computer with patterns you made on the hardware.

Specs: 64 steps, 8 notes per step, 64 patterns, 128 projects.

I mean – we are sure this is a Pioneer product, right? Did someone get into our brains and make what we want?

I have a lot of questions. Step resolution seems fixed at 32nd notes, without mention of tuplets or other rhythms. I don’t see a listing for ppq resolution (the timing resolution of the sequencer). Performance reliability is something to test. Pioneer talks polyrhythms but I have some questions there.

But – wow. Yes. Let’s test this. Pioneer have so far given us some strange and mostly expensive “producer” devices lately, but this is different. This looks like it has the first shot of being the Pioneer gear every producer wants to buy – not just the Pioneer gear you use when you show up at the club. I can’t wait to get my hands on this so we can share with you what it does and how it might (or might not) fit your needs.

Obligatory promo video. Uh… someone stole Native Instruments’ typography and sci-fi light effects. But no matter – Pioneer made this device before NI did. (Okay, I’m buying the next round of beers in Kreuzberg after that comment, sorry, but it had to be said.)

The competition? It’s boutique, for sure, but the Synthstrom Deluge is the real rival:

It’s more compact than the Pioneer. And this really comes down to whether you want a 4×4 grid with a lot of dedicated triggers, or a whole bunch of pads and the Synthstrom’s nested editing capabilities. What’s really, really nice about the Deluge is, it has an internal synth engine and even sample playback. And ironically, that makes the Deluge better suited than Pioneer’s offering to taking a live project into a DJ booth – because you don’t have to reserve an entire table full of gear just to make sounds. That said, I think making a product dedicated to sequencing does free up the designers to focus on that workflow.

There should be room for both in the market; the workflow is very different, even apart from Synthstrom’s internal sound engine.

I feel bad I haven’t given the Deluge more time on CDM, so – now, no more excuses, I’ll get both these units in for a proper test.

All product details:

https://www.pioneerdj.com/en-us/product/production/toraiz-squid/black/overview/

I’m a child of the 80s, but every time Pioneer writes that this is “the heartbeat of your studio,” I think of old Chevrolet “heartbeat of America” ads. Is that just me? Okay, it’s just me.

The post Pioneer Squid is a monster standalone sequencer for your gear appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

AKAI’s cute little MPK mini keyboard now has internal sounds

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 18 Apr 2019 6:05 pm

AKAI’s MPK mini was already something of a sleeper hit – a simple MIDI controller keyboard that was small enough to be irresistible. But the latest revision makes it useful even all by its lonesome.

MPK mini play is what AKAI are calling the latest edition. It’s actually the second major revision of this unassuming little keyboard. The gamepad-style pitch/mod joystick had already packed in a bit more control features, in addition to the handy pads, banks, and a built-in arpeggiator.

But all of that was just for use with a computer, connected via USB. The “play” version will now work standalone. There are 128 built-in instrument sounds and 10 drum kits in the internal sound module, plus a crisp OLED display so you can find the sound you want. AA battery power means this is all at your ready without even power nearby. There’s even a built-in speaker so you can hear what you’re doing.

You can also make Favorites, which compile a Keys patch, a Drums patch, and settings for the knobs.

Heck, it’s even got a sustain pedal input and a headphone jack.

I’ll be totally honest – I tried to look up what sounds are in there, and couldn’t. I know the screenshot already has an 808 kit – sold yet?

It almost doesn’t seem to matter. I can’t think of another keyboard that could work as an iPad or computer accessory on USB power, then also a standalone jamming keyboard. Studio ready, picnic ready, too. Seems a good move in time for summer (Northern Hemisphere, anyway).

I gush only because the MPK mini is one of those things that you buy sort of as a throwaway, then wind up using more than everything else, just because it’s so small and convenient. It also has the advantage of taking up so little space that even when other gear in the studio competes for space, it has a way of staying by your computer keyboard instead of going on the shelf.

(Judge me by my size, do you?)

https://www.akaipro.com/mpk-mini-play-mpkminiplay

Midifan in China have a hands-on with more pictures / unboxing (worth looking even before you reach for Google Translate to try to work out what they’re saying, if you don’t speak Chinese).

The post AKAI’s cute little MPK mini keyboard now has internal sounds appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Alternative modular: pd knobs is a Pure Data-friendly knob controller

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 3 Apr 2019 10:02 pm

pd knobs is a knob controller for MIDI. It’s built with Teensy with open source code – or you can get the pre-built version, with some pretty, apparently nice-feeling knobs. And here it is with the free software Pd + AUTOMATONISM – proof that you don’t need to buy Eurorack just to go modular.

And that’s relevant, actually. Laptops can be had for a few hundred bucks; this controller is reasonably inexpensive, or you could DIY it. Add Automatonism, and you have a virtually unlimited modular of your own making. I love that Eurorack is supporting builders, but I don’t think the barrier to entry for music should be a world where a single oscillator costs what a lot of people spend in a month on rent.

And, anyway, this sounds really cool. Check the demo:

From the creator, Sonoclast:

pd knobs is a 13 knob MIDI CC controller. It can control any software that recognizes MIDI CC messages, but it was obviously designed with Pure Data in mind. I created it because I wanted a knobby interface with nice feeling potentiometers that would preserve its state from session-to-session, like a hardware instrument would. MIDI output is over a USB cable.

For users of the free graphical modular Pd, there are some ready-to-use abstractions for MIDI or even audio-rate control. You can also easily remap the controllers with some simple code.

More:

http://sonoclast.com/products/pd-knobs/

Buy from Reverb.com:

https://reverb.com/item/21147215-sonoclast-pd-knobs-midi-cc-controller

The post Alternative modular: pd knobs is a Pure Data-friendly knob controller appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

MeeBlip geode is the monosynth we always wanted to make

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 1 Apr 2019 7:09 pm

What we love most about synths is wild, weird, dirty sounds – and getting our hands on them. Our new MeeBlip geode focuses on what we think is the best of our synth line.

The goal, as always: make a box that’s easy to play, and that adds a unique sound and personality that doesn’t exist elsewhere. And then make sure it’s fun to twist knobs and make sounds. That’s geode – coming soon, with an intro price of US$149.95 (plus tax/shipping as applicable).

geode more than ever delivers raw, grimy digital sounds that cut as leads and rattle floors as bass, coupled with our signature, screaming resonant analog filter. Let’s have a listen to the sounds of this little box.

I constructed a whole track out of layered MeeBlip parts – each percussion hit, each synth noise. It’s all dry, apart from some EQ on the kick drum (just filtering out the very low end and some of the treble). I also made use of the LFO as a kind of impromptu pitch envelope.

For some longer timbres, here’s an ambient track made with just two MeeBlip geode parts, also recorded live and completely dry:

And as always, this is all about getting direct, hands-on control of each element of the sound (or sequencing each parameter via MIDI):

geode is the fourth major generation of the MeeBlip line created by engineer James Grahame (Blipsonic), as a collaboration with CDM. We’ve been humbled by the response – the original/SE, anode, and triode have all seen critical acclaim. And users have gotten creative, from mods and hacks (including using open source code and circuits), to musical uses in clubs and experimental shows alike.

MeeBlip geode is the culmination of all of the best features of all those different generations. It’s got the sound features and extra controls from the original (including bringing noise back), the anode/triode filter that remains unlike what’s on other synths, the most cutting waveforms, and all the subtle improvements James has cooked up over the years. It’s still compact, but expands to a palm-sized rectangle with more controls. It’s got great-feeling new knobs and some new tweaks.

And for the first time, we have USB MIDI support, so you can connect and power geode with any computer or compatible mobile device. (MIDI DIN is still there, so your gear from the 80s works, too.)

We think the result is a unique, boutique synth, whether it’s your first hardware or the latest of many. We hope you enjoy it.

To get James’ production line running again in Calgary – yes, your synths are hand-tested by the engineer – we’re starting geode as a preorder, for those who want to be first in line for our latest instrument. Order now and we’ll ship starting May 15-31. Available direct exclusively from us, shipped from Canada. (Taxes and shipping will apply for your area.)

Come visit us at MeeBlip.com – and let me know if you have any questions.

https://meeblip.com/

The post MeeBlip geode is the monosynth we always wanted to make appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

deton8 is a little drum machine with loads of soul

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 19 Mar 2019 7:33 pm

Twisted Electrons move on from acid and chip synths to drum machines. And the deton8, for around three hundred bucks, packs a ton of personality and sound possibility in a cute, playable package.

Twisted Electrons made a name for themselves in fun little boxes and boards packed with 8-bit, chip music, and acid sounds. Those instruments all stand out for lots of sequencing features and hands-on playable options. So a drum machine is of course a natural next step.

But what a next step the deton8 is. Mixing samples and synthesis, 8-bit sounds and wavetable synth, custom kits, and a ton of control and performance, it promises to be one of the more fun packages we may see this year. There’s even a simple NES-style synth in there, so even though a compact bassline synth would be an obvious combination with this, you could even do a lot with just the voices in this hardware.

I’m terrifically eager to get my hands on this one. It’s now much clearer what deton8 is about thanks to a new video – and some tantalizing new details:

For live performance, what’s especially appealing is the sound knob, which has different characteristics for different sounds. That’s a lot more fun than menu diving to change sounds, or being limited to tweaking pitch and duration alone.

Oh yeah, even that decay knob is more fun than usual, since decay doubles as glitchy repeat “delay.”

And in keeping with Twisted’s legacy, this thing is packed with downsampling and bit reduction, which is a perfect match for drums. (Again, that’s especially live – there’s a reason those Game Boy parties got so wild. There’s something about squashing dynamic range and making things screaming and digital that can make people go nuts. I guess partying is about reducing bit depth, anyway, right?)

Stutter, reverse, retriggering, granular algorithms – there’s a bunch there to play and record. I imagine you might make this a primary instrument, or some icing on your existing drum machine … that you could use it for relatively subtle stuff, or go totally nuts.

And it’s eminently affordable. The deton8 is 255 EUR (that’s under US$300), or around 300EUR with VAT.

Here’s the full list of features. The big development was, at the last minute, Alex at Electron responded to overwhelming user requests to load your own samples. So that means in addition to multiple kits included in the box, you’ll be able to use a software editor to slice up and upload your own samples, as both loops and 1-shots – see screenshot.

(Dear Roland, please, please add this to the TR-8S, too! And … yeah, I can imagine the TR and Twisted Electrons would make a wonderfully psycho combo.)

Features:

USB-MIDI
Hardware MIDI
SYNC IN
SYNC OUT
16 patterns of 1-16 steps each
Chain up to 16 patterns in a row to make a song
8 Voices (Kick, Snare, Metal (hats), Clap, Can (tinny sounds), Tom, Nut (woody sounds), SYNTH (NES inspired triangle wavetable synthesizer, with arp that can be shaped to a square).
Two modes: Loop Mode (for breaks and melodic content, decay and tune is global) & Kit mode (individual tuning and decay per part)
Pitch and decay modulation per step on every voice
8 hands on Stutter modes: Beat repeat (with variable rate), Forward granular, Reverse granular, Pendulum granular (scratch), buzz/texture , random granular (noise generation), spin up, spin down
Forward & Reverse sample playback per track
Delay with variable delay time and pitch decay (upwards and downwards)
Ring mod effect with variable frequency
Global pitch shift
Copy/Paste patterns
Real time pattern recording with optional metronome
Tap tempo
Swing
Mute/Solo a track
Drive any voice into distortion
Sound variation knob for Kick (add sub), Snare (add noise/snappy), Hats (change texture) and Synth (arpeggiate)
Pump aka sidechain compression emulation (any track can “duck” the others for the pumping/breathing effect)
Pattern clean and randomize for accidental magical beats

It sounds like we should see a review unit in April. See you then.

Promo video for some more sounds:

https://twisted-electrons.com/product/deton8/

The post deton8 is a little drum machine with loads of soul appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Novation Circuit crams still more features: 1.8 update

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 8 Mar 2019 6:28 pm

There’s yet another firmware update for Novation’s Circuit, the inexpensive synth/drum groovebox. 1.8 adds new internal expression features like non-quantized recording, plus custom MIDI channels for use with external gear.

Firmware updates are not normally worth making front-page news, but there’s something unique about the unstoppable force of the Circuit.

It’s small. It’s cheap – still around US$350 new, and used for a lot less. It’s simple – the big surprise has been that what first appeared as a basic entry-level instrument has become a sleeper hit packing unexpected powers. And it just keeps adding firmware updates, at this point seeming more like the sort of thing we’d get from hacker users than from the manufacturer.

New in this build:

Record without quantizing. This one’s long overdue – sure, it’s nice that Circuit automatically quantizes for anyone who’s finger drumming skills suck, but it also takes the soul out of the music. Now you can choose.

Per-note velocity. This was another sort of oversight – because Circuit can have more than one note on the same step, but didn’t track the velocity for each note, you had multiple notes that were all stuck with the same velocity. Now each note has its own velocity.

Synth microsteps. Each step has up to six microsteps for still more rhythmic division.

Assignable MIDI channels. Synth 1, Synth 2, and Drums let you choose MIDI channel 1 to 15, useful if your outboard gear doesn’t let you select.

Also a new 1.8 feature (not sure when it was introduced) – CALC has grown a mustache. Erm, 1.8 video:

I think we’re now probably really mostly at the end of the life of Circuit in terms of what the hardware will even run, but it’s still worth noting this longer journey. And actually, just having these additional features might be reason to bring a unit out again, especially with outboard MIDI sequencing.

And there’s a lesson for more long-ter life for gear. MPC die-hards will likely have fond memories of JJ OS, an unofficial alternative firmware for the Akai MPC1000 and MPC2500. Now it’s time for that sort of mindset to apply to official releases.

And why not? Musicians love buying gear. If they got the sense that their hardware would get long-term support rather than being abandoned, they might actually buy more gear. And it’s clear the attention Novation lavished on Circuit has had a halo effect on the whole brand. So manufacturers, take note: musicians invest more in long-term love than they do in planned obsolescence.

So you do hope more manufacturers devote this kind of effort into updates. Novation have been a model for browser-based updates and editing, one you’d hope others follow. And it’d be great where manufacturers don’t devote resources themselves, that they find ways of leaving architectures open for users to modify and extend their gear – whether large manufacturers or small shops.

If it sounds like I may be leading up to discussions of that elsewhere, you bet I am. So other manufacturers working on updates and extensibility, or who would like to talk about those ideas generally, we’d love to hear from you.

More on Circuit:

https://novationmusic.com/circuit/circuit

Grab the update:

https://novationmusic.com/circuit-components

The post Novation Circuit crams still more features: 1.8 update appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Novation Circuit crams still more features: 1.8 update

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 8 Mar 2019 6:28 pm

There’s yet another firmware update for Novation’s Circuit, the inexpensive synth/drum groovebox. 1.8 adds new internal expression features like non-quantized recording, plus custom MIDI channels for use with external gear.

Firmware updates are not normally worth making front-page news, but there’s something unique about the unstoppable force of the Circuit.

It’s small. It’s cheap – still around US$350 new, and used for a lot less. It’s simple – the big surprise has been that what first appeared as a basic entry-level instrument has become a sleeper hit packing unexpected powers. And it just keeps adding firmware updates, at this point seeming more like the sort of thing we’d get from hacker users than from the manufacturer.

New in this build:

Record without quantizing. This one’s long overdue – sure, it’s nice that Circuit automatically quantizes for anyone who’s finger drumming skills suck, but it also takes the soul out of the music. Now you can choose.

Per-note velocity. This was another sort of oversight – because Circuit can have more than one note on the same step, but didn’t track the velocity for each note, you had multiple notes that were all stuck with the same velocity. Now each note has its own velocity.

Synth microsteps. Each step has up to six microsteps for still more rhythmic division.

Assignable MIDI channels. Synth 1, Synth 2, and Drums let you choose MIDI channel 1 to 15, useful if your outboard gear doesn’t let you select.

Also a new 1.8 feature (not sure when it was introduced) – CALC has grown a mustache. Erm, 1.8 video:

I think we’re now probably really mostly at the end of the life of Circuit in terms of what the hardware will even run, but it’s still worth noting this longer journey. And actually, just having these additional features might be reason to bring a unit out again, especially with outboard MIDI sequencing.

And there’s a lesson for more long-ter life for gear. MPC die-hards will likely have fond memories of JJ OS, an unofficial alternative firmware for the Akai MPC1000 and MPC2500. Now it’s time for that sort of mindset to apply to official releases.

And why not? Musicians love buying gear. If they got the sense that their hardware would get long-term support rather than being abandoned, they might actually buy more gear. And it’s clear the attention Novation lavished on Circuit has had a halo effect on the whole brand. So manufacturers, take note: musicians invest more in long-term love than they do in planned obsolescence.

So you do hope more manufacturers devote this kind of effort into updates. Novation have been a model for browser-based updates and editing, one you’d hope others follow. And it’d be great where manufacturers don’t devote resources themselves, that they find ways of leaving architectures open for users to modify and extend their gear – whether large manufacturers or small shops.

If it sounds like I may be leading up to discussions of that elsewhere, you bet I am. So other manufacturers working on updates and extensibility, or who would like to talk about those ideas generally, we’d love to hear from you.

More on Circuit:

https://novationmusic.com/circuit/circuit

Grab the update:

https://novationmusic.com/circuit-components

The post Novation Circuit crams still more features: 1.8 update appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

MidiWrist aids instrumentalists by giving Siri and Apple Watch control

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 26 Feb 2019 9:02 pm

Grabbing the mouse, keyboard, or other controller while playing an instrument is no fun. Developer Geert Bevin has a solution: put an Apple Watch or (soon) iPhone’s Siri voice command in control.

We’ve been watching MidiWrist evolve over the past weeks. It’s a classic story of what happens when a developer is also a musician, making a tool for themselves. Geert has long been an advocate for combining traditional instrumental technique and futuristic electronic instruments; in this case, he’s applying his musicianship and developer chops to solving a practical issue.

If you’ve got an iPhone but no watch – like me – there are some solutions coming (more on that in a bit). But Apple Watch is really ideally suited to the task. The fact that you have the controller strapped to your body already means controls are at hand. Haptic feedback on the digital crown means you can adjust parameters without even having to look at the display. (The digital crown is the dial on the side of the watch that was used to wind and/or set time on analog watches. Haptic feedback uses sound to give physical feedback in the way a tangible control would, both on that crown and the touch surface of the watch face – what Apple calls “taptic” feedback since it works with the existing touch interface. Even if you’re not a fan of the Apple Watch, it’s a fascinating design feature.)

How this works in practice: you can use the transport and even overdub new tracks easily, here pictured in Logic Pro X:

Just seeing the Digital Crown mapped as a new physical control is a compelling tech demo – and very useful to mobile apps, which tend to lack physical feedback. Here it is in a pre-release demo with the Minimoog Model D on iPhone:

Or here it is with the Eventide H9 (though, yeah, you could just put the pedal on a table and get the same impact):

Here it is with IK Multimedia’s UNO synth, though this rather makes me wish the iPhone just had its own Digital Crown:

Version 1.1 will include voice control via Siri. That’ll work with iPhones, too, so you don’t necessarily need an Apple Watch. With voice-controlled interfaces coming to various home devices, it’s not hard to imagine sitting at home and recording ideas right when the mood strikes you, Star Trek: The Next Generation style.

Geert, please, can we set up a DAW that lets us dictate melodies like this?

It’s a simple app at its core, but you see it really embodies three features: wearable interfaces, hands-free control (with voice), and haptic feedback. And here are lots of options for custom control, MIDI functionality, and connectivity. Check it out – this really is insane for just a watch app:

Four knobs can be controlled with the digital crown
Macro control over multiple synth parameters from the digital crown
Remotely Play / Stop / Record / Rewind your DAW from your Watch
Knobs can be controlled individually or simultaneously
Knobs can be linked to preserve their offsets
Four buttons can be toggled by tapping the Watch
Buttons can either be stateful or momentary
Program changes through the digital crown or by tapping the Watch
Transport control over Midi Machine Control (MMC)
XY pad with individual messages for each axis
Optional haptic feedback for all Watch interactions
Optional value display on the Watch
Configurable colors for all knobs and buttons
Configurable MIDI channels and CC numbers
Save your configurations to preset for easy retrieval
MIDI learn for easy controller configuration
MIDI input to sync the state of the controllers with the controlled synths
Advertise as a Bluetooth MIDI device
Connect to other Bluetooth MIDI devices
Monitor the MIDI values on the iPhone
Low latency and fast response

http://uwyn.com/midiwrist/

All of this really does make me want a dedicated DIY haptic device. I had an extended conversation with the engineers at Native Instruments about their haptic efforts with TRAKTOR; I personally believe there’s a lot of potential for human-machine interfaces for music with this approach. But that will depend in the long run on more hardware adopting haptic interfaces beyond just the passive haptics of nice-feeling knobs and faders and whatnot.

It’s a good space to keep an eye on. (I almost wrote “a good space to watch.” No. That’s not the point. You know.)

Geert shares a bit about development here:

Fun anecdote — in a way, this app has been more than three years in the making. I got the first Apple Watch in the hope of creating this, but the technology was way too slow without a direct real-time communication protocol between the Watch and the iPhone. I’ve been watching every Watch release (teehee) up until the last one, the Series 4. The customer reception was so good overall that I decided to give this another go, and only after a few hours of prototyping, I could see that this would now work and feel great. I did buy a Watch Series 3 afterwards also to include in my testing during development.

The post MidiWrist aids instrumentalists by giving Siri and Apple Watch control appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Magenta Studio lets you use AI tools for inspiration in Ableton Live

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 12 Feb 2019 8:34 pm

Instead of just accepting all this machine learning hype, why not put it to the test? Magenta Studio lets you experiment with open source machine learning tools, standalone or inside Ableton Live.

Magneta provides a pretty graspable way to get started with an field of research that can get a bit murky. By giving you easy access to machine learning models for musical patterns, you can generate and modify rhythms and melodies. The team at Google AI first showed Magneta Studio at Ableton’s Loop conference in LA in November, but after some vigorous development, it’s a lot more ready for primetime now, both on Mac and Windows.

If you’re working with Ableton Live, you can use Magenta Studio as a set of devices. Because they’re built with Max, though, there’s also a standalone version. Developers can dig far deeper into the tools and modify them for your own purposes – and even if you have just a little comfort with the command line, you can also train your own models. (More on that in a bit.)

Side note of interest to developers: this is also a great showcase for doing powerful stuff with machine learning using just JavaScript, applying even GPU acceleration without having to handle a bunch of complex, platform-specific libraries.

I got to sit down with the developers in LA, and also have been playing with the latest builds of Magenta Studio. But let’s back up and first talk about what this means.

Magenta Studio is out now, with more information on the Magneta project and other Google work on musical applications on machine learning:

g.co/magenta
g.co/magenta/studio

AI?

Artificial Intelligence – well, apologies, I could have fit the letters “ML” into the headline above but no one would know what I was talking about.

Machine learning is a better term. What Magenta and TensorFlow are based on is applying algorithmic analysis to large volumes of data. “TensorFlow” may sound like some kind of stress exercise ball you keep at your desk. But it’s really about creating an engine that can very quickly process lots of tensors – geometric units that can be combined into, for example, artificial neural networks.

Seeing the results of this machine learning in action means having a different way of generating and modifying musical information. It takes the stuff you’ve been doing in music software with tools like grids, and lets you use a mathematical model that’s more sophisticated – and that gives you different results you can hear.

You may know Magneta from its involvement in the NSynth synthesizer —

https://nsynthsuper.withgoogle.com/

But even if that particular application didn’t impress you – trying to find new instrument timbres – the note/rhythm-based ideas make this effort worth a new look.

Recurrent Neural Networks are a kind of mathematical model that algorithmically loops over and over. We say it’s “learning” in the sense that there are some parallels to very low-level understandings of how neurons work in biology, but this is on a more basic level – running the algorithm repeatedly means that you can predict sequences more and more effectively given a particular data set.

Magenta’s “musical” library applies a set of learning principles to musical note data. That means it needs a set of data to “train” on – and part of the results you get are based on that training set. Build a model based on a data set of bluegrass melodies, for instance, and you’ll have different outputs from the model than if you started with Gregorian plainchant or Indonesian gamelan.

One reason that it’s cool that Magneta and Magenta Studio are open source is, you’re totally free to dig in and train your own data sets. (That requires a little more knowledge and some time for your computer or a server to churn away, but it also means you shouldn’t judge Magenta Studio on these initial results alone.)

What’s in Magenta Studio

Magenta Studio has a few different tools. Many are based on MusicVAE – a recent research model that looked at how machine learning could be applied to how different melodies relate to one another. Music theorists have looked at melodic and rhythmic transformations for a long time, and very often use mathematical models to make more sophisticated descriptions of how these function. Machine learning lets you work from large sets of data, and then not only make a model, but morph between patterns and even generate new ones – which is why this gets interesting for music software.

Crucially, you don’t have to understand or even much care about the math and analysis going on here – expert mathematicians and amateur musicians alike can hear and judge the results. If you want to read a summary of that MusicVAE research, you can. But it’s a lot better to dive in and see what the results are like first. And now instead of just watching a YouTube demo video or song snippet example, you can play with the tools interactively.

Magenta Studio lets you work with MIDI data, right in your Ableton Live Session View. You’ll make new clips – sometimes starting from existing clips you input – and the device will spit out the results as MIDI you can use to control instruments and drum racks. There’s also a slide called “Temperature” which determines how the model is sampled mathematically. It’s not quite like adjusting randomness – hence they chose this new name – but it will give you some control over how predictable or unpredictable the results will be (if you also accept that the relationship may not be entirely linear). And you can choose number of variations, and length in bars.

The data these tools were trained on represents millions of melodies and rhythms. That is, they’ve chosen a dataset that will give you fairly generic, vanilla results – in the context of Western music, of course. (And Live’s interface is fairly set up with expectations about what a drum kit is, and with melodies around a 12-tone equal tempered piano, so this fits that interface… not to mention, arguably there’s some cultural affinity for that standardization itself and the whole idea of making this sort of machine learning model, but I digress.)

Here are your options:

Generate: This makes a new melody or rhythm with no input required – it’s the equivalent of rolling the dice (erm, machine learning style, so very much not random) and hearing what you get.

Continue: This is actually a bit closer to what Magneta Studio’s research was meant to do – punch in the beginning of a pattern, and it will fill in where it predicts that pattern could go next. It means you can take a single clip and finish it – or generate a bunch of variations/continuations of an idea quickly.

Interpolate: Instead of one clip, use two clips and merge/morph between them.

Groove: Adjust timing and velocity to “humanize” a clip to a particular feel. This is possibly the most interesting of the lot, because it’s a bit more focused – and immediately solves a problem that software hasn’t solved terribly well in the past. Since the data set is focused on 15 hours of real drummers, the results here sound more musically specific. And you get a “humanize” that’s (arguably) closer to what your ears would expect to hear than the crude percentage-based templates of the past. And yes, it makes quantized recordings sound more interesting.

Drumify: Same dataset as Groove, but this creates a new clip based on the groove of the input. It’s … sort of like if Band-in-a-Box rhythms weren’t awful, basically. (Apologies to the developers of Band-in-a-Box.) So it works well for percussion that ‘accompanies’ an input.

So, is it useful?

It may seem un-human or un-musical to use any kind of machine learning in software. But from the moment you pick up an instrument, or read notation, you’re working with a model of music. And that model will impact how you play and think.

More to the point with something like Magenta is, do you really get musically useful results?

Groove to me is really interesting. It effectively means you can make less rigid groove quantization, because instead of some fixed variations applied to a grid, you get a much more sophisticated model that adapts based on input. And with different training sets, you could get different grooves. Drumify is also compelling for the same reason.

Generate is also fun, though even in the case of Continue, the issue is that these tools don’t particularly solve a problem so much as they do give you a fun way of thwarting your own intentions. That is, much like using the I Ching (see John Cage, others) or a randomize function (see… all of us, with a plug-in or two), you can break out of your usual habits and create some surprise even if you’re alone in a studio or some other work environment.

One simple issue here is that a model of a sequence is not a complete model of music. Even monophonic music can deal with weight, expression, timbre. Yes, theoretically you can apply each of those elements as new dimensions and feed them into machine learning models, but – let’s take chant music, for example. Composers were working with less quantifiable elements as they worked, too, like the meaning and sound of the text, positions in the liturgy, multi-layered quotes and references to other compositions. And that’s the simplest case – music from punk to techno to piano sonatas will challenge these models in Magenta.

I bring this up not because I want to dismiss the Magenta project – on the contrary, if you’re aware of these things, having a musical game like this is even more fun.

The moment you begin using Magenta Studio, you’re already extending some of the statistical prowess of the machine learning engine with your own human input. You’re choosing which results you like. You’re adding instrumentation. You’re adjusting the Temperature slider using your ear – when in fact there’s often no real mathematical indication of where it “should” be set.

And that means that hackers digging into these models could also produce new results. People are still finding new applications for quantize functions, which haven’t changed since the 1980s. With tools like Magenta, we get a whole new slew of mathematical techniques to apply to music. Changing a dataset or making minor modifications to these plug-ins could yield very different results.

And for that matter, even if you play with Magenta Studio for a weekend, then get bored and return to practicing your own music, even that’s a benefit.

g.co/magenta
g.co/magenta/studio

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Two twisted desktop grooveboxes: hapiNES L, Acid8 MKIII

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 12 Feb 2019 12:54 pm

Now the Nintendo NES inspires a new groovebox, with the desktop hapiNES. And not to be outdone, Twisted Electrons’ acid line is back with a MKIII model, too.

Twisted Electrons have been making acid- and chip music-flavored groovemakers of various sorts. That started with enclosed desktop boxes like the Acid8. But lately, we’d gotten some tiny models on exposed circuit boards, inspired by the Pocket Operator line from Teenage Engineering (and combining well with those Swedish devices, too).

Well, if you liked that Nintendo-flavored chip music sound but longer for a finished case and finger-friendly proper knobs and buttons, you’re in luck. The hapiNES L is here in preorder now, and shipping next month. It’s a groovebox with a 303-style sequencer and tons of parameter controls, but with a sound engine inspired by the RP2A07 chip.

“RP2A07” is not something that likely brings you back to your childhood (uh, unless you spent your childhood on a Famicom assembly line in Japan for some reason – very cool). Think to the Nintendo Entertainment System and that unique, strident sound from the video games of the era – here with controls you can sequence and tweak rather than having to hard-code.

You get a huge range of features here:

Hardware MIDI input (sync, notes and parameter modulation)
Analog trigger sync in and out
USB-MIDI input (sync, notes and parameter modulation)
Dedicated VST/AU plugin for full DAW integration
4 tracks for real-time composing
Authentic triangle bass
2 squares with variable pulsewidth
59 synthesized preset drum sounds + 1 self-evolving drum sound
16 arpeggiator modes with variable speed
Vibrato with variable depth and speed
18 Buttons
32 Leds
6 high quality potentiometers
16 pattern memory
3 levels of LED brightness (Beach, Studio, Club)
Live recording, key change and pattern chaining (up to 16 patterns/ 256 steps)
Pattern copy/pasting
Ratcheting (up to 4 hits per step)
Reset on any step (1-16 step patterns)

If you want to revisit the bare board version, here you go:

255EUR before VAT.

https://twisted-electrons.com/product/hapines-l/

Okay, so that’s all well and good. But if you want an original 8-bit synth, the Acid8 is still worth a look. It’s got plenty of sound features all its own, and the MKIII release loads in a ton of new digital goodies – very possibly enough to break the Nintendo spell and woo you away from the NES device.

In the MKIII, there’s a new digital filter, new real-time effects (transposition automation, filter wobble, stutter, vinyl spin-down, and more), and dual oscillators.

Dual oscillators alone are interesting, and the digital filter gives this some of the edge you presumably crave if drawn to this device.

And if you are upgrading from the baby uAcid8 board, you add hardware MIDI, analog sync in and out, and of course proper controls and a metal case.

Specs:

USB-MIDI input (sync, notes and parameter modulation)
Hardware MIDI input (sync, notes and parameter modulation)
Analog sync trigger input and output
Dedicated VST/AU plugin for full DAW integration
18 Buttons
32 Leds
6 high quality potentiometers
Arp Fx with variable depth and decay time
Filter Wobble with variable speed and depth
Crush Fx with variable depth
Pattern Copy/Pasting
Variable VCA decay (note length)
Tap tempo, variable Swing
Patterns can reset at any step (1-16 step pattern lengths)
Variable pulse-width (for square waveforms)
12 sounds: Square, Saw and Triangle each in 4 flavors (Normal, Distorted, Fat/Detuned, Harmonized/Techno).
3 levels of LED brightness (Beach, Studio, Club)
Live recording, key change and pattern chaining

Again, we have just the video of the board, but it gives you idea. Quite clever, really, putting out these devices first as the inexpensive bare boards and then offering the full desktop releases.

More; also shipping next month with preorders now:

https://twisted-electrons.com/product/acid8-mkiii/

The post Two twisted desktop grooveboxes: hapiNES L, Acid8 MKIII appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The synth modules of winter: your Eurorack radar

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 5 Feb 2019 7:40 pm

The waves of synth modules never stop coming, as obsessed engineers keep making them and sound tinkerers keep buying them. So let’s catch up with what’s out there, in the wake of the NAMM show in California late last month.

Most of these are from NAMM, but there are some other sightings recently, as well.

Make Noise’s new modulation monster. Make Noise have made a name for themselves with some real weirdness that then shaped a lot of the music scene. The Quad Peak Animation System is the latest from them – a wild modulation system that can make vocalization-like sounds, with fast-responding multiple resonant filter peaks across a stereo image. In other words, this thing can sing – in an odd way – in stereo.

The best part of the story behind this is Tony Rolando of Make Noise partly got the idea calibrating Moog Voyagers … and now will apply that to making something crazy and new.

http://makenoisemusic.com/modules/qpas

Now we have multiple videos of that:

Low-cost Buchla. There’s a phrase I’ve never typed before. The Buchla USA company themselves are working to bring Buchla to the masses, with the new low-cost Red Label line of modules. This is 100 series stuff, the historical modules that really launched the West Coast sound – mixer, quad gate, dual-channel oscillator, filters, reverb, and more. There’s even a case and – of course – a touch surface for input, because keyboards are the devil’s playground. Good people are involved – Dave Small (Catalyst Audio) and Todd Barton – so this is one to watch.

https://buchla.com/

A module that’s whatever you want it to be. Nozori is a Kickstarter-backed project to make multifunctional modules – buy a module once, then switch modes via software (and of course coordinated faceplates). People must like the idea, because it’s already well funded, and you still have a week back if you want in.

http://kck.st/2TPKDdT

Lightning in a bottle. Gamechanger have a wild technology that lets you “play a lightning bolt” – basically, incorporating Tesla Coils into their hardware. They’ve done that once with Plasma Pedal, which we hope to test soon. With Erica, they’ll stick this in a module – and let you use high-voltage discharges in a xenon-filled tube. That looks cool and should sound wild; you get distortion with CV control in this module, octave up/down tracking oscillators for still more harmonics, and even an assignable pre/post- EQ. 310EUR before VAT, coming late February.

Erica Synths does the Sample Drum. This one’s sure to be a big hit, I think – not only for people wanting a drum module, per se, but presumably anyone interested in sample manipulation. Sample Drum plays and (finally!) records, with manual and automatic sample slicing, and three assignable CV inputs per channel. There are even effects onboard … which actually makes me wonder why we can’t have something like this as a desktop unit, too. You even can embed cue points in WAV. SD card storage. Looks terrific – 300EUR (not including VAT) coming late February.

One massive oscillator with zing, from Rossum. TRIDENT is a “multi-synchronic oscillator ensemble” – basically three oscillators in one, with loads of modulation and options for FM and phase and … uh, “zing.” Of course you could get a whole bunch of modules and do something similar, but the advantage here is a kind of integrated approach to making a lot of rich timbres – and while the sticker price here is US$599, that may well be less than wrangling a bunch of individual modules.

Actually, let’s let Dave himself talk about this:

http://www.rossum-electro.com/products/trident/

A module for drawing. LZX Industries’ Escher Sketch is a stylus pen controller with XY, pressure, and “directional velocity” (expression). LZX are thinking of this for video synthesis, though I’m sure it’ll get abused. US$499.

MIDI to CV, with autotuning and polyphony. Bastl Instruments’ 1983 4-channel MIDI to CV interface, complete with automatic tuning and other features, is one we’ve been following for a while. It’s now officially out as of 1 February.

Previously, including an explanation of why this is so cool:

Bastl do waveshaping, MIDI, and magically tune your modules

Don’t forget that Bastl also worked with Casper Electronics on Dark Matter, which I covered last month:

Bastl’s Dark Matter module unleashes the joys of feedback

Inexpensive Soundlazer modules. This LA company is actually known more for its directional speakers, but it looks like they’re getting into modules. Opening salvo: $99 bass drum, $69 VCA – evidence that it’s not just Behringer who may get into lower cost Eurorack. Check out their site for more.

Mix with vectors and quad. v3kt is really cool. Plug in joysticks, envelopes, LFOs, automatically calibrate them with push-button sampling, and then mix and connect all that CV to other stuff, with save states. Oh and you can use this as a quad panner, too. $199 now.

http://www.antimatteraudio.com/modules/v3kt

STG and Radiophonic 1 synthesizer. Radiophonic 1 is a terrific-sounding all-in-one, with a gorgeous oscillator at its core (also available separately). See Synthtopia’s video for explanation:

And Matt Chadra demonstrates how it sounds:

Slice and recombine waveforms in a module. Hey, you know how everyone keeps complaining there are no new ideas in synthesis? Well, Waverazor at least claims to be a new idea (with patent pending, too). Cut individual waveform cycles into slices, individually modify and modulate the slices, recombine. Okay – that sounds a lot like wavetable synthesis with a twist (albeit a compelling one), but we’ll bite. Or rather if you didn’t bite when this was a standalone plug-in, maybe you’ll like real knobs and a bunch of patch points:

https://mok.com/wr_dual.php

Control your modular with a ring. It’s funny how this idea never goes away. But here we are again – this time with crowd funding on IndieGogo, so maybe a larger group of people to actually use it. Wave is a ring you wear so you can make music by waving your hand around and … this time it plugs into a modular (the Wavefront module).

Watch this video and marvel at how you can do something you could do with an expression pedal or by using the same free hand to turn a knob, but, like, with a ring.

(Sorry, probably someone does want this, but… yes, it is truly a NAMM tradition to see someone trying it, again.)

Behringer are promising Roland System 100M modules. The German mass manufacturer was out ahead of the NAMM show with pre-production designs and prototypes based on Roland’s 100M series. Price is the lead here – US$49-99. Interestingly, what I didn’t see was people saying they’d opt for Behringer over other makers so much as that they might expand their system with these because of that low cost. Teenage Engineering also made a play for that “modular for the masses” mantle, though not in Eurorack.

Synthtopia did a good write-up of the prototype plans:
Behringer Plans 40 Eurorack Modules In The Next 2 Years, Priced at $49-99

Behringer did make this promise already back in April of last year – then, just in advance of the Superbooth show in Berlin – which I expect annoys other modular makers. But if you want Roland remakes right now, you can get them from – well, Roland, if at higher prices:

Roland’s new SYSTEM-500 modules, and why you might want them

Low cost, 2hp bells and grains and stuff.pocket operator modular system. And yes, while we might be talking about Behringer as the IKEA of modular, but for Teenage Engineering. TE have extended their pocket operator brand to a line of modular. It’s not Eurorack, but it is patchable and you can buy individual modules or a complete kit. I’m working on an in-depth interview with the teenagers, so stay tuned.

You actually do fold these things together – and prices run 399-549 EUR for a complete system.

https://teenageengineering.com/

That’s far from everything, but for me it’s the standouts. Any you’re excited about here – or anything I missed? Sound off in comments.

The post The synth modules of winter: your Eurorack radar appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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