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


Aaltoverb is a reverb you can play like an instrument (VST, AU)

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 23 Aug 2019 7:12 pm

Normally, when you touch reverb controls, you get weird clicks and ranges that make no sense… Aaltoverb is different. It’s a performance-friendly reverb effect, now as a Windows and Mac plug-in.

Madrona Labs are a boutique instrument builder in Seattle. How boutique? Well, their “about” page just has a nice picture of a tree. It’s basically three people – owner Randy Jones, plus Brian Willoughby (hardware guru) and Philip Kobernik (Web guru). But they’ve made some breakthrough creations. The Soundplane is a beautiful wooden controller that looks like it might be an exotic folk instrument, and helped establish MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression). And they’ve been innovators in modular software, including the Aalto modular plug-in, inspired by Buchla and West Coast synthesis methods.

As the name implies, Aaltoverb is a spinoff of Aalto – because some Aalto users were already so enamored by the reverb in the modular, they started using it on its own. But while Aalto means wrapping your head around another modular interface, pretty much anyone should be able to pick up Aalto and play around immediately.

And play around is exactly what you’ll be able to do, because Aaltoverb is a reverb you can play like an instrument.

Change the size parameter without hearing any clicks – for morphing reverb effects, or a ‘verb you can dial around onstage. (In place of clicks, you’ll get pitch shifting – closer to the sound of a tape delay than what you’d expect from most reverbs.)

There’s also an infinite decay time, which sits right at the top of the decay dial – so you can flick a controller and get a wash of sound, without requiring a more limited ‘freeze’ control.

And there’s the tone dial, too – a combination of low and high shelf EQs are overlapped so you get consistent sound shaping across the range without phase problems. Madrona Labs comprare it to the isolator on a DJ mixer.

All of this is US$35, with both the Mac and Windows license. (That suits me – Randy sent me one license, and I can use it on both my Mac and Windows laptops, which I tend to swap between sort … at random. Maybe that’s you, too.)

It’s 2019, so this is 64-bit AU and VST3 only. But for $35, no complaints. There’s also a nice manual.

Randy as always has done some wonderful trippy sounds as demos, which you’ll find on the product page:

https://madronalabs.com/products/aaltoverb

I’ve only just started playing with it, but I find it really elegant. I’m sure there are some other reverbs around that do this, but I can’t think of any with an interface this clear and musical.

http://madronalabs.com

The post Aaltoverb is a reverb you can play like an instrument (VST, AU) appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Making a stage powered by AI: inside GAMMA_LAB

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 21 Aug 2019 7:53 pm

What happens when you apply machine learning research to experimental sound – and then play live in front of a festival crowd? Recently, in St. Petersburg, RU, we got to find out.

Our team for Gamma_LAB AI gathered a diverse international team of artists, musicians, musicologists, coders, and researchers, including people who are deep in the field of data science work outside of the arts. (One of our co-hosts was juggling her work in path finding for drones – so not the usual media art approach to AI!) Organizing team (of which I was the only non-Russian member this time):

  • Natalia Fuchs, Curator
  • Julia Reushenova, Curatorial assistant
  • Helena Nikonole, Conceptual artist
  • Peter Kirn, Facilitator
  • Natalia Soboleva, Facilitator
  • Dr. Konstantin Yakovlev, Scientific advisor

… plus our partners, including tech partner Mail.ru Cloud Solutions.

Step one: come together for a 12-day laboratory, bringing us to St. Petersburg in May. That was our chance to learn from one another, take in some lectures, and get started with experiments – everything from digging through how to reconstruct baroque music to generating new sounds for techno and experimental improvisational performance. Participants came from everywhere from Kenya to just around the corner:

Ksenia Guznova (RU), Ilya Selikhov (DE), Anastasia Tolchneva (RU), Michal Mitro (SK), Mar Canet (ESP), Ilia Symphocat (RU), Thomas Disley (USA), Nikita Prudnikov (RU), Tatiana Zobnina (RU), Joseph Kamaru (KE), Egor Zvezdin (RU), Alexander Kiryanko (RU), Katarina Melik-Ovsepian (RU)

Step two – the big leap – come back to St. Petersburg in July, and in a raw industrial space, make the whole thing work for an audience of festival goers. That led to a full program:

A packed audience, ending in techno sounds and industrial installation (by Stanislav Glazov). Photo: Alexander Sharoff.
  • A live media art performance by co-host Helena Nikonole (hacking into Internet of Things devices in real-time from the stage)
  • An instrumental group of baroque musicians mixing together historical scores and freshly-generated AI libretto and melodies (led by harpsichordist Katarina Melik-Ovsepyan)
  • A mixed acoustic-electronic improv group working with machine learning-produced sounds trained on various experimental sound sources (Ilya Selikhov, Michal Mitro, Symphocat, and KMRU)
  • Live-coding duo with an original AI-powered encoder/decoder, built on the artists’ own recordings (Monekeer + Lovozero)
  • Yours truly making live techno from generative text, AI-generated loops, and style transfer

And all of this took place in a peak-time, Saturday night festival program, set in an apocalyptic looking ex brewery just before its demolition, complete with immersive, responsive lasers and light by Stanislav Glazov (Licht Pfad studio, Berlin).

Here’s the improv group, working live with their materials:

Some audio examples:

Live coded, custom AI from the duo Monekeer + Lovozero.

I spoke with curator Natalia Fuchs (ARTYPICAL), who put together the program with us. Natalia is right now presenting the project to MUTEK Festival in Montreal, and has worked not only as a curator and co-producer of GAMMA, but as an advisor to the current AI show at the Barbican Centre.

CDM: First, let’s put the lab in context – there’s Surgeon on one stage, pounding out techno, but then there’s the results of this laboratory, too. What’s the place of GAMMA_LAB inside Gamma Festival?

Natalia: Gamma_LAB is the heart of experimentation at the festival. We launched the LAB in May 2019 – that was a [big reponsibility] for us, because the LAB was self-funded, without any institutional or technological support. Only after the international open-call was announced, we started to get attention from the different partners that [have now] joined the project. By “responsibility” here I mean our relationship with the artists and the audience – we knew that experimental lab is just the first chapter, and the main message will be the conceptual AI stage at the festival.

What does it mean to have a lab inside a festival, to have a place that is making new stuff?

When programming the festival, we always feel like we want to represent local artists and quality local production. And Gamma_LAB is the cultural production unit for us. We focus the project on new artistic and curatorial solutions, on international collaborations – and that means we keep on track, stay connected, and help the community develop.

Baroque musicians – mixing historical scores with AI-constructed libretto and melodies – joined electronic artists. Photo: Alexander Sharoff.

What has been your relationship to AI as a curator – how would you relate your experience in GAMMA_LAB to your involvement with the Barbican show? CTM Festival? Other projects?

My connection to AI is coming from my general research interests: I am a media art historian and I am deeply concerned by the new media research in relation with AI nowadays. I find it extremely stimulating and exciting – this enormous philosophical quest towards finding the big “other.” So as soon as I started to work closely with Helena Nikonole, conceptual artist of Gamma_LAB, being a peer for her “deus x mchn” project at Rodchenko School in Moscow and advising this artwork to the “Open Codes” exhibition at ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, I was developing my curatorial approaches to art and AI. Then there were AI-related projects for the Barbican and CTM, but Gamma_LAB for me conceptually throwing my practice back to the Polytech.Science.Art program that I [previously was] curating at the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow. The way we build the processes here including theory, applied studies, performative aspects, it brings same strategy to the next level. In terms of the scale, Gamma_LAB with its connection to the Gamma Festival ([with its] 12000 visitors) has definitely jumped much higher.

Obviously, we know AI is buzzing. But do you feel there’s something unique about this particular set of collaborations – was there a sense that something different happened? In the process itself? In the results?

The engagement of the technical team was very different at the LAB. I think that we found the way to collaborate between disciplines in a way that is interesting for both – technology professionals and media artists. It makes the project very strong, I believe.

Live improv group. Photo: Alexander Sharoff.

There’s lots of curiosity as always about doing projects in Russia. What would you say the relationship of the Russian scene to the international scene is like? I’m certainly grateful for the unique expertise we had; maybe people aren’t so aware of how much technical skill and talent is in our Russian network?

We have had the long period of time when Russian science and technology was subject to control by the government. So internationalization of science is still happening very slowly in Russia. So I don’t think it’s a question of belief, but a question of historical memory. International interest in the technical skill and talent in the Russian network is definitely very strong , but people outside the country know that it was rather impossible to have successful collaboration due to political restrictions. So at the moment, we all have to go through these borders. And Gamma-LAB also supports open communication in the field of science, technology and arts.

The AI workshop began life with the exhibition and the workshop in Berlin – and now you’ve continued on to MUTEK. What’s the longer narrative there? And anything you can talk about as far as where this will go next, or what you hope will happen next with these projects?

The longer narrative is conducting proper artistic research on AI – but with curatorial supervision. Every international festival is interested in the development of cultural production, to expand contemporary culture strategies and be constantly engaged with audience feedback. The more serious collaborative experiences we have, the more profound cultural production is, the more meaningful art experiences can be delivered to the audience. We’re bringing this to the level of collaboration of the festival not only with artistic communities or applied technology makers, but with academic and scientific circles.

My hope is not related to any “next level,” though. I hope it will be the chance to develop a critical approach to AI and the arts. I think there’s no space where people can freely discover and form their own opinions on the AI matters [that compares with] the media art world and festival environments.

Helena, you got to approach joining our team from a different perspective, also haveing worked as a solo media artist. What was your experience?

Helena: The AI Stage… became, from my perspective, one of the most experimental and multi-genre stages at the festival. I showed my piece deus X mchn in the form of performance, which was presented before in a museum in an extremely different environment. Therefore, I thought it was interesting that showing this piece at the festival, I wasn’t planning to serve the expectations of some part of the audience, but then I realized that actually it was the feature of the stage.

Helena’s project has seen exhibition presentations before – but now it also got to share a festival stage, live in front of an audience, with uncertain and near-realtime results.

All performances, from baroque to noisy improvisation, from digital art to live coding performance could be shown in a museum, as well, and for me, the AI Stage was the best example of how a music festival can become a space for new media art and sophisticated experiments in sound and music. And yes, the audience was just awesome! Of course, some part of it were more used to going to raves than centers for contemporary art, but even these people were genuinely interested in what was happening at the stage, so finally, I was really surprised that sometimes a rave can also educate the audience.

https://gammafestival.ru/ [EN/RU]

http://artypical.com/

Photo: Nikita Grushevsky.
Photo: Nikita Grushevsky.

The post Making a stage powered by AI: inside GAMMA_LAB appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

MeeBlip cubit go: USB MIDI anywhere, with ultra-tight timing

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 15 Aug 2019 3:57 pm

Today, we’re announcing MeeBlip cubit go – a unique USB MIDI interface with incredibly tight timing.

cubit go has the ports you most often need when mobile – one input, so you can perform, and four outputs, for sending notes and/or clock.

Here’s the twist: we’ve integrated hardware MIDI thru circuitry on the four outputs. Anything you send to the interface’s output goes to all four jacks simultaneously. There’s no software delay – you get rock-solid, ultra-tight timing.

That makes cubit go the perfect follow-up to our cubit splitter, introduced earlier this year. You still get four outs with identical timing – but now in a USB MIDI interface you can connect to your computer or mobile device.

Cubit go is driverless and USB powered, so it works with any desktop OS, but also on phones and tablets (with the appropriate cables, sold separately). And the jacks are top-mounted for convenience.

Just plug it in and use it – there’s nothing to install, no separate power supply needed, and nothing to worry about. cubit go is palm-sized, lightweight, rugged, performs perfectly, and is easy to use. 

Features:

  • 1×1 USB MIDI interface with integrated hardware MIDI Thru
  • Class-compliant USB MIDI – no drivers needed
  • One input jack
  • Four hardware-mirrored output jacks – no software lag
  • High performance 32-bit ARM Cortex processor
  • Bright green MIDI light flashes when sending or receiving data for easy troubleshooting
  • Size: 108 x 76 x 25 mm (4.25 x 3 x 1 inches), weighs 110 g (3.9 oz)
  • Includes 1 m (3 ft) USB cable
  • USB powered
  • Works with macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android*
  • Made in Canada, available only direct

cubit go is available now for US$59.95, with free worldwide shipping for a limited time, along with our geode synthesizer.

Buy it now

The mission of MeeBlip is to get musicians – and CDM readers – playing instruments easily, whether they’re a beginner or expert. So if we help make sure stuff is plugged in and playing, the cubit tools are doing their job. Let us know what you think and if there’s more stuff you’d want to see.

As with our past products, we made something we want to use, too. I’m definitely using my cubits all the time, so I’m excited now we get some in your hands, too.

https://meeblip.com/products/meeblip-cubit-go

Previously:

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Here’s how the Sensel Morph’s custom touch control works

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 13 Aug 2019 6:57 pm

The Sensel Morph’s specialized touch control lets you apply both multi-touch position and force (how hard you press). Some new and recent videos make it clear how to customize that for your different tools.

The Morph isn’t alone in the force + multi-touch position game. The growth of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) depends on multiple controllers. But the Morph tool is uniquely adaptable, thanks to specialized overlays that let it adopt different layouts. So, as I’ve written before, you can swap between a musical control setup for a live show (say, with the Buchla Thunder overlay), and a different overlay for video editing (and fire up Premiere or Final Cut), and so on.

Peter Nyboer from Sensel is a perfect person to explain all this. Now we get to see his full presentation from Perfect Circuit in LA, right in the comfort of our own home. (The magic of the Internet – behold! It’s like we can be everywhere at once, instantly! Or something.)

Here’s his full talk on the overlays and how the customization software works – that last one being a big point, I know:

If you’re looking for a standalone control device, this isn’t it – it’s really more about being lightweight. But I do find the nice thing about the Morph is that it’s small enough you can put it in your backpack and forget about it – even more so than the iPad, and with greater accuracy and force sensing that the iPad lacks.

Sensel have also been busy with additional tutorials on how to work with the Morph. Bitwig Studio gets interesting because of its native MPE support – and there are custom control surface scripts there. (Bitwig seems well-suited to just this sort of tinkerer application.)

You don’t even need to buy a Bitwig Studio license to get started – there’s an included Studio 8-Track license included with the Morph.

It’s really the Buchla overlay that puts things over the top for me. Buchla himself had it right – this diagonal layout just ideally fits under the hand, especially for something performative.

And yeah, here’s the Buchla looking right at home with a modular setup – just as this controller was intended:

Here’s more on how the Morph works with MPE:

Find more at the Sensel Morph product page:

https://sensel.com/pages/the-sensel-morph

The post Here’s how the Sensel Morph’s custom touch control works appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

One little MeeBlip meets one giant Hainbach wall of sound

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 12 Aug 2019 5:22 pm

Mobile synth, meet wall of synths with knobs bigger than your hand. I got to take our new MeeBlip geode for a friendly visit with the legendary Hainbach and his lair of huge vintage analog gear. Here’s what happened.

MeeBlip geode

Hainbach is my kind of YouTuber – his channel is a nonstop flow of creative use and misuse of vintage gear, from cassettes to test equipment, paired with thoughtful ambient and experimental music. And it’s clear his passion for that equipment is driven by an obsession with producing his unique musical sound.

I asked Hainbach if maybe we could show our MeeBlip synth and have a jam, and he invited me round his house – and this is the result. (That’s how the Internet should always work, I think!)

There’s not a whole lot of MIDI in his studio, so we made use of the inexpensive KORG SQ-1 step sequencer, which is also pint-sized like our MeeBlip. Most of the MeeBlip sounds you hear are dry, but there’s also some reverb and delay from the cult favorite Alesis Wedge.

For his part, Hainbach starts out with the lovely Roland SH-09 monosynth for that lush opening tone, then adds a cassette loop. But much of the sound is from the “wall of sound” full of test equipment. This oversized, gorgeous gear was – well, until we all popularized it online – pretty cheap to come by until recently. It’s now antiquated and past retirement age in industries like telecommunications for which it was originally intended – but as a synth, it can last forever. Hainbach has explained what it’s all about, and I’ve also previously described an open laboratory in Rotterdam specializing in the setup.

Bigger than a MeeBlip.

The fun part is really getting to put the two together. Hainbach is a focused listener and improviser, so he’s terrific to play with – and this is really one take, since he had to run to pick up his kid right after the shoot.

“There’s so much to play in there… impressively playable.” Thanks, sir. So we actually can compete with enormous vintage test boxes, I guess.

We are shipping now at meeblip.com:

MeeBlip geode

And you’ll find more on Hainbach’s Patreon subscription. Plus do check his music; it’s terrific, and also really enjoyed the couple of times I’ve seen him live.

The post One little MeeBlip meets one giant Hainbach wall of sound appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

One little MeeBlip meets one giant Hainbach wall of sound

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 12 Aug 2019 5:22 pm

Mobile synth, meet wall of synths with knobs bigger than your hand. I got to take our new MeeBlip geode for a friendly visit with the legendary Hainbach and his lair of huge vintage analog gear. Here’s what happened.

MeeBlip geode

Hainbach is my kind of YouTuber – his channel is a nonstop flow of creative use and misuse of vintage gear, from cassettes to test equipment, paired with thoughtful ambient and experimental music. And it’s clear his passion for that equipment is driven by an obsession with producing his unique musical sound.

I asked Hainbach if maybe we could show our MeeBlip synth and have a jam, and he invited me round his house – and this is the result. (That’s how the Internet should always work, I think!)

There’s not a whole lot of MIDI in his studio, so we made use of the inexpensive KORG SQ-1 step sequencer, which is also pint-sized like our MeeBlip. Most of the MeeBlip sounds you hear are dry, but there’s also some reverb and delay from the cult favorite Alesis Wedge.

For his part, Hainbach starts out with the lovely Roland SH-09 monosynth for that lush opening tone, then adds a cassette loop. But much of the sound is from the “wall of sound” full of test equipment. This oversized, gorgeous gear was – well, until we all popularized it online – pretty cheap to come by until recently. It’s now antiquated and past retirement age in industries like telecommunications for which it was originally intended – but as a synth, it can last forever. Hainbach has explained what it’s all about, and I’ve also previously described an open laboratory in Rotterdam specializing in the setup.

Bigger than a MeeBlip.

The fun part is really getting to put the two together. Hainbach is a focused listener and improviser, so he’s terrific to play with – and this is really one take, since he had to run to pick up his kid right after the shoot.

“There’s so much to play in there… impressively playable.” Thanks, sir. So we actually can compete with enormous vintage test boxes, I guess.

We are shipping now at meeblip.com:

MeeBlip geode

And you’ll find more on Hainbach’s Patreon subscription. Plus do check his music; it’s terrific, and also really enjoyed the couple of times I’ve seen him live.

The post One little MeeBlip meets one giant Hainbach wall of sound appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Here’s the biggest guitar in the southern hemisphere, in a free sample library

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 8 Aug 2019 4:26 pm

The remote town of Narrandera, New South Wales has its hemisphere’s biggest guitar – like “the guitar that ate Australia” big. And it’s already inspired plenty of free music, plus a free sample library you can download for yourself.

Big is impressive. A giant guitar is a tourist attraction, that’s for sure. But big is also sonorous – this oversized instrument also has a unique timbre in the bass register, made possible because of its size.

Not just a little large – the Big Guitar is freakin’ huge. Here’s Tom “DJ Wasabi” Jones, who co-created the free sample library with Bassling, readying to record.

So it’s well worth checking out this free library of sounds, all Creative Commons licensed – all they ask is some credit and tags in return. Friend of the site Bassling (Jason Richardson) did an ace, professional job of capturing the Narrandera guitar in all its splendor, alongside Tom ‘Wasabi’ Jones.

It’s available ready-to-use in Ableton Live and Native Instruments Kontakt formats, but you could easily adapt the sounds to any instrument you wish.

The Big Guitar [with downloads]

That unique sound has already caught the attention of composers, both locally in NSW and abroad through the power of the Internet (that’s you).

The wonderful experimental music site Disquiet has just completed one of its legendary Junto Project episodes with sounds from Narrandera, as part of an ongoing series of community-driven music challenges. It’s called “Acoustic Expanse,” even if I would have gone for “huge-a*** guitar,” but the results are great. Check it out:

Here’s Bassling’s own composition:

By the way, if you’re wondering why there are all these “in the Southern Hemisphere” disclaimers, that’s because evidently New Jersey outdid Australia in the freakishly big territory. (I couldn’t find another acoustic as big as the Narrandera instrument, though – maybe someone else knows more.)

Jersey City’s Liberty Science Center claimed that honor with this oversized electric v-neck, an exhibit for a show called “Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked The World.” Source: The Guardian

Somehow making a giant acoustic is more impressive to me, though, so let us know if you know of something equally enormous.

In the piano category, we already have an instrument here in Germany – and a sample library, to match, The Giant, aka the Klavins 370i.

http://latin-piano.com/details_370i_en.htm

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/keys/the-giant/

There’s a whole oversized band coming together; I can feel it.

More pics, for scale:

Composer Fiona Caldarevic.

The post Here’s the biggest guitar in the southern hemisphere, in a free sample library appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Is Captain Picard set to go to an ultra-futuristic NAMM show?

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 5 Aug 2019 1:20 pm

Location scouts must have been having a slow day as they imagined the late 24th Century. A teaser trailer for the new Star Trek: Picard clearly shows the exterior of – the Anaheim Convention Center.

I hope he’s ready for some hair metal.

Yes, the building you see in the teaser is the unmodified exterior of the southern California exposition center, which hosts America’s largest music instrument trade show. I’m genuinely surprised no one else has commented on it, because it’s hard for me to watch the trailer without thinking “oh, God, not NAMM!” The trailer shows a big shot of the exterior, plus some action shots around the roof; it seems we can expect more. Presumably this is a Starfleet or Starfleet Academy building.

In the past, Trek has intentionally used recognizable Bay Area locations to situate its futuristic Starfleet administrative buildings in an imagined future. (Heroic humpback whales and 80s jokes, optional.) Unless Starfleet has some Anaheim branch I don’t know about and a … peculiar 24th century approach to historical preservation … I’m going to put this one more in the “oh crap let’s find a cheap location in the LA area” files.

That should not stop any speculation, however.

Will NAMM still be held in the late 24th Century? Well, there’s no money, supposedly, but let’s presume the acronym will have been long forgotten, but it is totally plausible the NAMM convention will still be in Anaheim and in the same building, yes.

I’m guessing Picard has gone there to check out some flute vendors. (I mean, obviously.)

But with apologies to Barry Wood, I think that the Federation may now be the strangest ever NAMM Oddity.

As Captain Picard would surely say in a meeting – opinions?

The post Is Captain Picard set to go to an ultra-futuristic NAMM show? appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Romance and underground, the world of SOMA Laboratory’s machines

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 31 Jul 2019 7:30 pm

“Underground romantic engineering” is the motto of up-and-coming gearmaker SOMA Laboratory. Here’s a look at the Russian-Polish foundry creating wild new electronic instruments – and their latest creation.

Music store All For DJ has become a badly-needed new hub for Moscow’s electronic producers. Despite the name, they’re host to all kind of electronic instruments. I met the folks operating the retailer earlier this summer, and it’s an oasis – easy access to lots of gear, which had until recently sometimes been a challenge in Russia, and also tons of information (including a Russian-language blog).

And they’re producing documentaries, like this one looking at SOMA. It’ll definitely be up CDMers’ alley – Ukrainian-Russian creator Vlad Kreimer is the kind of mad scientist experimental musician we love. Now, his Lyra-8 has become a sought-after, one-of-a-kind instrument, and he’s teaming up with Vyacheslav Grigoriev (previously of VG-Line). (Vyacheslav joined me last year on a panel for Synthposium in Moscow, talking about his upbringing in electronics in the USSR.) The operation is growing, with operations both in Russia and Poland, as the electronic music community embraces exactly this sort of strange.

The film is a beautiful and intimate portrait of the creators and their ideas (subtitled in English):

The Lyra synth is like a “book, album, work of art that contains a message,” says Vlad. And there’s a new tome coming – the Pulsar-23, which brings the same ethos to drum machines. Its release is eagerly anticipated, with photos (seen here) showing it in final prototype state, about to hit production. (Advance buyers are apparently bugging them for that.)

Vlad showed off the new box at Superbooth in Berlin in May (which I missed, ironically, as I had to fly to St. Petersburg – positions keep swapping):

PULSAR-23 presentation on Superbooth 2019

Gepostet von Vlad Kreimer am Sonntag, 12. Mai 2019

Selekta.fm did a hands-on, too, and – wow, that sound.

Selekta also did a full interview:

I hope I get to experience this drum machine in person, soon, as well. Best with the project to SOMA. Meanwhile, behold:

The post Romance and underground, the world of SOMA Laboratory’s machines appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Grainstation-C is a free granular tool with ambisonics, and an album to match

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Jul 2019 8:39 pm

It started as an artist tool, but it could become yours, as well. Grainstation-C is a free and open source sound creation workstation that’s playable live and supports ambisonic spatial sound. And the music its creators makes is ethereal and wonderful.

Micah Frank, noted sound designer and toolmaker as well as composer/musician, produced Grainstation-C for his own work but has expanded it to an open source offering for everybody. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while, and I think it could appeal both to people looking for a unique tool as well as those wanting to learn a bit more about granular sound in Csound.

https://github.com/chronopolis5k/Grainstation-C [link + full installation instructions, etc.]

http://csound.com/download.html [requisite Csound install]

The engine: 4 streams from disk, 3 streams from live input. Live audio looping, multiple grain controls, six independent pitch delay lines, six switchable low- and high-pass filters. Snapshot saving.

Powered by: Csound, the modern free and open source sound creation tool that evolved from the grandparent of all digital audio tools.

Live control: It’s pre-mapped to the eminently useful Novation LaunchControl XL MK2, but you could easily remap it to other MIDI controllers if you prefer.

Ambisonics: This optional spatial audio processing lets you use a standard format to adapt to immersive sound environments – in three-dee! Or not, as you like.

It’s deep stuff – even with different granular modes and controls (time stretching, frame animation, pitch shifting). The inspiration, says Micah, was the now-discontinued System Concrète, a complete MakeNoise modular rig that combined grains with modulation, filtering, and delays. But – as is easily possible with software, unconstrained by knobs and space and money – he kept going from there.

Equally notable is the ethereal, beautiful album Quetico that also debuts this week, on Micah’s own Puremagnetik record label. Once, the line between toolmakers and musicians, engineers and composers was thought sacred – even with elaborate explanations about why the two couldn’t be compared. But just as electronic artists have demolished other sacred walls (club and concert, for instance), Micah is part of a generation doing away with those old prejudices.

And the results are richly sensual – warm waves of sound processed from Yellowstone geysers and Big Sur nights, Micah says. It’s classic ambient music, and the tool simply melts away, the essential craft of delivering a palette of sound. At the same time, being transparent with the tools is the ultimate confidence in one’s own musical invention. Micah’s Puremagnetik was a business built in making sounds for others, and yet both the album and free tool suggest the limitless possibility of that act of sharing.

In any event, this is acousmatic creation of the finest quality, with or without the GitHub link. And Micah is getting some deserved recognition, too, with a 2019 New York Foundation award for the Arts Fellow in Music and Sound.

With so much of the sound out of my country of origin the United States ugly, it’s wonderful to hear beautiful algorithmic sounds derived from the nation’s national parks instead.

https://micahfrank.bandcamp.com/album/quetico

Image credit: “Yellowstone 8/07”by stevetulk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The post Grainstation-C is a free granular tool with ambisonics, and an album to match appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

1000 free Novation presets from Legowelt, Emily Sprague, Shawn Rudiman…

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Jul 2019 7:57 pm

Novation are going patch crazy, with 1000 free artist patches for their Peak synth and newest Summit. And they come from some of our favorite artists.

“Presets,” “artists,” blah blah… but wait, the lineup here includes Legowelt, Craig Williams, Lightbath, Hinako Omori, Emily Sprague, and Shawn Rudiman, plus others to be announced.

Novation use their Components Web interface to deliver updates, content, and expanded functionality to their users, and they’ve been pioneers in innovative use of the tech for that role. That interface has sometimes been in need of a refresh, though, and so the other big news is that they’ve overhauled the UI.

Now you can see the Bank Editor next to content, you can filter presets, and you can choose to see your own stuff alongside Novation’s if you choose. Plus – mercifully – login isn’t mandatory any more (though you’ll need it to authenticate your own content you store online, of course).

Peak and Summit are well suited to some clever patch design, what with multiple synthesis methods simultaneously, modulation, and effects. It’ll be interested to see what they’ve cooked up.

More:

https://novationmusic.com/peak-summit-presets

Speaking of Legowelt and Shawn, flashback time:

The post 1000 free Novation presets from Legowelt, Emily Sprague, Shawn Rudiman… appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Make music with mobile, MeeBlip, and one connection – here’s how (iOS, Android)

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 25 Jul 2019 7:40 pm

It’s liberating – just take your phone or tablet, plug in a USB cable, and you can make music on this hardware synth anywhere. Here’s how to do that, with our MeeBlip geode, plus some tips on the best apps for both iOS and Android.

Inspiration is a funny thing, and somehow in the process of hunting around for interfaces and power sockets, you can wind up staring at a tangle of cables and no idea of what it was you were trying to do. So, I’m already finding it surprisingly empowering to be able to use the new USB port on the MeeBlip geode for both power and MIDI (sequencing notes and control). Every smartphone I’ve tested, plus the iPad, will gladly power the geode from the same connection.

Why not just use an app? Well, with the geode plugged in, you get some nice feeling knobs and switches, plus that grimy, dirty MeeBlip sound – and its screaming analog filter. To look at it the other way, all you need for different interfaces for playing this module, from step sequencers to touch keyboards, is your handy mobile gadget.

That also led me on a search for the best apps that support MIDI out. Not all do, Apple’s own GarageBand for iOS being notably incapable of the feat (unlike its Mac sibling). I also spoke with Ashley Elsdon, our resident mobile geek, for additional tips. So these apps will be working with lots of my other MIDI gear, too. And while I thought the Huawei Android handheld that I just got to replace my iPhone would leave me disappointed as far as music apps, I was glad to find some excellent Android-platform stuff, too. (For once, we don’t have to leave y’all out.)

First, here are a couple of jams on iOS, audio straight from the out jack of the MeeBlip. And these two I think count as my two favorite live performance tools for iOS (so far):

Mobile MeeBlip in action!

StepPolyArp may have been one of the first music apps I got for the iPad, actually. It’s an intuitive, deep combination of a piano roll editor for graphically drawing patterns, an arpeggiator, and a step sequencer. It syncs to Ableton Link, though I’ve also used plain MIDI clock. And yes, you can get grimy sounds out of geode, in case you didn’t know that.

https://dev.laurentcolson.com/steppolyarp.html

Arpeggionome Pro has a unique grid (influenced by the likes of the Tenori-On), and runs on both iPhone and iPad – it’s great handheld. Because of its particular approach to harmony and rhythm, it can lead you to some patterns you’d never play on a normal arpeggiator, let alone on a keyboard (unless you’re seriously some kind of pinball wizard). And yes, it also boasts Ableton Link support, so you can wireless sync up to another app or computer running lots of different software (not just Ableton Live).

It’s also on iOS, though ARPIO is an Android port from the original developer, and just lacks MIDI support – please, please!

More app ideas

On Android, there’s a powerful MIDI sequencer/arpeggiator toolkit that lets you build your own patterns:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=midi.midi.midi.looper.free&hl=en_US

Wildly enough, you can even use the Virtual ANS, a reimagining of a vintage Soviet synth, with MIDI output. The developer tells me he’s working on bringing that same MIDI output to his excellent tracker/production tool SunVox, where it makes more sense:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=nightradio.virtualans3

Various production tools on Android also do MIDI output, though perhaps the easiest to use would be Touch DAW, which simply acts as a general-purpose MIDI controller for everything – including a keyboard.

iOS is as usual richer with options. Ashley / Palm Sounds recommends considering MIDI plug-ins, too.

apeMatrix as host + AUv3 MIDI plug-ins

Rozeta sequencer suite from our friend Ruismaker (or if you want to get really fancy, try scripting your own MIDI with Mozaic)

And there’s Fugue Machine, also from Alexandernaut who built Arpeggionome above, which could be wild. I might have to try that with multiple MeeBlips, uh, fuguing. Stay tuned.

Or think of Modstep, a powerful sequencer with scene triggering

What do you need for the connection?

On many new Android devices, you can actually plug a cable directly between your phone (USB-C) and the MeeBlip (USB-B). Otherwise, you’ll need a USB OTG adapter. These run about ten bucks (ah, this obviously isn’t from Apple).

On iOS with only Lightning connections, you need an adapter. The best of these is Apple’s Lightning to USB3 Camera Connection Kit. It’s pricey, but it gives you both a USB-A and a separate Lightning breakout, so you can power your iPad or iPhone and connect USB at the same time, rather than drain the battery. It’s reliable enough to use live onstage, and it’s what you’ll see me using in these images.

Of course, on a computer with a standard USB connection, you don’t need any special adapters.

Regardless, you’re sure to be able to quickly connect your MeeBlip in the studio or at home, and you can even mess around with ideas on the go or busk at the park or picnic.

MeeBlip geode is shipping now. Grab one if you don’t have it already for US$149.95, direct from us.

https://meeblip.com/

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The Sony cassette recorder that went to space and predicted the Walkman

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 24 Jul 2019 2:17 pm

Sony’s Walkman turned 40 earlier this month. But look to the TC-50 before it for some of the technology and usability innovations that changed the world – and joined the Apollo mission – plus a glimpse of where music might boldly go next.

Sony’s story will sound familiar to a lot of today’s sound DIYers, synth makers, and Eurorack inventors. The operation began with a cheap disused space and a few people learning on the job by repairing electronics. The company might be known for transforming cassettes, but earlier projects involved a rice cooker and an electric cushion.

But long before Apple, it was Sony that introduced the world – and especially the lucrative American market – to the idea of miniaturized portable electronics. That included the TR series transistor radio. (Oh, note the other similarity – yes, it’s a safe bet that Roland’s Western-friendly brand name and XX-NNN product names are inspired by the likes of Sony and Sanyo.)

And that brings us to the TC series cassette recorders. There’s really a lot in these devices that predicts not only the Walkman, but devices like the iPhone, as well. As with transistor radios, miniaturized electronics enable a design that becomes personal and portable, which changes the whole relationship of user to device.

The 1968 TC-50 looks elegant and modern even by today’s standards. It combines a number of key innovations that make that possible – not necessarily invented by Sony or by the TC-50, but combined in a single product in a way that transforms that technology into user experience:

Integrated circuits. ICs are what has brought us the entire consumer electronics – and musical electronics – revolution. The chip replaces whole circuits of separate components. On the TC-50, that lets the design revolve around the user’s hand, the controls, the mic, and the cassette – everything else more or less disappears. Sony began in the 50s designing its own components, thanks to tech it had licensed from Bell.

Compact component mounting. This is actually equally as big a deal – each component’s mounts are also reduced, which further miniaturizes the design.

Built-in microphone. This is the innovation that’s the reason the TC-50 went into space – and while we take it for granted now, it’s what cleared a pathway for the likes of the iPhone. Sony’s custom mic design is small, integrated with the device, but still records high-quality audio. When NASA equipped its astronauts with the TC-50, it was for personal memo recording, not mix tapes (though more on the latter in a moment). That personal functionality also establishes the handheld device as a portable companion. If that seems a stretch when talking about the iPhone (even with “phone” in the title), I might also observe that Apple has told me its Voice Memos app is one of its most popular.

One-handed, wireless operation. Here’s the other big innovation that brings it all together. The entire design – placement and operation of buttons, form factor – is built to enable one-handed operation. Just as with so many accessibility innovations, that in turn yields unexpected advantages. In the case of the TC-50, it meant astronauts could record audio while wearing their bulky spacesuit gloves, starting with Apollo 7 and most famously on the Apollo 11 moon voyage. That kind of usability thinking would go on to inspire companies like Apple, and it’s always worth revisiting. (When I worked on WretchUp with Mouse on Mars, I did a lot of adjustment work with Andi to design gestural controls that you could use with a single hand, and even without looking closely at the device, for onstage use.)

Natural industrial design, focused on materials. You can almost hear Jony Ive marveling at the luxurious, exposed “aluminium” – and yes, years before he met Ive, Steve Jobs also saw Sony as a personal design inspiration (alongside Braun and Mercedes-Benz). The TC-50 came too soon to benefit from the 21st Century’s economy of scale, so you can bet the “luxury” of that aluminum surface had a price tag attached. But Sony excelled at modern adoption of these material processes, which had allowed it to work with companies like watchmaker Bulova back to the TR-55 transistor radio. And so it is that today’s smartphones also telegraph their use of strong materials. See also this excellent story on the 1972 TC-55, which starts to look more like a Walkman, and moves public perception from “cheap plastic” to “fine metal.”

Apollo and the TC-50

NASA astronauts definitely used portable cassette recorders, the Sony TC-50 being one. They also made famous use of a modified Hasselblad 70mm film camera, including on the lunar landing during Apollo 11 (see National Air and Space Museum).

I found some differing accounts of which missions the recorder was aboard. Sony themselves note the TC-50 debuted on Apollo 7, the mission that was the first Apollo to carry a crew (and the first human spaceflight mission after the conclusion of Gemini and the tragic Apollo 1 launchpad fire). The TC-50 also got pretty close to the moon on Apollo 10, the key mission that simulated the lunar descent.

From the accounts I’ve read, it sounds as though there was a TC-50 on Apollo 11, but it probably didn’t go “to the moon” in that it seems it stayed aboard the Apollo Command Module, not the Lunar Module that made the trip to the moon’s surface. And Buzz Aldrin did request a mix of music for the trip, dubbed to the compact cassette format of the TC-50.

Astronaut Walter Cunningham during Apollo 7. You can’t see the Sony cassette recorder, but you can see an equally iconic piece of AV equipment of the Space Age – the Hasselblad, at top. (You can hear the Sony, slightly, on the voice recording of Apollo 11.) Photo: NASA.
One more of Cunningham, who piloted the lunar module on Apollo 7. Did I mention usability considerations were important in space? Yeah, the crew using the TC-50 relied on it being accessible in extreme situations. Photo: NASA.

Vanity Fair learned the details of the Apollo 11 mixtape from record exec Mickey Kapp in an interview late last year:

Music on the Moon: Meet Mickey Kapp, Master of Apollo 11’s Astro-Mixtapes

They made the essential playlist for Spotify, natch:

One Aldrin favorite, now featured in the upcoming documentary on the mission, is this poignant – and self-critical, self-aware, hardly jingoistic – John Stewart release:

There’s nothing particularly cosmic in the mix; the choices are sentimental, personal. When they go to the lunar theme, they’re lush and romantic as much as trippy. And they’re singular; this isn’t background music. I think that says something about our connection to music, something that generative tunes or machine learning are unlikely ever to replace – they’re still, you know, songs.

The mix for Buzz was made in a living room, reports VF, complete with mistakes. That’s something that’s been unquestionably lost, and even at the time must have stood in contrast to the mission-critical clockwork of a space mission.

I wonder, though, if the TC-50 doesn’t point us to a fresh perspective on music. Right now, so much of our thinking about how music should be shared is stuck in the past. Whether lamenting the loss of tangible media and record stores, or defending them by stalwartly DJing with “vinyl only” sets, the whole conversation is framed by what was.

The TC-50, apart from having been aboard humankind’s most audacious mission yet out of our planet’s orbit, isn’t bound by any of that past. It’s informed by watchmaking-quality metals and the iteration of electronics. But it’s designed anew around the best quality of each of those disciplines. It looks familiar and inevitable to us only because we are the children of the age it shaped.

That is to say, maybe the first and most reasonable answer to the question of “what should music listening look like in the future” might well be I don’t know. The people at Sony didn’t know right away. They cut their teeth on rice cookers in the wreckage of a ruined empire, dug deep into the latest advances from Bell in the USA, and spent incalculable hours just disassembling someone else’s electronics, and putting them back together so they worked again. Sony’s first introduction to the cassette was hitting on a technology that improved on primitive wire recorders they’d seen in military use. Apollo for its part was built on iterations from missiles and ran on computers whose memory was woven together, literally, by textile workers.

We live in an era that values fast answers and quick financial returns, but the very breakthroughs that make those people so rich weren’t brainstormed in a coworking center on a whiteboard by someone microdosing LSD. They were crafted over years through hands-on, sweat and tears work on physical materials and engineering.

Maybe we don’t need new devices or new physical media for sound – that’s possible. We’ll certainly need devices to record sound and to play music; anything that must be touched can’t simply be streamed.

I suspect, too, that we may see new devices for listening, built around new developments in immersive sound.

I also think it’s telling that the TC-50 was a recording and creation device as well as listening device, and that those functions were ultimately linked. The smartphone fits that mold, of course – but other as-yet-undreamt-of devices could go there, as well, in ways the smartphone can’t.

So why not return to some of that day-in, day-out engineering and craft to find the next big thing?

Some of the TC-50s still work, too:

Image at top – Dave Scott peeks out of the Apollo 10 Command Module, in this photo shot by Rusty Schweickart as the Lunar Module was docked, in a “dress rehearsal” of Apollo 11. Photo: NASA.

PS – I have no idea what kind of audio or film equipment was used aboard Soviet missions of this period, so maybe my Russian friends or space buffs can answer that.

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Signal adds the modulation Ableton is missing – and now does steps, crossfader

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 22 Jul 2019 5:12 pm

Signal from Isotonik was already a revelation – a powerful toolkit for adding modulation to Ableton Live. But curves, step sequences, and crossfades add real motion and transformation to your music.

Darren of Isotonik Studios has been busy documenting how to use this with some no-nonsense, clear video tutorials. It’s the latest episode, adding Steps and Crossfader module, that gets really exciting:

The new module Steps alone is reason to write home. It’s capable both of the titular step-sequenced, fixed steps, but curves, as well. And while you’ll find modulation built in in tools like FL Studio, Reason, and Bitwig Studio, the implementation via Max for Live by Isotonik has some really lovely usability that stands alone.

The Crossfader is unique, too – this isn’t just a mixer for audio signals, but modulation sources, as well.

Cross-fading LFO signals.

It’s worth checking the other videos, too. Episode two looked at the cult hit VST plug-in Serum, creating sound design with Signal in combination. And even with Massive X just out, this is some interesting stuff:

You’ll probably want to start at the beginning, which introduces Freeze and LFO (since I’m listing these in reverse chronological order):

You’ll notice the Chaos Culture moniker on there; this is their creation. You’ll probably want Live 10 Suite, but anything Live 9.7.5 or later, plus an active Max for Live 8.0.2 license, will work, across Mac and Windows.

It’s so deep, it suggests whole new workflows and compositional ideas, so I’ll be sure to start some music from scratch with this one. But it’s really quite well done, and a rich enough approach to modulation that developers on other environments may well want to have a look.

Signal is €88.05 – pricey for a Max for Live creation, but then possibly even bigger than any recent Live upgrade from Ableton themselves. If you have a go, let us know how it works; I’ll try to post some more impressions in August.

https://isotonikstudios.com/product/signal/

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Learn how to arrange your modular tracks with VCV Rack, Ableton Live

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 16 Jul 2019 1:53 pm

It’s one of the first challenges with any modular – you get a wild banging groove, but then… you’re stuck with it. One new video tutorial suggests a way to arrange your modular with Ableton Live and free VCV Rack software.

Live’s real-time arrangement and triggering features have always been part of its appeal – something exploited by everyone from live electronic musicians to those triggering sounds for radio and theater. Here, it’s a great way to take your cabled modular concoctions and actually turn them into a song structure or live performance. But it may not be immediately obvious to beginners how to go about it.

The inspiring VCV Rack ideas comes to the rescue here. It’s been updated for the just-release VCV Rack 1.0.

Now the audio advice here is actually soon to become outdated – Bridge will go away later this year, and you’ll be able to run Rack as a plug-in. But you can actually skip that part if you want to go another route, and just let Rack control your audio interface and send MIDI from Ableton Live.

(You could also apply this on Linux easily, with Bitwig Studio in place of Live – think I’ll try that myself, in fact.)

But the basic idea here is, run MIDI from Live to Rack, and use clips and scenes to trigger changes. There are some clever ideas about how to map control via CV and MIDI, and then the really important step is adding a physical controller, so you can get your hands on the live performance and improvise.

Note that while this example uses VCV Rack, you could apply the same ideas to any modular with MIDI input – or even mix in a partial or complete hardware set with the same rig. And watching this I also imagine some other ideas for where to go; this is by definition an open-ended process. Have a look:

Have you got another way of working? We’d love to hear about it in comments.

By the way, if you’re at SONAR this week, I’ll be giving a workshop with VCV Rack on Friday. (You need a delegate pass / pre-registration. But of course I’ll share some of how it goes here on CDM soon.)

https://sonarplusd.com/en/programs/barcelona-2019/areas/workshops/the-no-money-modular-synth-for-beginners-with-peter-kirn

Previously:

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