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


Playdate is an indie game handheld with a crank from Teenage Engineering, Panic

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 23 May 2019 9:08 pm

Playdate is a Game Boy-ish gaming handheld with a hand crank on it, wired for delivering indie and experimental games weekly. And it comes from an unlikely collaboration: Mac/iOS developer Panic with synth maker Teenage Engineering.

Yes, that svelte retro industrial look and unmistakable hand crank are the influence of prolific Swedish game house Teenage Engineering. And TE have already demonstrated their love of cranks on their synths, the OP-1 and OP-Z.

This isn’t a Teenage Engineering product, though – and here’s the even more surprising part. The handheld hardware comes from Panic, the long-time Mac and iOS developer. I’ve been a Panic owner over the years, having used their FTP and Web dev products early on in CDM’s life, as did a couple of my designers, and even messing around with Mac icons obsessively back in the day.

But now Panic are doing games – the spooky Wyoming mystery Firewatch, which has earned them some real street cred, and an upcoming thing with a goose.

The really interesting twist here is that the “Playdate” title is a reference to games that appear weekly. And this is where I might imagine this whole thing dovetailing with music. I mean, first, music and indie games naturally go hand in hand, and from the very start of CDM, the game community have been into strange music stuff.

The obvious crossover at some point would be some unusual music games and without question some kind of music creation tool – like nanoloop or LittleGPTracker. nanoloop got its own handheld iteration recently – see below – but this would be a natural hardware platform too.

Even barring that, though, I imagine some dovetailing audiences for this. And it does look cute.

Specs:
400×240 (that’s way more resolution than the original Game Boy), black and white screen
No backlight (okay, so kind of a pain for handheld chip music performance)
Built-in speaker (a little one)
D-pad, A and B switches
USB-C connector
… and it looks like there is a headphone jack

Not sure what the buttons on top and next to the display do – power and lock, maybe?

Involved game designers are tantalizing, too – and have some interesting music connections:

Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy)

Zach Gage (SpellTower, Ridiculous Fishing)

Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, and – music lead again, he was the bassist in Cut Copy, remember them?)

Shaun Inman (also a game composer, as well as a designer of Retro Game Crunch, The Last Rocket, Flip’s Escape, etc.)

This takes me back to that one time I hosted a one-button game exhibition at GDC (the game developer conference) with Kokoromi, the Montreal game collective. That has accessibility implications, too, including for music. (Flashback to their game showcase at the same time.) So there is crossover here, I mean – and intersecting interests between composers and game designers, too.

US$149 will buy you the console and a 12 game subscription. Coming early 2020.

Music connections or no, it looks like a toy we’ll want to have.

https://play.date/

EDGE, the print mag, has an exclusive – with an excerpt of that feature online:

https://play.date/edge/

Thanks to Oliver Chesler for the tip.

Obvious marketing campaign, though only for Panic wanting to market to Americans of my age or so…

The post Playdate is an indie game handheld with a crank from Teenage Engineering, Panic appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Turn your iPad or iPhone into a scriptable MIDI tool with Mozaic

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 20 May 2019 6:07 pm

Its creator describes it as a “workshop in a plug-in.” Mozaic lets you turn your iOS device into a MIDI filter/controller that does whatever you want – a toolkit for making your own MIDI gadgets.

Oh yeah and it’s just US$6.99, which is absurd but awesome.

The beauty of this, of course, is that you can have whatever tools you want without having to wait for someone else to make them for you. Developer Bram Bos has been an innovator in music software for years – he created one of the first drum machines, among some ground-breaking (and sometimes weird) plug-ins, and now is one of the more accomplished iOS developers. So you can vouch for the quality of this one. It might move my iPad Pro back into must-have territory.

Bram writes to CDM that he thought this kind of DIY plug-in could let you make what you need:

“I noticed there is a lot of demand for MIDI filters and plugins (such as Rozeta) in the mobile music world,” he says,”especially with the rising popularity of DAW-less, modular plugin-based jamming and music making. Much of this demand is highly specific and difficult to satisfy with general purpose apps. So I decided to make it easier for people to create such plugins themselves.”

You get ready-to-use LFOs, graphic interface layouts, musical scales, random generators, and “a very easy-to-learn, easy-to-read script language.” And yeah, don’t be afraid, first-time programmers, Bram says: “I’ve designed the language from the ground up to be as accessible and readable as possible.”

To get you started, you’ll find example scripts and modular-style filters, and a big preset collection – with more coming, in response to your requests, Bram tells us. There’s a programming manual, meant both to get beginners going in as friendly a way as possible, and to give more advanced scripters and in-depth guide. And you get plenty of real-world examples.

There are some things you can do with your iOS gadget that you can’t do with most MIDI gadgets, too – like map your tilt sensors to MIDI.

This is an AUv3-compatible plug-in so you can use it in hosts like AUM, ApeMatrix, Cubasis, Nanostudio 2, Audiobus 3, and the like.

Full description/specs:

Mozaic runs inside your favorite AU MIDI host, and gives you practical building blocks such as LFOs, pre-fab GUI layouts, musical scales, AUv3 support (with AU Parameters, transport events, tempo syncing, etc.), random generators and a super-simple yet powerful script language. Mozaic even offers quick access to your device’s Tilt Sensors for expressive interaction concepts!

The Mozaic Script language is designed from the ground up to be the easiest and most flexible MIDI language on iOS. A language by creatives, for creatives. You’ll only need to write a few lines of script to achieve impressive things – or to create that uber-specific thing that was missing from your MIDI setup.

Check out the Programming Manual on Ruismaker.com to learn about the script language and to get inspiration for awesome scripts of your own.

Mozaic comes with a sizable collection of tutorials and pre-made scripts which you can use out of the box, or which can be a starting point for your own plugin adventures.

Features in a nutshell:

– Easy to learn Mozaic Script language: easy to learn, easy to read
– Sample-accurate-everything: the tightest MIDI timing possible
– Built-in script editor with code-completion, syntax hints, etc.
– 5 immediately usable GUI layouts, with knobs, sliders, pads, etc.
– In-depth, helpful programming manual available on Ruismaker.com
– Easy access to LFOs, scales, MIDI I/O, AU parameters, timers
– AUv3; so you’ll get multi-instance, state-saving, tempo sync and resource efficiency out of the box

Mozaic opens up the world of creative MIDI plugins to anyone willing to put in a few hours and a hot beverage or two.

Practical notes:
– Mozaic requires a plugin host with support for AUv3 MIDI plugins (AUM, ApeMatrix, Cubasis, Auria, Audiobus 3, etc.)
– The standalone mode of Mozaic lets you edit, test and export projects, but for MIDI connections you need to run it inside an AUv3 MIDI host
– MIDI is not sound; Mozaic on its own does not make noise… so bring your own synths, drum machines and other instruments!
– AUv3 MIDI requires iOS11 or higher

With some other MIDI controllers looking long in the tooth, and Liine’s Lemur also getting up in years, I wonder if this might not be the foundation for a universal controller/utility for music. So, yeah, I’d love to see some more touch-savvy widgets, OSC, and even Android support if this catches on. Now go forth, readers, and help it catch on!

Mozaic on the iTunes App Store

http://ruismaker.com/

The post Turn your iPad or iPhone into a scriptable MIDI tool with Mozaic appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

No, Beatport’s subscription will not kill music – here’s how it really works

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Labels,Scene | Fri 17 May 2019 7:18 pm

Pioneer and Beatport this week announced new streaming offerings for DJs. And then lots of people kind of freaked out. Let’s see what’s actually going on, if any of it is useful to DJs and music lovers, and what we should or shouldn’t worry about.

Artists, labels, and DJs are understandably on edge about digital music subscriptions – and thoughtless DJing. Independent music makers tend not to see any useful revenue or fan acquisition from streaming. So the fear is that a move to the kinds of pricing on Spotify, Amazon, and Apple services would be devastating.

And, well – that’s totally right, you obviously should be afraid of those things if you’re making music. Forget even getting rich – if big services take over, just getting heard could become an expensive endeavor, a trend we’ve already begun to see.

So I talked to Beatport to get some clarity on what they’re doing. We’re fortunate now that the person doing artist and label relations for Beatport is Heiko Hoffmann, who has an enormous resume in the trenches of the German electronic underground, including some 17 years under his belt as editor of Groove, which has had about as much a reputation as any German-language rag when it comes to credibility.

TL:DR

The skinny:

Beatport LINK: fifteen bucks a month, but aimed at beginners – 128k only. Use it for previews if you’re a serious Beatport user, recommend it to your friends bugging you about how they should start DJing, and otherwise don’t worry about it.

Beatport CLOUD: five bucks a month, gives you sync for your Beatport collection. Included in the other stuff here and – saves you losing your Beatport purchases and gives you previews. 128k only. Will work with Rekordbox in the fall, but you’ll want to pay extra for extra features (or stick with your existing download approach).

Beatport LINK PRO: the real news – but it’s not here yet. Works with Rekordbox, costs 40-60 bucks, but isn’t entirely unlimited. Won’t destroy music (uh, not saying something else won’t, but this won’t). The first sign of real streaming DJs – but the companies catering to serious DJs aren’t going to give away the farm the way Apple and Spotify have. In fact, if there’s any problem here, it’s that no one will buy this – but that’s Beatport’s problem, not yours (as it should be).

WeDJ streaming is for beginners, not Pioneer pros

This first point is probably the most important. Beatport (and SoundCloud) have each created a subscription offering that works exclusively with Pioneer’s WeDJ mobile DJ tool. That is, neither of these works with Rekordbox – not yet.

Just in case there’s any doubt, Pioneer has literally made the dominant product image photo some people DJing in their kitchen. So there you go: Rekordbox and and CDJ and TORAIZ equals nightclub, WeDJ equals countertop next to a pan of fajitas.

So yeah, SoundCloud streaming is now in a DJ app. And Beatport is offering its catalog of tracks for US$14.99 a month for the beta, which is a pretty phenomenally low price – and one that would rightfully scare labels and artists.

But it’s important this is in WeDJ as far as DJing. Pioneer aren’t planning on endangering their business ecosystem in Rekordbox, higher-end controllers, and standalone hardware like the CDJ. They’re trying to attract the beginners in the hopes that some of those people will expand the high end market down the road.

By the same token, it’d be incredibly short-sighted if Beatport were to give up on customers paying a hundred bucks a month or so on downloads just to chase growth. Instead, Beatport will split its offerings into a consumer/beginner product (LINK for WeDJ) and two products for serious DJs (LINK Pro and Beatport CLOUD).

And there’s reason to believe that what disrupts the consumer/beginner side might not make ripples when it comes to pros – as we’ve been there already. Spotify is in Algoriddim’s djay. It’s actually a really solid product. But the djay user base doesn’t impact what people use in the clubs, where the CDJ (or sometimes Serato or TRAKTOR) reign supreme. So if streaming in DJ software were going to crash the download market, you could argue it would have happened already.

That’s still a precarious situation, so let’s break down the different Beatport options, both to see how they’ll impact music makers’ business – and whether they’re something you might want to use yourself.

Ce n’est pas un CDJ.

Beatport LINK – the beginner one

First, that consumer service – yeah, it’s fifteen bucks a month and includes the Beatport catalog. But it’s quality-limited and works only in the WeDJ app (and with the fairly toy-like new DDJ-200 controller, which I’ll look at separately).

Who’s it for? “The Beginner DJs that are just starting out will have millions of tracks to practice and play with,” says Heiko. “Previously, a lot of this market would have been lost to piracy. The bit rate is 128kbs AAC and is not meant for public performance.”

But us serious Beatport users might want to mess around with it, too – it’s a place you can audition new tracks for a fairly low monthly fee. “It’s like having a record shop in your home,” says Heiko.

Just don’t think Beatport are making this their new subscription offering. If you think fifteen bucks a month for everything Beatport is a terrible business idea, don’t worry – Beatport agree. “This is the first of our Beatport LINK products,” says Heiko. “This is not a ‘Spotify for dance music.’ It’s a streaming service for DJs and makes Beatport’s extensive electronic music catalog available to stream audio into the WeDJ app.” And yeah, Spotify want more money for that, which is good – because you want more money charged for that as a producer or label. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the locker, the other thing available now:

WeDJ – a mobile gateway drug for DJs, or so Pioneer hopes. (NI and Algoriddim did it first; let’s see who does it better.)

Beatport CLOUD – the locker/sync one

Okay, so streaming may be destroying music but … you’ve probably still sometimes wanted to have access to digital downloads you’ve bought without having to worry about hard drive management or drive and laptop failures. And there’s the “locker” concept.

Some folks will remember that Beatport bought the major “locker” service for digital music – when it acquired Pulselocker. [link to our friends at DJ TechTools]

Beatport CLOUD is the sync/locker making a comeback, with €/$ 4.99 a month fee and no obligation or contract. It’s also included free in LINK – so for me, for instance, since I hate promos and like to dig for my own music even as press and DJ, I’m seriously thinking of the fifteen bucks to get full streaming previews, mixing in WeDJ, and CLOUD.

There are some other features here, too:

Re-download anything, unlimited. I heard from a friend – let’s call him Pietro Kerning – that maybe a stupid amount of music he’d (uh, or “she’d”) bought on Beatport was now scattered across a random assortment of hard drives. I would never do such a thing, because I organize everything immaculately in all aspects of my life in a manner becoming a true professional, but now this “friend” will easily be able to grab music anywhere in the event of that last-minute DJ gig.

By the same token you can:

Filter all your existing music in a cloud library. Not that I need to, perfectly organized individual, but you slobs need this, of course.

Needle-drop full previews. Hear 120 seconds from anywhere in a track – for better informed purchases. (Frankly, this makes me calmer as a label owner, even – I would totally rather you hear more of our music.)

There should be some obvious bad news here – this only works with Beatport purchased music. You can’t upload music the way some sync/locker services have worked in the past. But I think given the current legal landscape, if you want that, set up your own backup server.

What I like about this, at least, is that this store isn’t losing stuff you’ve bought from them. I think other download sites should consider something similar. (Bandcamp does a nice job in this respect – and of course it’s the store I use the most when not using Beatport.)

The new Beatport cloud.

Beatport LINK Pro – what’s coming

There are very few cases where someone says, “hey, good news – this will be expensive.” But music right now is a special case. And it’s good news that Beatport is launching a more expensive service.

For labels and artists, it means a serious chance to stay alive. (I mean, even for a label doing a tiny amount of download sales, this can mean that little bit of cash to pay the mastering engineer and the person who did the design for the cover, or to host a showcase in your local club.)

For serious users using that service, it means a higher quality way of getting music than other subscription services – and that you support the people who make the music you love, so they keep using it.

Or, at least, that’s the hope.

What Beatport is offering at the “pro” tiers does more and costs more. Just like Pioneer doesn’t want you to stop buying CDJs just because they have a cheap controller and app, Beatport doesn’t want you to stop spending money for music just because they have a subscription for that controller and app. Heiko explains:

With the upcoming Pioneer rekordbox integration, Beatport will roll out two new plans – Beatport LINK Pro and Beatport LINK Pro+ – with an offline locker and 256kbps AAC audio quality (which is equivalent to 320kbps MP3, but you’re the expert here). This will be club ready, but will be aimed at DJs who take their laptops to clubs, for now. They will cost €39,99/month and €59,99/month depending on how many tracks you can put in the offline locker (50 and 100 respectively).

You’ll get streaming inside Rekordbox with the basic LINK, too – but only at 128k. So it’ll work for previewing and trying out mixes, but the idea is you’ll still pay more for higher quality. (And of course that also still means paying more to work with CDJs, which is also a big deal.)

And yeah, Beatport agree with me. “We think streaming for professional DJ use should be priced higher,” says Heiko. “And we also need to be sure that this is not biting into the indie labels and artists (and therefore also Beatport’s own) revenues,” he says.

What Heiko doesn’t say is that this could increase spending, but I think it actually could. Looking at my own purchase habits and talking to others, a lot of times you look back and spend $100 for a big gig, but then lapse a few months. A subscription fee might actually encourage you to spend more and keep your catalog up to date gig to gig.

It’s also fair to hope this could be good for under-the-radar labels and artists even relative to the status quo. If serious DJs are locked into subscription plans, they might well take a chance on lesser known labels and artists since they’re already paying. I don’t want to be overly optimistic, though – a lot of this will be down to how Beatport handles its editorial offerings and UX on the site as this subscription grows. That means it’s good someone like Heiko is handling relations, though, as I expect he’ll be hearing from us.

Really, one very plausible scenario is that streaming DJing doesn’t catch on initially because it’s more expensive – and people in the DJ world may stick to downloads. A lot of that in turn depends on things like how 5G rolls out worldwide (which right now involves a major battle between the US government and Chinese hardware vendor Huawei, among other things), plus how Pioneer deals with a “Streaming CDJ.”

The point is, you shouldn’t have to worry about any of that. And there’s no rush – smart companies like Beatport will charge sustainable amounts of money for subscriptions and move slowly. The thing to be afraid of is if Apple or Spotify rush out a DJ product and, like, destroy independent music. If they try it, we should fight back.

Will labels and artists benefit?

If it sounds like I’m trying to be a cheerleader for Beatport, I’m really not. If you look at the top charts in genres, a lot of Beatport is, frankly, dreck – even with great editorial teams trying to guide consumers to good stuff. And centralization in general has a poor track record when it comes to underground music.

No, what I am biased toward is products that are real, shipping, and based on serious economics. So much as I’m interested in radical ideas for decentralizing music distribution, I think those services have yet to prove their feasibility.

And I think it’s fair to give Beatport some credit for being a business that’s real, based on actual revenue that’s shared between labels and artists. It may mean little to your speedcore goth neo-Baroque label (BLACK HYPERACID LEIPZIG INDUSTRIES, obviously – please let’s make that). But Beatport really is a cornerstone for a lot of the people making dance music now, on a unique scale.

The vision for LINK seems to be solid when it comes to revenue. Heiko again:

LINK will provide an additional revenue source to the labels and artists. The people who are buying downloads on Beatport are doing so because they want to DJ/perform with them. LINK is not there to replace that.

But I think for the reason I’ve already repeated – that the “serious” and “amateur”/wedding/beginner DJ gulf is real and not just a thing snobs talk about – LINK and WeDJ probably won’t disrupt label business, even that much to the positive. Look ahead to Rekordbox integration and the higher tiers. And yeah, I’m happy to spend the money, because I never get tired of listening to music – really.

And what if you don’t like this? Talk to your label and distributor. And really, you should be doing that anyway. Heiko explains:

Unlike other DSP’s, Beatport LINK has been conceived and developed in close cooperation with the labels and distributors on Beatport. Over the past year, new contracts were signed and all music used for LINK has been licensed by the right holders. However, if labels whose distributors have signed the new contract don’t want their catalog to be available for LINK they can opt out. But again: LINK is meant to provide an additional revenue source to the labels and artists.

Have a good weekend, and let us know if you have questions or comments. I’ll be looking at this for sure, as I think there isn’t enough perspective coming from serious producers who care about the details of technology.

https://www.beatport.com/get-link

The post No, Beatport’s subscription will not kill music – here’s how it really works appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Your music software goes modular: builder-friendly Bitwig 3 beta is here

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 10 May 2019 11:14 pm

It may have been in the temple of wires and racks, but Berlin’s Bitwig chose this weekend’s Superbooth to launch a public beta of their all-modular DAW, Bitwig Studio 3. It lets you wire together with hardware, or just inside software, or as a combination.

It’s called The Grid – and it’s all about patching inside your music workflow, so you can construct stuff you want instead of dialing up big monolithic tools and presets. And that sounds great to builders, I’m sure.

Going modular was really the promise of Bitwig Studio from the start – something to rocket the software from “oh, hey, I can run something kinda like Ableton on Linux” to … “wow, this is something really special.”

The idea is, get a music making tool that not only behaves like a set of tracks and channels, or a bank of patterns and samples, and more like a toybox that lets you built whatever you want from various blocks. And before anyone tries to launch another of those “hardware versus software” debates (yawn), a friendly reminder that computers used a modular generator model for digital audio in the late 1950s – years before any recognizable hardware modular was even a thing. (Okay, granted, you needed a stack of punch cards and access to an IBM mainframe or two and the user base was something like ‘people who happen to know Max Mathews,’ but still…)

Bitwig Studio 3 is in beta now, so you can toy around with it and see what you think. (Bitwig are very clear about not putting important projects in there.)

I wrote about this at the start of this year.

Bitwig Studio is about to deliver on a fully modular core in a DAW

But now there’s a friendly video to walk you through how it all works:

Basically, think friendly musical blocks for pattern and timbre, pre-cords so things are patched easily, and powerful features with phase.

With Beta 1, we also see some specifics – you can produce your own stereo synths and effects with the two Grid devices:

Patching may be a nerdy endeavor, but Bitwig’s design makes it much friendlier – and there’s already great tutorial documentation even in the beta.

Poly Grid: “for creating synthesizers, sequenced patches (like a beatbox), droning sounds, etc.”

FX Grid for effects

Signal/modulation I/O – including pressure, CV (like from hardware)

Visualization (labels, VU, readouts)

Phase – loads of stuff here, as promised: Phasor, Ø Bend, Ø Reset, Ø Scaler, Ø Reverse, Ø Wrap, Ø Counter, Ø Formant, Ø Lag, Ø Mirror, Ø Shift, Ø Sinemod, Ø Skew, Ø Sync

Oscillators (including Swarm, Sampler)

Random

LFO

Envelope / follower

Shaper (ooh, Chebyshev, Distortion, Quantizer, Rectifier, Wavefolder)

Filter (Low-pass LD, Low-pass SK, SVF, High-pass, Low-pass, Comb)

Delay types – need to dig into these; they look promising

Mix – Blend, Mixer, LR Mix, Select, Toggle, Merge, Split, Stereo Merge, Stereo Split, Stereo Width

Level – Level, Value, Attenuate, Bias, Drive, Gain, AM/RM, Average, Bend, Clip, Hold, Lag, Sample / Hold, Level Scaler, Bi→Uni, Uni→Bi

Pitch scalers and tools

Math operators

Logic operators

— all in all, it’s a really nice selection of tools, and a balance of low-level signal tools/operators and easy convenience tools that are higher level. And it’s also not an overwhelming number – which is good; it’s clear this should be its own tool and not try to replicate the likes of Max, SuperCollider, and Reaktor.

More improvements

Also in this build:

Reworked audio backends for every OS (good)

UI overhaul

Ableton Link 3 support with transport start/stop sync

And – a little thing, but you can view the timeline with actual time (minutes, ms) …

More on this soon.

Beta users will find a really nice, complete tutorial so – you can start practicing building. Have fun!

BITWIG STUDIO 3: NOW IN BETA

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Hardware VST? Steinberg Retrologue plug-in gets physical version

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 7 May 2019 7:34 pm

There’s plug-ins, and then there’s hardware. Well, just in time for Superbooth, here’s a hardware plug-in, from Steinberg – really.

Normally, Steinberg’s Retrologue 2 is a software plug-in. And it comes from the company that developed VST and launched the plug-in revolution, so naturally it runs as a VST.

But here’s the thing: the processing power to run software no longer means a CPU sitting inside a laptop or desktop computer. It might be an ARM chip on a phone or tablet. Or it might be a processor sitting inside a piece of desktop hardware or Eurorack module. This much is already true – but we’re only just beginning to see software development kits take advantage of that. Those toolkits already let you target Mac and Windows, and sometimes also Linux, iOS, Android, or even the Web. So why not hardware, too?

Swedish startup ELK MusicOS lets you run VST-based plug-ins just like that, on any device that’s running their OS. The OS has already been available as a target inside the VST SDK.

So basically what ELK have done with Steinberg’s Retrologue is show that off by running the whole thing inside a physical hardware enclosure – with some retro-looking faders and knobs and lights and even, yes, wooden endcaps. And they’ve done it just in time for the Superbooth show.

That might seem sacrilegious, except that a lot of the gear at Superbooth already has similar processing inside; this is as much about developers as it is a particular class of hardware.

Something is definitely in the air in Sweden, because when I visited Stockholm, Propellerhead showed off some similar cross-platform abilities in their Rack Extension format, which can also run on the Web (VST can’t do that, as far as I know), and on embedded hardware.

Speak of the devil – look what’s in the press folder for the Steinberg/ELK announcement? It appears there’s a patchable Propellerhead-based device there, too.

As Propellerhead and Steinberg expand the definition of what their formats can do, though, we’re largely in a pre-production phase. That is, this will work, but it may take interested developers of both hardware and software to ship something end users can buy and play.

And sure enough, this particular prototype is, for now, one of a kind – just a proof of concept. Of course, if people really love it, who knows what will come next.

More:

https://www.mindmusiclabs.com/

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Ableton release free CV Tools for integrating with analog gear, made in Max

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 7 May 2019 6:32 pm

It’s all about voltage these days. Ableton’s new CV Tools are designed for integrating with modular and semi-modular/desktop gear with CV. And they’re built in Max – meaning builders can learn from these tools and build their own.

The basic idea of CV Tools, like any software-CV integration, is to use your computer as an additional source of modulation and control. You route analog signal directly to your audio interface – you’ll need an interface that has DC coupled outputs (more about that separately). But once you do that, you can make your software and hardware rigs work together, and use your computer’s visual interface and open-ended possibilities to do still more stuff with analog gear.

This is coming on the eve of Superbooth, and certainly a lot of the audience will be people with modular racks. But nowadays, hardware with CV I/O is hardly limited to Eurorack – gear from the likes of Moog, Arturia, KORG, and others also makes sense with CV.

CV Tools aren’t the first Max for Live tools for Ableton Live – not by far. Spektro Audio makes the free CV Toolkit Mini, for instance. Its main advantage is a single, integrated interface – and a clever patch bay. There’s a more extensive version available for US$19.99.

Rival DAW Bitwig Studio, for its part, has taken an entirely different approach – you’ll get a software modular engine capable of interlinking with hardware CV wherever you like.

Ableton’s own CV Tools is news, though, in that these modules are powerful, flexible, and polished, and have a very Ableton-esque UI. They also come from a collaboration with Skinnerbox, the live performance-oriented gearheads here in Berlin, so I have no doubt they’ll be useful. (Yep, that’s them in the video.) I think there’s no reason not to grab this and Spektro and go to town.

And since these are built in Max, Max patchers may want to take a look inside – to mod or use as the basis of your own.

What you get:

CV Instrument lets you treat outboard modular/analog gear as if it’s integrated with Live as a plug-in.

Trigger drums and rhythms with CV Triggers.

CV Utility is a signal processing hub inside Live.

CV Instrument, with complements existing Ableton devices for integrating outboard MIDI instruments and effects with your projects in Live

CV Triggers for sequencing drum modules

CV Utility for adding automation curves, add/shift/multiple signals, and other processing tools

CV Clock In and CV Clock Out for clocking Live from outboard analog gear and visa versa

CV In which connects outboard analog signal directly to modulation of parameters inside Live

CV Shaper, CV Envelope Follower, and CV LFO which gives you graphical tools for designing modulation inside Live and using it for CV control of your analog hardware

And there’s more: the Rotating Rhythm Generator, which lets you dial up polyrhythms. This one works with both MIDI and CV, so you can work with either kind of external hardware.

I got to chat with Skinnerbox, and there’s even more here than may be immediately obvious.

For one thing, you get what they tell us is “extremely accurate broad-range” auto calibration of oscillators, filters, and so on. That’s often an issue with analog equipment, especially once you start getting complex or adding polyphony (or creating polyphony by mixing your software instruments with your hardware). Here’s a quick demo:

Clocking they say is “jitter free” and “super high resolution.”

So this means you can make a monster hybrid combining your computer running Ableton Live (and all your software) with hardware, without having to have the clock be all over the place or everything out of tune. (Well, unless that’s what you’re going for!)

If you’re in Berlin, Skinnerbox will play live with the rig this Friday at Superbooth.

They sent us this quick demo of working with the calibration tools, resulting in an accurate ten-octave range (here with oscillator from Endorphin.es).

Watch:

To interface with their gear, they’re using the Expert Sleepers ES8 interface in the modular. You could also use a DC-coupled audio interface, though – MOTU audio interfaces are a popular choice, since they’ve got a huge range of interfaces with DC coupling across various interface configurations.

CV Tools is listed as “coming soon,” but a beta version is available now.

https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/cv-tools-live-coming-soon/

What do you need to use this?

For full CV control of analog gear, you’ll want a DC-coupled audio interface. Most audio interfaces lack that feature – I’m writing an explanation of this in a separate story – but if you do have one with compatible outputs, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the features here, including tuned pitch control. MOTU have probably made more interfaces that work than anyone else. You can also look to a dedicated interface like the Expert Sleepers one Skinnerbox used in the video above.

See MOTU and Expert Sleepers, both of which Skinnerbox have tested:

http://motu.com/products

https://www.expert-sleepers.co.uk/es8.html

MOTU also have a more technical article on testing audio interfaces if you’re handy with a voltmeter, plus specs on range on all their interfaces.

Universal Audio have already written to say they’ll be demoing DC coupling on their audio interfaces at Superbooth with Ableton’s CV Tools, so their stuff works, too. (Double-checking which models they’re using.)

But wait – just because you lack the hardware doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the functionality here with other audio interfaces. Skinnerbox remind us that any audio interface inputs will work with CV In in Pitch mode. Clock in and out will work with any device, too.

The post Ableton release free CV Tools for integrating with analog gear, made in Max appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Remember ACID? It’s back – and ready to split stems for you automatically

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 6 May 2019 5:35 pm

It may seem like there’s not much left for music making software to do that it doesn’t do already. But how about magically extracting stems from audio? The first software to do that is one you might not have thought about for a while: ACID Pro.

Back in 1998 when it came out, ACID – aka Acid pH1 – was ground-breaking. Drag and drop loops, make a song: more than any other single software release, this was what would change computer music making. Sure, Propellerhead had already established a few years earlier that you could use warp-able digital loops to remix music, make new music, and work with samples in new ways. But it was really ACID that established what an entire production tool would look like built around the concept. Loop-based music production on the computer was now a thing.

ACID’s place as a leader, however, faded. Original developer Sonic Foundry sold to Sony. Ableton ran with the loop workflow and built a tool with real-time performance. Apple built GarageBand and Apple Loops with strong influence from ACID – but on the Mac (and later iPad), whereas ACID was Windows-only.

ACID Pro has continued to see updates, and some users have certainly stayed loyal. But the pace of progress languished at Sony, and the tool was sold to Berlin developer Magix.

Well, it’s back – and with an idea that could put it on the map again.

ACID Pro Next makes “audio separation” its banner feature. It wasn’t developed in-house at Magix, but with fellow German developer Zynaptiq. That could mean you see other DAW makers license this, but it’s a natural for ACID’s workflow – and ACID has gotten there first.

And here’s the thing: the sonic results, in the demos, at least, sound really good – a new level. We’ve been wowed by Zynaptiq’s DSP prowess in the past, so I’m not surprised. I’ll want to check this on my own material with more time, but it’s promising.

This, of course, solves two major use cases:

“Hey, will you do a remix?” “Sure! Can you send me the stems?” “What are stems? Here’s a stereo file.” “No, like separate tracks.” “Cool, here is a random selection of audio files that don’t seem to add up to the whole track for some reason.” “No. How does that help? I… augh.”

And the second use case:

“Oh, this track. I forgot I made this. Wait… I could do something with this. I just want to change the… where’s the original project? Wait, what do you mean Logic Pro corrupted the whole project and undo no longer works. Let me check the backup … backup… oh. #$(*&$@.”

I’m guessing that machine learning is involved in this implementation, as I know this developer has been working in that field. The results aren’t perfect, either – this kind of separation is difficult, so you will hear residual artifacts. But it might still work in a remix context.

No embeddable video/audio yet, but check out the demos on their site.

We’ve seen this once before in Accusonus’ software, but as a plug-in, which means extra steps when it comes to separation. This is the first time it’s been directly integrated in a DAW. I do hope we get to do side-by-side audio comparisons of Accusonus’ and Zynaptiq’s approaches – especially as the ACID Pro Next results sound so good, far better that what Accusonus gave us a couple of years ago. (That makes some sense; machine learning audio processing has evolved since then.)

Here’s a look at how the remix process works with Accusonus – and it is possibly to use this creatively or even abuse the results:

Try AI remixing in Regroover with these tips and exclusive sounds

And here’s our conversation with the developers about what happened behind the scenes from an engineering perspective:

Accusonus explain how they’re using AI to make tools for musicians

A simple but cool idea also in this release is the MIDI Playable Chopper. It takes audio files and splits them into slices – okay, basically everything does that. And then it lets you play those slices with an external MIDI controller, without any further configuration. No extra steps putting those slices into some kind of drum device, just play as you slice. Why doesn’t software work this way? I have no idea.

Play as you chop.

But those two features already could make ACID Pro the remix machine to beat. It’s good enough that I could imagine, while a lot of us don’t like to switch DAWs, some of us might consider giving this a go just to get through a tight remix deadline.

There’s more, too. There’s a new VST engine – adding VST3 compatibility, but retaining a 32-bit VST bridge even as most DAWs drop that. There are mastering-style metering tools so you can get your loudness right as you mix without third-party tools – nice. And you get a refreshed library of instruments and effects. So there are new virtual analog and lead synths, extra effects, and mastering tools.

For some reason, they’re also including … a concert guitar and a saxaphone plug-in? Not sure where that fits in, but fine.

Pricing starts at US$149, with Next – the one with the cool stem features – starting at US$399 ($299 upgrade). And there’s a subscription. And it’s kind of complicated, unfortunately.

https://www.magix.com/us/music/acid/acid-pro-next/

Still Windows-only, yes.

The post Remember ACID? It’s back – and ready to split stems for you automatically appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The end of iTunes, an opportunity for Pioneer, new tools and standards

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 2 May 2019 5:50 pm

Apple’s iTunes is not going away tomorrow, but the antiquated software seems to finally be approaching the end of the road. It’s long past time to talk about new solutions and new standards, for music lovers and DJs alike.

Goodnight, iTunes 12.x.

iTunes’ days are numbered

The logic runs something like this: even though Apple last year squashed rumors of the end of iTunes and iTunes downloads, it does nonetheless make sense that once the company migrates to a new music app, the old one will be deprecated.

In April, news leaked that the next major release of macOS was expected to unveil that new desktop software, at last. iTunes on Windows and Mac right now involves a bunch of tools that have since become more differentiated on iOS – Music, Podcasts, Books, and TV (for TV and Movies).

Multiple reports suggested Apple plans new standalone apps that will match the desktop experience to the iOS one – starting with a tweet by developer Steve Troughton-Smith.

And sure enough, these reports also suggested that Apple would extend the use of a project code named Marzipan, meant to allow easy cross-platform development between iOS and macOS. We saw this in a sneak peak last year, and if you’ve updated to Mojave, apps like Apple News use the library now. (Troughton-Smith is an early adopter and advocate for Marzipan.)

I expect more news is coming in WWDC, but in the meantime, the leaks have been pretty clear. Guilherme Rambo reported on 9to5Mac that he could confirm the leaks:

I’ve been able to independently confirm that this is true. On top of that, I’ve been able to confirm with sources familiar with the development of the next major version of macOS – likely 10.15 – that the system will include standalone Music, Podcasts, and TV apps…

The new Music, Podcasts, and TV apps will be made using Marzipan, Apple’s new technology designed to facilitate the porting of iPad apps to the Mac without too many code changes.

The important point: iTunes won’t go away yet:

With the standalone versions of Apple’s media apps coming to the Mac, it’s natural to ask: what about iTunes in macOS 10.15? According to sources, the next major version of macOS will still include the iTunes app. Since Apple doesn’t have a new solution for manually syncing devices such as old iPods and iPhones with the Mac, it’s natural to keep iTunes around a little longer.

But I don’t think it’s too early to begin moving way from iTunes. And that would be a big step. iTunes is significant to two, key (overlapping) demographics: music lovers who retain downloaded music, and DJs using iTunes to manage libraries across other tools.

That has another implication, though: a lot of the current ecosystem around music is dependent on iTunes use and the XML-based iTunes media format for storing metadata and playlists. DJ tools depend on it – TRAKTOR, Serato, but even many Rekordbox users, who use Rekordbox for sync to USB sticks for CDJs, but still depend on iTunes for media management as they’re digging through new music. And in turn, many independent labels and indeed the whole health of downloads sales on sites like Bandcamp and Beatport also depend on people having a tool for management.

Why wait for the ship to be half sunk before heading for the lifeboats? iTunes might already be considered deprecated even if it is shipping in macOS 10.15. And you’d be forgiven for calling it a slow, clunky wreck right now – particularly on Windows.

Plus, the move to Marzipan tech and closer iOS and macOS development also would seem to presage a move of Mac computer hardware to the ARM platform – leaving iTunes in the Trashcan of history.

Apple News running on Mojave is a good glimpse into the likely future of a Music app.

My guess is that it’s highly unlikely that the upcoming Music app will duplicate key features necessary for use by the DJ and enthusiast markets. That involves a whole lot of metadata editing, rating systems, playlist management, and media storage. Even if these features are duplicated, it also seems likely Apple would create a new file format – and there’s no real guarantee you’ll see a compatible app on Windows, ever (though I don’t know what Windows subscribers to Apple Music would do). These use cases also depend on specific file conversion and compatibility features – and iTunes was already deficient in lacking native support for formats like FLAC.

Zac Hall, also on 9to5Mac, has a great comparison of the two apps – with some useful reflections on what’s to be gained, and what desktop-specific features might be lost:

With Music for macOS coming soon, legacy iTunes features will disappear or spread to iOS

More on Marzipan:

Three ways Apple’s own Marzipan apps can benefit macOS [Macworld]

Marzipan: What you need to know about iOS apps on the Mac
[iMore]

What could be next

A snarky retort from Troughton-Smith helps reveal that there are two audiences for music listening, casual and enthusiast. (I won’t say the word “pro” as even many major DJs have other day jobs; the point is passion for listening.)

The enthusiast audience really needs new solutions.

Rekordbox is already the new iTunes.

Rekordbox could open up its format. Pioneer has already become the de facto standard in music management for DJs. The CDJ is, by far, the dominant player in clubs. Pioneer’s strategy so far has been to keep its ecosystem proprietary; it only recently began to even license its PRO DJ LINK synchronization tech, and the Rekordbox format has been constrained to its software and hardware, at least officially. But third-party tools have already reverse engineered the media management tools.

Providing open third-party access to Rekordbox management could actually encourage more new customers in the Pioneer ecosystem. Right now, because iTunes is often the bridge, the user experience is terrible – just as Pioneer needs to reach a new generation of emerging DJs who may not want to manage this format. And barring that –

Developers could band together to make a new format. If Pioneer aren’t interested in supporting others on their de facto standard, it could be a chance for other players to step in. Native Instruments failed to reach out to other DJ tool developers with STEMS; they could learn from that experience and work cooperatively with rivals like InMusic (Denon) and Serato. Or the community of music lovers could work on a new open toolset.

New music management could bridge between streaming and downloads. I’m sure a lot of people will see the move from iTunes to Music as a move to streaming – which is absolutely right. But, while this is a whole other topic, it seems what we need most is tools that give us cloud sync and streaming on-demand, but also help us manage offline files seamlessly.

I believe downloads will remain important, as people look for higher-resolution experiences, multichannel audio, and rich media.

There’s an opportunity for innovation. With software like VOX [Mac] or MediaMonkey, there have always been great third-party players. But they always had to compete with the ubiquitous iTunes, which included many serious/”pro” features. If “Music” goes in a more consumer-oriented, streaming-centric direction – which seems almost certain – it opens up an opportunity for those developers to win over abandoned iTunes users.

Watch for new tools for DJs. One exciting possibility for DJ file management is SpinTools, though it’s currently in a closed beta.

I also think it’s contingent on stores like Bandcamp and Beatport to provide better tools for managing music collections – and that doing so will increase sales. (Don’t get me started on Bandcamp, love it as I do. I wonder how many sales are lost because of the site’s draconian, manual download system.)

All of these things will take time. But I think that could make the twilight of iTunes a perfect time to get started.

Sidebar: some history

As an aside, I think it’s useful to know the history of iTunes for a sense of why it is as outmoded as it is – and why new directions could be possible in music management. By the late 90s, music players were essentially librarian and player tools for MP3s. This started with some really basic tools like the Fraunhofer Institute’s own WinPlay3, but also led to ground-breaking software like 1997’s Winamp – the work of Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev. (Frankel would go on to lead development on the Reaper DAW.)

iTunes began its life as an acquisition, Casady & Greene’s SoundJam MP. I actually bought a license of that software, and exploited its compatibility with a Diamond Rio MP3 player. (Apparently long-time tech journalist David Pogue, also an amateur musician and whom I believe wrote the first-ever manual for the Finale music notation software, wrote the documentation for SoundJam MP, too.)

SoundJam MP. Ah, memories.

If you look at SoundJam MP, you see the core of iTunes as it’s used for music – player interface, playlists, playlist management. iTunes is significant in that it introduces the multi-pane display – something you see mirrored even in DJ apps – and more fluid file management.

Here’s how long ago 2001 was: Apple announced iTunes as the “World’s Best and Easiest To Use Jukebox Software.” Jukeboxes were still the devices most people knew when it came to large music management. There was even a custom jewel case printing tool for making pretty artwork for your mixes – anyone remember that? (Time flies. I recall actually making some of those.)

The debut of iTunes, in an age when we cared about The White Stripes.

But if Apple nailed integrating its iPod player, then its store, iTunes really began to drift as it had to take on too many unrelated functions. There’s muddled media management for iOS devices, TV watching, radio, books, Apps management – and now a bunch of legacy Windows code that slows your machine down on that platform, while on the Mac iTunes just looks old and weak. And iTunes has been a place for various missteps and dead ends, from the Ping social media service to iMix.

iTunes 11 in 2012 was a highlight, with a graphical album view and mini player, but as the world moved on to streaming and away from downloads, music management fell into the shadows.

Check Macworld’s great 15 year history:

15 years of iTunes: A look at Apple’s media app and its influence on an industry

Wikipedia even devotes a whole page to this… strange fascination with the evolution of the world’s leading music, erm media player:

History of iTunes

And for a visual evolution, a 2006 Engadget story has a decent overview:

iTunes from 0.0 to 7.0

But that’s why I think it is really possible for a fresh take. People still love music. They love buying and owning things. They love album artwork. And they still consume music in places with limited or no Internet, from clubs to lots of airplane flights – or at the very least, are willing to pay for “owning” digital content (think games, Adobe software, and even the fact that a lot of desirable movies aren’t on Netflix any more).

The post The end of iTunes, an opportunity for Pioneer, new tools and standards appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

KORG volca fm gets its own custom editor, plug-in

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 1 May 2019 2:34 pm

Manage all that FM sound depth of your KORG volca – or dust it off, if you need – with this handy editor for one of the most unique little instruments from the past years.

Momo Müller keeps putting out superb unofficial editors for popular gear – and the latest to get the treatment is KORG’s pint-sized FM synthesizer.

Of all the volcas, the volca fm might be the one that wants this the most – FM synthesis by definition gets some wild results from tiny tweaks. Adding Momo’s plugin lets you integrate your volca with your DAW and get precise control of those settings – plus automate and recall them.

Since you can save presets, this also solves a key issue with the volca fm, which is managing all that variability live and in production.

And yeah, you can give your fingers a rest from those tiny knobs … and have fun playing with the touch strip and sound instead.

U$6.90 / 5,90EUR for Mac (VST, AU, standalone) and Windows (32- and 64-bit VST).

https://korgvolcamidieditor.jimdofree.com

I’m going to put this and the editor for Roland’s D-05 (D-50 boutique reissue) as MVPs here – the D-05 because then you can get away from those well-known presets and take the synthesis engine in other directions.

The post KORG volca fm gets its own custom editor, plug-in 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.

Now ‘AI’ takes on writing death metal, country music hits, more

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 22 Apr 2019 4:58 pm

Machine learning is synthesizing death metal. It might make your death metal radio DJ nervous – but it could also mean music software works with timbre and time in new ways. That news – plus some comical abuse of neural networks for writing genre-specific lyrics in genres like country – next.

Okay, first, whether this makes you urgently want to hear machine learning death metal or it drives you into a rage, either way you’ll want the death metal stream. And yes, it’s a totally live stream – you know, generative style. Tune in, bot out:

Okay, first it’s important to say, the whole point of this is, you need data sets to train on. That is, machines aren’t composing music, so much as creatively regurgitating existing samples based on fairly clever predictive mathematical models. In the case of the death metal example, this is SampleRNN – a recurrent neural network that uses sample material, repurposed from its original intended application working with speak. (Check the original project, though it’s been forked for the results here.)

This is a big, big point, actually – if this sounds a lot like existing music, it’s partly because it is actually sampling that content. The particular death metal example is nice in that the creators have published an academic article. But they’re open about saying they actually intend “overfitting” – that is, little bits of samples are actually playing back. Machines aren’t learning to generate this content from scratch; they’re actually piecing together those samples in interesting ways.

That’s relevant on two levels. One, because once you understand that’s what’s happening, you’ll recognize that machines aren’t magically replacing humans. (This works well for death metal partly because to non connoisseurs of the genre, the way angry guitar riffs and undecipherable shouting are plugged together already sounds quite random.)

But two, the fact that sample content is being re-stitched in time like this means this could suggest a very different kind of future sampler. Instead of playing the same 3-second audio on repeat or loop, for instance, you might pour hours or days of singing bowls into your sampler and then adjust dials that recreated those sounds in more organic ways. It might make for new instruments and production software.

Here’s what the creators say:

Thus, we want the out-put to overfit short timescale patterns (timbres, instruments, singers, percussion) and underfit long timescale patterns(rhythms, riffs, sections, transitions, compositions) so that it sounds like a recording of the original musicians playing new musical compositions in their style.

Sure enough, you can go check their code:

https://github.com/ZVK/sampleRNNICLR2017

Or read the full article:

Generating Albums with SampleRNN to Imitate Metal, Rock, and Punk Bands

The reason I’m belaboring this is simple. Big corporations like Spotify might use this sort of research to develop, well, crappy mediocre channels of background music that make vaguely coherent workout soundtracks or faux Brian Eno or something that sounded like Erik Satie got caught in an opium den and re-composed his piano repertoire in a half daze. And that would, well, sort of suck.

Alternatively, though, you could make something like a sampler or DAW more human and less conventionally predictable. You know, instead of applying a sample slice to a pad and then having the same snippet repeat every eighth note. (Guilty as charged, your honor.)

It should also be understood that, perversely, this may all be raising the value of music rather than lowering it. Given the amount of recorded music currently available, and given that it can already often be licensed or played for mere cents, the machine learning re-generation of these same genres actually requires more machine computation and more human intervention – because of the amount of human work required to even select datasets and set parameters and choose results.

DADABOTS, for their part, have made an entire channel of this stuff. The funny thing is, even when they’re training on The Beatles, what you get sounds like … well, some of the sort of experimental sound you might expect on your low-power college radio station. You know, in a good way – weird, digital drones, of exactly the sort we enjoy. I think there’s a layperson impression that these processes will magically improve. That may misunderstand the nature of the mathematics involved – on the contrary, it may be that these sorts of predictive models always produce these sorts of aesthetic results. (The same team use Markov Chains to generate track names for their Bandcamp label. Markov Chains work as well as they did a century ago; they didn’t just start working better.)

I enjoy listening to The Beatles as though an alien civilization has had to digitally reconstruct their oeuvre from some fallout-shrouded, nuclear-singed remains of the number-one hits box set post apocalypse. (“Help! I need somebody! Help! The human race is dead!” You know, like that.)

As it moves to black metal and death metal, their Bandcamp labels progresses in surreal coherence:

This album gets especially interesting, as you get weird rhythmic patterns in the samples. And there’s nothing saying this couldn’t in turn inspire new human efforts. (I once met Stewart Copeland, who talked about how surreal it was hearing human drummers learn to play the rhythms, unplugged, that he could only achieve with The Police using delay pedals.)

I’m really digging this one:

So, digital sample RNN processes mostly generate angry and angular experimental sounds – in a good way. That’s certainly true now, and could be true in the future.

What’s up in other genres?

SONGULARITY is making a pop album. They’re focusing on lyrics (and a very funny faux generated Coachella poster). In this case, though, the work is constrained to text – far easier to produce convincingly than sound. Even a Markov Chain can give you interesting or amusing results; with machine learning applied character-by-character to text, what you get is a hilarious sort of futuristic Mad Libs. (It’s also clear humans are cherry-picking the best results, so these are really humans working with the algorithms much as you might use chance operations in music or poetry.)

Whether this says anything about the future of machines, though, the dadaist results are actually funny parody.

And that gives us results like You Can’t Take My Door:

Barbed whiskey good and whiskey straight.

These projects work because lyrics are already slightly surreal and nonsensical. Machines chart directly into the uncanny valley instead of away from it, creating the element of surprise and exaggerated un-realness that is fundamental to why we laugh at a lot of humor in the first place.

This also produced this Morrissey “Bored With This Desire To Get Ripped” – thanks to the ingenious idea of training the dataset not just with Morrissey lyrics, but also Amazon customer reviews of the P90X home workout DVD system. (Like I said – human genius wins, every time.)

Or there’s Dylan mixed with negative Yelp reviews from Manhattan:

And maybe in this limited sense, the machines are telling us something about how we learn. Part of the poetic flow is about drawing on all our wetware neural connections between everything we’ve heard before – as in the half-awake state of creative vibrations. That is, we follow our own predictive logic without doing the usual censoring that keeps our language rational. Thinking this way, it’s not that we would use machine learning to replace the lyricist. Rather, just as with chance operations in the past, we can use this surreal nonsense to free ourselves from the constraints that normal behavior require.

We shouldn’t underestimate, though, human intervention in using these lyrics. The neural nets are good at stringing together short bits of words, but the normal act of composition – deciding the larger scale structure, choosing funnier bits over weaker ones, recognizing patterns – remain human.

Recurrent neural networks probably won’t be playing Coachella any time soon, but if you need a band name, they’re your go-to. More funny text mangling from the Botnik crew.

My guess is, once the hype dies down, these particular approaches will wind up joining the pantheon of drunken walks and Markov Chains and fractals and other psuedo-random or generative algorithmic techniques. I sincerely hope that we don’t wait for that to happen, but use the hype to seize the opportunity to better educate ourselves about the math underneath (or collaborate with mathematicians), and see these more hardware-intensive processes in the context of some of these older ideas.

If you want to know why there’s so much hype and popular interest, though, the human brain may itself hold the answer. We are all of us hard-wired to delight in patterns, which means arguably there’s nothing more human than being endlessly entertained by what these algorithms produce.

But you know, I’m a marathon runner in my sorry way.

The post Now ‘AI’ takes on writing death metal, country music hits, more appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Free Downgrade turns Ableton Live into lo-fi wobbly vaporwave tape

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 17 Apr 2019 8:05 pm

Fidelity? High-quality sound? No – degradation! And if you don’t have a ragged VHS deck or cassette Walkman handy, these free effects racks in Ableton Live will sort you out.

Downgrade is the work of Tom Cosm, long-time Ableton guru. There are five effects:

Fluffer
Corrupt
Hiss
Morph
Flutter

— plus if you give him literally US$1 or more (you cheapskate), you get an additional Stutter rack.

Basically, you get loads of controls for manipulating downsampling, tape effects, saturation, distortion, modulation of various kinds, echo, vocoder, and more. It’s a sort of retro Vaporwave starter kit if you’d like to think of it that way – or an easy, dial-up greatest hits of everything Ableton Live can now do to make your sound worse. And by worse, I mean better, naturally.

Ableton have been gradually adding all these digital downsampling features (early on) and simulated analog tape and saturation effects and nonlinear modulation (more recently). Tom has neatly packed them into one very useful set of Racks.

Notice I say “Racks,” not Max for Live devices. That means these will mostly run on different editions of Live, and they’re a bit easier to pick apart and adjust/modify – without requiring Max knowledge.

Go download them:

https://gumroad.com/l/wmIbJ

The post Free Downgrade turns Ableton Live into lo-fi wobbly vaporwave tape appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Reason 10.3 delivers on VST performance promises

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 16 Apr 2019 5:11 pm

We’ve been waiting, but now the waiting is done. Propellerhead has added the VST performance boost it had promised to Reason users – meaning plug-ins now benefit from Reason 10’s patchable racks.

I actually flew to Stockholm, Sweden back in the dark days of December to talk to the engineers about this update (among some other topics). Short version of that story: yeah, it took them longer than they’d hoped to get VST plug-ins operating as efficiently as native devices in the rack.

If you want all those nitty-gritty details, here’s the full story:

Reason 10.3 will improve VST performance – here’s how

But now, suffice to say that the main reason for the hold-up – Reason’s patchable, modular virtual rack of gear – just became an asset rather than a liability. Now that VSTs in Reason perform roughly as they will in other DAWs, what Reason adds is the ability to route those plug-ins however you like, in Reason’s unique interface.

Combine that with Reason’s existing native effects and instruments and third-party Rack Extensions, and I think Reason becomes more interesting as both a live performance rig and a DAW for recording and arranging than before. It could also be interesting to stick a modular inside the modular – as with VCV Rack or this week’s Blocks Base and Blocks Prime from Native Instruments.

Anyway, that’s really all there is to say about 10.3 – it’s what Propellerhead call a “vitamin injection” (which, seeing those dark Swedish winters, I’m guessing all of them need about now.

This also means the engineers have gotten over a very serious and time-consuming hurdle and can presumably get onto other things. It’s also a development for the company that they’ve been upfront in talking about a flaw both before, during, and concluding development – and that’s welcome from any music software maker. So props to the Props – now go get some sunshine; you’ve earned it. (and the rest of us can tote these rigs out into the park, too)

Reason: what’s new

The post Reason 10.3 delivers on VST performance promises appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Max TV: go inside Max 8’s wonders with these videos

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 11 Apr 2019 8:20 pm

Max 8 – and by extension the latest Max for Live – offers some serious powers to build your own sonic and visual stuff. So let’s tune in some videos to learn more.

The major revolution in Max 8 – and a reason to look again at Max even if you’ve lapsed for some years – is really MC. It’s “multichannel,” so it has significance in things like multichannel speaker arrays and spatial audio. But even that doesn’t do it justice. By transforming the architecture of how Max treats multiple, well, things, you get a freedom in sketching new sonic and instrumental ideas that’s unprecedented in almost any environment. (SuperCollider’s bus and instance system is capable of some feats, for example, but it isn’t as broad or intuitive as this.)

The best way to have a look at that is via a video from Ableton Loop, where the creators of the tech talk through how it works and why it’s significant.

Description [via C74’s blog]:

In this presentation, Cycling ’74’s CEO and founder David Zicarelli and Content Specialist Tom Hall introduce us to MC – a new multi-channel audio programming system in Max 8.

MC unlocks immense sonic complexity with simple patching. David and Tom demonstrate techniques for generating rich and interesting soundscapes that they discovered during MC’s development. The video presentation touches on the psychoacoustics behind our recognition of multiple sources in an audio stream, and demonstrates how to use these insights in both musical and sound design work.

The patches aren’t all ready for download (hmm, some cleanup work being done?), but watch this space.

If that’s got you in the learning mood, there are now a number of great video tutorials up for Max 8 to get you started. (That said, I also recommend the newly expanded documentation in Max 8 for more at-your-own-pace learning, though this is nice for some feature highlights.)

dude837 has an aptly-titled “delicious” tutorial series covering both musical and visual techniques – and the dude abides, skipping directly to the coolest sound stuff and best eye candy.

Yes to all of these:

There’s a more step-by-step set of tutorials by dearjohnreed (including the basics of installation, so really hand-holding from step one):

For developers, the best thing about Max 8 is likely the new Node features. And this means the possibility of wiring musical inventions into the Internet as well as applying some JavaScript and Node.js chops to anything else you want to build. Our friends at C74 have the hook-up on that:

Suffice to say that also could mean some interesting creations running inside Ableton Live.

It’s not a tutorial, but on the visual side, Vizzie is also a major breakthrough in the software:

That’s a lot of looking at screens, so let’s close out with some musical inspiration – and a reminder of why doing this learning can pay off later. Here’s Second Woman, favorite of mine, at LA’s excellent Bl__K Noise series:

The post Max TV: go inside Max 8’s wonders with these videos appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Arturia’s 3 Compressors get creative, producer-friendly

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 10 Apr 2019 7:20 am

Arturia have followed up their hit “3 Filters…” and “3 Preamps You’ll Actually Use” with the inevitable trio of compressors – but as with the other bundles, there are some twists (and lower intro prices on now).

Before they expanded into doing their own MIDI controllers and synth hardware, Arturia rose to prominence on their modeling chops. And they have tended to spin those modeling engines and competency in recreating vintage gear into spin-off products. The trick with the “3 [things] You’ll Actually Use” series has been rising above the crowd of vintage remakes now available to music producers. So that’s been about doing two things: one, picking three blockbusters to reproduce, and two, adding some functionality extras that lets producers get creative with the results.

And that’s to me what has made the series interesting – while lots of vendors will sell you reproductions of classic studio equipment, these have been ones you might well use in the production process. It’s not only about perfecting a recording or mix, but also about integrating into your creative process as you’re developing ideas.

The compressors trio go that route, too – so in addition to using these routinely in mixing or mastering, you can also use them for some inventive sidechain or saturation.

The three compressors getting the Arturia treatment – and the circuitry inside:

UREI 1176 [FET transistor]
DBX 165A [solid-state VCA]
Gates STA-Level [tube]

The 1176 is pretty ubiquitously desired at this point – and of course among other recreations you can keep it in the family of creator Bill Putnam Sr. and try Universal Audio’s own creation. It’s something you can use for subtle tonal shifts even at lower levels, in addition to cranking up compression if you want. So why add another reproduction to the pile? Arturia has added a “link” button for automatic volume leveling if you want – giving you the 1176 sound but more modern behavior on demand.

And you can use the 1176 as a sidechain. Oh – wait, that’s really huge. And there’s a creative “Time Warp” feature with pre-delay. So thanks to the fact that Arturia aren’t being quite as precious with the historical design as some of their rivals, you can choose either an “authentic” 1176 recreation, or something that’s 1176-ish but does things that were impossible on the original analog hardware.

It’s surprising enough for the 1176 to be new again, but the other models here have some similar ideas.

Next, you’ve got the “Over Easy” 165A, an essential compressor in a lot of studios, which has both some nice dirty, gritty timbral character of its own and punchy processing plus Mid/Side processing. For this model, Arturia have introduced a whole new panel of additional controls that fold out when you want them in the UI.

Don’t be fooled by the skeumorphic knobs; the original DBX didn’t have these options. That also includes their “Time Warp” pre-delay, convenient side-chaining (here with an easy “manual mode” trigger so you can preview what it’ll sound like), and now an integrated EQ. That EQ is modeled on SSL-style channels, so it’s a bit like having a pre-configured mixer rig to use with your sidechaining.

The STA-Level is maybe the most interesting of the three as far as rarity. It also gets (optional) modernization, with an input-output link for automatic leveling, a parallel compression mode that’s integrated with the software (plus an easy “mix” knob for adjusting how much parallel compression you want to hear), and sidechaining.

All in all, it’s an intriguing approach. On one hand, you get panels that look and operate and sound more like the original than a lot of software models at the low end of the price range. (For instance, the compressors added recently to Logic Pro X, while free, are more loose impressions than authentic recreations.)

But on the other, and here’s where Arturia clearly has an edge, you get new sidechaining and auto-leveling and other features that make these more fun to use in modern contexts and easier to drop into your creative flow.

Sidechaining these kinds of compressor models alone I think is a win; the convenience of the UIs and the fact that these are native on any platform to me makes them invaluable – maybe even compared to the existing filter and preamp offerings.

I’ve been playing around with them a bit already; I’m especially curious if I can run a couple in a live context – will report back on that. But I’m already impressed on sound and functionality.

Everything is on sale, so if you own existing Arturia stuff, you could get these for as little as $/EUR 49 (or half off if you’re new to the series), or in discounted bundles. You can also buy the compressors individually, if there’s one that really catches your fancy.

Plus, there are some new tutorials to get you started:

https://www.arturia.com/products/software-effects/comps-bundle/resources#tutorials

Honestly, just one wish – this is such a useful bundle of effects in the nine Arturia has built, I’d love to see it on Linux. It might be the only bundle you really need.

3 Compressors You’ll Actually Need [Arturia]

The post Arturia’s 3 Compressors get creative, producer-friendly appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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