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


Arturia DrumBrute Impact: smaller size, bigger sound, $349

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 19 Jul 2018 4:28 pm

Talk about less is more. The Arturia DrumBrute impact is sure to be a hit at US$349 for a packed analog drum machine – but its newfound focus and re-built sounds also make it more fun to play.

Fitting a drum machine into a smaller size and cutting the price this low does mean taking some things out. But it’s what’s left in that may make people find the DrumBrute Impact appealing.

Arturia has been trying their hand at drum machines for a while. It began on the software side, with the Spark series, but the workflow and functionality of that line never seemed to grab users quite like with Native Instruments’ Maschine or Ableton Live combined with Push, to say nothing of people who want to get away from the computer and use some hardware. The DrumBrute was promising, packing some novel analog sound circuitry together with workflow features from Spark and BeatStep Pro, but its sound felt like a work in progress. (Case in point: my studio neighbor has one and loves it, but he mutes the kick and replaces it with something else. Making drum machines is hard.

So, that’s the surprise of DrumBrute Impact. The “impact” which I thought was just smart marketing for it being small and cheap actually is a clue to the fact that the Impact has all new circuitry inside. It’s the Arturia brain here, but the soul has been upgraded.

Finally, Arturia have made something that doesn’t just feel like another Roland TR drum machine. And that’s good, because much as I love the TR, having only that color is a bit like having a Wurlitzer but no Rhodes. But simultaneously, it also sounds like a new set of sounds you want to use, without requiring you to invest a huge amount of money in those sounds. The original DrumBrute sounds pretty good – don’t get me wrong – but this sounds better, which is …better.)

The result: this thing hits really hard. That matters. We’re humans. We like things that go thud. We can feel it. This isn’t theory; it’s visceral.

The sound engine:

You get a full complement of parts, each analog and with controllable parts. “Analog” remains something of a marketing hook, but the important thing about these parts is you get a set of sounds you can manipulate directly. That means:

KICK: pitch and decay
SNARE 1: snap and decay.
SNARE 2: tone and decay.
TOM: pitch, switch between high/low.
CYMBAL: decay.
COWBELL
CLOSED HAT: tone
OPEN HAT: decay (mute linked to the open hat)
FM DRUM: carrier pitch, decay, FM amount, and mod pitch.

I’ll work on some videos and music in the coming days. Drum machines are all about taste, so you may differ, but I liked each one of these sounds – which is really hard to get on a new machine. (The TR has a huge advantage based on familiarity, too. None of us can really say what we’d think of it if someone brainwiped us and we hadn’t heard any the music made with Rolands over the years.)

More importantly, you get a huge range as you twist the encoders on these, with a sense of power across that range rather than that usual feeling of … okay, this is the sweet spot and the rest is shite.

Snare 2, for instance, can sound like a rimshot or a clap, even, depending on where you adjust it, and lots of things in between. Tom Low easily doubles as a kick with a darker color. The cowbell is an exception, but it’s a nice grown-up homage to Roland.

It’s really the FM voice that’s the big winner, though. And it’s clear you could not only cook up some unexpected percussion with it, but also hack it into a usable, potentially weird if you want, FM bass synth.

Features:

If you want lots of I/O, well… come on, this thing is $349. But you still do manage a mono mix out, four separate outs for parts, and dedicated clock in/out, MIDI in/out, and USB.

Arturia could have made this a fairly dumb box that’s just a sound engine, but they crammed a whole lot of powerful features for playing into it, as you might expect from some of their past outings. So you get:

Step sequencing with 64 patterns (64 steps each)
Song mode for chaining patterns
Polyrhythms (set each track to its own length)
Swing, either global or per-instrument
Random pattern variations
Pattern looper, beat repeat
Real-time rolls (with that touch strip again)
Multiple sync options: Internal / MIDI / Clock, including 1PPS, 2PPQ, DIN24, and DIN48
Per-drum accents

There’s even a metronome that automatically overrides itself on the main out when you plug in headphones.

You don’t have easy MPC-style note repeat, which I personally prefer to those touch rolls, and the drum pads are basic (though you get one for each part, unlike the more expensive Roland TR-8S). Other than that, it’s hard to complain.

One surprise is the distortion circuit. It’s nice, and adds some dirt, but I almost expected something raunchier. Anyway, it’s useful to have, and you can always run those outs through some distortion pedals and really go nuts. I did run it through some light effects and delays, and it sounds unreal.

I mean, what’s to say? This thing is going to sell like crazy. $349 / 299 €. Preorder now, full availability in August.

It’s turning out to be quite a summer for hardware drum machines, with the ongoing success of the Elektrons (and some updates), the breakout hit Roland TR-8S, the coming boutique MFB TanzBar II, and now this as your cost-effective choice. If you’re still failing to play drum machines live or writing dull drum parts, you have no excuse.

https://www.arturia.com/products/hardware-synths/drumbrute-impact/overview

The post Arturia DrumBrute Impact: smaller size, bigger sound, $349 appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Star Shepard is Legowelt’s insane hacked-together DIY synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 18 Jul 2018 11:37 pm

This is a serious Frankenstein’s monster: a DIY synth made of a 1981 Casio keyboard, an AM radio, stompboxes, and more – and held together with glue and tape.

Legowelt is somewhere between modding, circuit bending, and instrument design here, concocting a kind of wonky workstation of weirdness from the cannibalized bits of other stuff.

Essentially, it’s a Casio keyboard fed through a series of effects and circuit-bent circuitry, with a looper pedal thrown in and an AM radio as noise source. Maestro Legowelt explains:

Enter the STAR SHEPHERD a synth I Build/bent/hacked/modified from old guitar pedals FX and EQ boxes, a small AM radio and a 1981 Casio 403 keyboard. The oscillator section is made out of Pitchshifter/Harmonizers/Sub Octavers and a graphic EQ pedal to create complex harmonic tones – transmorphed from the simple keyboard sounds fed by the Casio. The sound then goes through a bunch of circuitbend Analog delays, reverbs, Tremolos & Vibratos (figuring as makeshift LFO sources) and Wahwah pedals as filters. The AM radio is figuring as a random noise source. There is also a very simple keyboard style ‘sequencer’ made from a looper pedal.

The case is made out of cheap plywood and everything is held together with screws, glue and tape. There are also some LED strips pulsating from the inside for some extra intense magic.

It is very noisey, crackly and sometimes starts doing its own thing like some sentient synthesizer being that is alive. This makes it quite an adventurous experience.

It has all the spirit of electronics pioneer Reed Ghazala’s original notion of circuit bending: it’s modification of equipment as a way to “evolve” it into some organic machine life. But that AM radio alone gives it some unique and scifi sounds. It sounds like a whole studio for some rich communist-era space epic. And the formants on the filters give you the impression it’s singing to you.

Listen/watch:

Oh yeah, and there’s a painting, entitled “The Star Shepherd guiding his flock through Palm Springs”. Of course:

Your store-bought synth is now way too new, too generic, and involves too little taped-together assembly.

More of this on the official site, which has an impressive 1996 Web design:

http://www.legowelt.org/

The post Star Shepard is Legowelt’s insane hacked-together DIY synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Your smartphone needs a pocket mixer: Roland Go:Mixer Pro review

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 17 Jul 2018 8:00 am

The Roland Go:Mixer Pro packs a complete mixer into a handheld device, and it interfaces with your iPhone, Android phone – or anything else. We got one of the first units to test.

Compact enough to make the compact TR-09 behind it look huge. From left: inputs for guitar/bass (high impedance), plug-in mic (like a lapel mic), phantom power switch (needed for some microphones to function), and a full XLR-1/4″ combo jack for a mic – that last one is why it’s got the big bulge.

Your phone is missing a mixer

Smartphones at least ought to mean that we don’t carry around dedicated recorders (and their batteries and SD cards) as often. Your iPhone or Android phone or other mobile device also boasts apps for editing and managing recordings, even before you get into more creative production and live effects tools. And most importantly, they’re connected for live streaming or uploading the results.

Various products will let you connect and record instruments, or serve as more practical sound recording solutions for video shoots.

But what about the scenarios where you have a send of sound toys, synths and drum machines, instruments and microphone, or even different gadgets (like a jam session with a couple of iPads or a couple of fun phone apps)?

That’s where the Go:Mixer Pro comes in. It’s a stereo in/stereo out interface to phones and smartphones and computers, but it’s also a mixer. (It’s a standalone mixer, too, and you might even wind up using it just as much as that.)

You can connect and mix multiple inputs (9 channels in, 2 channels out):

  • Two 1/8″ stereo line inputs (for other mobile gadgets, a drum machine, a synth, whatever)
  • Two 1/4″ instrument inputs (two mono or one stereo pair)
  • Guitar/bass instrument 1/4″ jack input
  • Minijack plug-in mic (for a lapel mic, etc.)
  • One XLR/jack combo mic connection with phantom power

That’s the domain normally of ultra-small Behringer mixers and … not much else beyond that. Depending on the gear you’re using and whether you want mono and stereo connections, that’s somewhere between four and six independent sources.

There’s no line-level output – just a monitor output, though I did connect it to my studio mixer.

But there’s also a USB connection round the back. So the Go:Mixer Pro is also a 48K/16-bit stereo audio interface – you get two channels of input and two channels of output.

Front jacks – those are actually two separate inputs (each stereo) on the right.

USB means out-of-the-box support for computers and Android (OTG) phones and so on, a well as Raspberry Pi and other goodies. For iOS, Roland also supports “Made for iPhone” and includes a Lightning cable, so you get seamless operation with iPhones and iPads.

This isn’t a multichannel audio interface, only stereo, but that still fits many use cases – like recording gigs and jam sessions.

While it’s billed as a phone accessory, the mixer also works standalone – so you can just use that USB jack for power, via the dongle you already have for your phone or other gadget.

Three cables are included, for each possible device.

Form factor

Roland has packed this mixer/interface into a tiny form factor. The footprint is only about as deep as the iPhone 6 is tall. And it’s fairly slim, apart from a big bulge at the back to house the XLR combo jack and a battery compartment.

The batteries come in handy – you’ll need them to use the mixer standalone without USB power plugged in, if you want to avoid drawing power from your phone, or if you want to use a mic with phantom power with your iPhone. (Android phones will let you draw battery from the phone for phantom power; Apple are … more protective.)

Roland has included all the necessary cables in the box – USB-C, Micro USB, and Apple Lightning connections. That covers just about any computer or external power or Android or Apple phone.

But that cute little tabletop format is awfully useful. Yes, it’s marketed for smartphones, but you could also connect a Roland TR-8S, TB-03, and SH-01A to this little gadget for some on-the-go acid techno.

One constructive criticism to Roland on out-of-box experience: since this is geared for beginners, it’s a shame the box comes with no batteries and only a sheet pointing to a website in place of a copy of the (very friendly) short manual. Also a bit puzzling as they try to reach newbies: there are graphical icons on the top panel (a keyboard! a guitar!), but text labels on the connections (“instrument?”).

How it works

Operation is really plug-and-play. There’s not much feedback on level apart from a tiny “PEAK” light, but that’s okay — there are big, easy-to-see knobs.

Routing is rudimentary, but there’s a useful LOOP BACK switch – this records video while looping audio from your phone back into the device. Roland suggests doing this when you want to “play back music” while shooting video, but obviously it’s useful for production applications, as well.

And in case you forgot Roland is a Japanese company, there’s a karaoke mode. A center cancel feature is designed to remove vocals so you can host your own karaoke night.

Roland also makes Android and iOS devices intended for shooting video, though any audio device-aware application will also make good use of the hardware.

Here’s what’s really important: the thing sounds good. The mic pre and mix circuitry is transparent – I tried it with a couple of higher-end condenser mics and had no qualms inserting the mixer in my studio signal chain.

And that’s what sets this and some other recent mobile gear apart. It’s consumer-friendly, yes — but there’s no reason you can’t use this as a serious studio tool, as well. And that’s how it should be.

Key specs:
Runs on USB or 4xAAA batteries or your phone
170 mA power draw
Size: 104 x 155 x 41 mm, 220 g (that’s 8 oz)

Street price: USD$169.99 – okay, that’ll turn some people off, but frankly I’m glad to have a quality, quiet mixer

Battery case, and the two instrument jacks – you can use those as two mono inputs, or a stereo pair.

The competition

Anyone who’s been to a Berlin flea market in the past half decade will no doubt be reminded of the locally made POKKETMIXER. But that device, while a cute and cool proof of concept, is entirely unpowered, so it only mixes headphone outputs. It’s useful for crossfading between two smartphones, and that’s about it.

IK have so many devices that it’s possible one of theirs is more what you need than the Go:Mixer Pro. If it’s mainly an interface you want, for a guitar, for a mic, or for line recordings, IK Multimedia has an array of options. Apart from specialized guitar, stompbox/pedalboard, and AV options, the iRIG Pro DUO is most capable with dual preamps and balanced outputs. That interface also, crucially, has MIDI. (IK also makes standalone MIDI interfaces.)

And then there are devices that are just mixers, though for the moment few are challenging Behringer’s offerings in the subcompact mixer space. Some of those additionally have USB audio interface capability ,but that’s not the same as native iOS support, and they tend to be bulkier than this.

So to me, the Go:Mixer Pro just solved a major need for quick recordings and jam sessions. The fact that it’s a mixer as well as an interface makes it doubly convenient, and easy access to those input levels is also a big plus.

I just wish the interface with the Roland brand on it had MIDI, too – this is just shy of being an ideal ultra-compact mixer for, say, the Boutique Series. But I plan to make this a permanent part of my carry-on, and I bet I’m not alone.

https://www.roland.com/global/products/gomixer_pro/

The post Your smartphone needs a pocket mixer: Roland Go:Mixer Pro review appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Exploring a journey from Bengali heritage to electronic invention

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Labels,Scene | Mon 16 Jul 2018 8:42 pm

Can electronic music tell a story about who we are? Debashis Sinha talks about his LP for Establishment, The White Dog, and how everything from Toronto noodle bowls to Bengali field recordings got involved.

The Canadian artist has a unique knack for melding live percussion techniques and electro-acoustic sound with digital manipulation, and in The White Dog, he dives deep into his own Bengali heritage. Just don’t think of “world music.” What emerges is deeply his and composed in a way that’s entirely electro-acoustic in course, not a pastiche of someone else’s musical tradition glued onto some beats. And that’s what drew me to it – this is really the sound of the culture of Debashis, the individual.

And that seems connected to what electronic music production can be – where its relative ease and accessibility can allow us to focus on our own performance technique and a deeper sense of expression. So it’s a great chance not just to explore this album, but what that trip in this work might say to the rest of us.

CDM’s label side project Establishment put out the new release. I spoke to Debashis just after he finished a trip to Germany and a live performance of the album at our event in Berlin. He writes us from his home Toronto.

First, the album:

I want to start with this journey you took across India. What was that experience like? How did you manage to gather research while in that process?

I’ve been to India many times to travel on my own since I turned 18 – usually I spend time with family in and near Kolkata, West Bengal and then travel around, backpacking style. Since the days of Walkman cassette recorders, I’ve always carried something with me to record sound. I didn’t have a real agenda in mind when I started doing it – it was the time of cassettes, really, so in my mind there wasn’t much I could do with these recordings – but it seemed like an important process to undertake. I never really knew what I was going to do with them. I had no knowledge of what sound art was, or radio art, or electroacoustic music. I switched on the recorder when I felt I had to – I just knew I had to collect these sounds, somehow, for me.

As the years went on and I understood the possibilities for using sound captured in the wild on both a conceptual and technical level, and with the advent of tools to use them easily, I found that to my surprise that the act of recording (when in India, at least) didn’t really change. I still felt I was documenting something that was personal and vital to my identity or heart, and the urge to turn on the recorder still came from a very deep place. It could easily have been that I gathered field sound in response to or in order to complete some kind of musical idea, but every time I tried to turn on the recorder in order to gather “assets” for my music, I found myself resisting. So in the end I just let it be, safe in the knowledge that whatever I gathered had a function for me, and may (or may not) in future have a function for my music or sound work. It didn’t feel authentic to gather sound otherwise.

Even though this is your own heritage, I suppose it’s simultaneously something foreign. How did you relate to that, both before and after the trip?

My father moved to Winnipeg, in the center of Canada, almost 60 years ago, and at the time there were next to no Indian (i.e. people from India) there. I grew up knowing all the brown people in the city. It was a different time, and the community was so small, and from all over India and the subcontinent. Passing on art, stories, myth and music was important, but not so much language, and it was easy to feel overwhelmed – I think that passing on of culture operated very differently from family to family, with no overall cultural support at large to bolster that identity for us.

My mom – who used to dance with Uday Shankar’s troupe would corral all the community children to choreograph “dance-dramas” based on Hindu myths. The first wave of Indian people in Winnipeg finally built the first Hindu temple in my childhood – until then we would congregate in people’s basement altars, or in apartment building common rooms.

There was definitely a relationship with India, but it was one that left me what I call “in/between” cultures. I had to find my own way to incorporate my cultural heritage with my life in Canada. For a long time, I had two parallel lives — which seemed to work fine, but when I started getting serious about music it became something I really had to wrestle with. On the one hand, there was this deep and rich musical heritage that I had tenuous connections to. On the other hand, I was also interested in the 2-Tone music of the UK, American hardcore, and experimental music. I took tabla lessons in my youth, as I was interested in and playing drums, but I knew enough to know I would never be a classical player, and had no interest in pursuing that path, understanding even then that my practice would be eclectic.

I did have a desire to contribute to my Indian heritage from where I sat – to express somehow that “in/between”-ness. And the various trips I undertook on my own to India since I was a young person were in part an effort to explore what that expression might take, whether I knew it or not. The collections of field recordings (audio and later video) became a parcel of sound that somehow was a thread to my practice in Canada on the “world music” stage and later in the realms of sound art and composition.

One of the projects I do is a durational improvised concert called “The (X) Music Conference”, which is modeled after the all-night classical music concerts that take place across India. They start in the evening and the headliner usually goes on around 4am and plays for 3 or more hours. Listening to music for that long, and all night, does something to your brain. I wanted to give that experience to audience members, but I’m only one person, so my concert starts at midnight and goes to 7am. There is tea and other snacks, and people can sit or lie down. I wanted to actualize this idea of form (the classical music concert) suffused with my own content (sound improvisations) – it was a way to connect the music culture of India to my own practice. Using field recordings in my solo work is another, or re-presenting/-imagining Hindu myths another.

I think with the development of the various facets of my sound practice, I’ve found a way to incorporate this “form and content” approach, allowing the way that my cultural heritage functions in my psyche to express itself through the tools I use in various ways. It wasn’t an easy process to come to this balance, but along the way I played music with a lot of amazing people that encouraged me in my explorations.

In terms of integrating what you learned, what was the process of applying that material to your work? How did your work change from its usual idioms?

I went through a long process of compartmentalizing when I discovered (and consumer technology supported) producing electroacoustic work easily. When I was concentrating on playing live music with others on the stage, I spent a lot of time studying various drumming traditions under masters all over – Cairo, Athens, NYC, LA, Toronto – and that was really what kept me curious and driven, knowing I was only glimpsing something that was almost unknowable completely.

As the “world music” industry developed, though, I found the “story” of playing music based on these traditions less and less engaging, and the straight folk festival concert format more and more trivial – fun, but trivial – in some ways. I was driven to tell stories with sound in ways that were more satisfying to me, that ran deeper. These field recordings were a way in, and I made my first record with this in mind – Quell. I simply sat down and gathered my ideas and field recordings, and started to work. It was the first time I really sustained an artistic intention all the way through a major project on my own. As I gained facility with my tools, and as I became more educated on what was out there in the world of this kind of sound practice, I found myself seeking these kinds of sound contexts more and more.

However, what I also started to do was eschew my percussion experience. I’m not sure why, but it was a long time before I gave myself permission to introduce more musical and percussion elements into the sound art type of work I was producing. I think in retrospect I was making up rules that I thought applied, in an effort to navigate this new world of sound production – maybe that was what was happening. I think now I’m finding a balance between music, sound, and story that feels good to me. It took a while though.

I’m curious about how you constructed this. You’ve talked a bit about assembling materials over a longer span of time (which is interesting, too, as I know Robert is working the same way). As we come along on this journey of the album, what are we hearing; how did it come together? I know some of it is live… how did you then organize it?

This balance between the various facets of my sound practice is a delicate one, but it’s also driven by instinct, because really, instinct is all I have to depend on. Whereas before I would give myself very strict parameters about how or what I would produce for a given project, now I’m more comfortable drawing from many kinds of sound production practice.

Many of the pieces on “The White Dog” started as small ideas – procedural or mixing explorations. The “Harmonium” pieces were from a remix of the soundtrack to a video art piece I made at the Banff Centre in Canada (White Dog video link here???), where I wanted to make that video piece a kind of club project. “entr’acte” is from a live concert I did with prepared guitar and laptop accompanying the works of Canadian visual artist Clive Holden. Tracks on other records were part of scores for contemporary dance choreographer Peggy Baker (who has been a huge influence on how I make music, speaking of being open). What brought all these pieces together was in a large part instinct, but also a kind of story that I felt was being told. This cross pollination of an implied dramatic thread is important to me.

And there’s some really beautiful range of percussion and the like. What are the sources for the record? How did you layer them?

I’ve quite a collection, and luckily I’ve built that collection through real relationships with the instruments, both technical and emotional/spiritual. They aren’t just cool sounds (although they’re that, too) — but each has a kind of voice that I’ve explored and understood in how I play it. In that regard, it’s pretty clear to me what instrument needs to be played or added as I build a track.

Something new happens when you add a live person playing a real thing inside an electronic environment. It’s something I feel is a deep part of my voice. It’s not the only way to hear a person inside a piece of music, but it;s the way I put myself in my works. I love metallic sounds, and sounds with a lot of sustain, or power. I’m intrigued by how percussion can be a texture as well as a rhythm, so that is something I explore. I’m a huge fan of French percussionist Le Quan Ninh, so the bass-drum-as-tabletop is a big part of my live setup and also my studio setup.

This programmatic element is part of what makes this so compelling to me as a full LP. How has your experience in the theater imprinted on your musical narratives?

My theater work encompasses a wide range of theater practice – from very experimental and small to quite large stages. Usually I do both the sound design and the music, meaning pretty much anything coming out of a speaker from sound effects to music.

My inspiration starts from many non-musical places. That’s mostly, the text/story, but not always — anything could spark a cue, from the set design to the director’s ideas to even how an actor moves. Being open to these elements has made me a better composer, as I often end up reacting to something that someone says or does, and follow a path that ends up in music that I never would have made on my own. It has also made me understand better how to tell stories, or rather maybe how not to – the importance of inviting the audience into the construction of the story and the emotion of it in real time. Making the listener lean forward instead of lean back, if you get me.

This practice of collaborative storytelling of course has impact on my solo work (and vice versa) – it’s made me find a voice that is more rooted in story, in comparison to when I was spending all my time in bands. I think it’s made my work deeper and simpler in many ways — distilled it, maybe — so that the story becomes the main focus. Of course when I say “story” I mean not necessarily an explicit narrative, but something that draws the listener from end to end. This is really what drives the collecting and composition of a group of tracks for me (as well as the tracks themselves) and even my improvisations.

Oh, and on the narrative side – what’s going on with Buddha here, actually, as narrated by the ever Buddha-like Robert Lippok [composer/artist on Raster Media]?

I asked Robert Lippok to record some text for me many years ago, a kind of reimagining the mind of Gautama Buddha under the bodhi tree in the days leading to his enlightenment. I had this idea that maybe what was going through his mind might not have been what we may imagine when we think of the myth itself. I’m not sure where this idea came from – although I’m sure that hearing many different versions of the same myths from various sources while growing up had its effect – but it was something I thought was interesting. I do this often with my works (see above link to Kailash) and again, it’s a way I feel I can contribute to the understanding of my own cultural heritage in a way that is rooted in both my ancestor’s history as well as my own.

And of course, when one thinks of what the Buddha might have sounded like, I defy you to find someone who sounds more perfect than Robert Lippok.

Techno is some kind of undercurrent for this label, maybe not in the strict definition of the genre… I wonder actually if you could talk a bit about pattern and structure. There are these rhythms throughout that are really hypnotic, that regularity seems really important. How do you go about thinking about those musical structures?

The rhythms I seem drawn to run the gamut of time signatures and tempos. Of course, this comes from my studies of various music traditions and repertoire (Arabic, Greek, Turkish, West Asian, south Indian…). As a hand percussionist for many years playing and studying music from various cultures, I found a lot of parallels and cross talk particularly in the rhythms of the material I encountered. I delighted in finding the groove in various tempos and time signatures. There is a certain lilt to any rhythm; if you put your mind and hands to it, the muscles will reveal this lilt. At the same time, the sound material of electronic music I find very satisfying and clear. I’m at best a middling recording engineer, so capturing audio is not my forte – working in the box I find way easier. As I developed skills in programming and sound design, I seemed to be drawn to trying to express the rhythms I’ve encountered in my life with new tools and sounds.

Regularity and grid is important in rhythm – even breaking the grid, or stretching it to its breaking point has a place. (You can hear this very well in south Indian music, among others.) This grid undercurrent is the basis of electronic music and the tools used to make it. The juxtaposition of the human element with various degrees of quantization of electronic sound is something I think I’ll never stop exploring. Even working strongly with a grid has a kind of energy and urgency to it if you’re playing acoustic instruments. There’s a lot to dive into, and I’m planning to work with that idea a lot more for the next release(s).

And where does Alvin Lucier fit in, amidst this Bengali context?

The real interest for me in creating art lies in actualizing ideas, and Lucier is perhaps one of the masters of this – taking an idea of sound and making it real and spellbinding. “Ng Ta (Lucier Mix)” was a piece I started to make with a number of noodle bowls I found in Toronto’s Chinatown – the white ones with blue fishes on them. The (over)tones and rhythms of the piece as it came together reminded me of a piece I’m really interested in performing, “Silver Streetcar for The Orchestra”, a piece for amplified triangle by Lucier. Essentially the musician plays an amplified triangle, muting and playing it in various places for the duration of the piece. It’s an incredible meditation, and to me Ng Ta on The White Dog is a meditation as well – it certainly came together in that way. And so the title.

I wrestle with the degree with which I invoke my cultural heritage in my work. Sometimes it’s very close to the surface, and the work is derived very directly from Hindu myth say, or field recordings from Kolkata. Sometimes it simmers in other ways, and with varying strength. I struggle with allowing it to be expressed instinctually or more directly and with more intent. Ultimately, the music I make is from me, and all those ideas apply whether or not I think of them consciously.

One of the problems I have with the term “world music” is it’s a marketing term to allow the lumping together of basically “music not made by white people”, which is ludicrous (as well as other harsher words that could apply). To that end, the urge to classify my music as “Indian” in some way, while true, can also be a misnomer or an “out” for lazy listening. There are a billion people in India, I believe, and more on the subcontinent and abroad. Why wouldn’t a track like “entr’acte” be “Indian”? On the other hand, why would it? I’m also a product of the west. How can I manage those worlds and expectations and still be authentic? It’s something I work on and think about all the time – but not when I’m actually making music, thank goodness.

I’m curious about your live set, how you were working with the Novation controllers, and how you were looping, etc.

My live sets are always, always constructed differently – I’m horrible that way. I design new effects chains and different ways of using my outboard MIDI gear depending on the context. I might use contact mics on a kalimba and a prepared guitar for one show, and then a bunch of external percussion that I loop and chop live for another, and for another just my voice, and for yet another only field recordings from India. I’ve used Ableton Live to drive a lot of sound installations as well, using follow actions on clips (“any” comes in handy a lot), and I’ve even made some installations that do the same thing with live input (making sure I have a 5 second delay on that input has….been occasionally useful, shall we say).

The concert I put together for The White Dog project is one that I try and keep live as much as possible. It’s important to me to make sure there is room in the set for me to react to the room or the moment of performance – this is generally true for my live shows, but since I’m re-presenting songs that have a life on a record, finding a meaningful space for improv was trickier.

Essentially, I try and have as many physical knobs and faders as possible – either a Novation Launch Control XL or a Behringer BCR2000 [rotary controller], which is a fantastic piece of gear (I know – Behringer?!). I use a Launchpad Mini to launch clips and deal with grid-based effects, and I also have a little Launch Control mapped to the effects parameters and track views or effects I need to see and interact with quickly. Since I’m usually using both hands to play/mix, I always have a Logidy UMI3 to control live looping from a microphone. It’s a 3 button pedal which is luckily built like a tank, considering how many times I’ve dropped it. I program it in various ways depending on the project – for The White Dog concerts with MIDI learn in the Ableton looper to record/overdub, undo and clear button, but the Logidy software allows you to go a lot deeper. I have the option to feed up to 3 effects chains, which I sometimes switch on the fly with dummy clips.

The Max For Live community has been amazing and I often keep some kind of chopper on one of the effect chains, and use the User mode on the Launchpad Mini to punch in and out or alter the length of the loop or whatnot. Sometimes I keep controls for another looper on that grid.

Basically, if you want an overview – I’m triggering clips, and have a live mic that I use for percussion and voice for the looper. I try and keep the mixer in a 1:1 relationship with what’s being played/played back/routed to effects because I’m old school – I find it tricky to do much jumping around when I’m playing live instruments. It’s not the most complicated setup but it gets the job done, and I feel like I’ve struck a balance between electronics and live percussion, at least for this project.

What else are you listening to? Do you find that your musical diet is part of keeping you creative, or is it somehow partly separate?

I jump back and forth – sometimes I listen to tons of music with an ear to try and expand my mind, sometimes just to enjoy myself. Sometimes I stop listening to music just because I’m making a lot on my own. One thing I try to always take care of is my mind. I try to keep it open and curious, and try to always find new ideas to ponder. I am inspired by a lot of different things – paintings, visual art, music, sound art, books – and in general I’m really curious about how people make an idea manifest – science, art, economics, architecture, fashion, it doesn’t matter. Looking into or trying to derive that jump from the mind idea to the actual real life expression of it I find endlessly fascinating and inspiring, even when I’m not totally sure how it might have happened. It’s the guessing that fuels me.

That being said, at the moment I’m listening to lots of things that I feel are percolating some ideas in me for future projects, and most of it coming from digging around the amazing Bandcamp site. Frank Bretschneider turned me on to goat(jp), which is an incredible quartet from Japan with incredible rhythmic and textural muscle. I’ve rediscovered the fun of listening to lots of Stereolab, who always seem to release the same record but still make it sound fresh. Our pal Robert Lippok just released a new record and I am so down with it – he always makes music that straddles the emotional and the electronic, which is something I’m so interested in doing.

I continue to make my way through the catalog of French percussionist Le Quan Ninh, who is an absolute warrior in his solo percussion improvisations. Tanya Tagaq is an incredible singer from Canada – I’m sure many of the people reading this know of her – and her live band, drummer Jean Martin, violinist Jesse Zubot, and choirmaster Christine Duncan, an incredible improv vocalist in her own right are unstoppable. We have a great free music scene in Toronto, and I love so many of the musicians who are active in it, many of them internationally known – Nick Fraser (drummer/composer), Lina Allemano (trumpet), Andrew Downing (cello/composer), Brodie West (sax) – not to mention folks like Sandro Perri and Ryan Driver. They’ve really lit a fire under me to be fierce and in the moment – listening to them is a recurring lesson in what it means to be really punk rock.

Buy and download the album now on Bandcamp.

https://debsinha.bandcamp.com/album/the-white-dog

The post Exploring a journey from Bengali heritage to electronic invention appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Apple MacBook Pro revision boosts CPU, display – so should you buy?

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 13 Jul 2018 7:31 pm

If you’ve been waiting for a revision of Apple’s MacBook Pro, it’s here. And Apple gives its users some significantly improved CPU performance, among other features. That’s not making Mac buying decisions much easier, though.

The MacBook Pro retains the same radical redesign, love it or hate it, that we saw in the previous revision. That includes some choices that upset some users. The keys still lack travel, which can be less satisfying for regular typists. There’s still a TouchBar and no dedicated “Escape” key, apart from one entry-level model (and that entry-level doesn’t get any upgrades). You’re still going to need dongles to cope with the USB-C port. And these models are expensive, especially once you figure in their high-end internal storage and RAM configurations. The 13″ model, the one that’s more affordable, is paired with only internal graphics. The 15″ gets dedicated graphics, but from AMD – and Adobe software is largely optimized for NVIDIA.

Okay, so what’s the good news?

New MacBook Pro 13" and 15"

Well, don’t be too glum. Apple have given these machines insanely powerful CPUs. The 15″ MacBook Pro offers 6-core Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processors. Even the base model there gives you a pretty stupid amount of CPU power – and that’s great for audio, or running expensive soft synths. The 13″ MacBook Pro gives you Quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors.

The other features are more consumer-oriented, perhaps – there’s a True Tone display that adjusts its color temperature automatically, as found on the iPad, and a quiet keyboard.

But if you’re looking for a silver lining, it’s those CPUs. Powerful CPUs + macOS as the platform + the ability to service Apple laptops around the world easily + fast connectivity via those USB-C ports for audio and storage = a MacBook Pro that will make a lot of pro musicians happy. The previous MacBook Pro was no slouch, too, so the other good news is, obviously, bargain hunters can (and should) consider shopping around for used or refurbished or open box models at discount prices.

The trick is configuration. You want to save some money by getting the model without TouchBar, but I wouldn’t recommend that – you get only two USB ports and slower processors. It’s better to shop around for refurb or used and just live with the TouchBar, frankly.

I had a MacBook Pro to test last year. The keyboard I found a bit uncomfortable, but I didn’t have the reliability issues some users have reported. And talking to a lot of musicians with these machines, they’ve all been really happy – if they did express some frustration at being poorer, or having to make spec compromises they didn’t want to make, or both. But they did like the machines. As always, Apple’s industrial quality feels great – the machines are slim, the displays are gorgeous, and the keyboard is … okay, well everything but that keyboard. The TouchBar also seems to grow on people over time, and there are some options for creating custom shortcuts – nothing I’d write home about, and not really a reason to buy the machine, but something that could make you happy enough once you already own the laptop.

No, the problem is, Apple are still damned pricey. You probably want 512MB of internal storage so you aren’t constantly swapping around files just to connect a drive.

That means the “sweet spot” is really this 15″ model:

MacBook Pro 15"

15″ MacBook Pro

2.6GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor
Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz
Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory
512GB SSD storage
Retina display with True Tone
Touch Bar and Touch ID
Four Thunderbolt 3 ports

High-end specs, to be sure – but at a high-end price of US$2799.

If you don’t need the GPU and the bigger screen, the 512M 13″ is the other good price point:

13″ MacBook Pro

Touch Bar and Touch ID
2.3GHz Processor
512GB Storage

2.3GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor
Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
512GB SSD storage
Retina display with True Tone
Touch Bar and Touch ID
Four Thunderbolt 3 ports

But that’s US$1,999.

The price premium for Apple is hefty. And Windows is a perfectly serviceable operating system for audio production, if you’re willing to make some adaptations. Just be careful in the PC market. You can get some high-end GPUs, which appeal not only to gamers but for video production and creative live visuals (and running Adobe software), but it’s also clear why Apple didn’t opt for NVIDIA – those machines, even though they now increasingly conserve battery life, can run hot. And other PCs, while they have cheap sticker price, show that part of how they got there was cutting corners on industrial design. Check out The Verge’s guide to gaming laptops for a sense of what that picture looks like.

The issue with Apple, though, is that if you do go for a mid-range GPU – the same class that Apple includes in their machines – you can get PC laptops with similar industrial design and much better specs at a lower price. And that’s not the best news for Apple.

Oh, with just one caveat – you know how Apple is showing DaVinci Resolve and not Adobe software in their screenshots? I totally agree. Screw Premiere. Screw Final Cut, for that matter. Resolve is freakin’ awesome – and I have no idea why Adobe are as wedded as they are to NVIDIA GPUs. (Yes, a lot of machine learning stuff is also optimized for NVIDIA, but there are plenty of libraries running now on other architectures.)

It’s kind of a weird time to buy a new laptop – well, as usual. (Compromise! Always…) I’d love to see Apple improve their industrial design here, by coming up with a better keyboard and answering concerns about the GPU, or simply making a more competitive entry level option. But while the PC is stronger than ever, it does feel like we’re just one generation early when it comes to NVIDIA finally getting GPUs with desktop performance but low power generation and heat generation (and they are close).

But that’s just if you care about GPU. For audio production, it’s the CPU that really matters – and hot damn, no complaints there. Both Apple and the PC offer blazing-fast CPUs that still have absurdly long battery life. They now also both have high-speed buses – which on the PC had for a while been a stumbling block.

If you really want a Mac, I’d bargain shop to get a previous generation model with fairly high specs. If you want a PC, don’t fear Windows (and for that matter, Linux) too much.

At least now the landscape is fairly clear as we come into the end of the year. If you’ve been putting off a purchase and suffering with an old machine, the rich array of software that will run on these faster CPUs I think will mean a purchase now will make you pretty happy musically. There’s great hardware out there, but it’s also an exceptionally wonderful time for making music in the box, too. And it’s hard to complain about that.

https://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/

Photos courtesy Apple.

Previously:

Turn that MacBook Pro Touch Bar into a MIDI controller, free

The new MacBook Pro will work with your gear – if you add adapters

The post Apple MacBook Pro revision boosts CPU, display – so should you buy? appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Bitwig Studio 2.4: crazy powerful sampler, easier control

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 12 Jul 2018 6:44 pm

The folks at Bitwig have been picking up speed. And version 2.4, beta testing now, brings some promising sampler and controller features.

The big deal here is that Bitwig is going with a full-functioning sampler. And as Ableton Live and Native Instruments’ Maschine pursue somewhat complex and fragmented approaches, maybe Bitwig will step in and deliver a sampler that just does all the stuff you expect in one place. (I’m ready to put these different devices head to head. I like to switch workflows to keep fresh, anyway, so no complaints. Bitwig just wins by default on Linux since Ableton and NI don’t show up for the competition. Ahem.)

Meet the new Sampler: manipulate pitch, time, and the two in combination, either together in a traditional fashion or independently as a digital wavetable or granular instrument. Those modes on their own aren’t new, but this is a nice way of combining everything into a single interface.

Sampler

The re-built Sampler introduces a powerful wavetable/granular instrument. At its heart are multiple modes that combine effectively different instruments and ways of working with sound into a single interface:

“Repitch” / Speed + pitch together: The traditional sampler mode, with negative speeds, too (allowing it to behave the way a record player / record-scratch / tape transport does).

“Cycles” / Speed only: Speed changes, pitches stay the same. There’s also a Formant control, and the ability to switch on and off keyboard tracking. (In other words, you can scale from realistic-sounding speed changes to extreme metallic variations.)

“Textures” / Granular resampling / independent pitch and speed: Granular resynthesis divides up the sound into tiny bits allowing independent pitch and time manipulation (in combination), and textural effects. Independent speed, grain size, and grain motion (randomization) are all available as parameters.

Freeze: Each mode lets you directly manipulate the sample playhead live, using a controller or the Bitwig modulators. That emulates the position of a needle on a record or playhead on a tape, or the position in a granular playback device, depending on mode – and this is in every single mode.

Oh. Okay. Yeah, so those last two are to me the way Ableton Live should have worked from the beginning – and the way a lot of Max, Reaktor, Pd, and SuperCollider patches/code might work – but it’s fantastic to see them in a DAW. This opens up a lot of live performance and production options. If they’ve nailed it, it could be a reason to switch to Bitwig.

But there’s more:

Updated Multisampler Editor: Bitwig’s Sampler already had multisampler capabilities – letting you combine different samples into a single patch, as you might do for a complex instrument, for instance. Now, you can make groups, choose more easily what you see when editing (revealing samples as you play, for instance), and set modulation per zone. There’s also ping-pong looping and automatic zero-crossing edits (so you can slice up sounds without getting pops and clicks).

Multi-sample mode lets you work with zones in new ways, for more complex sampling patches.

Sequence modulation

There’s a new device that lets you step sequence modulation. Here’s how they describe that:

ParSeq-8 is a step sequencer for modulation.

ParSeq-8 is a unique parameter modulation sequencer, where each step is its own modulation source. It can use the project’s clock, advance on note input, or just run freely in either direction. As it advances, each step’s targets are modulated and then reset. It’s a great way to make projects more dynamic, whether in the studio or on the stage. (Along the way, our Steps modulator got some improvements such as ping-pong looping so check it out too.)

Also in the modulation category, there’s a Note Counter — count up each incoming note and create cycles of modulation as a result.

Note Counter.

Note FX Layer.

More powerful with controllers

Bitwig has been moving forward in making it easy to map hardware controls to software, even as rival tools (cough, Ableton) haven’t advanced since early versions. That’s useful if you have a particular custom hardware controller you want to use to manipulate the instruments, effects, and mixing onscreen.

Now there’s a new visualization to give you clear onscreen feedback of what you’re doing, making that hardware/software connection much easier to see.

Visualize controllers as you use them – so the knob you turn on your hardware makes something visible onscreen.

There’s also MIDI channel support. MIDI has had channels since the protocol was unveiled in the 80s – a way of dividing up multiple streams of information. Now you can put them to use: incoming MIDI can be mapped and filtered by channel. That’s … not exciting, okay, but there are dedicated devices for making those channels useful in chains and so on. And that is fairly exciting.

MIDI channel support – essential for working with MIDI, but implemented here in a way that’s powerful for manipulating streams of control and information.

And more stuff

Also in this release:

Bit-8 audio degrader gets new quantization and parameters for glitching or lightly distorting sound
Note FX layer creates parallel note effects
There’s more feedback in the footer of the screen when you hover over parameters/values
Resize track widths, scene widths
Color-code scenes

Looks like a great upgrade. Beta testing starts soon, to be followed by a release as a free upgrade for Upgrade Plan users this summer.

http://bitwig.com

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Eurorack’s prices are dropping, as Herr Schneider laments

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 11 Jul 2018 9:15 pm

With the proliferation of modules, the phrase “Eurorack bubble” has been floating around for a while. But now it appears to be translating into falling prices.

The basic problem is this: more demand means more interest, which translates into more manufacturers, and more production. So far, so good. Then, more distributors pick up the goods – not just boutique operators like Schneider, but also bigger chains.

Where’s the problem? With too many modules out there in the marketplace, and more big retailers, it’s easier for the big retailers to start to squeeze manufacturers on price. Plus, the more modules out in the world, the greater the supply of used modules.

Andreas Schneider has chosen to weigh in on the issue personally. You can read his statement in German:

Jetzt auch XAOC bei Thomann ..

And in an English translation (with more commentary by Schneiderladen in English):

HerrSchneiders statement on current developments in the Eurorack market [stromkult]

There’s actually a lot there – though the banner revelation is seeing the cost of new modules suddenly plummet by 30%:

You asked for it: Due to the increased demand for Eurorack modules in Europe, even the large retailers for musical instruments are now filling the last corners of their warehouses and buying complete production runs from manufacturers and everything else they can get. Some manufacturers might be happy about this, but the flooding of the market already leads to a significant drop in prices here and there, some modules are already available with a 30% discount on the original calculated price and yet were still quite hot the other day!

As SchneidersLaden we have decided to go along with this development and of course offer corresponding products for the same price to our customers, although most of them have already bought them when the goods were still fresh and crisp! We’re almost a little sorry about that, but hopefully the hits are already produced and the music career is up and running? Nevertheless, sorry – but the decision for this way lies with the manufacturer and was not our recommendation!

By the way… we don’t advertise with moneyback-warranty… we’ve always practiced it. But please: get advice first, then buy – like in the good old days. Because it’s better to talk to your specialist retailer – we know what we are selling. And by the way: We do free shipping throughout Europe and there are Thursdays on that we are in the shop until nine o’clock in the evening …and real CHAOS serves creativity.

That had to be said – end of commercial break.

Okay, so some different messages. To manufacturers, with whom Schneider seems to place a lot of the blame, the message is to avoid glutting the market by selling so many units that then they lose their price margin. (That seems good advice.) There’s also a “dance with the one that brung you” attitude here, but that’s probably fair, as well.

To buyers, work with specialists, and please research what you buy so you don’t shoulder retailers and manufacturers with lots of returns. That seems good advice, too.

(Hope I’ve paraphrased that fairly.)

It does seem there’s a looming problem beyond just what’s here, though. For the community to continue to expand, it will have to find more new markets. It does seem some saturation point is inevitable, and that could mean a shakeout of some manufacturers – though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The used market should also be a worry, though on the other hand, some people do always seem to buy new.

I’d echo what the two posts here say, which is the synth maker world will likely be healthy if manufacturers and consumers do some research and support one another.

Before anyone predicts the sky is falling, I’ve had a number of conversations with modular makers. Those with some experience seem to be doing just fine, even if some have expressed concern about the larger market and smaller and newer makers. That is, those with some marketing experience and unique products still see growth – but that growth may not translate to greener manufacturers who are trying to cram into what is becoming a crowded field.

Other thoughts? Let us know.

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Mo’Wax, James Lavelle, DJ Shadow, and more in a new documentary

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 11 Jul 2018 8:48 pm

A new documentary is poised to take what looks like a personal, thrilling look at the UK turntablism revolution.

The film is “The Man from Mo’Wax,” a documentary set to premiere at the end of August, with a full digital release (disc and download) on September 10.

The film centers on James Lavelle and his label, the pioneering purveyor of trip hop, alternative hip hop, and other things involving vinyl. And because of Mo’Wax’s seminal role in the 90s UK music scene, you get Lavelle’s story, but a lot more. DJ Shadow, Joshua Homme, Badly Drawn Boy,
Robert Del Naja (3D), Ian Brown, Futura, Thom Yorke and Grandmaster Flash… you name them, they’re in this picture. And it’s a coming of age story about Lavelle, who launched his DJ career at 14 and the label at 18 – all the ups an downs.

And of course, a lot of what sampling and beat-driven music is today is connected to what happens in this film.

How you get to watch this – apart from the YouTube trailed we’ve embedded here – is also rather interesting. Via something dubbed ourscreen, you can actually order up a screening at a participating local cinema… erm, provided you’re in the UK. For the rest of us, of course, we can just wait some extra days and microwave some popcorn and make every crowd around our MacBook or something.

The real fun will be for Londoners on the premiere date:

On Thursday, 30 August at 20:30, London’s BFI Southbank will host a premiere launch screening alongside a live Q&A with James Lavelle and the filmmakers. The event will also feature a Pitchblack Playback of an exclusive mix from UNKLE’s new forthcoming album. Plus, join us for an after-party with a live DJ set from Lavelle. The Q&A with James Lavelle will also be broadcast via Facebook Live from the BFI.

Given the subject of the film, of course there’s also a lovely limited edition record to go with it:

http://www.themanfrommowax.com/pre-order/

If you can’t wait, though, here’s FACT’s two-parter on Lavelle from the label’s 21st birthday.

Images courtesy the filmmakers.

http://www.themanfrommowax.com

Thanks, Martin Backes!

The post Mo’Wax, James Lavelle, DJ Shadow, and more in a new documentary appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The strange, cartridge-powered speech of TI Touch & Tell

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 11 Jul 2018 4:23 pm

No, not the better-known Speak & Spell. TI’s 1981 Touch & Tell was a singular moment in speech synthesis. Here’s its story – and a beautiful circuit bent mod.

Before the iPad, the Texas Instruments Touch & Tell was a kid’s robotic learning assistant – a marvel of simple chip-based electronics combined with some Reagan-era toy design and mechanical engineering. As was the fad in home game systems, you added capabilities by popping in cartridges.

The Smithsonian in Washington, DC found it important enough to put the Touch & Tell in its collections. And yes, gasp – the Smithsonian has a chip collection. (Sorry, there’s a link hole to destroy productivity for the rest of today.)

http://smithsonianchips.si.edu/texas/t_453.htm

I spoke with Ivo Ivanov, who had for some years made gorgeous custom modifications of this and other 80s classics. He was giving them slick futuristic paint jobs and useful, expressive circuit bend controls for transforming and glitching out the sound.

He shares more tidbits about these gems:

Cartridges pose with one of Ivo’s mods.

Yes, the little cartridges are basically vocabulary add-on carts. They each have a specific theme, with words and phrases that pertain to the theme. My favorite is the “World of Transportation” (yellow cart) which talks a lot about space, planets, satellites etc. 🙂

There is even a ULTRA rare ET cart that has words and phrases from the ET movie – very hard to find, but very very cool.

OH and there’s even a version of this toy that was made for disabled people – it’s called the Vocaid:

http://www.datamath.org/Speech/Vocaid.htm

The Vocaid has all kinds of “emergency” and “medical” words and phrases which, when bent, are super diabolical haha.

Anyway the cartridges are inserted into the device in a slot that lies under that panel on the left of the unit. Normally, you would need to insert a thin plastic overlay that matches the cartridge – this would activate the pins that give you access to the particular bank in question. I decided to modify that and completely removed the membrane pad so that I could wire up my own bank switches (top row of switches on the face of unit). This way, the user can basically select any bank of words/phrases without having any of the inserts. Much cleaner and more convenient way to access to all possible banks.

Last bit of info on these: the TI Touch & Tell uses a slightly different chip than the Speak & X family of toys. This one sounds deeper and more menacing, which is why I always preferred them. They are also lesser known, which made them a bit cheaper and easier to find.

And they have a nice open flat surface, which was perfect for my painted designs.

A slick, sexy all-black mod from Ivo.

Circuit bent instruments by Ivo Ivanov [Facebook]

Datamath has a nice view of the chips inside:

Reed Ghazala, father of circuit bending, personally designed the modifications of this instrument. What I find so lovely about them is that they deconstruct the voice synthesis in such a way that it really does begin to sound like an instrument – not just a special effect, but some weird, alien approach to producing noise.

Here’s a 2007 video by John Madere employing Reed’s bends:

And here are some other benders modding the VOCAID:

HELP! FIRE! EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY!

Yeah, fits the times reasonably well…

To check out these sorts of sounds in software, look no further than Plogue’s amazing plug-in:

chipspeech

The post The strange, cartridge-powered speech of TI Touch & Tell appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

From Japan, an ambient musician on solitude and views of the sea

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 10 Jul 2018 11:28 pm

As haunting, oceanic wells of sound sing achingly in the background, Tokyo-based ambient musician Chihei Hatakeyama talks in a new documentary about what inspires him.

The creative series toco toco follows the musician to the places and views that inspired the images of his music – including gazing into the sea. Of that view, he says:

“There wasn’t any gap in space, it was translating directly into music.”

Filmmaker Anne Ferrero writes to share her work, as she follows the artist “to the roots of his universe, in the Kamakura and Enoshima areas, where he grew up.”

And he speaks of the beauty in ambient music, and its connection to nature. And while solitude in computer music is often seen as something of a liability, here he talks about its importance – as he uses that laptop as a box for editing improvisations.

Being able to create music alone made it more personal. The music that I wanted to make could now express my mind – what I felt inside.

The film is subtitled in English, with Japanese audio. (Don’t forget to turn CC on.)

It’s a deeply personal film all over, and even talks about the journey from electronic sounds on dancefloors to the quieter, more contemplative world of ambient music. And he finds that moment of liberating himself from the beat – not by trying to copy what people would call ambient music on a superficial level, but by fumbling his way to this solution after eliminating obstacles to expression.

Hey, I love both modes of music, myself, so I can appreciate that balance. It’s just rained here in Berlin, and I’m reminded of that feeling of relief when it rains after long periods of sun … and visa versa. Maybe music is the same way.

Have a watch, and I’m sure you’ll want to pick up a guitar or laptop, or go to a beach, or take a personal field trip to the museum and stare at paintings.

Painting with colors in sound … filling the world with oceans of your own expression. What could be more lovely?

Now, an insane amount of beautiful music:

http://www.chihei.org

https://www.discogs.com/artist/440866-Chihei-Hatakeyama

https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com

The post From Japan, an ambient musician on solitude and views of the sea appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Don’t know how to use Ableton Live? These videos can teach you

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 10 Jul 2018 2:00 pm

Just because everyone you talk to may know Ableton Live in and out doesn’t mean you do. Ableton have quietly posted an official series of videos that covers the basics, quickly.

And yeah, it’s actually a bit funny that we’ve gotten to 2018 without an official set of Ableton videos like this. But here we are – and yes, the quality is a lot better than most of what you’ll find online. Paid training products may still do better on going in depth, but … for the essentials, you’d expect Ableton as the developer to come up with something fast, direct, and free, and that’s what you get here.

If you’re not a Live owner, there’s a fully functioning demo version you can try out so you can follow along with these without spending money.

I’m going to guess for some of you readers, this really is your chance to see how Live works – and for others, this will be an easy reference to point to so you don’t have to personally tutor all your friends.

The full playlist is some 59 videos:

But let’s work through some highlights. Note: you do not need white walls and IKEA furniture to use Ableton Live. 😉

First, I know the stumbling block for many people is just getting sound working and hooking up keyboards and controllers, so you can start there:

And there’s the requisite interface tour:

The soul of Ableton Live, and a big clue to its popularity, is Session View. This screen lets you try out ideas by combining loops, samples, and patterns in various combinations, which is useful for exploring musical materials and for live performance.

This also means you should understand warping – mastering this view will help you manipulate audio “The Ableton Way” – and the interface may not be immediately obvious:

Personally, I like using Simpler (a basic sample instrument), because it lets you quickly move to playing sounds, so don’t miss the tutorial about warping inside Simpler:

Session View is what Live is arguably about. But since the beginning, some Live users have stuck to Arrangement View, a more traditional, linear layout. And some even use this view for live performance. Understanding it together with Session View is the main task in getting comfortable with Ableton’s workflow.

Happily, after some years of users demanding the feature, you can use the two side by side. (I have to confess to not doing this as much as I probably should, partly because I got in the habit of switching as an early adopter of the software.)

There’s a lot more in there for you to explore depending on where your interests lie, but let’s highlight some of the Live 10-specific stuff, as well:

New in Live 10

Live 10’s changes to Arrangement View are really most useful if you learn the keyboard shortcuts, which can now allow you to edit ideas more quickly:

It’s also significant that Live 10 added multi-clip editing, which brings Arrangement View pattern editing more in line with some of Live’s competition:

There are a lot of sound capabilities tucked into the new Live 10 devices, but check out some of these in particular:

Oscillator effects in Wavetable are really cool.

Having Echo in Live 10 is a little like having a hybrid-Roland Space Echo toy with you at all times. But the far-out modulation of delay time is where things go wild:

Live 9 and Live 10, but let’s close out with a reminder that you can use Ableton Link to make it easy to sync other software and mobile apps and jam with your friends:

Got more stuff that confuses you? Software or hardware you’d like CDM to help you learn? Let us know.

The post Don’t know how to use Ableton Live? These videos can teach you appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Escape look-alike Ableton Live colors with these free themes

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 10 Jul 2018 1:04 pm

You stare at its interface for hours on end. Why not give your eyes something different to look at? Now Ableton Live 10, too, gets access to custom colors.

Judging by looking over people’s shoulders, a lot of Live users simply don’t know that you can hack into Ableton’s custom theme files and modify things. And so we’re all caught in drab uniformity, with the same color theme – both unoriginal and uninspiring.

Fortunately, we have Berlin native and leading Ableton Live guru and educator Madeleine Bloom to come to our rescue. Madeleine has long made some pleasing variations for Live’s colors. Now she’s got two new sets (with more on the way) for Ableton Live 10. Live 10 can still read your old color modifications, but because of some minor changes to the interface, files made for its new XML-based format will work better. (Ableton also changed the name from “skins” to “themes,” for some reason.)

Free Ableton Live Themes Set #1

Free Ableton Live Themes Set #2 [I spot a naming pattern here]

To install theme, follow this tutorial (for both Live 10 and Live 9 and earlier):

Ableton Live Tutorial: How to install new Skins

And if you think these colors aren’t quite right, Madeleine has also written a tutorial for creating your own themes or making modifications to these:

How to Create Your Own Ableton Live Themes & Free PDF Theming Guide

There’s even a link there to a graphical theme editor for Mac and Windows with previews, in case you don’t like editing XML files.

“But, Peter!” says you, “you’re just now a paid shill for Ableton, trying to force me to upgrade to Live 10 when I don’t need it!”

Why, you’ve just made me spit out some of this lifetime supply of Club-Mate soda that Ableton has delivered to my flat every day, you ungrateful readers! Of course, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t upgrade to Live 10 — why, it’s The Future of Sound. Oh… wait, actually, that’s Native Instruments’ slogan. Sometimes I forget who I’m shilling for.

Anyway, if you are stuck on the clearly inferior and not-having-an-Echo effect Live 9 or earlier, Madeleine is nice enough to have you covered, too, with a whole bunch of skins for those versions. There are dozens of those, including various from readers:

https://sonicbloom.net/en/?s=ableton+live+skins&submit=Search

And there’s an accompanying guide to making your own skins, as well.

Now, enjoy. I have to go lie down, as I think all this Club-Mate sponsorship has made me feel a bit lightheaded.

You’ll find a ton of resources for Live at Sonic Bloom, the site Madeleine runs. It’s a complete hub for information, which is way better than trying to navigate random YouTube uploads:

https://sonicbloom.net/en/

The post Escape look-alike Ableton Live colors with these free themes appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Get inspired by how Che Pope tracks live – and manages time

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 9 Jul 2018 11:40 pm

Digital production isn’t just about electronic music – it’s about producing the likes of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, too. Here’s Che Pope on his “GSD: Get Sh*t Done” method.

And yes, that’s worth highlighting I thought not just because this live-tracked music recording of the ensemble is fun to watch, but because I like his rigorous approach to separating time and concerns.

Che Pope you may now as Che Vicious or Che Guevara. He’s worked with… well, so many people, from Lauryn Hill and The Fugees (taking me back) to later on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath to Kanye to Hans Zimmer.

So listen to the man. Actually, just as with Susan Rogers, figure the kind of personality who can work with all those very idiosyncratic personalities is able to keep some distance and objectivity. Sometimes our rockstar heroes may not be able to put things into words, but the producers who worked with them often can.

To highlight the time management part – not that I, uh, ever get challenged with trying to be half a dozen people at once – here’s what he recently told Universal Audio:

I did this thing a few years back I call “Taking Back Your Schedule,” where I made some firm decisions about, y’know, this is my phone call and email time. This is when I’m reachable. And this is when I go into creative mode without any interruptions, unless they’re urgent.

In general, mornings up to about 2pm are for business calls and emails and all that; 3pm on is for creating music. Look, if you’re going to do both — and in many ways you especially need to do both these days — you need to craft a system that works for you. Doing so will make a significant impact on your ability to be productive in your creative and business life.

Actually, I think it’s easy to look at that and think, okay, that’s just for successful producers who already have this balance thing worked out and other people working with them.

I’d say it’s probably even more important if you are under more pressure and in the DIY everything situation. Then you need time that isn’t connected to social media management or tax accounting – even if it’s just a half hour at the end of the day, if that half hour is sacred.

Che Pope was talking to Universal Audio, meanwhile, because they shot this beautiful live session. This makes me want to put aside some time this week to practice keys – and you thought the keyboard couldn’t be “expressive”:

Whatever the instruments, this really demonstrates how much can happen with live tracking. And the beauty of digital is, you can now model an entire studio worth of gear and take it with you on a compact laptop rig. That means here with the UA Apollo, they can track live as if the equipment were in the room – being a UA 610-B tube preamp, and here a Studer multitrack tape with Fairchild limiters.

At the same time, the cleanness of digital recording and the control that offers can still provide a fresh, modern sound. It’s interesting to see people get the modernity in comments – but then the Studer was meant to sound transparent; we’re just used to listening to poor copies on tape and poorly maintained vinyl, played on poor-calibrated/low quality playback equipment, and thinking of that as “vintage.” (Don’t get me wrong – I love horrible equipment, too! But you get the point.)

Maybe there’s some connection to the idea of time management and decision making. Here, you really capture a set of live performances without too much manipulation – and in the ambience of the room. That’s something you could experiment with in any idiom or genre; it still scales the music performance to human time. (Some similar thoughts on ensembles soon – and a parallel early approach to production – from Carl Craig.)

And keeping things at human scale is something we can all do.

More details on the process and thoughts:
Inside the mind of Che Pope / Apollo Artist Sessions [Universal Audio]

The post Get inspired by how Che Pope tracks live – and manages time appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Punctuate, saturate, EQ, and elevate with the latest Eventide plugins

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 6 Jul 2018 5:41 pm

Sound processing machines have always tread a line between necessary tool and creative effect. The latest mixing and mastering bundle from Eventide promises on both those fronts.

It’s called the Elevate 1.5 bundle, with two new plug-ins, and two major updates to existing plug-ins (including the titular Elevate). And it’s made for mixing and mastering, though there’s clearly appeal for production, too.

Kudos to Eventide for coming up at least with clever titles for the stuff in their most recent bundle, in an industry that, like carmakers, so often resorted to unintelligible combinations of letters and numbers. (BMW 325i? UA 1776 LN revision H? Who knows?)

So, you get the Punctuate, the Saturate, the Elevate … which are at least descriptive, if slightly sounding like EDM festival stages or energy drink flavors. (I’ll meet you at Saturate! E!-vent1d3 is on in 30! PLUR, bro!) And the … EQuivocate. Okay, that one earns extra points on pun factor, minus a few by sounding like what happens when you get yelled at by your mixing and mastering engineer.

But it’s what the Eventide processors do that’s very cool. Rather than simply emulate vintage gear – since you’ve got plenty of options for that – these are modern processors that focus on redesigning processing in a way that’s closer to how your human hearing works.

And appropriately enough, then, they’re part of a collaboration between Eventide and Newfangled Audio, a sort of boutique DSP algorithm house founded by veteran Eventide engineer Dan Gillespie. (Science!)

EQuivocate is a “human ear” EQ – so a graphic equalizer that’s designed not around a set of theoretical frequency bands, but around frequencies that you actually hear.

Elevate is a combination of multi-band limiter (so you get frequency-specific dynamics if you want), that “human ear” EQ, and audio maximizer. The idea, then, is to control both dynamics and frequency domain to max out your sound in a way that’s human-focused, bringing those integrated tools to bear on the mastering process.

New to those tools, EQuivocate has more controls and range adjustments, and Elevate adds a true peak limiter – so you get the futuristic features but without clipping or becoming broadcast unsafe in the process.

Added in this release, while the new bundle is only dubbed “1.5,” are two fascinating all-new creations. And they’re both all about driving the sound, in a day and age that calls for louder sounds, without squashing.

Saturate is a spectral clipper – so in addition to the 24dB drive, you can continuously control the way the sound curves and distorts. (Hey, I said some of this stuff could be fun to abuse in the production phase.)

Punctuate is a transient emphasis plug-in – so you take 26 bands, again shaped around the human ear, and emphasize or suppress attacks. And that seems really appealing – the idea that you dig into shaping the envelopes of elements in a mix, beyond just applying conventional dynamics processing or compression with some blanket controls over everything. It’s less “big hammer,” more precision tool. (I think it’ll also be interesting to compare this to Accusonus’ Beatformer which – while not the same thing has some related ideas. DSP zeitgeist, basically.)

I always get a little nervous when magic tools for mixing and mastering are unleashed on producers who don’t entirely know what they’re doing. I should know – I’m one of those people. But on the other hand, the hearing-focused design of these tools and the ways they let you work with dynamics and frequency domain make them interesting to the creative process, too, when it’s actually okay that you’re messing around and breaking the rules.

I wanted to go ahead and write up this news in advance of a review, because I’m going to take a look with a couple of other producers/engineers so we can go 360-degrees on how you might use this. Let us know if this raises any questions you’d like answered (and anything else you’d like to see us review).

AU/VST/AAX, macOS 10.7 and later, Windows 7 and later.

US$139 promo, $199 after that; upgrade from EQuivocate US$99 intro, $149 after. (It’s a free upgrade if you have the original Elevate.)

https://www.eventideaudio.com/products/third-party-plug-ins/mastering/elevate-bundle

For you Eventide devotees, here’s the full list of what’s new in the existing two plug-ins in the bundle:

Elevate 1.5 Release Notes:
1. Added True Peak Limiting mode to Elevate as well as True Peak output metering
2. Added new Saturate Spectral Clipper plug-in
3. Added new Punctuate Auditory Transient Emphasis plug-in
4. Alt click now sets sliders to default in both DRAW CURVE on and off modes.
5. Updated some graphics
6. New UPDATE button will inform user when further updates are available

EQuivocate 1.5 Release Notes:
1. Added Range Parameter which will allow you to scale and invert the EQ curve, even after MATCH EQ is locked in.
2. Added Band Activate/Deactivate switches to allow you to hear the effect of each band in context.
3. Alt click now sets sliders to default in both DRAW CURVE on and off modes.
4. Updated some graphics
5. New UPDATE button will inform user when further updates are available

The post Punctuate, saturate, EQ, and elevate with the latest Eventide plugins appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

What makes music and creativity? A talk with Susan Rogers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Wed 4 Jul 2018 12:46 pm

What makes creativity work in music? What happens in the brain? Susan Rogers has uniquely contemplated those questions both alongside artists like Prince and in research into the mind.

I got the chance to interview Dr. Rogers at SONAR+D last month, and I found my own mind wandering to how her mind works, as she characterized different kinds of intelligence. She exudes an easy sense of empathy, and in both her talks at Ableton Loop and SONAR, she’s quick to remove her own ego and move her role out of the immediate act of creativity. I imagine the ability to do so would be essential when you’re in the studio with Prince or David Byrne or the various other oversized personalities she’s managed to work with over the years. Even our audience members seemed to immediately trust her – that unique unsung talent of the best kinds of people who work behind the superstars in music.

There was a fair bit of talk about Prince at Ableton Loop. But in Barcelona, we got to focus on the mind itself – and as Susan emphasized backstage, how to define what music is in the first place. And that moves us into her work in cognition and the neuroscience that works to decipher it.

Susan is so uniquely positioned to understand this now, surrounded by young, hungry rising musical stars at Berklee atop her decades of experience.

But I also really hope we start more cross-disciplinary conversations about the topic. There’s a slide bringing up classical greats – musicology has been so caught up in comparing manuscripts and whatnot that I think there’s a vast opportunity for more interaction with fields like neuroscience. And some of what Susan describes about creativity and its variability, its interaction with depression and social isolation, the different kinds of aptitudes and thinking styles and what that means for collaboration, I suspect speaks to a lot of us on a deeply personal level. And that may be true in our lives even if we’re nothing like Prince.

Have a watch – I’m sure you’ll be as engaged throughout as I was onstage.

And I hope we look deeper into this, as what better mystery in music to explore than the mind?

Previously:
Ranging from Neurology to Prince, Susan Rogers’ talk is must-watch

The post What makes music and creativity? A talk with Susan Rogers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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