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


Update: FCC Still Conducting Nationwide EAS Test Tomorrow, September 27

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Tue 26 Sep 2017 3:05 pm

With no hurricane or other emergency seemingly threatening the United States tomorrow, the FEMA and the FCC announced yesterday that the Nationwide EAS test is being conducted as planned tomorrow, September 27. We wrote about that test here and here. Stations, except those in hurricane-affected areas who have been given more time to file reports on the results of the EAS test at their stations (see the FCC public notice here allowing stations in these areas to file when the ETRS Form 3 is due in November), need to file their ETRS Form 2 reports on the results of the test at their stations by the end of the day, Eastern Time, tomorrow. See the FCC Public Notice about the reporting requirements for the test here.

Fantasy Mansion is an EP that’s also a generative, 8-bit circuit with sync

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Mon 19 Jun 2017 4:29 pm

The golden age of the recorded album may be long past, but the golden age of the album-as-instrument may be just getting started.

Captain Credible is the latest artist to embrace the idea of releasing his music as circuit board and interactive musical instrument and not just a set of tracks you can hear (erm, stream). So, yes, Fantasy Mansion is a set of tracks if you want it to be. But it’s also an 8-bit instrument.

This isn’t the Norwegian artist’s first go at something like this. But Fantasy Mansion is notable not just because of its adorable vintage video game haunted house looks, but also for some surprisingly sophisticated features – including sync.

This also wins the prize (to my knowledge) of coolest thing to put a download code on.

fantasy-mansionback

There’s an eight-track (linear) EP, plus the circuit board, with 32 step sequencer and three-part 8-bit sounds.

The instruction copy is hilarious. The board promises to “harvest compositions from adjacent parallel universes using a Perlington demon gate.” In, uh, more pedestrian terms, what you get is a lead melody, bassline, and drum part you can edit. There are parameters for decay and octave, and effects for glitch, repitch, and shuffle, plus a “Theremin” continuous pitch mode. And you get lots of shift functions, organized cleverly around “matter” and “antimatter” modes. (Sometimes that means something as simple as adding or removing steps in the sequencer, sometimes something much weirder.)

The modification features are dubbed “A.I.,” though that’s a bit of a stretch. (Well, one feature is the ability to “fuck up” patterns. I’m for that.)

You can sync send/receive as desired with other gear, making this a nice complement to stuff like the KORG volca series or Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators.

Here’s the instruction manual (click for full size):

operation-manual

Video teaser:

And longer explanation:

Captain Credible isn’t just a one-trick pony making an 8-bit circuit board and calling it a day. No, he can also be found playing “home made blinking pyramids, motion sensing helmets, candles, lasers and magic crystals.” Yeah. He’s one of us.

Behold:
livea

There is so, so, so much going on at Captain Credible. There are crazy destructive VST plug-ins. There are live performances. There are workshops and weird inventions, and a section called “Art” where installations are controlled by interactive helmets and powered by candles. If you’re in Norway or nearby, book this guy. If not, move to Norway, find some remote farmland, and start a festival so he can headline.

http://captaincredible.com

I’m listening to the music now. It’s surprisingly dreamy (relative to the hyperactive nerdgasm above), shoegaze-to-video game theme-to quirky jams. It’s gorgeous, eccentric, and ingeniously inconsistent, the output of somewhat with a broken attention span and overflowing imagination – in a way to be genuinely thankful for. Maybe it’s not attention span: maybe different dimensions are actually converging, some of them flat video game worlds, some of them introspective Scandinavian emotional odysseys. So enjoy!

The post Fantasy Mansion is an EP that’s also a generative, 8-bit circuit with sync appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

What does it mean that NI bought a startup that monetizes remixes

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 28 Mar 2017 2:38 pm

Native Instruments announced an acquisition that suggests a new area of intended growth for the company. They’ve acquired MetaPop, a firm that clears and monetizes remixes – and with the company, they also get the former CEO of Beatport. To work out what that might mean, you need to first understand MetaPop.

It’s safe to say remix culture isn’t what some predicted it would be. Instead of ushering in a bold new age where music is re-imagined by fans and artists find new opportunities to share ideas and earn money to support their art, we get — uh, takedown notices. And a lot of non-starters.

Into that somewhat desolate landscape, enter MetaPop. The startup was born at the start of 2015 in Los Angeles, founded by former Beatport CEO Matthew Adell. (Adell sold Beatport to SFX, though … that turns out to be an unpleasant story. It appears meanwhile MetaPop has only undisclosed seed money behind it – though that could be actually a good sign, in that acquisition could help it grow.)

Basically, the idea of MetaPop is to actively support fans making remixes, and squeeze revenue out of unlicensed remixes that are floating around online. When you just play music – as in a DJ mix or an online streaming service – you are required to pay a compulsory license, or a fixed license fee that is supposed to pay money back to the artist. That’s another discussion, but suffice to say even the US Commerce Department thinks that that license structure doesn’t make sense for remixes. (I will refrain from using the word “mash-up,” as I think it’s dead, like “information superhighway.”)

So MetaPop does two things. First, it actively courts remixes. There’s a marketplace of pre-cleared stems, where you can go and download stems for free and make your own remixes. There are promoted contests, too, like a recent one with Carl Craig. They’ll even host a remix contest for you for free.

Second, MetaPop supports labels and artists by searching for unlicensed remixes and monetizing them.

You can read Adell’s thoughts on this as CEO, as he speaks to Bas Grasmayer:
Monetizing remix culture: Beatport’s former CEO about his new mission

Carl Craig stems, anyone?

Carl Craig stems, anyone?

Now, it’s pretty easy to follow why Native Instruments might be interested in such a company. We’ve already seen that part of the company’s vision for the future of DJing is live remixing content with STEMS. MetaPop is literally a source of stems, if you want to look narrowly at what that might mean. But apart from remixable content on MetaPop being potential STEMS fodder for Traktor users, more broadly it seems to align with Native Instruments management’s idea about where DJing and electronic music are going.

I wouldn’t look at this as “what NI plans to do with STEMS, though.” It seems to me that NI are primarily acquiring Matthew Adell – and they’re not being secretive about that.

Keep in mind that NI had a financial stake in Beatport, and worked on strategic partnerships. Now, they’re bringing Adell into Native Instruments, naming him Chief Digital Officer. In today’s press release, NI CEO Daniel Haver says point blank, “we’re very excited to take our online offering to the next level.”

He’ll stay on in NI’s LA office. That office is now up to 50 people.

Let me break from script here, though, and say, quite frankly, I have some real questions and reservations about this direction.

The principle potential here for electronic music as service and remixing as medium is all on the DJ side. And Native Instruments has got to get their DJ offerings in better shape to remain competitive.

TRAKTOR is complicated, and subject to instability depending on the computer hardware it runs on. Then, some of its differentiation points are starting to look more like vulnerabilities. Sure, you can use elaborate NI controller hardware – but you’ve got to compete with a competitor who can tell you to just “carry a USB stick.” Then there’s the concept of doing live remixing with STEMS. I still like STEMS as an idea – I’ve released my own content on the format, other artists’ content, and I’ve used it and found it to be musically useful. But Native Instruments rolled out STEMS as a “standard” and has since utterly failed to bring on any major developers or vendor partners, or even to integrate it in their own production products (like Maschine). To me, it’s a great idea – but one that’s had next to no follow through, internally or externally. I say all of this as a TRAKTOR user.

That’s assuming this will have some connection to the existing TRAKTOR DJ product silo, but it’s hard to think remixing and online services won’t have some connection. (Again, DJs are the ones really driving consumption – worth saying.)

And let’s get real. This market has gone back to selling, buying, and playing vinyl records. That’s how devoted it is to reliability, tradition, and physical hardware.

I don’t doubt for a second that there are real opportunities in online offerings, too. Indeed, Adell identified some of those problems with MetaPop. Just getting music out and getting it in the hands of DJs (and remixers, if you like) is already a huge challenge to producers. That impacts NI products outside of just DJing, too – if you can’t get music heard, then you’re less likely to want to buy production tools. Solving these problems could well be valuable.

But this is the challenge Native Instruments faces. Whatever they do with digital offerings, I think they’re going to live and die based on hardware, because hardware is what we’re investing in. (Ask that competitive Japanese company that makes giant MP3 players that cost about as much as a used car.)

Sure, that may be an odd thing to say to the company that made its fortune by going to software. But look at it the other way round: NI has grown at each stage of life based on correctly recognizing trends. That includes the value of software development, then the potential of digital DJing and digital vinyl, then the combination of controller hardware with software.

They may well have it right by identifying online offerings as part of the next trend. But I think the thing to watch is whether that can work in tandem with a more robust offering for DJs, up against increasingly dominant competition.

Of course, that’s what keeps working in this business fun – it’s neither easy nor simple, and it connects directly to people’s most passionate feelings about music at a time when how music is made and heard is changing. So, as always, we’ll be watching.

MetaPop

The post What does it mean that NI bought a startup that monetizes remixes appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Bitwig Studio 2 lets you modulate and control like a bandit

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 12 Jan 2017 7:04 pm

Bitwig gets its first blockbuster upgrade since launch, in beta now. And the first look at this software suggests it’s continuing to deliver what an enthusiast audience wants – even if some of the revolutionary promise of the tool remains over the horizon.

So, first, what it isn’t: it isn’t a complete modular environment. Underneath all the goodies Bitwig offers is a set of modules that provide its functionality. Bitwig’s developers have said eventually they’ll open that up to users, not just for their own development. And that’s be exciting indeed.

But forget about big ambitions for a moment. The step that we get here looks really useful.

In fact, it might be friendlier to everyday users than the grand-modular-everything scheme.

modulator_zoo_6c

What’s cool about Bitwig is its consistency. I think Ableton has actually suffered as its included devices have fragmented. There are third-party tools that never get updated. There are truly native tools like Simpler – and those are great. Then there are features relegated to second-class citizens as Max for Live devices, which sometimes cause them to behave differently or load more slowly. There are different sets of tools for monitoring signal or looking at frequencies, and they aren’t available everywhere. Lots of functions aren’t modular. MIDI assignment is clunky. I could go on. Adding Max for Live seems to have become an excuse for not fundamentally improving any of this – at least through what’s now several years of updates. And, apologies, Ableton, but I think in this case you deserve the comparison.

Bitwig’s first versions laid a foundation for something more consistent and integrated. But we had to wait for them to deliver a product that built from that competition past the competition.

And modulators really look like they could be it. Every internal device, and every plug-in, now has an unlimited number of modulator slots.

So add an LFO if you want. Add some math or randomization. There are envelopes and step sequencers and keytrackers and nifty X/Y controllers. Plug those in, change whatever you want. Do it anywhere.

These are also all polyphonic. That combined with the cool control provided by devices like ROLI’s I think could open up a new approach to sound design.

I won’t mince words: you can stop reading here, because I think modulators are a reason to give Bitwig a go.

bitwig2

This semi-modular capability is much of the time probably more appealing for quickly coming up with ideas than a full-modular environment would be. On the other hand, if this works, it can and should increase appetite for more modular tools – if I could just change that step sequencer a little…

But I really think this illustrates the limitations of Max for Live, or running other environments as plug-ins. Being able to modulate in devices while you arrange, inside a DAW, natively, is a whole other experience. I can’t wait to try it, and I’ll be writing once I get some time with the beta.

Check them out here.

https://www.bitwig.com/en/bitwig-studio/bitwig-studio-2/modulators.html

Hardware integration is the other functionality I think is really important, and really in tune with how many people want to work now. Again, it’s nice to see Bitwig add these features natively.

For MIDI, you get devices for both hardware and plug-ins:
Control Change (CC)
Program Change

And hardware devices:
Clock Out
MIDI timecode (MTC)

Plus, there are Control Voltage devices, for gate, continuous control, and simple direct signals:
CV Instrument
CV Out

You also get a bunch of MIDI/pattern devices – nothing so radical to users of other DAWs, like Cubase, but I think doubly welcome in the context of the other hardware features and rich modulation:

Multi-note (think chords)
Note harmonizer
Note length
Note echo
Note latch
Note velocity

Add those together with modulation, and many of you probably don’t need a full modular tool.

Remote Controls for any device take the best feature of Live’s Racks – macro mapping – and appear to make it more coherent. Whereas those are device-specific and require setting up a rack, Bitwig’s feature can be saved with presets, too, and are available everywhere. They also go well with the hardware integration features above.

The other reason I’m going to give this a second go is, frankly, fades/crossfades – which look elegant and nicely work not only in the arrangement view but in clips and audio editor, too.

6c-fades-crossfades

Like any maturing DAW, the rest of this is a sort of grab bag of lots of improvements to workflow – the various refinements that occur in parallel to multiple elements of the tool.

So you get a spectrum analyzer, and spectral tools through the internal toolset. There’s an expanded Polysynth, with expanded timbral tools like oscillator mix and filter waveshaping modes – and it combines with those new modulators. There’s VST3 support – a rarity outside Cubase.

If that didn’t excite you, zoom in on this shot of the Polysynth. The new visual language, the friendliness of the UI, the richness of modulation – this looks like promising stuff for synth lovers.

polysynth

They’ve also significantly streamlined editing workflows and how tools, menus, and windows are integrated.

I expect some people will be disappointed that the revolution hasn’t arrived. And it means there’s a battle for Bitwig. The DAW market is crowded. Just being good – sometimes even being better – has never been enough.

But I think we may finally get a chance to really take advantage of the modular engine beneath Bitwig. And since a lot of us have tracks we want to make, the availability of modulators and the nice suite of arrangement and control tools here mean something you can use right now, today.

We’ll have more to say once we do our review. Happy modulating.

https://www.bitwig.com/en/bitwig-studio/bitwig-studio-2.html

The post Bitwig Studio 2 lets you modulate and control like a bandit appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Free jazz – how to use Ableton Link sync with Pure Data patches

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 17 Nov 2016 5:38 pm

Effortless wireless sync everywhere has arrived with free software, too, thanks to Ableton’s new open source SDK. And it’s incredibly easy – enough so that anyone with even rudimentary patching skills will probably want to try this out.

Pure Data, the free and open source cousin of Max/MSP, looks ugly but does great stuff. And it’s worth checking out even if you use Max, because Pd is lightweight and runs on any platform – including Linux, Raspberry Pi, iOS, Android, and inside other software (like game engines). Now that it supports Link, you can make patches that run anywhere and then jam together with them.

Let’s walk you through it step by step and get you jamming.

1. Grab the latest copy of Pure Data.

Leave that dusty ancient aversion of Pd aside. Because the “vanilla” version of Pure Data is now up to date and lets you instantly install any external or library, it’s the only one you likely need. (Pd extended is no longer supported.)

You’ll find it direct from Pd (and Max) creator Miller Puckette:

http://msp.ucsd.edu/software.html

2. Install the new Ableton Link external.

Here’s why you don’t need Pd extended any more – Deken is the awesome automatic external installer. (Think of it as a package manager for Pd.)

You’ll find the installer at Help > Find externals…

Type in abl_link~ in the search box.

Click the top choice (the one that isn’t grayed). A dialog box asks if you want to install to the Pd folder inside your library. Choose yes.

Now, you can use the abl_link~ external in any Pd patch. (It installed to a path Pd searches for the active user.)

screenshot_639

3. Get some help

Create a new Object. Type abl_link~ into the Object box. If you don’t make any typos, you’ll see the Object box get a solid rectangular outline and inlet and outlets. Right-click (ctrl-click) on the Object and choose Help to bring up the external’s help file.

Read and look around. You’ll already see tempo and beat information and the like – that’s what Pd is generating internally and sending to any other Link-enabled apps on your network.

Now, this help file will be most interesting if something else on the wifi network supporting Link – like Ableton Live, or an iPad app, or Reason – is running. So go ahead and do that. Tick the Connect box, and now if you change tempo in one of those other apps, you’ll see the tempo and beat information change here, too.

Notice that you’ve got all the same information you have in, say, Ableton Live. You can see how many other apps are connected via Link. You can see the current tempo in bpm. You can see beats. And you get more precise data you can use in your own patches.

screenshot_642

4. Use that tempo information

Now you’ll need something to do with this info. The “step” information out that first outlet is the easiest to use. So for instance, you could feed that into a step sequencer — connect the bang output so you send a bang every quarter note (in 4/4), for instance, or connect to a counter. That gives you beats, but for more precision you could do some maths on the “phase” information.

Here’s an incredibly stupid proof of concept, which creates a 4-step step sequencer synced to Link’s beats.

screenshot_641

You can paste this into a text editor, save as “peterhasastupidexample.pd” or something like that, and open it in Pd.

#N canvas 0 22 486 396 10;
#X obj 63 22 abl_link~;
#X obj 63 81 sel 0 1 2 3;
#X obj 61 115 vsl 15 128 0 127 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -9 0 10 -262144
-1 -1 4500 1;
#X obj 84 115 vsl 15 128 0 127 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -9 0 10 -262144
-1 -1 6800 1;
#X obj 108 115 vsl 15 128 0 127 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -9 0 10 -262144
-1 -1 9200 1;
#X obj 131 115 vsl 15 128 0 127 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -9 0 10 -262144
-1 -1 6400 1;
#X obj 77 51 nbx 5 14 -1e+37 1e+37 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -8 0 10
-262144 -1 -1 2 256;
#X obj 69 298 osc~;
#X obj 68 271 mtof;
#X obj 69 318 *~ 0.5;
#X obj 59 348 dac~;
#X connect 0 0 1 0;
#X connect 0 0 6 0;
#X connect 1 0 2 0;
#X connect 1 1 3 0;
#X connect 1 2 4 0;
#X connect 1 3 5 0;
#X connect 2 0 8 0;
#X connect 3 0 8 0;
#X connect 4 0 8 0;
#X connect 5 0 8 0;
#X connect 7 0 9 0;
#X connect 8 0 7 0;
#X connect 9 0 10 0;
#X connect 9 0 10 1;

But obviously the idea will be to start thinking about sequencing and time in your patches. Wherever that’s relevant, jamming just got more interesting.

Plus, because Pd patches run on other devices, you could make a little jam chorus of phones or tablets or whatever.

Note that this is all under a GPL license. If you want to use this in a commercial app, you can – but you’ll have to request a license from Ableton. (I’m doing some more research into the full implications of that.)

5. Thank Peter Brinkmann.

Peter is the principle author of libpd and the creator of this external. (I was lucky enough to get to contribute to the libpd effort with him and … hope to continue contributing, somehow.)

You’ll find the code inside the libpd repository:

https://github.com/libpd/abl_link

6. Reward yourself with a free reverb.

You read this whole article! You worked hard. Sit back, relax, and install a reverb external.

Type “freeverb” into that box, and you’ll find a lovely reverb you can use in your patches.

7. Let us know how you’re using this.

We’d love to know.

Now get jamming. You just need a nice, cozy set.

We got nothing to play. – I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do.

What? – Jazz Odyssey.

The post Free jazz – how to use Ableton Link sync with Pure Data patches appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

FCC Updates Foreign Ownership Compliance Policies for Broadcast Companies

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Mon 3 Oct 2016 5:46 pm

At the FCC’s open meeting last week, the Commission adopted new policies for assessing and computing foreign ownership of broadcast companies – particularly such ownership in public companies. The Commission’s Report and Order on this matter is dense reading, dealing with how companies assess compliance with the rules which limit foreign ownership to 20% of a broadcast licensee and 25% of a holding company unless there is a finding by the FCC that the public interest is not harmed by a greater foreign ownership interest. The rules adopted last week were principally an outgrowth of the petition for declaratory ruling filed by Pandora which sought FCC approval, in connection with its acquisition of a radio station, for foreign ownership of greater than 25%. Pandora did not file such a petition because its foreign ownership exceeded that percentage, but instead because, based on the FCC methodology in use at the time, Pandora could not prove that it was in compliance (see our summary of the Pandora petition here). The new rules adopted last week essentially reverse the presumption to which Pandora had to comply – rather than assuming that there was a compliance issue because a company cannot prove that its foreign ownership was less than 25%, the FCC will now conclude that there is an issue only where a company, based on knowledge either that it has or should have, actually knows that there it has a foreign ownership compliance problem.

The order requires that public companies regularly take steps to assess their owners to determine if there are potential foreign ownership issues. A public company should know who certain shareholders are, either because they are insiders (e.g. officers and directors) or because they are otherwise known to the company (e.g. through proxy fights, shareholder lawsuits or because they are in some way doing business with the company). Other shareholders can be determined through an array of filings made at the SEC – including filings made when a shareholder exceeds holdings of 5% of the stock of a company, and other filings made by companies that manage more than $100 million in assets who are required to report on their stockholdings. In addition, there are other public sources of information about funds and other investment companies that buy the stock of broadcast companies, from prospectuses to Internet news stories. Public broadcast companies need to monitor all of these sources of information to see whether they potentially have a problem with foreign ownership. The FCC did not require that these companies take other measures that had been used in the past or suggested in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in this proceeding (about which we wrote here).

In the past, the FCC had required that public companies take surveys of their shareholders to determine if they were in compliance with the foreign ownership limits. If a shareholder did not respond to the survey, the non-responding shareholder was deemed to be foreign. In today’s world, companies know few of their shareholders as most stock is held in “street names” (e.g. in the name of banks or brokerage houses that actually purchased the shares). Consequently, the FCC decided that shareholder surveys were not practical. Even surveys of known shareholder were not deemed to have any real value in extrapolating to the overall foreign ownership of a public company. So no broad surveys of shareholders will be required.

Others had suggested that the FCC use the DTS SEG-100 program participation as a way to monitor foreign ownership. This program is a program that some corporations use to attempt to monitor and control foreign ownership for a variety of regulatory reasons. But some commenters suggested that such monitoring was not reliable, and that the whole program put significant burdens on companies with uncertain benefits. As a result, participation was not required by the FCC.

In summary, broadcast companies are required to use these more public sources of information to assess compliance – and only foreign shareholders who are known or who should be known through these reasonable sources will count toward assessing compliance with the percentage ownership limits.

The FCC notes that companies no longer need to report on foreign owners who do not have attributable interests in broadcast companies (e.g. ones with non-voting stock or with less than 5% of the voting stock in a corporation). Some press reports have indicated that these nonattributable shareholders no longer need to be counted toward assessing compliance with the 25% ownership cap. In reading the item carefully, however, it actually does not seem to say that. Instead, it only says that these nonattributable shareholders don’t need to be reported as part of a petition for declaratory ruling seeking FCC consent to exceed 25% indirect foreign ownership. It does not say that their interests do not count toward the applicable foreign ownership limits when determining compliance if their identity is in fact known by the broadcast company.

The new rules also allow foreign investors, once approved by the FCC, to increase their ownership interests without further approvals. If the investors have been disclosed and approved in a non-control position in a petition for declaratory ruling, they can then increase their interest to 49.99% without additional FCC approval. If they have been approved in a controlling position, they can go to 100% ownership without additional FCC approval. Also, once a company with foreign ownership is approved for the ownership of one broadcast station, they can acquire other stations without any special analysis of their foreign ownership. Further, the FCC newly established a process to enable publicly traded companies to secure retroactive approval of foreign ownership above 25% if the broadcaster’s foreign ownership exceeded 25% due solely to circumstances beyond its control that were not reasonably foreseeable by the broadcaster with the exercise of due diligence.

While these new rules may allow more US investment by non-US companies, the rules for the most part are geared to making it easier for public companies to deal with assessing their foreign stock ownership. Private companies generally are not affected by these new rules, though the FCC did leave the door open a bit, saying that some aspects of these rules may be applied in an appropriate situation where ownership of a private company is difficult to compute. But, in most cases, the FCC expects that private companies will know their owners, and should be able to report on them and request FCC approval, where appropriate, in cases where the foreign ownership exceeds 25% of a holding company. We’ve written here and here about the cases pending before the Commission seeking approval of foreign ownership of broadcast stations above 25%. Through these cases, FCC treatment of foreign ownership of private companies may become clearer.

Obviously, this is a very high level summary of the FCC actions. In an area this complex, there are many nuances that need to be carefully analyzed in any transaction involving foreign ownership. But the bottom line is that the FCC is moving toward a system of assessing foreign ownership more like that which it uses for non-broadcast services – one where foreign investment is more normalized and available to bring capital into the broadcast marketplace.

Reminder that Broadcasters May Now Leverage the FAA’s Small Drone Rules

Delivered... Emilie de Lozier | Scene | Tue 6 Sep 2016 3:37 pm

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA’s”) recently established rules to allow the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”) – more commonly known as “drones” – took effect on Monday, August 29, 2016.  We previously wrote about these rules (and the opportunities and risks they present for broadcasters) here and here.  For those eager to get their newsgathering drones off the ground, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Certification.  Under the new rule, all operations must be conducted by, or under the supervision of, a person who holds a “remote pilot certificate.”  The least resource-intensive way to achieve this certification is for licensed pilots (with up-to-date flight reviews) to take a free online training course.  Novice flyers without a pilot’s license are required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and also meet certain age and security clearance requirements.  Luckily, there are resources available (here and here) to usher you through the process.

Registration and Reporting.  All drones used for commercial purposes (such as newsgathering) must be registered and marked.  And, operators have a duty to report any accidents.

Waiver.  If you want to conduct drones operations outside the scope of the rules (e.g., beyond visual line of sight, flights over people), you may request a waiver via the FAA’s new online portal.  Both the FAA and the Department of Transportation have released guidance on the new process, and we are available to answer any questions you have along the way.  Waivers will not be granted automatically and processing time will vary depending on the complexity of the request.  Parties are advised to submit requests at least 90 days in advance of flight.

State and Local Laws.  Many states and localities have adopted laws to restrict drone operations.  These are particularly relevant to broadcasters when practicing for newsgathering events.  (That is, when broadcasters are not necessarily exercising their First Amendment rights.)  So, be sure to check out the local landscape.

Finally, keep checking back here as we monitor the continuing evolution of the drone rules and regulations broadcasters need to know.

FAA Clears Small Drones for Takeoff: What You Need to Know

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Wed 6 Jul 2016 10:06 pm

New FAA rules for drones were recently approved, and the rules may provide more opportunities for broadcasters to get in the game.  Emilie de Lozier from my firm offers these thoughts:

Broadcasters, prepare for takeoff later this summer.  The Federal Aviation Administration recently finalized rules to broadly permit the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”) – or drones – provided certain requirements are met.  The new rules are in many cases more permissive than the existing regulatory framework, but some potential pitfalls remain.  Rest assured, we are here to help you navigate the complexities of this new regime.  Below we provide a high-level discussion of the new rules and their effect on broadcasters’ future sUAS operations to support newsgathering.

We previously wrote about the FAA rulemaking to develop these rules here.  As a quick refresher, in 2012, Congress directed the FAA to develop a plan for incorporating drones into the national airspace.  In the meantime, the FAA created an exemption process pursuant to Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to authorize commercial UAS operations on a case-by-case basis.  The FAA has granted more than 5,000 exemption requests to date, including for newsgathering purposes, and thousands of these requests remain pending.  (If your petition is among those pending, you should monitor your petition docket for a status update from the FAA in the coming weeks.)  The new rules are intended to minimize the need for parties, including broadcasters, to seek such exemptions.

Some broadcasters have been quick to adopt sUAS and that trend is likely to expand once the rules become effective on August 29, 2016.  Indeed, the new rules offer many cost-saving and other benefits when compared to the requirements generally imposed by the FAA in Section 333 exemptions.  For example, broadcasters will have more leeway when operating near crowds.  The new rules only prohibit flights directly over people not participating in the drone’s operations, whereas Section 333 exemptions now prohibit flights anywhere within 500 feet of nonparticipants.  Further, the rules create a streamlined, drone-specific pilot’s license – the “remote pilot certificate” – that allows operators to avoid the time-consuming and expensive training needed to fly manned aircraft.  Finally, it is important to note that although certain legacy restrictions (e.g., visual line of sight, flights over people) are preserved in the new rules, the FAA established a mechanism for operators to apply for waivers.  In fact, most operational restrictions in the new rules are waivable upon showing that the operation can be conducted safely.

Even with a broad waiver mechanism, there are legal risks associated with deploying drones for newsgathering.  The new rules preserve many safety restrictions that all airborne newsgathering operations – be they by drone or helicopter – must observe, such as a prohibition on reckless operations.  And, with these restrictions come significant compliance obligations, including some registration and recordkeeping requirements like registering drones and reporting accidents.  Broadcasters are therefore encouraged to develop compliance plans and abide by best practices to avoid FAA sanctions.

Finally, broadcasters seeking to take advantage of the new rules must take several preliminary steps before commencing operations.  First, commercial drones must be registered and marked.  For more information on that process, click here.

In addition, all operations must be conducted by, or under the supervision of, a person who holds a remote pilot certificate.  Licensed pilots on staff (with an up-to-date flight review) can quickly achieve this certification by taking an online training course.  In the alternative, non-licensed individuals can obtain certification by passing an aeronautical knowledge test, among other requirements.  So, if you carefully follow the rules, starting August 29, broadcasters will have many more opportunities to use drones in their operations.

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It’s Our Anniversary – A Decade of the Broadcast Law Blog

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Sun 12 Jun 2016 5:24 pm

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of my first post welcoming readers to this Blog.  I’d like to thank all of you who read the blog, and the many of you who have had nice words to say about its contents over the years.  In the ten years that the blog has been active, our audience has grown dramatically.  In fact, I’m amazed by all the different groups of readers – broadcasters and employees of digital media companies, attorneys and members of the financial community, journalists, regulators and even students and teachers. The blog was recently profiled on Lexblog Leaders, relaying some of the stories about readers that I have discovered, and I have many more such stories.  Because of all the encouragement that I have received, I’ve keep going, hopefully providing you all with some valuable information along the way.

I want to thank those who have supported me in being able to bring this blog to you.  My old firm, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP helped me get this started (and graciously allowed me to take the blog with me when I moved to my current firm four years ago).  My new firm, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, has also been very supportive, and I particularly want to thanks several attorneys at the firm (especially Rosemary Harold, David O’Connor and Kelly Donohue) who help catch, on short notice, my typos and slips in analysis for articles that I usually get around to finishing shortly before my publishing deadline.  I’ve also published a number of articles written by my colleagues, and I hope that they will continue with their valuable contributions in the future.  Thanks, also, to my friendly competitors at the other law firms that have taken up publishing blogs on communications and media legal issues since I launched mine – you all do a great job with your own take on the issues, and you inspire me to try to keep up with you all. 

I’ve posted close to 1800 articles in the last 10 years.  That works out to almost an article once every other day.  But there never seems to be any shortage of topics to write about.  In fact, what is in short supply is time – as clients and life need to come first, and blogging gets worked into the schedule when it fits.  But writing this blog has become an important part of my legal practice.  It has, I think, helped make me a better lawyer, as it has given me an incentive to keep up to date on developments in the law and in business that affect broadcasters and other media companies.  The articles, and the opportunities that the articles have opened for speaking and otherwise contributing to industry discussions, have introduced me to many people on the business side of the industry – who are there pushing these developments.  Interacting with those actually in the business trenches provide even more to write about.

When we first started the blog, I don’t think that I was sure how it would turn out.  But, among the many goals that I set in my first post, was the following:

So some days, the blog may just report on FCC actions. Other days, we may link to interesting or provocative news stories that we see in the trade or popular press. But sometimes, we will tackle more fundamental issues. For instance, one of the first questions we’ll have to address is just what the broadcast industry is today. While we could limit the stories in this blog to just matters about the over-the-air broadcast industry, that narrow view would be far too limiting. Broadcasting is no longer an island unto itself. Instead, each day it becomes more and more clear that the world that traditional broadcasting inhabits is one that goes far beyond those narrow areas that the FCC has traditionally defined as a broadcast service. Thus, will be pointing out developments and legal decisions that impact not only traditional over-the-air radio and television stations, but also those in the myriad “new media” that are now so crucial to any understanding of the broadcast industry. Media “convergence,” which has for so long been nothing more than a buzz word thrown around to make it seem like we’re thinking about the future, is finally here, and cannot be ignored in a discussion of the broadcast industry.

Looking back, that may have been an ambitious goal, but it is one that I hope that I have come close to fulfilling.  In fact, in the last week, with articles that we published on the safe harbor for user generated content, appeals of the recent Copyright Royalty Board webcasting royalty decision, and legal issues under the TCPA with texting, it is clear that the initial vision of a broadcasting industry that has expanded far beyond its traditional over-the-air bounds was not just the first question that we would address, but it is one that we address every week.  So thanks again to all our readers.  Keep reading, tell your friends, let me know how I can help you, and we’ll see what happens in the second decade of the Broadcast Law Blog!

Pioneer just made the hardware sampler that NI, Akai didn’t

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 5 Apr 2016 12:51 pm

For many, many DJs, Pioneer simply owns the DJ booth. The ability to work with Recordbox on the computer, drop a USB stick in a bag, and then just plug into the ubiquitous CDJ is a level of convenience no one else can match. (Seriously, what other gig can you play with something you can fit in your pocket, unless you’re a harmonica player or beat poet?) But that raises the question – what can Pioneer do beyond their enormously successful mixers and digital players? The answer: they may now be set to extend that dominance.

We got one answer to this in 2014, when Pioneer moved into turntables with the PLX-1000. And Pioneer proved adept in the phonograph business: many DJs I know feel the PLX exceeds even the iconic Technics 1200. Now, having brought the high-torque direct drive turntable back from the dead, Pioneer is moving into another category others have abandoned. While Native Instruments and Akai ship drum machines that rely on your computer to operate, Pioneer is shipping a modern, standalone sampler/sequencer.

It’s called the Toraiz SP-16. (Still waiting to find out how you pronounce that. Tor-eyes? Tor-raise? Stand by.)

LS_top_low_0323

That should already make MPC fans go wild – long disappointed by Akai’s unwillingness to make new hardware. But as if that weren’t enough, Pioneer also has this ace in the hole: they can bake “Pro DJ Link” right into the hardware so you can plug and play with CDJs.

Another mystery has been solved here, too. Last week, Pioneer invited the press to an event at Musikmesse revealing a collaboration with Dave Smith. That news wasn’t meant for public dissemination, but it leaked out when Pioneer failed to tell media the information was under embargo.

LS_davesmith_low_0323

Unfortunately, we don’t get a drum machine with design input from Dave Smith (maker of the Tempest) or Roger Linn (creator of the Linndrum and MPC). But we do get Dave Smith Instruments’ filters – one four-pole, resonant, low-pass filter, and one two-pole high-pass filter. This means Pioneer can claim they’ve got some “analog” sound in the box, and get some extra credibility from the legacy of the Prophet. The four-pole filter is from the Prophet-06 synth, and “inspired by” the original Prophet-5 filter from 1978. (CDM is currently awaiting some comment and clarification from DSI about exactly which filter designs are there.)

The filters are apparently a big deal to Pioneer, who make it a banner feature of the instrument and will feature Dave Smith himself at Musikmesse.

The low-pass filter has resonance and drive controls. The filter comes from the Prophet-06 synth.

Pricing, suggested retail: €1599 / £1279 / $1499, due in summer.

And the feature set is impressive, too:

  • 16-step sequencer with 256 patterns
  • 7-inch full color touch screen. (That’s not unlike what Akai just did with MPC Touch – though an important detail will be to see how the touch screen feels; it’s tough when Apple are setting the bar.)
  • 4×4 RGB pads, of course, which you can use with or without velocity. (Disco pads seem a necessary feature these days.
  • x0x-style step sequencing on the bottom, in addition to the MPC-style pad layout.
  • 16-tracks of real-time playback.
  • A whole lot of sample storage: 8GB of flash memory are built in, with 2GB of samples from Loopmasters pre-loaded.
  • Amp envelope and time stretching. I’m curious to hear how good the time stretching algorithms sound.
  • Touch strip for controlling pitch bend and “various parameters”
  • Pro DJ Link for sync, as well as MIDI clock (more on that in a moment)
  • USB and MIDI DIN (in and out/thru) onboard.
  • 8 audio outputs, 2 audio inputs, phone jack.

And it’s nicely portable: 436.5 x 261.2 x 74.3 mm (W x D x H), 3.2 kg.

I do suspect it’s not entirely finished, as some of the specs seemed unclear.

From the press photo cache, an interesting look at how the macro controls appear to work - and with the x0x-style step sequencer.

From the press photo cache, an interesting look at how the macro controls appear to work – and with the x0x-style step sequencer.

LS_rear_low_0323

I have a lot of questions, which I’ll try to answer in Frankfurt Thursday and in communications with Pioneer and Dave Smith. For one, I’m curious about how you’ll load samples onto the device. It does have inputs onboard, which suggests sampling from external sources – that’s also huge, and I’m curious to see how it works. They also haven’t revealed much about the sound design functionality or mixing/effects architecture of the instrument, apart from letting us know we can route sounds through the two filters.

All of this makes an appealing musical instrument, and being a standalone device may already win over fans for the studio or live shows. But where Pioneer has an advantage is being able to market the same box to DJs – and make an argument that they could use the product in hybrid DJ/live sets. With audiences tiring of the same old routine, and a market ever more crowded with DJs (partly thanks to the ease of the CDJ), that could be a differentiation point.

And that’s where Pioneer’s own sync protocol gives them an edge. The SP-16 does support convention MIDI clock. But it also of course has Pioneer’s Pro DJ Link. The protocol uses Ethernet LAN cables to connect clock, transport, and beat information between decks. And it works across all recent Pioneer CDJ and mixer products. That means you will be able to bring an SP-16 to a gig, plug in via Ethernet, and then have turnkey sync support with the CDJs at a venue. All you’ll need is an Ethernet cable (and enough space to set your SP-16 in the booth). The sync option is really nice: Pioneer says loops and one-shots are synced to the beat clock of the CDJ or XDJ.

This PDF explains how connection works.

LS_sync_low_0323

Now, sure, the CDJ-2000nexus “sync button” is already something a bit controversial. And, sure, just as DJ traditionalists would say you should beatmatch rather than hit sync on a CDJ, they might also say you should be able to beatmatch with a drum machine or other device.

I don’t care what they say: I think the market has spoken, and DJs are glad for this kind of convenience. We live in a digital age where we expect our expensive machines to be smart enough to sync with one another. And as more of them do sync, and sync better, that expectation will only accelerate.

This, of course, raises a question: will sync be the exclusive domain of stuff with Pioneer logos on? Pioneer notes you’ll need to flash the SP-16 to the latest firmware to use Pro DJ Link, and makes some vague promises about future sync to DAWs and other tools.

But wait a minute here. What would happen if the SP-16 also added support for Ableton’s Link protocol? (Heck, the nexus CDJs already have a “LINK” button that looks a whole lot like what Ableton put in Ableton Live.)

That may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Pioneer and Ableton are naturally complementary: Pioneer is in DJing, not production, and Ableton Live is more a production and performance tool than anything like a CDJ or Rekordbox. And there’s nothing preventing Link from working in hardware – indeed, Pro DJ Link works over a network transport just as Ableton Link does. Having a hardware drum machine that synced effortlessly with a computer, minus the usual hassle of MIDI clock, would be a huge boon. I have no idea whether it could happen or not, but I do think a business case for the collaboration could be made at either company.

And, of course, all of this is a bit of a blow for Akai and Native Instruments – Pioneer got their first (or, in the case of Akai, uh … after Akai had left). Each have products that could work standalone; Akai in particular have legions of MPC fans who have been clamoring for something standalone. And with standalone hardware able to do more of the things that once only a computer could, the ongoing trend to standalone devices continues. I think the laptop value proposition and flexibility mean that software is going nowhere, but then it’s also nice to make hardware that is free from the burdens of OS updates and unpredictable performance.

It’s certainly a unit to watch. The price point means Elektron is still competition. But if they nailed the workflow, I’m sure the Pioneer piece is going to be an enormous hit.

Pioneer DJ Toraiz SP-16 news item [pioneerdj.com]

The post Pioneer just made the hardware sampler that NI, Akai didn’t appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

Free pack connects Ableton to the physical world, Internet

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 24 Mar 2016 9:08 pm

You can already connect your music software to MIDI devices. But why not Internet data, video, the weather, or physical worlds of Arduino and LEGO Mindstorms, too? With a new pack released today, making connections is a matter of adding some building blocks.

Arduino connected to Ableton Live.

Arduino connected to Ableton Live. Photo courtesy Ableton.

The inclusion of Max inside Ableton Live means pretty much anything you can do in that open-ended patching environment you can do in Ableton Live. So in that sense, the free Max for Live Connection Kit actually doesn’t do anything you couldn’t do already. But what it does do is make a bunch of stuff ready to use out of the box. You can use these devices as-is, or take them as an example for your own patching if you choose.

The set looks like a boon for hackdays, education, or just trying something different in the studio. Even for experienced Max users, it’s nice having a set of idea-starters with that initial work done for you; it’s a huge motivator.

The biggest crowd pleaser is the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 brick module. Connect to the MINDSTORMS via Bluetooth, and you can receive sensor input and control motors, linking events to what’s happening in your Live set. Ableton were showing this functionality off in particular in preview days held at Berlin’s CTM Festival last month.

A Mindstorms play area, seen at CTM Festival last month (with some happy Abletons running motors and sensors)!

A Mindstorms play area, seen at CTM Festival last month (with some happy Abletons running motors and sensors)!

There are a number of devices dedicated to handling OSC (OpenSoundControl):

An OSC monitor
A device for receiving data from TouchOSC on the iPad (which also shows the active layout)
An example that sends MIDI data to OSC (with an accompanying Processing visualization example for receiving that data)
A Leap Motion example device for translating gestural data into Live

That’s pretty far from everything you’d want to do with OSC, but it’s a good starting point; because OSC is by definition open-ended, you might want to make your own device based on one of these.

There are two Arduino devices:

One device receives sensor data and sends parameters to LEDs or motors with an Arduino Uno
One is designed for use with the ins and outs of the Arduino module in littleBits

And you get three additional devices for data and video:

  • JSON Weather queries the weather over the Internet and then sonifies it – an example of how to fetch and parse data from the Web.
  • JSON Video is also an Internet example, but pulls #ableton-tagged videos from Vine.
  • Camera uses a webcam in Live and does some basic motion detection for webcam control of Live.
The Weather: now not just a reason to stay in and work on music, but also an Ableton Device!

The Weather: now not just a reason to stay in and work on music, but also an Ableton Device!

All of these devices are available on GitHub, which means Ableton can keep them up to date, but Max users can make their own modifications, too.

When you install the Connection Kit, you’ll find all of these devices grouped in Packs. There’s a brief help summary of what they all do, with full documentation on GitHub (also meaning it can be kept up to date).

Open up those patches, and you can learn a bit about how to do this stuff in Max - or modify them for your own purposes.

Open up those patches, and you can learn a bit about how to do this stuff in Max – or modify them for your own purposes.

I’m really curious to see what you’ll do with it. And this sort of functionality is a natural for Max for Live – there’s no logical way to build it natively into a host, but giving you some building blocks to play with your ideas fits perfectly. Let us know what you think – or if you have your own favorite Max creations for working with Ableton.

https://www.ableton.com/en/packs/connection-kit/

The post Free pack connects Ableton to the physical world, Internet appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

Music is getting worse, unless of course it isn’t

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 1 Mar 2016 4:50 pm

Complaining about pop music is probably the safest form of musical clickbait imaginable. After all, who isn’t annoyed by at least some earworm, some teeny-bopper celeb? If you long for still more of that, we have another white guy shouting at a camera about it – and, to be fair, some of this is reasonably funny. There’s just one problem: is the argument that music is getting progressively worse actually true – or even asking the most relevant questions?

First, let’s have a watch of the film:

The thesis that pop music is terrible and getting worse is not terrifically difficult to argue if you so choose, but Paul Joseph Watson takes up something that ought to read as more provocative right in the one-line description:

“The music industry is brainwashing us into liking terrible songs.”

I initially thought that the “brainwash” reference would have something to do with the production of pop songs – maybe something like the “four chord phenomenon,” where many chart-toppers have the same major triadic harmonic progression (with the same voicing, no less). Listen:

To me as a composer, this was always fascinating. In fact, rather than a criticism, you could watch the above video as something of a challenge – how do you fit in a harmonic structure so narrow, but stand apart? (Bonus irony points: “Love the Way You Lie” was written by Skylar Grey as an ode to the abusive relationship she had with the music industry.)

But the video isn’t about that. It’s actually a common refrain of complaints. On their own, each of them is factual. But let’s put them in context – most significantly, in the context of a pop industry that is partly collapsing, and partly re-aligning.

One at a time.

Lyrics are getting dumber. The loudest shouting involves pop lyrics getting dumber, based on a widely-shared study of “lyric intelligence.” I find these numbers utterly fascinating, if taken as a grain of salt. But apart from the sample size (a decade’s worth of Billboard chart toppers), we have to first consider the metric itself.

Almost everywhere I’ve seen the study quoted, it’s been presented in a profoundly misleading way. The data Seatsmart displays and compares is from the Flesch–Kincaid readability test, specifically the grade level score. You can do the same thing the Seatsmart writer did, by pasting stuff into a free website.

What the Flesch–Kincaid grade level actually does is weight text by density – density of syllables per word, and words per sentence. On some level, this could suggest something about the relative braininess of lyrics, but probably not in a terribly useful way. That is, Steven Sondheim will rank higher than Katy Perry, but – you knew that already. (“A wedding? What’s a wedding? It’s a prehistoric ritual where everybody promises fidelity forever which is maybe the most horri–” I’ll stop.)

But having greater syllable and word density doesn’t make something smarter, any more than food having more ingredients necessarily makes it better. Flesh-Kincaid has been criticized for being a poor study of actual readability even in its original context. It certainly was never intended to measure lyrics, which are sung and heard, since it was produced to measure text that’s read.

If you really want to defend the Seatsmart article, then congratulations, because you just became a fan of Nickleback and country music, who score highest in the story. CDM’s homepage currently scores only grade 4.5, which explains why we’re so damned popular with pre-teens. I won’t even start with the body of Classical music that repeats “Ave Maria” over and over again.

Or consider Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, which scores an impossibly low -1.3 thanks to its nearly exclusive use of one-syllable words. Sure, it’s a kids book, technically – but as poetry, the person able to write like that has to be pretty darned smart. And that’s the whole point.

You’re certainly welcome to argue that pop lyrics are dumb or even dumber. But using the measure the US military used in the 1970s to grade the difficulty of their technical manuals – sorry, that’s just stupid.

Finally, as my last piece of evidence, I point you to the 1963 classic “Surfin’ Bird (Bird Is The Word)” as my choice of dumbest song lyrics (hilariously) of all time. Surfin’ Bird squeaks out grade level 2.6 on the F-K index, thanks to repeating the word “bird” in each line so many times and fleeting multi-syllabic action from the words “surfin'” and “everybody.” Try all you might, 21st century music industry, I think you’ll never get dumber. (Wait, now maybe I have argued that pop music has gotten worse, if 1963 was its peak.)

The talent you see aren’t the producers / writers aren’t producing. I’ll call this the “let’s pick on Taylor Swift again” measure.

On its surface, it’s true – many hit pop songs have separate credits for producer and writer. And indeed, the article quoted in the video is a fascinating read:

Hit Charade:
Meet the bald Norwegians and other unknowns who actually create the songs that top the charts
[The Atlantic]

Since these writers dominate the charts, it is fair to say those charts are becoming less diverse. And it means that the talent you see aren’t necessarily writing their own songs.

What’s puzzling to me is the idea that this is a new phenomenon. Burt Bacharach has some 73 US and 52 UK Top 40 hits. Some composers have more hits than others. (Before Bacharach, there was Bach.) In fact, the real point here is that the writers are unknown.

And let’s come back to Taylor Swift, treated with derision in this video in this very example. I’m no Taylor Swift fanboy, but whether I like her songs or not does not entitle me to my own set of facts. And in fact what Taylor Swift has contributed to her records appears to be a significant amount of writing. Rather than random YouTube video contributors, you can ask someone like Imogen Heap – who effuses that Swift is in fact a significant creative force in her top hits. Imogen Heap is herself an example that artists can and do choose to write and produce their own music. (Imogen even does her own mixing, and she has two Grammy nominations.)

Also, while Swift’s 1989 isn’t really my taste, songwriting and production are in fact different qualities. I recently had a thoroughly enjoyable listen to a set of Ryan Adams covers of that album, because the unplugged renditions let the songwriting come through differently.

Listen to the one track that Taylor herself wrote solo. I suppose it backs up the argument that pop production values can drown a track – no argument there. But it undermines the idea that Taylor can’t write. It’s an achingly beautiful song. It’s unmistakably a pop ballad, but sometimes those can be lovely.

Pop is getting more homogenous and louder and worse. Now, here, there may be a case to be made. The video above refers to a 2012 Spanish study that found in a larger dataset evidence that both timbral and harmonic complexity and diversity had weakened from 1955 to 2010.

Also, I think few producers would argue that the “loudness wars” have been damaging to music by over-compressing dynamic range, which by definition will remove dynamic contrast. Simply put, over-simplifying music’s dynamic range is subtracting information from a recording. The simple truth is, humans like things to sound louder – even those of us with sophisticated ears. But a good mastering engineer strikes a careful balance between overall loudness and dynamic information, one missing in a lot of top-of-the-charts pop music.

Remember that we’ve been talking about the loudness wars for a long time. Their rise came with the rise of corporate-owned terrestrial radio. I’m optimistic that we live in an age when young producers can get their hands on superb digital compression software and learn to master tracks properly (and work with capable mastering engineers).

But is music getting worse?

Here’s the crux of the problem. Many of the trends identified in the video are totally fair – and many are widely annoying.

But some of the trends missing from this (and many other) arguments are also important.

Pop music production is becoming more international. Whereas pop was traditionally dominated by decision makers in the US and UK, the future points elsewhere – South Korea’s Gangnam Style suggesting the tip of the iceberg as far as breakout hits from elsewhere in the world.

Traditional pop is threatened. There’s an unspoken implication in rants like the one above: pop music is getting worse, and the unwashed, stupid masses are lapping it up. The problem is, pop music is not the top-selling genre in the major US market (rock and country beat it by far, depending on how you divide up rock), and sales trends are all over the place. Pop sales went up in 2014, but the overall trend (like the rest of the industry) is down.

One way to interpret the dumbing down of pop music is as a survival mechanism, as sales come under greater pressure.

Artists are making their own choices. Whatever algorithm-driven, brickwall-compressed tunes are sitting at the top of the charts, that may say little about the trends across music making in general.

It makes sense that songs vying for big sales and chart-topping hits are composed and engineered in ways that makes them work on what’s left of broadcast media. If you landed from another planet and wanted to make it big there, it would make sense you’d go for very generic and very loud and put an attractive person as your celebrity.

Other channels, though, tell a different story. If you’re trying to make it on YouTube and social media, you better have a good gimmick. (See OK GO.) If you’re trying to make it live, finding a unique niche matters – and that’s a bigger driver as music sales dry up.

I think the bigger trend to watch than what makes pop work is what makes licensed music work. Look for artists to embrace quirky timbres, more dynamic range, and cinematic qualities as they vie for licensing on film, TV, video games, and the like. These all represent opposite musical directions from the ones the video above chooses to target.

adele

The new winners in pop look different. This video leaves out the one big champion of pop sales recently – with good reason, because she flies in the face of the whole argument.

Adele is the new face of success, co-writing her own music and getting sweeping accolades at an astounding rate – count nine Grammies and an Oscar (while juggling mothering a baby boy) by the age of 24.

She’s not old news, either. In fact, as of yesterday, ’25’ continued to top the charts, having been the best-selling album of 2015. Is her music too dumb, or too loud, or part of some secretive Norwegian conspiracy? I don’t think so.

It is collaborative, but pop music has always been collaborative. The Beatles were not a solo act. But they’re white English guys, so unlike female artists, they aren’t accused of any shenanigans even though George Martin defined their sound.

Music production itself is poised to become more diverse. To argue the history of the music industry is a meritocracy – the “better in the old days” argument – is supremely questionable. This is an industry with a long and ugly history of payola and racism, pay-for-play and segregated charts. It’s also an industry that was long dominated by the United States and the UK.

There is a darker side to a lot of this. Count the number of times “pop music is destroying the world” rants point to female artists or people of color, while using older white guys as the “grand old days” examples, and then decide whether you want some of these people on your side – even with some legitimate gripes about awful pop songs you would rightfully like to avoid. In the video above, in fact, one slide derides Beyoncé’s “Run the World” versus Bohemian Rhapsody. Now, what do you suppose would bother the video’s producer about Beyoncé’s lyrics?

In the USA, certainly, the fact that Rihanna is the most marketable celebrity suggests that the biggest shift isn’t in musical content, but a shift from white men to women of color that would before have been all but impossible. (And that’s to say nothing of the invading Koreans, or whomever turns out to be next.) That’s relevant in the context of this week’s criticism of the Oscars in Hollywood; the US formerly could market Elvis and the Beatles to an extent a differing extent than contemporary African-American artists.

Ranting about music you hate – that remains totally legitimate. But then the challenge should be to make sure that new people get opportunities.

Pop music on its own is not drowning out originality. But just as getting stuck on commercial success absolutely can destroy originality, so can getting stuck in the past. If anything, the Internet is proving that finding and promoting originality is a challenge. Rather than rant about what’s at the top of the charts, we should champion what’s failing to chart at all.

And don’t worry about how many chord changes or syllables you’ve got. Just turn off that brickwall limiter, please.

The post Music is getting worse, unless of course it isn’t appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

The new Arturia MatrixBrute is 100% analog, 100% insane

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 21 Jan 2016 6:30 pm

Well, f*** minimalism, apparently.

We’ve seen monophonic/duophonic synths. We’ve seen new analog keyboards. What we haven’t seen is analog keyboards that seemed to be designed when an inventory of pads and knobs exploded – in your face.

And that’s what the new Arturia MatrixBrute is. It looks like a fake Photoshop mockup you’d see on a forum, perhaps. But it’s real. All real. Close your eyes for a second and let your retinas recover, and let’s sort out what is actually even happening here.

matrixbrute_front

Arturia claims in their press release that the MatrixBrute will be “arguably the most powerful analog synthesizer ever created.” It certainly will win the award for some mosts – most knobs, most buttons (in a giant matrix), most ports. (And it should make Matrixsynth happy. No green, though.)

The specs make some sense.

  • Three “Brute” oscillators (saw, pulse, tri) plus sub-oscillator.
  • Steiner-Parker and ladder filters. (12 dB/24 dB per octave slopes.)
  • Three envelope generators (Arturia says they’re “ultra fast.”)
  • 49 keys, with aftertouch, full-sized.
  • Hinged control panel.
  • And the modulation matrix.

The modulation matrix is where things get a bit … hectic. Arturia says the idea is to give you modular “without the painful patching practice.” Instead, all the routings are accessible by a light-up, touch matrix.

In MOD mode, any of 16 modulation sources can go to any of 18 modulation destinations – no patch cords needed. An E-Ink display shows you what’s going on.

As a sequencer, the same matrix lets you create patterns, with STEP, ACCENT, SLIDE, and MODULATION options – sort of monome/Push/Launchpad-style.

In PRESET mode, the matrix simply lets you hit one of 8×8 presets. (Basically, instead of turning a knob.) Okay, of the three, that’s sort of a waste of that giant set of buttons, but it’s there if you want it.

As for the synth itself, it really is apparently 100% analog signal path, with chorus, delay, and flanger analog effects, all route-able from the matrix.

matrixbrute_back

I/O is… also… a lot:

  • 12 CV inputs and outputs (a lot of them).
  • Audio in (line/instrument levels, for processing or adding an external oscillator)
  • Gate in and out
  • Sync in and out
  • MIDI in, out, and thru
  • USB I/O
  • Pedals: two expression, one sustain
  • Stereo jack outputs

There’s also free editor/librarian software.

matrixbrute

Now, what we don’t know: price. That’s… a question.

And we don’t know exactly how it sounds, either. (What, you want a synth to make sounds?)

But it’s coming this spring. I’m meeting with Arturia shortly; let us know if you’ve got questions. (Other than the price question.) More:

http://www.arturia.com/products/matrixbrute

The post The new Arturia MatrixBrute is 100% analog, 100% insane appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

Waldorf build their Eurorack modular into an all-in-one keyboard

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 20 Jan 2016 6:14 am

This could be the NAMM of modular synths in the Eurorack format. The question is, with vendors big and small crowding into this niche market, what will stand apart?

Waldorf’s answer is to draw on the company’s history (hello, wavetables!), and in an announcement this week, to offer up a range of modules that fit into a keyboard. The upshot: an all-in-one solution.

kb37

At the heart of this lineup is the kb37 controller keyboard. It’s a keyboard with slots for modules, with a 37-note full-sized Fatar keybed (with velocity and aftertouch), plus an onboard CV input as well as MIDI, plus pitch and mod wheels.

Making a Eurorack with a keyboard is sacrilege to some – their argument being the point of modular is open-ended sound and getting away from the conventional synth form factor. But clearly it can be a practical design.

KB37back

Now, theoretically, you can put in any Eurorack you like — 100HP worth. But Waldorf are hoping you’ll collect their three modules. The “Eurorack Pack” treats this suite as a single family.

mod1

mod1 modulator module handles envelopes, curves, and LFOs – all analog.

dvca1

dvca2 dual VCA module covers your analog amplifiers. Uniquely, there’s a ‘colour’ knob for getting creative with tone, plus loads of options.

cmp1

cmp1 compressor is an analog compressor with modulation and sidechaining.

KB37_complete_side

While the new stuff is on the show this week, Waldorf says they expect to ship later this year, in the third quarter. In the meanwhile, their excellent nw1 wavetable module is available now at €345 (including tax), which brings back the spirit of the Microwave and Wave.

http://waldorf-music.info

The post Waldorf build their Eurorack modular into an all-in-one keyboard appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

KORG’s new $500 minilogue analog polysynth, in a nutshell

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 14 Jan 2016 6:43 pm

It seems the era of the affordable analog monosynth just gave way to the affordable analog polysynth.

Leaked last week, KORG’s minilogue (apparently no relation to the Swedish electronic duo) is a US$499.99 4-voice polysynth. Before you dive into our sprawling review, here’s everything you need to know in a nutshell. Keep in mind – we’ve had this synth since last week, so we’re not just copying specs here.

Lowres_Minilogue_Closeup1

How many voices has it got? Four of them. You can use them in a 4-voice polyphonic mode (that is, playing chords), or a unison mode (with all four detuned around the same pitch), a duophonic mode, or some interesting novelty variations – like a “delay” mode that spreads those voices in time, a dedicated chord mode, and an arpeggiator.

And it’s analog? Yes – digitally controlled oscillators. There’s also some analog circuitry around the feedback of the delay (though the delay is digital).

Mini keys? Correct, same as the MS-20 mini keybed – nothing spectacular, but playable.

Spring paddle what now? Yes, in place of a pitch bend wheel, you get spring-loaded pitch above the keyboard. You’ll either love it or hate it; it makes slow bends tricky, but quick pitch scoops easy.

So at this price, it feels cheap, right? Actually, no. There’s a sand-blasted aluminum panel, real wood round the back, and most significantly, chassis-mounted metal potentiometers, so the knobs feel solid and don’t wiggle around. There are also nice big, retro switches.

What’s with this preset business? What’s that doing on my analog keyboard? Sellouts. Uh, okay, fine. Well, you can dial up presets onboard or – since you’re obviously an impassioned sound designer – use another 100 user storage slots to save your own. You still get hands-on control of everything.

What about control voltage? No, not this time. Dedicated MIDI in and out plus MIDI over USB, but you don’t get CV. Did we mention it’s a $500 polysynth?

What’s that display for? It’s a small but cute OLED, which displays an oscilloscope (useful with all the wave shaping and cross modulation and ring mod business), plus menus and occasionally signal flow (like reinforcing what the labels on the feedback routing for the delay).

What extras do you get? There’s a 16-step sequencer with motion automation for parameters (four at a time). You can store one sequence with each preset, meaning that preset storage can be for calling up patterns as well as timbres, useful in performance or sketching. (Seriously, quit complaining about preset storage – it’s a great idea. Or go back to the 70s, if you must.)

Is there any relation to past KORG gear? Surprisingly, not so much. The delay core isn’t new, but apart from that and the keybed, the oscillator design, delay feedback, overall signal flow, and case design are all new.

Why is this man smiling? Why, because Tats has just finished what's likely to be another big hit for KORG.

Why is this man smiling? Why, because Tats has just finished what’s likely to be another big hit for KORG.

Who’s behind it? Tatsuya Takahashi from KORG led the design team. “Tats” as he’s affectionately known is the same charismatic designer behind the volca series and monotron, among other recent hits.

Lowres_Minilogue_Slant1

Thanks for chatting. But I want a big list of specs. It’s, like, this left brain thing. Why, it’d be our pleasure, of course.

  • 4-voice polyphonic synth, automatic tuning
  • 41 panel controls
  • All-new analog circuitry
  • 100 factory presets, 100 user programs, with instant recall
  • 8 voice modes: Poly, Duo, Unison, Mono, Chord, Delay, Arp, Sidechain (uh, that last one’s funny, so read our review)
  • Hard sync, cross modulation, ring mod
  • 2-pole and 4-pole filters
  • Route-able modulation
  • Three oscillator types per oscillator (saw, triangle, rectangle) plus shape knob
  • Real-time oscilloscope
  • Sync in and sync out (a la volca series and other KORG gear)
  • I/O: Audio in (just a passthrough), audio out, headphones, MIDI IN, MIDI OUT, USB (for MIDI, no audio)

Let’s watch:

The post KORG’s new $500 minilogue analog polysynth, in a nutshell appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

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