What if you wanted to play Moogfest really bad, but Moogfest didn’t call? No, I mean really bad – like you started a band with this very dream in mind, outfitted your studio with nearly everything Moog makes, and put on a shameless amount of Moog-logo gear, just in the hopes of getting the booking.

If you still couldn’t make it onto the bill at that point, well, I guess you’d have to actually write a song explaining your plight, upload it to YouTube, and hope it went viral. This is the Internet age, after all.

That’s what the band Synthetic Things have done. And somehow… well, somehow this song can pull at our heart strings. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been there (even some fairly famous artists), unable to get that booking we badly want. Maybe it’s that the song is kind of catchy. Or maybe it’s just because we’re a sucker for gear pr0n.

Whatever the reason, well, enjoy! And, for the record, I’m speaking at Moogfest, but I’m not playing, either… I sense an unscheduled jam coming on somewhere.

Certainly, these guys have some extra gear to bring: Continue reading »

Back to the future. The Future of Creativity, among other programming, dares to ask what music will sound like in a century.

Back to the future. The Future of Creativity, among other programming, dares to ask what music will sound like in a century.

Moogfest has been many things over the years, from a small get-together of Moog fans to a New York event with a few headliners to a festival that at times veered toward being just another big rock fest. But this year, it’s evolved into something special and new. Amidst a wildly-varied nighttime mix of big-name musical acts, it’s become a hub of futurism and music technology. It suggests a Moogfest that isn’t just about some artists and the Moog of the past. It could be a place to learn about the inventions of the future. And that’s a zeitgeist I’d love to see (and hear) more of.

Science fiction is back in the mix; optimism is headlining again. The future is back. Continue reading »

werkstatt

Moog seems to have something special planned for Moogfest – na klar!

“Werkstatt” looks to be a kit synth the company has prepared for the event in Asheville, North Carolina later this week. As Synthtopia observes, the photo was revealed on the Instagram feed for the event – and appears to coincide with a three-hour assembly workshop with the engineers.

“Werkstatt” means “workshop” in German, so the kit function is obvious.

Looking at the picture, a whole lot is clear. The architecture is a single-oscillator monosynth, switchable between saw waves and PWM. Both the filter and oscillator mod can be set to either an independent LFO or the envelope. (I really like that interface, actually. Note the dedicated controls for each.) Attack / Decay / sustain switch controls the envelope (hmmm, always a tasteful choice). A bit like the Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano, there are small triggers buttons for pitch in case you don’t have a keyboard handy. And there are small knobs, resembling the KORG monotrons – looking at that and the screws, and this appears to be an ultra-compact instrument.

The most interesting feature is doubtless the analog patch bay along the right-hand side of the unit, implemented as a simple header strip. This should suggest semi-modular capabilities by patching with jumper wires. A prototype shot shows those jumpers in action and a 1/4″ jack plug for audio coming out the back.

The big question, apart from whether there’s also MIDI onboard or this is intended as a standalone unit, is whether Moog intends to offer this to a wider audience, or it’s just a special one-off experiment for Moogfest. It sure looks nice, so I imagine a lot of folks will have their fingers crossed for a bigger release. We’ll find out.

That German name is doubly interesting, though, as there’s been widespread speculation that Moog might get into Eurorack – the format developed in Germany by Dieter Doepfer and pioneered initially by European builders. At the very least, there’s some Germany envy going on. Fortunately, no envy is needed here; I’ll be representing CDM in Asheville, and will get a chance to sit down with Chief Engineer Cyril Lance, so I expect all will be revealed. I’m thrilled to get to look at this and have even more than usual subject matter for chatting with Cyril. Can’t wait.

Bis bald!

PS – the Moogfest Instagram feed is full of awesome:
http://instagram.com/moogfest

tb-3_top_gal

This wouldn’t normally be news, but for whatever reason, the Roland AIRAs went flying off the shelves – missing any MIDI documentation. Ahem.

We covered a number of these details before, including a Max for Live patch for the convenience of those of you integrating with Ableton. The good news: the hackers were right, and got more or less the entire implementation via trial and error. So, this is still a good resource:

AIRA Secrets: Here’s How to Take Command of Roland’s TB-3 and TR-8 with MIDI

The TR-8, then, holds no surprises. I’m just hopeful we see extra functionality via a firmware update. Fingers crossed.
TR-8 MIDI Implementation Chart

The TB-3 is more interesting, particularly as I (keep) advocating it as a sequencer. As far as notes, it’s pretty limited – only 24-60 are transmitted, so you’ll have to do some transposition on your synth if you want something other than bass. But the Control Changes are all sent over MIDI: Continue reading »

beatstep_angled

Even if Arturia’s BeatStep did nothing other than act as a dumb controller, it might get your attention.

The compact control surface / sequencer hardware runs about $100 street. As a controller, it has both 16 pads and 16 endless encoders (with notches, so you can feel where you are), plus transport triggers and a larger encoder. With driverless USB operation, some of you will already be happy and can proceed.

But the BeatStep is more ambitious than that. It has sophisticated software customization via a companion program, and a built-in step sequencer. It operates standalone, with MIDI gadgets or analog hardware (with gate and pitch Control Voltage outputs). It could therefore be a compact part of a mobile music-making rig, and it’s at this point that our review gets much more involved. The BeatStep has an impressive lineage – veteran designers Glen Darcey, Axel Hartmann, and Morgan Perrier collaborated on its creation. So there’s a reason to set expectations high.

I’ve been testing the Arturia BeatStep with just those functions in mind. And we’ve collected some of your tips and questions, with information that might help you out whether you’re trying to decide whether to buy or curious just how deep this goes.

The BeatStep already makes a nice controller with pads and encoders. But how much more can it be? Let’s find out. Continue reading »

LIQUID RHYTHM 2

Music software is at its best when it goes beyond cookie-cutter regularity, and spawns something creative. And sometimes, the path there involves retooling how that music is made.

That’s why I’m pleased to get to share this interview with WaveDNA. Liquid Rhythm is something unlike just about anything else in music software. It looks like a music theory class collided with a mandala. In colored patterns, arrayed in bars and wheels, you can produce all kinds of new rhythms, then integrate deeply with your host software. If you use Ableton Live, the integration goes further still. Whether you’re using Drum Racks or notes, you can automatically see what pattern goes with what, working in real-time with everything visible as you go. There’s a whole suite of tools with more than enough of what you could explore in any host. (Then, in Live, it just gets crazier.)

You can randomize and remix and shift, for quick ideas. (They had me at ‘randomize.’) Or, if you’re brave enough to enter the worlds of beat and pattern control, you can use the tools for fine-grained production of unusual musical ideas.

The suite:
Plug-ins, patches. VST, AU, RTAS for any host. Or Max for Live for Ableton Live, now with full integration with Ableton Push hardware.

Palettes of rhythms. Paint with patterns, or make patterns in pitch and rhythm from clusters, in BeatBuilder.

Dial up rhythms. BeatSeeker displays various genetic possibilities of patterns in a huge wheel.

Accents, grooves. Design grooves and velocity by color in an accent editor, or re-groove existing materials with something they call GrooveMover.

MIDI without a piano roll. Yes, this common interface has become tyranny. It’s tough to describe, but they have a different view, one that provides manual control in a unique interface that goes its own direction – more like a genetic cell than a piano roll. (See the video, as it’s easier to see than write about.)

Integrate with Ableton Live clips.

“We’re a music software company that makes no sound,” say the creators in the interview here. Instead, they let you put rhythms where they don’t normally go. Sounds good to me.

Here’s a look at how their in-line editing works, and how the musical concept functions: Continue reading »

Nid & Sancy – The Cut up Jeans Technique app from Lab101 on Vimeo.

Like an attention-starved Tamagotchi – or a two-and-a-half year-old toddler – this is an app that wants to shake around and gets easily bored.

Yes, we’ve seen endless predictions that apps might replace albums. (I said it on a panel once, so I’m guilty.) But… how, exactly? In a novel and entertainingly-juvenile concept, the app R.A.N.D.Y. is a handheld dancing character who wants to be shaken around in order to keep the music playing.

Worth it? Well, with the funky sounds of Belgian electronic/punk act Nid & Sancy, yes. And in exchange for shaking your phone around, you get the album for free.

Apparently getting this into the App Store was more challenging, however. Apple hit the developers with multiple rejections for being “useless.” (Oh, sure, and sliding squares around until you get fired from your job, that’s useful?)

Somehow, that makes us like it … more.

Correction: I misread Kris’ message. In fact, Apple has still not approved the app. There were some revisions – adding additional background information – but this has not made it into the store.

Reader Kris Meeusen worked on this, and made use of free software libraries (creative coding platform Cinder), with a heavy dose of OpenGL and GLSL to keep all the animations happening interactively, in real-time.

I say keep the uselessness coming.

http://www.lab101.be/projects/nid-and-sancy.html

NS_Randy2