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It looks like a spaceship control panel, and has the futuristic sound to match. Borderlands Granular already set a high water mark for how touch could open up new possibilities in sound creation. With a new version adding live input and more control, though, its latest release may be even more significant than its first.

Granular synthesis, which treats recorded sound as a fluid construction of tiny grains, needs an interface to realize its power. It’s not something that can be understood by turning a single knob. It’s defined by the sounds you put into it, by the way you warp them through time.

And there are few techniques in sound as well-suited to touch interfaces than this one. A tablet provides a window onto what you’re doing, as well as a means of getting a variety of parameters under your fingertips.

Chris Carlson’s Borderlands Granular already demonstrated how gestures could navigate the potentials of granular sound design on the iPad. Arranging your sounds onto a visual canvas, you can use gestures both to find your way through the sounds and to control playback parameters. It’s a musical instrument, yes, though in a way that can only be possible digitally. Your hands are a mechanism for manipulating a sample.

Borderlands Granular was already a triumph, but version 2.0 adds major new dimensions by opening up input, workflow integration with other apps, and new parameter and scene control functionality.

Borderlands Granular V2 New Features Overview from Christopher Carlson on Vimeo.

So much is new, in fact, the developer has barely gotten a full change list together. But here are the highlights: Continue reading »

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The modular craze just won’t stop. But why should keyboardists and sound tweakers have all the fun? Pittsburgh Modular wants to bring the revolution to guitar stompbox effects.

The Patch Box, teased over Twitter and due at April’s Musikmesse in Frankfurt, Germany, is an attempt at that solution. Basically, instead of being a Eurorack bay for your shelf or desk, this is one designed for the floor, to be played by a guitarist or bass player.

At the bottom, you get the usual switches. But apart from accommodating Eurorack modules (on their side) on the floor, the key appears to be loads of patch points. So you have, on the top, 14 additional connections for modular control from your feet. They’ve also released some teaser shots with some of their own modules in the bay, but it appears you can use anything you want. Continue reading »

traktor

Stop it! Get your eyes off that screen!

We all know the problem: DJing with computers isn’t terribly practical without looking at the computer – a lot. Native Instruments’ Traktor S8, like Maschine before it, promised to liberate laptop users from that vacant computer stare. But it, and rival offerings, have a big problem: they’re back-breaking, checked luggage-triggering, tech rider-rewriting huge.

Well, you probably already worked out the S8 “flagship” wasn’t going to be the only hardware from NI to play with this concept. The question was, what would a “half-S8″ / “S8 mikro” / “S8 deck” look like.

If you happen to be a big fan of the artist Uner, and were staring at your screen to watch the NI live stream, you just got a glimpse of exactly what it’ll look like. Native Instruments handed over the new hardware to some of their artists with the cameras rolling live to the Web.

We grabbed some images from the live feed overnight. It actually provides a fairly clear view of the layout and sense of approximate size of the controller. (NI’s design guides for knob clearance and so are so particular that you should assume dimensions here are what they look like on the S8.)

We also know, via Uner’s Facebook, that the box is called the D2. (Logical name. D for deck. 2 for… well, it’s the size of the Z2, and less than the S8. Also, you can see two decks at once, even if there are four controllable.)

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NI has also provided us, and a “handful” of outlets (TMZ, maybe?), with some details. What we know: Continue reading »

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Hand-built in the Czech Republic, Bastl Instruments are something special.

And tonight in Berlin, the Bastl Instruments creators showed their new modulars in public for the first time, in advance of showing them at Musikmesse. At an informal demo event hosted by legendary synth boutique Schneidersladen, the creators gave us a window into what they’ve made.

Fans of increasingly-popular Euclidean generative rhythms will appreciate this demo on their sequencer module:

Continue reading »

Round and round and round it goes…

It’s the motorized rotating pillar of Eurorack modular synthesizers from Berlin’s Schneidersladen, which served this evening as backdrop to an excellent workshop from the boys of Bastl Instruments of the Czech Republic.

And, well, we’re not sure what happens to your brain if you keep watching this. Here, seen at twelve times normal rotation speed, thanks to Hyperlapse and my iPhone. This being Berlin, you can get this and falafel within a fairly short walk.

Follow the Schneiders blog here:
http://www.schneidersbuero.de

Drum Machine – XOXX Composer from Axel Bluhme on Vimeo.

Can you design a drum machine that does more than simply hide its workings inside an invisible box?

XOXX Composer does just that. A project by Axel Bluhme, it turns the inner functions of sampling, looping, and sequencing, into tangible, kinetic, sculptural form. Wheels turn. Magnets trigger sounds. And in what looks like the love child of a 606 and a player piano, you get a mechanical take on patterned sound.

Full description:

A drum machine that is fun and easy to use
This project started with a curiosity to understand when, why and how people take their first steps into producing music. The goal is to inspire and allow this exploration even though there might be lack of confidence or knowledge.
A tangible sound arranger that uses magnets to activate sound samples and that is very easy to engage with. Capture sounds from your surroundings or sample records, simply let curiosity and creativity lead the way to quickly create unique beats.
The physical interface is made up from eight rotating discs allowing the user to layer up to eight different sounds.
Each set of eight discs are colour coded and each individual disc in the set has its own pattern so as to allow the user to create their own mental system and means of organising their sounds.
Every disc is quantised into four bars, which is indicated by the coloured lines on their faces, and each bar is divided into four steps. That means every disc has sixteen steps which allows the user to explore a variety of different music styles and degrees of complexity.

The project will be shown at Ugly Duck in Bermondsey (London), as part of a collaboration between Sonos and the Royal College of Art.

Axel has other industrial design ideas, like how to make food truck kitchens work. (Your hipster future, basically, is right here.)

Great stuff! Thanks, Johannes Lohbihler, for sending this our way.

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Several major figures in synthesizer history have lost control of their names over the years. Robert Moog sued in 1998 to get his name back on synths; that court battle, with Don Martin, was won in 2002 and allowed the modern Moog Music to supplant the former Big Briar. While Dave Smith never lost access to his personal name, he gave up his original brand name Sequential. Yamaha voluntarily surrendered the Sequential badge earlier this year.

But a new legal battle between Don Buchla and the current Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments is unprecedented on a number of levels.

First, Buchla (the brand) is unusually dependent on Don Buchla’s legacy. Don’s mug shot appears the moment you open the site, with a long history that talks about him (by first name) before ever mentioning the product. There are top-level menu items on the site for “History of Buchla” and “Don Buchla.” And the products themselves are high-end, boutique devices, sold with the expectation that you see a Buchla synth as worth more than someone else’s synth.

What you won’t see on that site is the fact that Don Buchla himself was terminated from the company that bears his name, back in April 2014. And you definitely won’t learn that Don Buchla is now suing this new company and its parent, Audio Supermarket Pty. Ltd. of Australia, for breach of contract.

And that legal battle seems likely to get very ugly indeed, uglier than anything I can recall in the time I’ve been covering electronic instruments. Continue reading »