Before triggering clips and samples on the computer, Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory “trigger” the musicians.

Yes, before there were machine clips, there were human patterns, and in performing Terry Riley’s legendary classical new music composition “In C,” the ensemble has to do just that. In a beautiful chorus of chiming tones, that orchestra is augmented with digital embellishment.

The result makes for a live performance that expands the role of the computer into a large-scale instrumental ensemble, venturing into territory perhaps not as often associated with Ableton Live as genres like dance music are. But Ableton has lavished attention on electronic composer Pantha Du Prince and his ensemble in a series of videos that amount to a complete documentary on the work and how it was produced.

Pantha du Prince’s music has always shimmered with beautiful sounds, but here, percussion form an otherworldly realm of glittering rhythmic waves.

Ableton’s film begins with the artist side, and in fact less discussion of the gear. (I’ve heard people chattering about that lately, and pleasantly surprised that this isn’t an in-your-face promo video.)

Pantha Du Prince & The bell Laboratory, Centraltheater, Leipzig 2013 © R. Arnold/CT Via the project's Facebook page.

Pantha Du Prince & The bell Laboratory, Centraltheater, Leipzig 2013
© R. Arnold/CT
Via the project’s Facebook page.

Continue reading »


Part of the appeal of the Roland TR-8 drum machine and TB-3 bassline synth is their hands-on control. But apart from the normal reasons you’d additionally want external MIDI control, you’ll need it for certain kinds of automation recording.

The problem is, the AIRAs (at least with their current firmware) lack the ability to record automation internally. You can record patterns on the TR-8 and TB-3, but not changes to sound parameters, effects, or that Scatter thing. So, if you’re making a pattern and find a shifting timbre or glitchy effect you like, there’s no way to save it easily for performance (apart from recording audio, of course).

The solution is to make use of MIDI Control Change messages. Yet, for a company that almost always fastidiously shares its MIDI implementation in documentation, Roland has mysteriously not done so on AIRA. Fortunately, my colleague NERK, with whom I make music as the dubious, shady techno duo NERKKIRN, has gone through and worked out what the MIDI messages are.

A complete list (so far) for both the TB-3 and TR-8 is below. These aren’t official, so it’s possible there are more messages missing; we’re in touch with Roland to try to find out, but if you’ve discovered any more, or any more tips or hacks, we’d love to hear them.

NERK, aka Benjamin Weiss, has also built some Max for Live remotes for each device. The TR-8 is available as both a Drum Rack and a remote control surface, for convenience. Download them free at Continue reading »

“Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted …”

Yes, welcome to the wild studio of Legowelt, the eclectic Dutch musician. Future Music Magazine didn’t just do a video tour. They did an hour-long video tour, where the artist waxes poetic on every detail with loving attention. It’s a beautiful nerdfest. I know we’re theoretically not supposed to be fetishizing gear, but there’s some real care for these tools. And… there’s a Commodore 64 studio and some real rarities.

For signs Legowelt is One of Us, here’s his bio:

Born: a long time ago when Star Wars used to be good

School: Bovine University North Dakota

Previous Jobs: Amiga programmer, RPG Dungeon Master

Current Jobs: Music Producer, Ufologist, CEO of Pacific Micro International Software™

Hobbies: Synthesizers, Programming text adventures for the Commodore 64

And Legowelt also picked up some of the gear on the cheap, which is, really, the point of the game of used gear (or supposed to be). A Roland JV2080 was a bargain-bin buy, and becomes the name of the new record. Continue reading »

The dedicated drum machine is at a crossroads. Computer hybrids are simply capable of more than dedicated hardware – and that, in turn, has changed user expectations. You can go retro, as analog machines have done. You can go small, as boxes like the volca beats and upcoming Akai Rhythm Wolf do. You can stay the course, as Elektron does with their boxes. You can go hybrid, as Native Instruments’ Maschine, Arturia’s Spark, and Akai’s Renaissance and MPC Fly do.

Or, there’s one other option. You could put the soul of a computer – and the touchscreen interface – in that dedicated box.

A surprise revelation of the Microsoft Build developer conference was that Akai appears to be going that way with their flagship product. The MPC was onstage, sporting a traditional MPC form factor but with a UI augmented by touch. And De:bug Magazine (German) reports on a leak on the MPC Forum with details from a developer that suggest that the next MPC will have Intel – and Windows – inside.

Oh, hello. That's not a Windows Phone.

Oh, hello. That’s not a Windows Phone.


This could be a big loss for Apple, too, in this sector. Sources tell me that Apple is getting more restrictive about hardware accessories they’ll let run on their devices. I can’t confirm specifics, but it seems logical to me that some vendors would gravitate toward an OS developer that offers an embedded platform they can build on – and iOS, in many ways, isn’t it, not once you graduate from simple apps.

In the video from Build, you might assume that this is just a Windows tablet augmenting more conventional music hardware. But the developer suggests there’s more to it than that: Continue reading »

This Tuesday, we’ve lined up a trio of video interviews for your viewing pleasure. But one is rarer than the others. Amon Tobin tends to shy away from interviews, generally, let alone those on camera. Here, he agreed to talk to Beatport about his work.

Flanked by racks of very lovely gear from Moog and others, plus a computer running Steinberg Cubase as the central digital hub and recording center, Tobin emphasizes mainly the philosophy behind his approach. He emphasizes in particular his passion for experimentation, contrasting “entertainment,” which “depends on the approval of other people,” with what he describes as a “labor of love.” And that includes his ongoing Two Fingers project, which eschewing any sort of commercial appeal, he calls “a weird art project that I’ve been working on for 15 years.” Continue reading »


The passing last week of Frankie Knuckles has led to an outpouring of remembrance for this dance music pioneer, a signal of just how deeply and broadly his work was felt. To give us greater insight, CDM turns in our obituary to Denise Dalphond, the enthnomusicologist who has devoted much of her work to researching the roots of electronic dance music in America. (Her PhD dissertation, “Detroit Players: Wax, Tracks, and Soul in Electronic Music,” is due soon.) She gives us her thoughts on Knuckles’ significance as well as lining up some of the best places to watch and hear his legacy.

Frankie Knuckles is one of a select few legends who made electronic music culture and dance music culture possible. There are other important figures, of course, but today, the honor and focus is on Frankie Knuckles. His legacy is far-reaching and thankfully well known. He spent his early musical days with Larry Levan and Robert Williams, bought his first drum machine from Derrick May and used it in his DJ mixes, and worked closely with Chip E, Robert Owens, and Jamie Principle in forming Chicago’s influential style of house music. He was the resident DJ at the Warehouse from 1977-1982, and at his own club, the Power Plant, from 1982-1985. In 2004, then Illinois state senator, Barak Obama declared the location of the Warehouse on South Jefferson Street Frankie Knuckles Way.

godfather Continue reading »


It’s been a long, strange, mobile trip. Part of the appeal of iOS apps for music when they first arrived was doing just one thing at a time.

But what if you want that focus on music making – and still have multiple tools working at once?

Audiobus was the app that popularized the notion of interconnecting apps on mobile, patching together effects and instruments and mixers and production tools. And now, more than ever, the idea of a device like an iPad as an all-in-one studio is starting to seem pretty reasonable. Apple’s latest iPad Air delivers on the promise of desktop-class performance in a tablet, and it’s surely just the beginning.

Now Audiobus 2 is offering still more-powerful stuff. It also answers the question of why you’d want to buy a third-party app when Apple’s own OS is slowly baking in its own inter-app audio features. Audiobus 2 might cost a few extra bucks, but its developer support is unparalleled, and it can complement Apple’s own functionality with stuff the OS on its own doesn’t do – like building a centralized hub in which apps can connect.

In this version:

  • Multi-Routing. (US$4.99 add-on, in-app purchase, though for power users probably worth it.) Connect an unlimited number of apps to other apps – perfect for those new iPads, or advanced chaining. And use multi-channel input hardware.
  • Save and recall presets – even save them as recipes and share on email, Twitter, Facebook.
  • State-Saving: in compatible apps, save/recall your workspace in apps like Nave, JamUp, Swoopster, Sector and DM1.
  • New UI, with iOS 7-style colored shading to reflect the apps you’re using.

Continue reading »