Making a futuristic new music instrument requires more than just the spark of a clever idea. It needs resources, funding, input from musicians, and other ingredients, in perfect balance. Those dimensions can offer cold, hard reality, but met properly, they can also offer opportunity. And that’s part of what made Barcelona’s SONAR+D such a compelling place to be last week. Tucked into the packed SONAR festival was a convergence of the engineering, musical inspiration, and business knowhow required to make musical inventions.

The Oval, superstar of a pavilion hosted by Kickstarter, was the highlight for me. We saw it in the run-up to SONAR, as its crowd funding campaign was just taking off:
Hand Pan Percussion, Reimagined as Futuristic Musical Instrument

A hang drum or hand pan, reconceived as a digital instrument, it could prove a breakthrough in new instrument controller design as product. Meeting its creators in Barcelona, I got to try the first prototype and see how the version that will eventually ship to backers will be even better. And I have to say, I’m impressed.

First, let’s compare Oval, a digital controller, to the acoustic Hang that inspired it. The makers have made a video that makes that clear:
Continue reading »


Gustavo Bravetti is indeed a man of mystery. The Uruguay-born artist is a live virtuoso of dance music, pulling out all the stops. And in his latest feat, he tackles a trio of Elektron black boxes.

Fortunately, it’s not all mysterious. The Ableton Push-controlled, Max for Live-based tool that gives him these octopus-like powers over the gear will soon be coming to you.

First, let’s watch. Even if this isn’t your own musical idiom, you have to concede it’s a nice rig, nicely played. And it’s a pleasure to premiere here on CDM:

The secret sauce is something called Performer. Built in Max for Live, it gives you snapshot controls over Elektron’s Octatrack, Analog Rytm, Analog Four, and Analog Keys. Continue reading »


It seems synth guru Richard Devine couldn’t resist revealing something about upcoming Yamaha technology. In an interview earlier this month, he let slip that the instrument includes “alien” new tech:

Usually when I work with a company – for instance I’m working with Yamaha on a project right now; I can’t say what it is, but it’s pretty crazy. This synthesizer has new technology that’s never been implemented before, so it’s totally alien to anything I’ve ever used. I’ve had to spend a few weeks just understanding the architecture of it.

This tells us two things. One, whatever Richard is working on is now almost certainly digital at least in large part; there’s a whole lot more you can do in the digital realm than the analog realm, at least as far as “new.” (It could be he’s talking about something to do with the form factor, but since he mentioned architecture here and he’s presumably doing sound content for them, that’s unlikely.)

Two, we’re now officially 1000% more interested than we were before, because Richard Devine – for those of you who don’t know him – has used a lot. The man is an obsessive-compulsive sound designer on the Rain Man order of productivity.

The whole interview is worth a read, whether you’re into what Yamaha is teasing or not:


And, uh, Yamaha, please don’t hurt Rich over this story. All PR is good PR.

Thanks to Joey Blush, another great modular synth instrumentalist, for the catch. He’s at:

Updated: a source (not Richard) tells CDM that the project he’s describing isn’t Reface. Wait, now that’s very interesting, indeed.

Well, you saw this one coming – if probably a lot earlier. With the dance music market growing and synth fever spreading, Japanese giant Yamaha seems to have some new keyboard up its sleeves.

In a teaser video today, the first of a series, Yamaha promises something called “reface.”

Updated: there’s more. New Yamaha Synths Will Include “Totally Alien” New Technology, Says Interview

The video shows a blurry show of a Yamaha CS-80, the one synth mentioned by name in the artist videos. And there are keys involved (from the spread of the hands in the one artist video, they seem full-sized rather than mini keys).

It seems unlikely Yamaha is re-releasing the CS, and there’s already the phrase “new take” in the video. More likely than the KORG reissue route, Yamaha almost certainly is pursuing a Roland-style AIRA product – something with a clear connection to a classic, but via a new take. And digital seems more likely. Continue reading »


Okay, we hit some sort of nerd singularity just now. Start with David Hasselhoff’s cheeky, cheesy “True Survivor.” Remake it on the 8-bit SidTracker 64 app. You’ll swear all of this actually happened in the 80s, even if it didn’t. Retrorgasm.

And yes, this gem is included in the app.

Musical arrangement: Fredrik Segerfalk
Graphics by Vanja Utne:
Video and extra GFX by Moppe
SidTracker programming by Daniel Larsson

Please roll down your windows and ghetto-blast this one this weekend.

Pity the iPad. Unlike the Commodore 64, Apple’s wundertablet doesn’t come with a state-of-the-art SID synthesizer chip inside. Well, now emulation solves that problem.

SidTracker 64 is both an emulation of the SID sound chip on the Commodore computer line, plus a workstation for arranging your own songs. And it’s already got some songs to get you started, like the classic “Commando” by Rob Hubbard, which you can play or remix.

It’s loaded with all the usual production extras. And don’t let the “tracker” name put you off: you can play in real time, which naturally works well on the iPad:

The app emulates the later 8580 chip. That may displease purists who seek the original, but apart from some very specific glitches on the original 6581, the two are capable of producing basically the same sounds. And while the SID is associated with feel-good 80s video game lore, it’s really a beautiful and versatile synthesizer, in no way restricted to that particular genre. The work of Bob Yannes (who went on to found Ensoniq), it fits well into synth history. Continue reading »


Any trip, anywhere can turn into a creative opportunity – if you pack the right stuff. So if you’re hitting the road this summer, here are some thoughts.

Adam John Williams is a media artist and maker and musician and lots of other things. But even among that rarified breed, he’s somewhat unusual. The man brings Olympic effort to hack days – one of the organizers behind Music Tech Fest and a prolific performer and inventor. As a participant at our hacklab at CTM Festival, he was applying painful shocks to himself in time with Ableton Live – and that’s just one example.

Adam is a maven among mavens, so of course peering inside his luggage is uncommonly interesting. (Don’t worry, we’ll keep it geeky.)

An image of those very contents crossed my feed as Adam headed off to Reykjavik, so I asked Adam to explain. It’s got some good tips for what to pack, as well as a window into the way he approaches each day as a chance to make something new.

Here’s what he says: Continue reading »