kadenze_student_space_desktop_mockup

Every feel like you wish you could go back to school? Or… go to a different school?

Maybe you want to learn at CalArts, or Princeton, or Stanford, or Goldsmiths. Maybe you wish Robert Henke would sit at your side and teach you about Ableton Live. Or maybe Perry Cook would teach you synthesis. Or Casey Reas would talk to you about creative coding and Processing.

Digital learning gives us some of those chances – without running into campus security, that is. And so we’ve seen some great learning platforms, including iTunes audio courses from Stanford and people like Steve Horelick teaching Logic.

Kadenze promises to expand on this potential in a big way. It’s really two initiatives. Part of it is building a new electronic platform that makes it easier to learn interactively on a computer or tablet – the tools that help you navigate course content and (if you choose) get evaluated on assignments. And part of it is producing new content for that platform, finding a set of experts who can serve as compelling teachers.

Welcome to Kadenze from KadenzeOfficial on Vimeo.

Discover the future of education.

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launchpad_pro - 7

Novation’s Launchpad Pro is here. It shares the same compact footprint as earlier Launchpads, but adds full color, pressure-sensitive pads, and MIDI inputs and outputs, plus the ability to operate without a computer. So, with other grids to choose from, where does this one fit?

The Launchpad line of controllers has always been about simplicity. Even when the original Launchpad was introduced, it did less than its nearest rival, the AKAI APC. But it was popular partly thanks to being simple, light, small, and affordable. That fits many users’ needs, and can be nicely combined with other hardware.

The Launchpad Pro keeps to that approach, but with more features to round it out as a production tool and performance controller. And it isn’t just for Ableton Live, either – it has a respectable feature set when used with other MIDI software and hardware. I’ve got one of the first units and have been carrying around using it. Let’s have a look.

First, here’s the amazing Thavius Beck performing with the instrument live:

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Imhotep_3D

What does it sound like when a comet “sings” into a magnetic field? Or when you rotate a 600-ton deep space observation station? What if you could hear the radar echoes from a probe descending onto Saturn’s moon Titan?

Oh, yeah, and what’s the sound you hear that tells you the International Space Station is on fire and you should get into that docked Soyuz RFN?

Well, the European Space Agency has released those and more, from sonifying the inaudible to letting you hear the voices of the people who are leading some of the human race’s latest exploits into space.

And, by popular demand, they’re now released as Creative Commons-licensed materials. Not only that, but while the licenses are mixed (the ESA has content from a lot of different sources), but many are under a permissive Share Alike license. That means you can sample them, make music with them, and even use that music commercially, so long as you release your results under the same license for others to remix.

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50WEAPONS, the iconic techno label from Berlin known to be a home to major releases from the likes of Cosmin TRG, Modeselektor, Falty DL, Benjamin Damage, Marcel Dettmann, Phon.o, announced without explanation that it’s dead, via a video posted to Facebook (and now, YouTube). There’s even, ominously, a gravestone.

The “50″ in 50WEAPONS is 50 releases. And they weren’t kidding.

#rip50weapons [Facebook post]

It’s not a great time to be a label. Vinyl purchases are up, but production is backlogged and still requires capital. Download outlets are seeing major consolidation, with DJ-facing giant Beatport swallowed up into EDM festival ticket-pushing conglomerate SFX Entertainment. And then there’s streaming – ’nuff said.

The reason for the death at this moment isn’t clear. The label planned only 50 releases, and promised to stop afterwards:

“We still want to keep the concept of only having 50 releases, and then stop the label. Let’s see if we can manage to do so. “

Here, it’s tough to count. They had 39 releases on 12″, but more than 50 by other counts – so maybe they split the difference. It does seem that they are closing shop. Benjamin Damage on Twitter suggests we’ll see more, after death:

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Organum Vivum – a interspecies interface from Paul Seidler on Vimeo.

Your next digital interface might be grown, not made.

Organam Vivum drops the usual combinations of knobs and hard surfaces and wires for something organic – an “interspecies” interface. The sensors are grown from bacteria, formed into alien-looking, futuristic materials and a mask. The bio-interfacing project began as a collaboration between Aliisa Talja (who has a background in industrial design) with Paul Seidler at the CDM-hosted MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival earlier this year. Not only are the materials literally organic, but in touching and breathing into these delicate constructions, your interactions themselves become unpredictable.

This is bacterial cellulose, routed into a computer via Leslie Garcia’s open source PulsumOSC library. (Leslie was the co-facilitator for this year’s lab; find her OpenFrameworks code on GitHub.) SuperCollider produces the sound, with Arduino providing the interface. Since the hacklab, the project has been steadily growing (so to speak), and Aliisa sends along the latest documentation from her and Paul.

The results may seem strange and alien, but that’s perhaps part of the point. This is speculative work that exposes the tension between interface and user, material and sonification. But in doing so, it also reveals some of what may happen as we open up fabrication and design to new realms, beyond just the oft-trod paths of our petro-chemical world in the peak of the cheap oil age. And watching Paul and Aliisa embrace the ritual of playing it is entrancing. More details below of their process.

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launchpadhack

Novation’s Launchpad Pro has just begun shipping, and it’s lovely, very flexible hardware. You can use it with Ableton Live. You can use it with other software, as a standard MIDI controller. It’s USB class-compliant, so it works with other devices and operating systems, like the iPad and Raspberry Pi. You can change how it works with Max for Live, or any software that supports MIDI. And it works in a variety of standalone modes, so you can use it to play hardware without connecting to a computer.

That’s a lot, already. But soon, the Launchpad Pro could do more.

Novation quietly released a special customizable firmware as open source code on GitHub. And, inspired by recent Head of Product Innovation Dave Hodder has even written a screed about hacking. Despite the Launchpad-specific headline, it’s actually more or less a love letter to the whole hacker / DIYer / open source community, generally:

Launchpad Pro: A Hacker’s Dream

Now, you’re not actually hacking the entire Novation firmware. That’d cause potential mayhem, and apart from being a support nightmare for Novation, it’d be more or less a nightmare for you, too – and wouldn’t really yield any interesting results.

Instead, you can think of this as an open API to the hardware itself. You can’t “brick” the device, or otherwise break it. What you can do is make new applications for the Launchpad Pro as a standalone device.

In your code, you can include messages to and from the hardware:

  • Receive events when you press the pads and buttons
  • Receive messages from the USB port or MIDI port (there are MIDI input and output jacks on the Launchpad Pro)
  • Send messages to the USB and MIDI ports
  • Receive tick messages – so your app can sync to an external source
  • Change the LED colors

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loopsite

They moved from one flagship software product to adding one piece of flagship hardware. Now there’s a flagship event, too.

It’s called “Loop,” and it will be held 30 October – 1 November in Ableton’s headquarter city of Berlin. It’s clearly in part a summit for the Ableton Live community. But just as their recent book covered the creative process rather than Live per se, the event is pitched a convergence of creativity and technology generally.

It’s not just talks or demos, either. The event organizers are combining hands-on workshops and invites educators. There’s also a collaboration with CTM Festival to set up evening performance programming.

As they put it:

Loop is three days of performances, talks, and interactive workshops aimed at exchanging ideas at the cutting edge of music, creativity, and technology. Bringing together artists, technologists, and other creative thinkers, Loop is a collective exploration of what it is to make music today and what it could be tomorrow.

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