hacklab1

For the past two winters, CDM has joined with Berlin’s CTM Festival to invite musical participants to grow beyond themselves. Working in freshly-composed collaborations, they’ve built new performances in a matter of days, then presented them to the world – as of last year, in a public, live show.

This year, they will work even more deeply inside themselves, finding the interfaces between body and music, biology and sound.

And that means we’re inviting everyone from choreographers to neuroscientists to apply, as much as musicians and code makers. Playing with the CTM theme of “Un Tune,” the project will this year encourage participants to imagine biology as sonic system, sound in its bodily effects, and otherwise connect embodiment to physical reality.

Joining me is Baja California-born Leslie Garcia, a terrific sound artist and maker who has already gone from participating in last year’s lab to organizing her own in her native Mexico. You can glimpse her below looking like a space sorceress of some kind, and hear the collaborative work she made last winter.

The 2014 hacklab's output, all wired up for the performance. Photo: CTM Festival.

The 2014 hacklab’s output, all wired up for the performance. Photo: CTM Festival.

We don’t know what people will propose or what meaning they will find out of that theme, but it might include stuff like this: Continue reading »

The impressive, futuristic physical form of the 4DSOUND system. Photo: George Schroll.

The impressive, futuristic physical form of the 4DSOUND system. Photo: George Schroll.

You can’t really hear the results of the Spatial Audio Hacklab sitting at your computer – by definition, you had to be there to take in the experience of sounds projected in space. But you’ll probably feel the enthusiasm and imagination of its participants.

And that’s why it’s a pleasure to share the video documentation, produced for 4DSOUND by a team from FIBER – the Dutch audiovisual events and art platform – at Amsterdam Dance Event last month. In unleashing a diverse group of artist-experimenters on 4DSOUND’s unique speaker installation, we got a chance to create a sonic playground, a laboratory experiment in what people could do. It’s tough to overstate just how much those participants brought to the table – or just how little time they had. Actually working on the system was measured in minutes, forcing artists to improvise quickly with reality television levels of pressure. (Only, unlike TV show challenges, everyone kept their nerves and wits.)

4DSOUND Spatial Sound Hack Lab at ADE 2014 from FIBER on Vimeo.

To get through it, these artists focused on collaboration, finding ways of connecting essential skills. In the days and weeks leading up to Amsterdam, many of them fired missives back and forth wondering how best to exploit the spatial sound system. They then worked intensively to devise something they could try quickly, forming spontaneous teams to combine resources. They did in minutes what resident artists had done in days. With input from Nicholas Bougaïeff from Liine and a whole lot of guidance and assistance from the entire 4DSOUND team, in particular founder Paul Oomen, gathered hacekers managed to get a whole lot up and running. No project went silent; with tweaks, everything worked.

This wasn’t merely a show of coding prowess or engineering. Each project found some way to involve musical practice and sound, each was a “jam” as well as “hack.” That’s something different from the typical shape of hack days; these projects weren’t just demos. They were given a voice — sometimes literally singing, rather beautifully. Continue reading »

lemurlemur

Before there even was an iPad or iPhone, there was Lemur. The touch-based controller device was theoretically the first-ever consumer multi-touch hardware. Early adopters connected the pricey smart display via Ethernet to a computer, and wowed friends with flying faders and bouncing balls and new ways of doing everything from manipulating spatial audio to playing instruments.

Then, the iPad arrived, and Lemur had a new life as an iOS-only app. For many of us, it’s alone reason enough to own an Apple tablet.

But Apple tablets are pricey. Android tablets are cheap. And Android tablets are increasingly available in more sizes. So, maybe you want to run Lemur on Android. Maybe it’s your only tablet. Or maybe you’re just worried that now your live performance set depends on an iPad mini, and if it dies, you’re out hundreds more – so Android is an appealing backup.

Well, now, Lemur has come to Android. It wasn’t easy; it required lots of additional testing because of the variety of devices out there and weird peculiarities of making Android development work properly. (Disclosure: I was one of Lemur’s testers, and was gratified when it suddenly started working on my Nexus 7, which is a fairly excellent low-cost device.)

But now it’s here. And it’s fantastic. Nick from Liine came to our monthly mobile music app meetup in Berlin and showed us just how easy it is to code your own custom objects using the canvas – more on that soon. But combine that with a stable app for hosting your own creations, and Lemur is simply indispensable. It’s US$24.99 on the Google Play store.

Oh, and one more thing: wires. Continue reading »

max7collage

Being “software about nothing” isn’t easy.

Max has for years been a favored choice of musicians and artists wanting to make their own tools for their work. But it’s been on a journey over more recent years to make that environment ever more accessible to a wider audience of people.

The aim: for beginners and advanced users alike, work faster, producing tools that work better. Okay, those are easy goals to set – a bit like all of us declaring we’re going to “get in better shape” in a few weeks from now on New Year’s Eve. But Max 7 somehow brings together a range of plotlines from years of development and evolution.

This is very quickly looking like the visual toolkit for media that Max has always longed to be.

What’s new?

Too long/ didn’t read? Here’s the quick version:

  • Patch faster and prettier with a new UI, styles, new browser, and loads of shortcuts.
  • Elastic, pitch/tempo-independent audio everywhere, syncable everywhere.
  • Loads of pitch correction and harmonization and pitch effects, straight out of the box.
  • Use Max for Live patches directly – even without a copy of Ableton.
  • Use video and audio media directly, without having to make your own player.
  • Use VST, AU plug-ins seamlessly, plus Max for Live patches – even without a copy of Ableton.
  • Make video and 3D patches more quickly, with physics and easy playback, all taking advantage of hardware acceleration on your GPU.

And what’s new in detail, as well as why it matters: Continue reading »

anodewood

MeeBlip anode, our ready-to-play bass synth with an analog filter, is now shipping and in dealers worldwide. We knew we wanted to make something that was accessible to those new to hardware synths, but had enough personality to surprise advanced users, too – even in a small box, for US$139.95 list.

And we also now know what the critics think.

It’s always easy to explain what you wanted a creation to be. It’s a different, if exciting, experience when you read someone else’s take on what resulted. But that makes me all the more pleased to share a round-up of reviews of the anode, reviews that we’ve found exceptionally thoughtful and thorough, that connect to what we were trying to do.

If you like what you read, anode is on sale now, including fine dealers worldwide.

anodekeybuy

Keyboard Magazine gave MeeBlip anode its Key Buy award (our second, following the first-generation MeeBlip), saying: “after a day in the studio it becomes clear that nothing else sounds like it.” Continue reading »

matrixfx

Few things would make my fingers go numb and my brain at a loss for words quite like this. But there’s simply not much to add to this, other than to say that Aphex Twin has released a 21-track modular album and loads of other things, plus pages and pages and pages and pages of interview notes via the wonderful noyzelab blog. There’s a two-part interview, and as for everything else, you might as well just head to SoundCloud, queue things up, and not sleep for a long time. (They’re all free downloads, too.)

The whole thing looks like the interview was conducted over IRC and you may need to snort caffeine and Pixy Stix to get through it in one sitting, but, you know – in a good way. I think you’ll have fun.

Aphex Twin SYROBONKERS! Interview Part 1

Aphex Twin SYROBONKERS! Interview – Part 2

On Blogger, so you can party like it’s 2006. Brilliant work by Dave Noyze, a nerdy geeky explosion for all you boys and girls. Aphex Twin macht Kinder froh.

It’s a whole Richard D. Jamesgasm.

I could add technical notes, for instance, except that I think the list of classic modular gear not used in these releases or discussed in the interview is probably longer than what it is.

And, sure, maybe that’s not really Aphex Twin, and maybe it’s not really his son, except that it is, so don’t worry about it. (If this really is Peter Kirn, really on CDM. Is it? Am I? Meh, never mind.)

Definitely don’t miss the album or these sounds. And, perhaps, maybe all of us should put our weird s*** on SoundCloud, and maybe someday, ads for BMW will air between them. In the meantime, go burn through their bandwidth, because you can. Continue reading »

SoundCloud has posted a somber memorial to the Berlin Wall, for the 25th anniversary. The concept is intriguing not only for its content, but also its form. The work uses time as a measurement of space – the duration sound would take to travel the length of the whole wall. In comments on SoundCloud, the 120 people who lost their lives are counted out in their fateful location. See the full description below. I’m curious to hear what readers think; my own preference would have been for an abstract interpretation rather than such literal, figurative sounds, but this is entirely personal.

The anniversary of the fall of the wall has in Berlin brought a host of events – including many celebrating the musical renaissance that followed reunification. And it is no exaggeration to say that Berlin has become a world capital of music technology, host to Ableton, Native Instruments, and SoundCloud, but also countless researchers, artists, electronic musicians, and small builders, as a direct result of this historical event.

Perhaps against this, it is worth reflecting on the text of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the fourth movement “Choral,” which was played yesterday on the anniversary.

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.
Freude!

Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us instead strike up more pleasing
and more joyful ones!
Joy!

The text: Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. The original word was not joy, but the more politically-loaded freedom.

Given that last night is, somewhat incomprehensibly, both the anniversary of the fall of the wall and the horrific Kristallnacht, in a city that was home to Nazis and the fulcrum of a nuclear standoff with my own native United States that very nearly destroyed humanity and a lot of life on earth, this is the reason we have to make sounds in Berlin or far away from it- we are at a boundary line for humanity. Continue reading »