Telemann

The role of the music score is an important one, as a lingua franca – it puts musical information in a format a lot of people can read. And it does that by adhering to standards.

Now with computers, phones, and tablets all over the planet, can music notation adapt?

A new group is working on bringing digital notation as a standard to the Web. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – yes, the folks who bring you other Web standards – formed what they’re describing as a “community group” to work on notation.

That doesn’t mean your next Chrome build will give you lead sheets. W3C are hosting, not endorsing the project – not yet. And there’s a lot of work to be done. But many of the necessary players are onboard, which could mean some musically useful progress. Continue reading »

beatstepproangle

Do call it a comeback. The hardware sequencer, once a forgotten relic of the computer age, has returned with a vengeance. And the reason is simple: we need it. Sure, we might play with a computer, but we’ve fallen for other synthesizers and drum machines – a lot of it quite cheap, too. We want hands-on control so we can play live again, improvise with our hands rather than furrow our brows over a mouse and screen. And we might even have beloved analog gear and want it to groove along with everything else.

Few companies represent the blossoming of love for gear quite like Arturia. It was just a few short years ago that the name meant plug-in emulations of vintage gear. Now, people are more likely to think of something like the hardware MicroBrute synth.

Arturia’s first BeatStep was cool – a combination step sequencer and drum pad controller. But it was also limited: you could only sequence one part, and pattern triggering options were woefully limited.

This month, the company has shipped the long-awaited BeatStep Pro. I’m finishing a review now – it’ll be an in-depth hands-on, and I’m also waiting to make sure I have the latest firmware changes.

But since I’m focusing on those details rather than rushing, we can meanwhile watch some videos of just how this gear looks in action. And you can let me know if that raises other questions – what do you want to know? What gear do you care about working with? I’ll answer as much as I can in our review.

For starters, here are ten analog synths – plus Ableton Live. (Digital or analog? Yes.)

Continue reading »

Octave One by Marie Staggat-23

If anyone can make cookie-cutter techno, then improvisation is the route back to heart and soul. And there are few people as good at making dense, bass-heavy improvised dance music as Detroit’s Octave One.

I mean, yes, it’s a little weird that any of us would get overly eloquent or snobby writing about dance music. I would hope your test is the same as my test – does piping a track make you start doing an embarrassing little jig at your desk? (Boy, am I glad my office is on street level and equipped with giant, aquarium-style windows.)

Octave One stopped by Resident Advisor recently, with a table bestrewn with gear – that thickened-up gravy of sound. Yes, that’s our own MeeBlip (SE edition, modded with an extra-big knob) on the bass stabs at the beginning. And there’s tons of KORG and other gear in there, as well. There’s a nice balance of advance preparation with rich live-played synth lines and mixing and filtering. It means they’ve done enough that they can lay down a groove, but they also can feel transitions, structure – actually say something in the moment. They’re also clever in keeping everything accessible, rather than doing something overly cerebral. Sonically, everything is defined (clever groove can help), but there’s also a healthy amount of dirt and warmth.

Continue reading »

Mikme-Microphone-Push-Button

Being simple and mobile has its advantages. I bet at least once, you’ve recorded some audio sample on your phone. But simplicity often comes at the expense of audio quality – the phone being a perfect example.

An upstart hardware project wants to change that, with a crowd funding campaign that’s winding up its final days now. The Mikme is a small rectangular box, with a single button for recording. It’s wireless, with the ability to connect to mobile apps for tweaking and sharing.

Now, your first impression, then, might be that this is a consumer product – convenient, but delivering sub-par audio. It’s still a bit too soon to judge as the hardware is in prototype phase, but Mikme want to build something that stands up to the demands of pros and musicians. They’ve drawn on talent from professional audio engineering, with a 1″ true condenser capsule – one they say bests the little capsules in current mobile recording solutions from the likes of Zoom. Those rely on smaller electret condensers. (Side note: I won’t knock the electret condensers; I’ve gotten a lot of good results from them. But the bottom line is, you have something here that’s more mobile but doesn’t sacrifice the quality of your recordings to get there – quite the opposite.)

I got to meet founder Philipp Sonnleitner from Vienna when he presented the project at Tech Open Air in Berlin, and even tried the prototype hands-on. Here are more details.

Continue reading »

musichat

It looks like what you’d want to wear if you were invited to a dinner party … with Sun Ra and his Arkestra.

It lights up and responds as though you’re about to guest star on a Japanese TV show about a trans-dimensional space princess.

But then… it starts making music. And the wild whimsy of the Chromehatic turns into a sultry set piece for a pitch-perfect performance by vocalist FEMME, celebrated London-based performer/producer.

As for the headpiece itself, it launches a line entitled SENSEries, pairing milliner/couture designer Jodie Cartman (whose work has shown up on the brow of Morcheeba with crewdson, aka London’s Hugh Jones, an instrument builder and musician.

Watch:

Continue reading »

battles

On some deeper level, maybe it doesn’t matter how something repeats – whether it’s looped in a pedal, looped in software, or simply repeated by a human player, for instance.

On another level, given just how much repetition matters to music, maybe that’s why we care so much about how it’s accomplished.

Ableton this week released a visit to New York’s experimental rock trio Battles, in a film and interview under the header “The Art of Repetition.”

There, we get to learn more about the process behind Battles’ dense, hypnotic sound. The film is a bit long, but there are some telling moments.

Best quote: “Sometimes people ask if we use a click but we don’t. It’s just music.”

Continue reading »

Producer Max Cooper, alongside his collaborator Tom Hodge, this week shares an intimate reflection on what motivates him in sound and science.

In the video for Sonos Studio, the Belfast-born musician describes loving when sound “wraps you up in this warm … sea.” But there’s a system that reveals itself, even as the scientific method can unfold the mysteries around us. So if this music sounds personal and secret, perhaps it has a direct analog to Cooper’s past life as a scientist, the “introspective side of science,” as he puts it. That is, ” whether it’s a piece of music or a scientific idea or a natural system, you’re trying to understand this abstract system in your head… to make models of how the parts interact.” I suppose to me it’s not so much a literal connection to biological computation as the fact that Mr. Cooper can be inspired to find those surprising interactions of parts in both worlds.

maxcooper

But what happens in the mind as you make such explorations? Animator Nick Cobby imagines those unseen moving parts in three-dimensional motion. “Painted” in After Effects and Cinema 4D, flights of colorful fancy speculate on mathematical theory and the way in which the brain might process exterior sound: Continue reading »