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Today is Social Media Week in Berlin and various other cities across the world. I’m fortunate to get to join Gerhard Behles, co-founder and CEO of Ableton, and Matt Black, co-founder of Coldcut and Ninja Tune, in discussion. If you’re in Berlin, you can join us in person; the event is free. But we’re also live streaming from 14:05 Berlin time (08:05 over your cup of morning coffee New York, or California… uh, you might wait for the recording if you aren’t an early riser, that’s 05:05.) We expect to have higher-quality audio after the event.

It’s a great chance to get these two in a room together, because of where they’ve been, what they’re doing, and where we’re all going. Description: Continue reading »

Suzanne Ciani is a beacon of inspiration - not simply a pioneer to visit in the archives, but working on fresh, new collaborations, a light for 2014, too.

Suzanne Ciani is a beacon of inspiration – not simply a pioneer to visit in the archives, but working on fresh, new collaborations, a light for 2014, too. And that’s before we even get to the collaborators. Next stops: Unsound in Krak√≥w, CTM in Berlin. Welcome, October.

The electronic music calendar makes the shift of seasons readily apparent. It’s not unlike the movies. Gone is summer blockbuster season, sequels and comic book movies, Ibiza and confetti cannons, big-budget special effects. Now, as in the cinemas, it’s date night dinner and a movie, trip-out night, delicious chin scratching, voyages to other worlds. And it’s not that we love this time because it’s smarter and summer is dumber: it’s because this is the season where the festival calendar can bring us deeper pleasures, richer sensations, and more powerful feelings, the shallow popcorn diversions out of the way.

There’s indeed so much – I can count off the top of my head half a dozen notable electronic music festivals just in Europe, just in the next 30 days – that writing a preview is all but impossible.

So let’s take just one act out of October to start. Suzanne Ciani, one of the all-time legends of the synthesizer, has lent the electronic instrument a lot of the voice we know today. She is artist and advocate, keyboard diva and endlessly imaginative composer. She composed transcendent standalone works, but also made sounds for arcades and pinball machines and Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab – yes, arcades and eggheads, alike.

Ciani headlining is a good headline. But we get a bit more. Continue reading »

Reaktor Lighting up Komplete Kontrol

All the light-up colors and built-in displays on the upcoming NI Komplete Kontrol keyboard may be aimed mostly at users wanting plug-and-play access to instruments in Komplete. But for the DIYer, there’s potential, too. Komplete Kontrol is the first hardware interface built with Reaktor patchers in mind.

It’s not likely to be a feature of the marketing, but Reaktor lovers will be able to build specific integration into their creations. Kontakt scripting will have the same functionality, if you’re designing sample libraries. We spoke to Gwydion at NI to get some specifics even before this launches.

This should come as good news to Reaktor fans even if you don’t get Komplete Kontrol. The integration will be possible whether or not you own the hardware, and should generate more attention and enthusiasm around Reaktor.

First off, let’s talk about what you can’t do. You can’t control those colored light-up LEDs via MIDI. That I think qualifies as bad news; even Native Instruments’ own Traktor Kontrol line lets you send RGB messages to the colored pads via MIDI.

Komplete Kontrol is different, however; the host software is what controls the colored LEDs and parameter displays (Komplete Kontrol). But Kontakt and Reaktor builders will be able to access that feature via scripts and patches. That means especially interesting stuff in Reaktor: you’ll be able to use colored light feedback directly in a patch, would could lead to unusual new instruments and sequencing ideas.

So, to review: MIDI mapping lets you add custom CC labels and colors above the keys. But in both Reaktor and Kontakt, you’ll get interactive control of each per patch. In detail: Continue reading »

While everyone has been pouring over leaks of Native Instruments’ new Traktor controller, few took notice that one enterprising engineer has made his own touchscreen prototype – an entirely DIY effort, from the guy who first took controllers to the market.

Kontrol-Dj, the decade-long, one-man engineering shop for DJs, over the summer quietly showed a custom solution for adding touchable displays to existing DJ controllers. There’s capacitive multi-touch support – out of the box, working with Image-Line’s Dekcadance software.

And for now, this little video is about the only DJ rig not involving an iPad or Android tablet that uses touch in this way. One thing you don’t see in the NI film about the Kontrol S8 is anyone touching the screen. It seems neither new Numark nor NI controllers yet incorporate touch.

Luis Serrano should know something about the history of DJ controllers: he invented the world’s first commercial offering, the KDJ-500. (The key word here is “commercial” – everything else was a DIY, one-off affair.) You’ll notice some familiar features even in that original model: jog wheels are combined with mixer controls. The arrangement and build would be perfectly desirable today, some 11 years later, for DJing, live music, or live visuals. (You’ll occasionally see someone ask around for one.)

If you bought this box in 2003, congratulations: you were way, way ahead of the curve.

If you bought this box in 2003, congratulations: you were way, way ahead of the curve.

Luis is now lead software engineer on Deckadance, Image-Line’s somewhat underrated, under-the-radar DJ app, and has made various other controllers (plus a mixer) over the years.

The touch solution here is compelling. Rather than use one control separate from the screen to control what’s on the screen, you touch the screen – and the waveform – directly. Ironically, Native Instruments has probably done more than anyone to popularise just that concept. Touch in Traktor DJ on the iPad is a revelation: suddenly, making and triggering loops and the like is stunningly intuitive. (Traktor is hardly alone, but I think deserves special mention because of its unique focus on touchable looping, etc.) Continue reading »

Music tech videos need to be made like this again. (via dylan digits in comments)

You don’t need a private Ibiza pool party and some slow-motion to make you look cooler when your keytar makes lightning strike in your face.

Until then, we’re down-voting that s***. Consider yourself on notice.

The Honda scooter ad at the end just sort of fits in, because how else are you carrying your DX100? Not in a station wagon. Not on the subway. You’ve got FM to make anything possible and you’re already wearing a motorcycle helmet and leather. You can ride with your keyboard directly off stage. (Suggest unplugging it first, though.)

Frequency modulate this.

While we’re at it, here are three more amazing 80s synth ads: Continue reading »

Numark may have announced this week that it’s shipping the Numark NV controller, adding two displays with a window on Serato. But Native Instruments, for their part, appear no longer to be satisfied letting you hear about their upcoming Traktor Kontrol S8 via leaks on forums and social media. (Yes, uh… some of you noticed that.)

No, this time, we get to see the Kontrol S8 in an official Native Instruments video.

And right away, you’ll notice a big difference between Numark’s and Native Instruments’ perspective on the future of the controller: the S8 ditches the big jog wheels.

Frankly, I think it’s about time. Turntables are wonderful. But pretending a big wheel is a turntable on a digital interface is mixing metaphors. it makes about as much sense as adding a food trough to your garage and driving your car with a pair of reins because you miss your horse. Okay, sure, it works on a CDJ – though even there, what if a CDJ had controls befitting the fact that it’s a digital deck, not an interface for manipulating a disc?

Or, as Back to the Future so wisely put it while sucking its wheels into the body of its car:

But the best reason to nix the jog wheels is to have space for something more useful. It frees up a layout that can add controls newly introduced by digital DJing, for manipulating Remix Decks and other parameters, as clearly seen in the video. Continue reading »

For digital DJs, the computer often still trumps the iPad. You get (much) more storage, more flexible use of hardware, more features. But wouldn’t it be nice to use a tablet for X/Y control of effects?

TKFX does that, and nothing else – but it does it damned well. It works on Android and iOS alike, and it’s dead-simple – and powerful. Traktor’s effects are one of the best features of the platform; this finally gives you intuitive control over them.

Hold function
BPM sync
Up to four effect units
Four memory banks
Use in single or group mode

You can also pre-program the effects you want to use – 4 banks x 4 each, for a total of 16. Continue reading »