Out today, Arpeggionome is the iPhone follow-up to an iPad grid instrument, making lovely, elegant cascades of notes from a screen full of circles. The work of San Francisco-based electrical engineer Alexander Randon, it’s especially nice to see not just the app itself, but the music the developer makes with his own tool.
Watch the video, and you’ll get a feel for how he makes his creation musically expressive.
Evidently inspired by both the Tenori-On and the community of monome apps, Arpeggionome has a number of features that set it apart from other tools. It’s tough to find iPhone apps that are as handy as iPad apps, given its smaller size. But here, there are some clever touches.
Parameter changes are quantized – a move Alexander says was inspired by Ableton Live. That makes the app well-suited to beat-driven music, but also more practical to handheld idea sketching.
MIDI support (available via a $4.99 in-app upgrade) is robust, with MIDI clock sync and external MIDI triggering. You can even trigger whole patterns via MIDI, a nice addition for live performance. That makes this usable in larger rigs in a way some apps (cough, iMaschine) still aren’t, and extends the playability of even the pocket-able iPhone version.
Parameter view knobs have a smart touch adaptation: Alexander notes that you can “drag-down and release” and “reset the knob to its stored value with the pattern.”
X-Y matrix triggers patterns across pitches and speeds, hence the dizzying streams of notes you hear in the demo.
Accelerometer/tilt for pitch band and volume.
15 touch knobs.
Lots of included presets, or build from scratch.
240 notes per second in the Performance Matrix, with adjustments for start note and rate.
MIDI (via in-app purchase) for everything: Virtual MIDI (between apps), CoreMIDI hardware interfaces, MIDI over Bluetooth, and MIDI over WiFi.
CDM and yours truly team up with Berlin arts collective Mindpirates next week for a learning event we hope will be a little different than most. The idea behind the gathering is to combine learning in some new ways. The evenings begin with more traditional instruction, as I cover, step-by-step, how you’d assemble beat machines, instruments, effects, and video mixers using free software (Pure Data and Processing).
But, we’ll go a little further, opening up sessions to hacking and jamming, finally using the event space at Mindpirates to try out ideas on the PA and projectors. By the last night, we’ll all get to play together for the public before opening things up to a party at night. I know when I’ve personally gotten to do this, I’ve gotten more out of a learning experience. Getting to do it with the aim of creating useful instruments and beats and visuals here, then, I think makes perfect sense.
Working with free software in this case means that anyone can participate, without the need for special software or even the latest computers. (What we’re doing will work on Raspberry Pi, for instance, or old netbooks, perfect for turning small and inexpensive hardware into a drum machine.) No previous experience is required: everyone will get to brush up on the basics, with beginning users getting the essentials and more advanced users able to try out other possibilities in the hack sessions.
If you’re in easyJet distance of Berlin, of course, we’d love to see you and jam with you. In trying to keep this affordable for Berliners, we’ve made this 40 € total for three nights including a meal each evening and a guest list spot on the Saturday night party.
But I hope this is the sort of format we can try out elsewhere, too. If you have ideas of what you’d like to see in this kind of instruction – in-person events being ideal, but also perhaps in online tutorials – let us know.
Create Digital Music + Mindpirates present: Laptops on Acid Facebook event
(fellow European residents, I’m as annoyed at the absence of bank transfer/EC payment at Eventbrite as you are – we’re working on an alternative, so you should email elisabeth (at) mindpirates [dot] org to register if you don’t want to use that credit card system!)
Canadian Col. Chris Hadfield, aboard the International Space Station, has done what you would probably want to do if aboard the high-flying orbital outpost: make a music video for David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” And he works “Soyuz” into the lyrics. (Thankfully, he refrains from making it “Colonel Chris.” The only complaint: a shame it can’t cut between the ISS and Mission Control.)
Colonel Hadfield, if you can hear us and have a moment, we’d love to hear how you produced the recording. Not that zero-g means too much for sound production – though I imagine keeping the mic steady becomes a new concern.
Update – David Bowie band veteran Emm Gryner worked on the track’s production, and she explains a bit of how it came about on her blog:
The task was in front of me. I came up with a piano part. i then enlisted my friend, producer and fellow Canadian Joe Corcoran to take my piano idea and Chris’ vocal and blow it up into a fully produced song. Drums! mellotrons! fuzz bass! We also incorporated into the track ambient space station noises which Chris had put on his Soundcloud. I was mostly blown away by how pure and earnest Chris’ singing is on this track. Like weightlessness and his voice agreed to agree.
The astronaut himself also writes his own music, and performed a touching duet with Canadian artists back on the ground, including a bunch of kids and the Barenaked Ladies. It’s especially nice to hear him put in song his feelings about seeing his homeland and getting to work on a space project driven by cooperating nations, rather than competing ones: Continue reading »
Event listings you can play: Beatguide’s guide to electronic music events combines event metadata with listening.
If it’s music events, what your calendar really needs is a play button.
A funny thing happened on the way to the online music world. Roughly a century after the music recording revolution, we’re all newly concerned with getting into venues with other human beings.
The problem is – and there’s no nice way to say this – the tools out there just aren’t very good. Facebook’s popularity is unquestionable, to be sure, but it still doesn’t cater to music needs with its event listings. And beyond that, there’s a scattered landscape of different tools, none of which seems to answer basic needs.
Beatguide is just getting started this week, but it seems to have hit upon a nice combination. Focused on electronic music events, the formula is simple. Start with a city (Beatguide launches with Berlin), then see events by date, cost, and genre.
Then, you get the difference: you can listen to any of the events. After all, what ultimately determines if you want to go to a music event is what the music sounds like. (That should be painfully obvious, but that makes it all the more frustrating how many sites have gotten it wrong.) Continue reading »
This week, at Germany’s re:publica conference – an event linking offline and online worlds – I addressed the question of how musical inventions can help predict the way we use tools. I started all the way back tens of thousands of years ago with the first known (likely) musical instrument. From there, I looked at how the requirements of musical interfaces – in time and usability – can inform all kinds of design problems.
And I also suggested that musicians don’t lag in innovation as much as people might expect.
I thought about whether I wanted to post this as a video, as it’d be more structured if I wrote it as an article. But it occurs that some people might like to hear me talk off the cuff, “ums” and all, and those who did could provide some feedback. I really never give the same talk twice; I’m constantly revising my thoughts and part of the reason is being challenged by feedback. (Yes, as blogging may seem a solo monologue, in my experience it’s more like a feedback loop, not an echo chamber. Otherwise, I wouldn’t keep doing it.)
Finishing research for a talk at Genève’s Mapping Festival, I came across this gem from comments on Create Digital Motion. It’s the innovative Lumigraph, an interactive light experiment by visionary film and animation pioneer Oskar Fischinger. The sci-fi film looked ahead to what the music of 2071 might be like, in 1964′s The Time Travelers. To their credit, goofy love lounge aside, the reuse of Fischinger’s abstract light project isn’t far off from music in 2013. (And, hey, whatever puts you in the mood.)
Fischinger, for his part, almost certainly wasn’t thrilled with the use of his creation in this manner. But, then, part of the reason it makes sense today is because Fischinger’s abstract animations have had such a profound impact on computer animation, that now it’s second nature to combine visuals with music in the way the made-up Lumichord does. The groovy music comes from Richard LaSalle, whose prolific scoring career included the likes of the Wonder Woman TV show.
Consider: you could actually play this performance, and dress the way these folks are, at your local av festival. Time traveling, indeed.
But if you want to see this the way Fischinger did intend, the terrific Center for Visual Music is working to preserve his work and others, and could use our support. They have a 1969 performance by Elfriede Fischinger that better represents how the instrument was intended.
And Oskar Fischinger was happy to let you “play” the light as instrument:
Oskar called his invention a “new Color-Play instrument…The instrument is played by HAND and produces the most fantastic color display – but controlled direct through the Player.”
Newer, faster, thinner … better? One technology follows another in dizzying cycles. But how is it that something that was once an amazing engineering marvel ceases to be so? If it really works as a musical instrument, how could it be less of a musical instrument than it was before?
Palm Sounds’ Ashley Elsdon was talking about music making in the palm of your hand before anyone had ever seen an iPhone. So I had to smile when I saw him connecting an old Palm to our MeeBlip synth. It wasn’t just a novelty – the synth was ticking along with this vintage technology in a way that looked generally cool, drool-worthy – somehow, new.
So I asked Ashley to do a special story for CDM to explore what you can do with vintage pocket music making – to revisit what was possible through modern eyes, and see what you can still use today. What we get is both history lesson, for those who stick with their newest product, and a practical guide to making use of devices you can now often find nearly free. (Hint: you can even emulate Palm on new devices, too.)
It’s not just a story for the sake of it. These gadgets are the product of a massive expenditure of energy, packed with toxic chemicals. This could be what saves them from the landfill – and what creates new music instead of new waste. But there is still a reason you bought that new iPhone. So let’s let Ashley explain just how useful this retro gadgetry may be. -PK Continue reading »