Making a futuristic new music instrument requires more than just the spark of a clever idea. It needs resources, funding, input from musicians, and other ingredients, in perfect balance. Those dimensions can offer cold, hard reality, but met properly, they can also offer opportunity. And that’s part of what made Barcelona’s SONAR+D such a compelling place to be last week. Tucked into the packed SONAR festival was a convergence of the engineering, musical inspiration, and business knowhow required to make musical inventions.
A hang drum or hand pan, reconceived as a digital instrument, it could prove a breakthrough in new instrument controller design as product. Meeting its creators in Barcelona, I got to try the first prototype and see how the version that will eventually ship to backers will be even better. And I have to say, I’m impressed.
First, let’s compare Oval, a digital controller, to the acoustic Hang that inspired it. The makers have made a video that makes that clear: Continue reading »
It seems synth guru Richard Devine couldn’t resist revealing something about upcoming Yamaha technology. In an interview earlier this month, he let slip that the instrument includes “alien” new tech:
Usually when I work with a company – for instance I’m working with Yamaha on a project right now; I can’t say what it is, but it’s pretty crazy. This synthesizer has new technology that’s never been implemented before, so it’s totally alien to anything I’ve ever used. I’ve had to spend a few weeks just understanding the architecture of it.
This tells us two things. One, whatever Richard is working on is now almost certainly digital at least in large part; there’s a whole lot more you can do in the digital realm than the analog realm, at least as far as “new.” (It could be he’s talking about something to do with the form factor, but since he mentioned architecture here and he’s presumably doing sound content for them, that’s unlikely.)
Two, we’re now officially 1000% more interested than we were before, because Richard Devine – for those of you who don’t know him – has used a lot. The man is an obsessive-compulsive sound designer on the Rain Man order of productivity.
The whole interview is worth a read, whether you’re into what Yamaha is teasing or not:
The video shows a blurry show of a Yamaha CS-80, the one synth mentioned by name in the artist videos. And there are keys involved (from the spread of the hands in the one artist video, they seem full-sized rather than mini keys).
It seems unlikely Yamaha is re-releasing the CS, and there’s already the phrase “new take” in the video. More likely than the KORG reissue route, Yamaha almost certainly is pursuing a Roland-style AIRA product – something with a clear connection to a classic, but via a new take. And digital seems more likely. Continue reading »
Okay, we hit some sort of nerd singularity just now. Start with David Hasselhoff’s cheeky, cheesy “True Survivor.” Remake it on the 8-bit SidTracker 64 app. You’ll swear all of this actually happened in the 80s, even if it didn’t. Retrorgasm.
Pity the iPad. Unlike the Commodore 64, Apple’s wundertablet doesn’t come with a state-of-the-art SID synthesizer chip inside. Well, now emulation solves that problem.
SidTracker 64 is both an emulation of the SID sound chip on the Commodore computer line, plus a workstation for arranging your own songs. And it’s already got some songs to get you started, like the classic “Commando” by Rob Hubbard, which you can play or remix.
It’s loaded with all the usual production extras. And don’t let the “tracker” name put you off: you can play in real time, which naturally works well on the iPad:
The app emulates the later 8580 chip. That may displease purists who seek the original, but apart from some very specific glitches on the original 6581, the two are capable of producing basically the same sounds. And while the SID is associated with feel-good 80s video game lore, it’s really a beautiful and versatile synthesizer, in no way restricted to that particular genre. The work of Bob Yannes (who went on to found Ensoniq), it fits well into synth history. Continue reading »
Any trip, anywhere can turn into a creative opportunity – if you pack the right stuff. So if you’re hitting the road this summer, here are some thoughts.
Adam John Williams is a media artist and maker and musician and lots of other things. But even among that rarified breed, he’s somewhat unusual. The man brings Olympic effort to hack days – one of the organizers behind Music Tech Fest and a prolific performer and inventor. As a participant at our hacklab at CTM Festival, he was applying painful shocks to himself in time with Ableton Live – and that’s just one example.
Adam is a maven among mavens, so of course peering inside his luggage is uncommonly interesting. (Don’t worry, we’ll keep it geeky.)
An image of those very contents crossed my feed as Adam headed off to Reykjavik, so I asked Adam to explain. It’s got some good tips for what to pack, as well as a window into the way he approaches each day as a chance to make something new.