The passing last week of Frankie Knuckles has led to an outpouring of remembrance for this dance music pioneer, a signal of just how deeply and broadly his work was felt. To give us greater insight, CDM turns in our obituary to Denise Dalphond, the enthnomusicologist who has devoted much of her work to researching the roots of electronic dance music in America. (Her PhD dissertation, “Detroit Players: Wax, Tracks, and Soul in Electronic Music,” is due soon.) She gives us her thoughts on Knuckles’ significance as well as lining up some of the best places to watch and hear his legacy.

Frankie Knuckles is one of a select few legends who made electronic music culture and dance music culture possible. There are other important figures, of course, but today, the honor and focus is on Frankie Knuckles. His legacy is far-reaching and thankfully well known. He spent his early musical days with Larry Levan and Robert Williams, bought his first drum machine from Derrick May and used it in his DJ mixes, and worked closely with Chip E, Robert Owens, and Jamie Principle in forming Chicago’s influential style of house music. He was the resident DJ at the Warehouse from 1977-1982, and at his own club, the Power Plant, from 1982-1985. In 2004, then Illinois state senator, Barak Obama declared the location of the Warehouse on South Jefferson Street Frankie Knuckles Way.

godfather Continue reading »


It’s been a long, strange, mobile trip. Part of the appeal of iOS apps for music when they first arrived was doing just one thing at a time.

But what if you want that focus on music making – and still have multiple tools working at once?

Audiobus was the app that popularized the notion of interconnecting apps on mobile, patching together effects and instruments and mixers and production tools. And now, more than ever, the idea of a device like an iPad as an all-in-one studio is starting to seem pretty reasonable. Apple’s latest iPad Air delivers on the promise of desktop-class performance in a tablet, and it’s surely just the beginning.

Now Audiobus 2 is offering still more-powerful stuff. It also answers the question of why you’d want to buy a third-party app when Apple’s own OS is slowly baking in its own inter-app audio features. Audiobus 2 might cost a few extra bucks, but its developer support is unparalleled, and it can complement Apple’s own functionality with stuff the OS on its own doesn’t do – like building a centralized hub in which apps can connect.

In this version:

  • Multi-Routing. (US$4.99 add-on, in-app purchase, though for power users probably worth it.) Connect an unlimited number of apps to other apps – perfect for those new iPads, or advanced chaining. And use multi-channel input hardware.
  • Save and recall presets – even save them as recipes and share on email, Twitter, Facebook.
  • State-Saving: in compatible apps, save/recall your workspace in apps like Nave, JamUp, Swoopster, Sector and DM1.
  • New UI, with iOS 7-style colored shading to reflect the apps you’re using.

Continue reading »


For centuries, music was something made in a living room, made at home. It was a brief fluke of the 20th Century that music came out of a heroic process in a hidden-away studio. But if the gold-plated, magical record is threatened, some artists are trying to bring the daily ritual of home music making back.

Ólafur Arnalds and Matthew Flook are each making gorgeous, cinematic-ambient tracks, and each have made projects that involve doing so on a regular basis in their homes. Let’s listen.

Arnalds has been making some of the finest scores anywhere, and now has earned the appropriate recognition. In celebration, we get to enjoy the documentation of his achingly-pretty Living Room Songs project free – along with free downloads of the record (or pay for higher quality). Erased Tapes, which also happens to be one of my favorite labels these days (see also post-minimalist pianist Nils Frahm, among others), brings the good news:

In celebration of Ólafur Arnalds’ recent BAFTA nomination for his score work on Broadchurch, Erased Tapes are streaming his 2011 Living Room Songs film in full; including behind the scenes footage which has previously only been available as part of the special edition CD/DVD set.

Shot by Gunnar Guðbjörnsson and Bowen Staines
Edited by Bowen Staines

You can purchase physical and high-quality digital from the Erased Tapes store, or grab the downloads free from the Living Room Songs site:

We get over half an hour of footage to watch. This is all acoustic instrumentation, in case anyone wants to question whether it belongs on this particular site – but, then, that’s the joy of the mobility of today’s digital recording technology.

livingroom Continue reading »

If you want wild, futuristic, and inventive, some of the craziest inventions come from the past. The Photoplayer makes today’s music tech look positively dull.

Joe Rinaudo has made a business of bringing back antiques, but his 1926 Photoplayer may top the list.

Built to add dynamic soundtracks for silent films, the machine is an ingenious contrivance for live music generation. First, it has the ability to run “two decks” – that is, by having two rolls instead of one, you can queue up the next roll while the other is playing. (Okay, so it sort of invented DJing.) Second, the traditional piano roll is accompanied by sound effects and percussion noises triggered by chains called “cow-tails.” So, again, like live electronic music today, you can add live percussion atop the prepared music.

They were also machines anyone could play. The device handled the tricky piano playing bits; you only had to add in sound effects. But with everything from gunshots to bird chirps to thunder, various levers and chains and switches let you do all the foley yourself – critical at a time when silent films lacked sound.

Then again, now that we have sound, we might appreciate this effect more than the audience of the time. Food for thought. Continue reading »

MOOG continues their leadership in the April Fools' department, by bringing you ... Keith Emerson's rig.

MOOG continues their leadership in the April Fools’ department, by bringing you … Keith Emerson’s rig.

Like the proverbial Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day, it seems that music tech writers this year saw their shadow and decided to stay in their hole rather than deal with the yearly deluge of fake news that arrives on April Fools’.

That’s a shame. Because this year, a few ideas are preposterous enough that we wish they weren’t jokes.

(Turning that fool into something real was something I proposed last year, too – and just heard we might see some fruits out of that. Stay tuned.)

Tower of power. Photo courtesy (fake) MOOG.

Tower of power. Photo courtesy (fake) MOOG.

Emerson, Fake, and Palmer. Moog Music has a tradition of jests on the holiday, and this year is no exception. With a slight wink to KORG’s recent obsession with recreating its past, this year, Moog tells us “a dedicated Moog engineering team has painstakingly reverse engineered and built a 1 : 1 recreation of the world’s most famous keyboard, Keith Emerson’s Moog Modular, using original processes and components.” Continue reading »


The picture of old-school DJing is someone hauling around a crate of records. Frankie Knuckles, the house pioneer, was playing The Warehouse in Chicago and touring with reels of tapes. Remixing was something done with a razor blade.

The saddening news has arrived that “godfather of house” Frankie Knuckles has died at the age of 59. His friend and collaborator David Morales shared the news via Twitter late Tuesday. (See Ben Rogerson’s report in MusicRadar, which comments a bit on the origins of Jamie Principle’s Your Love.) The man most associated with Chicago house music actually was born in the Bronx and cut his teeth DJing in New York City. But it was his instrumental role in the the evolution of Chicago house – the DJ scene, the records that were released, the connections between people at The Warehouse (hence, “house music”), and later his own venue Power Plant – that secured a place in history. And then, there was a second act that topped even that. In the 90s, his Def Classic Mixes and (with Morales) Def Mix Productions turned out still more hits. Knuckles is the rare dance music creator with both a Grammy and a Chicago street to his name.

Frankie Knuckles plays ADE 2012 at the Sugar Factory. Photo (CC-BY) Ukrainian house music producer deepstereo (Sergey) - another artist inspired by Knuckles.

Frankie Knuckles plays ADE 2012 at the Sugar Factory. Photo (CC-BY) Ukrainian house music producer deepstereo (Sergey) – another artist inspired by Knuckles.

While he will be remembered today surely for his legacy in vinyl records, today’s entire dance music and electronic music scene owes some debt to the way Knuckles has influenced the practice of music making. What he first accomplished with a razor blade and tape has led to techniques in edits and remixes that have become second nature today, and his use of the drum machine is part of the origin of today’s rush for new boxes.

Greg Rule wrote about that for Keyboard Magazine in 1997. Here are some brief excerpts of that chapter from Keyboard Presents the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music, the book I edited for Keyboard and Hal Leonard/Backbeat in 2011: Continue reading »


Elektron’s upcoming hardware drum machine, the Analog Rytm, is silent no more.

The Swedish maker has posted audio samples of this 8-voice box, covering a range of styles. And you can see some specs now on the product page:

What you can’t do is order the Analog Rytm – not yet. There’s a waiting list so you can be notified when it goes on sale (not really a waiting list for the preorder, so much as a “now you can buy it” list):

We expect to be on top of a review before the beginning of summer. In the meantime, let’s have a listen. Continue reading »