Korg’s Tatsuya Takahashi stops by our studio, playing his volcas (and a bit of MeeBlip with us, too!)
He’s not a household name. But Tatsuya Takahashi is the man from Korg’s development group behind instruments you almost certainly know. Starting with the first Korg monotron, followed by the Monotribe, monotron DUO and monotron DELAY, Takahashi has been standards bearer to a legacy of Korg stretching back to the early analog days. These newer instruments return to some of the analog circuitry and ideas behind earlier instruments, bringing a new playful approach to electronic music making for the masses, at stunningly low prices that put the products in reach of those musicians.
And now … well, now there’s volca, three new instruments covering bass, beats, and keys (in name and function), each under $150 bucks. And so we’re really lucky that their designer Tatsuya Takahashi from Korg in Inagi-City, Japan visited us in Berlin. He had all three volcas in hand, and shared his experience as a musician and designer, complete with a live improvised jam for us on the products he and his team at Korg built.
It was a rare pleasure – Christmas in May.
The three new instruments are both more value-packed and more capable, complete with (at last) MIDI input ports that let you connect other gear. volca beats, volca keys, and volca bass each focus in on a specific sound design task, while sharing common sequencing and sync features, and tidy bodies with big touch strips. They’re self-contained music instruments (complete with speakers), but also play nicely with each other and other gear.
You may have seen a look at volca from Musikmesse, but there, these babies were locked inside big “don’t steal me” cages and had to be heard over the din of a trade show. Tatsuya stopped by my studio last week with the items so we could hear them on proper monitors and play. And play we did, for a delightful afternoon filled with grooving volca sounds and chatter, joined by Benjamin Weiss of DE:BUG and Engadget Germany (who has also been a musical collaborator of mine lately).
Serial number 101 = the first serial number for volca, ever. No, we don’t get to keep it. This is the unit Tatsuya himself was carrying around.
Not long after its debut on the iPad, Traktor DJ is available for the iPhone and iPod touch. The surprise is that more or less all the functionality of the bigger iPad version is there, only reorganized visually for the smaller screen.
In fact, zoom in on a waveform and it’s the same height in your hand as it is on the iPad mini.
You get the same 3-band EQ and filter sections, waveform loop and cue points, time analysis, scrubbing, library browsing and management, and even the same eight effects. NI has been fairly clever fitting that onto a phone without things feeling crowded; you can easily slide out other interface options or get them out of the way and focus on mixing and waveform manipulation, comfortably looking at one waveform at a time or both.
I’ve been using Traktor DJ ahead of its release, and it’s quite enjoyable to use.
Now, I don’t expect anyone to use this as a DJ tool – not anyone in their right mind, anyway. (Watching someone DJ with a phone just seems wrong. And it’s just too small to use in a club, it seems.) You could presumably keep it around as a kind of waveform-playing sample instrument, sitting it atop a keyboard, for instance.
But the more likely application seems to be working with the iPhone as a mobile companion to Traktor. The iPad version already demonstrated the utility of managing libraries away from the main Traktor app, for processing new collections of music and trying out mix orders and setting cue points. In a phone, enhanced mobility makes that even more practical.
My favorite posts don’t easily fit on either Create Digital Music or Create Digital Motion. This one mixes, literally, the meaning of the two. And it results, in the video at top, in some eerily-lovely music. (Album below.)
PixiVisor is software for desktop (Mac, Windows, Linux) and mobile (iOS, Android) that transforms images to sound and back again. Producing sound from images is an idea in a variety of tools. But PixiVisor is unique in that it goes the other way, too: sound can be turned back into the originally imagery as a video. In the demo video here from developer Alexander Zolotov, a simple audio mixer can mix together multiple video sources (in beautiful low fidelity), and add effects. A DIY 4-pole plug connects the signal to the mobile gadget – iOS, in this case.
The video source (and recording format) is animated GIF files.
Alexander Zolotov is also the creator of SunVox, the powerful music making app.
For more, here’s a filter on a Korg monotron used to modify the appearance of the animated GIF: Continue reading »
Believe it or not, this colorful 3D world represents “setting up the polyphonic pad pattern sequencer.” Synths, reimagined as 3D game. Image courtesy the developers.
Amidst its future-arcade, glowing 3D architecture, Fract is a game. In a broken-down “abstract world,” you are piecing together puzzles, reconstructing machinery. But Fract is also a synth studio, one that promises the ability to create your own synth instruments, design your own sounds, and eventually piece together your own music. If Tron let you imagine a fantasy inside the computer, Fract takes you inside your synth. It’s like getting sucked into Reason. (Damn, now I want to meet Thor and Redrum…)
I called it Myst meets music making when we saw it last year. Since then, the Montreal-based indie team producing it have been powering forward, improving both visual and sonic engines and finishing off the title as it nears a Windows/Mac release.
That means we get a new look (and listen) to the wonders of Fract. And we get the chance to vote for its development on the ubiquitous game service Steam. Vote it up, and you increase the chance of getting this on Steam. (Please. Yes.)
Most promising, there are lots of ideas about creative interfaces, which could extend beyond game worlds. A beautiful new trailer released earlier this month gives a glimpse at how all these notions fit together:
So, electronic musicians and dance music makers just push buttons, huh?
Actually… why not? There are certain parallels between the synchronized, quantized grids of computer music and video games. Rhythms, aesthetics, and even interface have evolved in tandem. Early games even hard-coded synthesizers and scores into the same circuitry that made the music, and each has made its impact on the other.
Game designers keep toying with this concept in game design. I gave a talk on interactive music in gaming last week at Berlin’s A MAZE Indie Connect. But here’s one person at that same festival who did one better. In a matter of hours, Simon Cubasch coded up an arcade game that synchronizes sound effects with a beat grid, making a shooter that’s also a kind of music interface. It’s reminiscent of titles like Jonathan Mak’s ground-breaking Everyday Shooter, which notably used guitar riffs instead of the ubiquitous dance music. But I think each experiment in pulling this off is a learning experience. Description below.
And I post it again partly as we’re working on more with music and gaming, using libpd, I’m coding up examples, and other workshops and game jams are possible. So – who’s interested? Who’s made stuff like this? What other games (ancient, recent, or upcoming) have you seen that play with music and gaming? I’d love to hear.
More on this jam — remember, be gentle, this is just hours of work which is the whole point: Continue reading »
It slices! It dices! No, really – it does. Finally, you don’t have to leave Reason to prep samples and loops or re-time recorded sound.
Far beyond the simple sampling that first appeared in hardware, slicing, re-timing, and stretching audio keeps getting more sophisticated, manipulating recorded sound in musical ways. But a lot of the popularity of this technique traces back to Propellerhead and their ReCycle tool. By bringing together smart digital slicing with its REX file format for loops, ReCycle helped launch the looping craze in software.
REX support has always been part of Reason, since the start. But the way sound works in Reason has gradually evolved, particularly as Swedish developers Propellerhead made Reason into less of a rack of synths and more of a full production environment. Bringing integrated recording, live sampling, and time stretching into the mix, literally, meant that you might go directly from a mic into an instrument.
And that brings us to Reason 7. If you want to do your own sampling work, you probably want the ability to have everything happen inside Reason rather than rely on an external tool like ReCycle. Propellerhead certainly kept you waiting for the chance to do that, but in typical form, they’ve also got their own way of going about it.
But if the last story got their answers on what Reason 7 could do for your favorite synth or drum machine, let’s put them in the hot seat on the question of what it does for your microphone. Continue reading »
There are lots of improvements, but the banner features are clearly integrated slicing and external MIDI sequencing.
Those features have been a long time coming. The ability to sequence external MIDI gear seems a no-brainer for a tool with so many great sequencing tools and robust MIDI input control support. And integrated audio slicing is, oddly enough, something Propellerhead was instrumental in advancing through their REX format and ReCycle product. What you get in Reason 7, though, in exchange for the wait, is an implementation that only Propellerhead could pull off.
The other good news is that Reason 7 works with any Rack Extensions you’re adding. After all, Propellerhead promised that Rack Extensions would provide deep integration but forwards compatibility – so when you update Reason, all the extras you’ve added work, too. Propellerhead tells CDM that all currently-available Rack Extensions do indeed work with the new release.
Third-party developers are saying the same thing. Producer and developer Peff posted via his Facebook page that he’s happy with compatibility with the new release:
Buffre and Directre are both running stable in Reason 7. No code updates required = Propellerheads are awesome!
Rack Extension forward compatibility appears to deliver, as you’d hope. Legendary developer Peff posts visual proof of Buffre and Directre working in the new release.