It seems everyone is thinking in LEGO these days. There’s littleBits, which snaps together analog components with magnetic connections. There’s Patchblocks, which connects digital modules you can then re-program onscreen.
And now, there’s Palette, a set of controller blocks that snap together and connect via USB. It gives you knobs, sliders, and X/Y controls for manipulating any software – from music to apps.
The crowd-funded project looks smart in both hardware and software design. And software easily extends what it can do – whether you’re playing a DJ set in Traktor or editing graphics in Photoshop. (Smart segues between those roles in the promo videos.)
Oh, and yes – it also does pulsing RGB LED disco effects, for added visual feedback.
It also represents a new approach to the development process itself. Crowd-funding is big, yes. But “incubators” are next – an attempt to not only immerse projects in necessary capital, but in a broad range of experience. (Here in Berlin, a new incubator is showing results tomorrow, in fact.) And for Palette, that meant spending weeks in Shenzhen, China, bringing the product designers closer to the people who design and make the components – those knobs and faders and USB connections on which the product relies. It’s part of the HAXLR8R incubator, which features the likes of Atari’s (and Chuck E. Cheese’s) Nolan Bushnell and our friend Mitch Atlman (Mitch was also one of the inaugural CDM Handmade Music/Musicmakers participants back in New York).
It’s startups with hard, real results, not just apps or websites.
And that’s doubly relevant here, because Ed Sharma of Palette tells us he doesn’t just want your enthusiasm or money – he wants your input and collaboration. “We are just engineers,” Ed tells CDM, “and the input of you and your readers readers can help shape this technology.”
So, what do you get?
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Moby’s next collaborator is … you, possibly. Photo courtesy Moby.
What do you do when you’ve been one of the biggest impacts on electronic music, outlasting a succession of trends and fads, remaining one of the best-known names in sound? I mean, you can’t just start giving things away, right?
Actually, if you’re Moby, that’s exactly what you do. He wants you to collaborate with him – and he’s made it really easy (even if you want to get something out of the result).
It’s safe to say Moby is different from many of his peers. At the young age of 48, Moby has managed to be a presence in multiple epochs of electronic music, and now is headlining tiny venues as well as big ones, collaborating with Record Store Day – and NASA, quick to distance himself from one-time label EMI as he goes on the attack against the RIAA. And now, he’s releasing stems on BitTorrent. Explaining the decision to Mashable, he said he’s happy to have you profit off his stems and donate to charity or take your friends to dinner. (Actually, put that way, I suddenly feel much happier about my Bandcamp revenues. Who wants some pho to celebrate the Humane Society?)
And he’s embracing chaos:
When people try to control content in the digital world, there’s something about that that seems kind of depressing to me. The most interesting results happen when there is no control. I love the democratic anarchy of the online world.
He goes further, saying (with respect, in fairness) when Thom Yorke complains about Spotify, “You’re just like an old guy yelling at fast trains.”
You Can Remix Moby’s New Album Thanks to BitTorrent [Mashable]
Of course, you want that anarchy to be creative, not technical. So, while the BitTorrent decision is cool, we’re pleased to get the scoop from Moby and NYC-based collaborative startup blend.io that the stems will come to that platform, too. With blend.io, you get additional collaborative tools that make it easy to track changes, see how others are collaborating, and smoothly integrate work on stems and revisions. The whole system works via file management tool Dropbox (nice enough, given their free account will accommodate a decent-sized audio project), and it even works directly with Ableton Live and Pro Tools.
Moby’s project files, as seen on blend.io. This isn’t just stems: you get the whole projects, and easy access to extensive options for collaboration and revision tracking, so you can actually get some work done. Images courtesy blend.io.
This stuff matters. It’s one thing to talk about online collaboration and sharing and remixing. Too often, though, the experience is musician-unfriendly. Technically, it’s too much of a pain, and artistically, you’re often limited by fine print attached to remix contests. This project is different on both levels. It makes things easier and less restricted both in the tech and your freedom to do what you want with the remix.
We have an exclusive VIP invite code for CDM readers to get started, free:
I spoke with blend.io founder Alex Kolundzija via email from New York. Continue reading »
Now, the next time you want a stereo microphone, you can hit print.
Well, okay – that’s not entirely correct. But a combination of last-century DIY (circuits for making the mic) with this-century DIY (3D printing for making a convenient housing) means a custom microphone you can build that’s exactly suited to your needs. And, oh yeah – it’s both cheap and fun.
Frank Piesik shares this project via Google+ and his blog. The plans are open-sourced and available on GitHub, so you can try making your own if you like; you’ll just need a 3D printer or 3D printing service for the housing (or you can try making your own via another, more traditional means).
Most importantly, the results sound terrific. Have a listen to some sound samples:
The ingredients: Continue reading »
The next innovations in music and sound may come somewhere between fashion and instrument, between hardware, software, and service.
The AUUG Motion Synth represents one idea of how to do that. In terms of hardware, it’s just aluminum – albeit aluminum in a rather clever configuration. Worn on your wrist, it solves the problem of how to gesture with an iPhone or iPod touch without … well, without dropping it. There isn’t any additional sensor; it simply uses the sensing already in the device. Then again, with Apple’s iPhone 5S, that may be what you want, and the presence of the wearable accessory directs motion more specifically by controlling the orientation of your device. In addition to gripping the phone, the windows in the case also provide tactile feedback for buttons on the synth.
On the software side, AUUG the app handles tracking and synthesis. Sharing is built in, too, with a “cloud” for exchanging presets and ideas.
“Great! A big bracelet that lets me use one app!” No, actually – you can send MIDI to any iOS app, or transmit MIDI to your computer. Any Core MIDI-compatible app or WiFi-MIDI-enabled computer will work. Since there’s CoreMIDI support, you can also use wired MIDI if you choose. Continue reading »
Live 9.1, in beta for some weeks, is now available to everyone. We’ve covered in some detail what 9.1 includes. But if you’re a Live 9 user, you shouldn’t hesitate to grab this. I’ve been splitting time between 9 stable and 9.1 beta, and the beta has been operating perfectly for me. If you have two monitors, of course, you get dual monitor support – or dual window support on bigger displays. (Sadly, I don’t have either at the moment, so haven’t been able to test that). But everyone will benefit from enhanced audio rendering and stability improvements – the latter essential if you’re upgrading to OS X Mavericks.
Now, that said, none of this would be terribly newsworthy. But the feature I’ve found made me want to use 9.1 is its new step sequencing features in Push.
Sounds like something basic, but I would go further. Before melodic step sequencing, I messed around with Push, but it wasn’t essential. With melodic step sequencing and automation sequencing, I’ve become a Push addict. Now, that doesn’t mean I step sequence everything – far from it; I’m a keyboardist. But the addition of these two features makes Push really feel like a complete vision, like a fully-fleshed-out musical tool. It’s not that I couldn’t live without those features. It’s that they really make it clear what Push is as a hardware extension of Ableton Live.
And, interestingly, user extensions and documentation are already going further than the product alone: with the help of fellow users, you can make this your own.
So, if you’re interested in diving in, here are some resources to get you going. And if you don’t have Push, we’ve also got some useful tools that can inspire anyone with the Live software, whether or not you have Push. Because, really, all of this is useless unless you’re making the original music that no one else can.
First, the official videos are a good place to start, and very nicely done and clear. Get started with step sequencing melodies and chords: Continue reading »
With Facebook and WhatsApp and FaceTime and Skype, we can be chatting with anyone in the world. Why not also recording music with them, via MIDI or audio?
Steinberg’s vision of bringing Minority Report-style hand-waving to moving your transport controls may or may not be something you’d actually want to do – cool factor aside. But the other announcement this week that echoes science fiction films is a technology for letting you record musicians from far-off places. (Remember video conferencing in 2001? Or that horrible scene in Back to the Future 2? I digress.)
Online collaboration is something many, many tools have tried. VST Connect for Cubase 7 is interesting, though, for its focus: it’s entirely designed for letting you add musicians to a project, regardless of where they are on the planet. Audio and MIDI, sync and record levels, video communication, and sample-accurate sync combine to make the distance studio experience almost as good as being there.
And true to the name, it’s the way it works that sets it apart. Adding another human is as easy as adding a plug-in.
VST Connect arrived with Cubase 7. This week, it goes “Pro” with multichannel support, and – perhaps more interesting – adds the ability to “dial into” sessions from an iPad or iPhone.
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Cubase iC Air, erm… artists’ rendering. Just about got that mix right. (Hold on – red ball. This track is not going to be premeditated.)
When it comes to big, flagship audio tools, you don’t get a whole lot of sci-fi in your software. That makes Steinberg’s announcements this week more of a change of pace. They aren’t the first to talk about virtual studio sessions, or even gesturally-controlled music. But seeing this as an add-on to Cubase, not just an experimental hack, counts as news.
And Cubase users can add on those futuristic capabilities in the form of two new tools.
You can fly through Cubase sessions with gestural controls using depth cameras (on Windows) or LEAP Motion (on Windows and Mac). And you can cross time and space by connecting remotely to Cubase projects – soon, even through your mobile device.
Cubase iC Air: Gestural Control
iC Air is a new add-on, available free, that lets Cubase 7 users (in any edition) control various parameters without touching a controller, simply by using hand gestures in front of a camera or sensor.
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