aleph bees introduction from tehn on Vimeo.
It’s like having a roomful of modulars inside a mysterious magic box.
It’s like using Max/MSP with the control interface of an Etch-a-Sketch.
It’s … okay, really hard to describe. But aleph bees is certainly unlike digital hardware we’ve seen before. Using just knobs and text, and silky-smooth sound features – everything runs fast and glitch-free, even hot-swapping hardware – aleph bees is a kind of experiment in computer minimalism. It’s as open-ended as a computer, but in ruggedly-simple hardware. It lets you program custom software with a few twists of your wrist and some button presses.
It’s hard not to be oddly inspired by it, even if you decide you don’t want one. (At US$1400, it isn’t quite an impulse buy.) And iff this seems like something that would appeal to a very niche crowd, you’re right. So far, only a handful of aleph units are in the world.
But monome creator Brian Crabtree promises a new batch is shipping this month, units are still available, and more is in store, including open source hardware. He writes us:
we’ve made great advances with the software over a short time and are enthusiastic to reach a bigger audience for more participation. we have a few great audio programmers jumping in and i’m looking forward to seeing what they do with this system.
Brian admits that aleph is ambitious and hard to explain, and welcomes questions. So ask away, whether you think this is the bee’s knees or you’ve just got a bee in your bonnet. Continue reading »
This is … real. This is really the famed “crack-smoking” mayor of Toronto, laying down a beat live with Ableton Live and Ableton Push. And it’s definitely not an official Ableton artist endorsement, nor is Rob Ford a certified Ableton trainer. (Though if he does want to consider another career…)
Well, some people do find Push addictive.
Next: Putin on monome?
If you aren’t impressed by Ford randomly jabbing pads, you might watch this instead, via Synthtopia: Continue reading »
One thing you mostly can’t do with brass instruments is play them listening through … headphones.
And that’s a big deal when you’re practicing, of course. There just hasn’t been a good way to do it without bothering other people.
Enter Yamaha. (Yes, it’s no big surprise that a country associated with tiny, closely-adjacent apartments and actually making walls out of paper would find advances in practice technology again and again.)
Yamaha’s SILENT Brass system, devised for French Horn, trombone, flugelhorn, and trumpet, isn’t new. But the latest evolution may bring it to a wider audience. The idea is this: stick a mute in the instrument so it can be barely heard, then replace the sound with synthesis so the player can still hear through musicians. Traditionally, there are two variables where this goes wrong. The first is the compactness of the physical apparatus. Make it too big, and the system is inconvenient (or can even throw the horn off-balance). The second issue is sound.
If you know something of the history of synthesis, you know that Yamaha – this is me talking, not their press release – has been a pioneer in the synthesis field. They were the first to bring physical modeling to market in a real product. And they haven’t stood still, either. Ironically, the breadth of products the company offers has sometimes distracted from some of their best research. But when it comes to a hardware company replicating brass sound, they stand on their own.
Get the two ingredients right – make the physical bit unnoticeable and the sound seem like the real thing – and you can have a headphone experience that approaches playing the instrument all-out. And brass players I’ve spoken with who’ve tried this system find it good – uncannily good. (You can hear the demos; they’re fairly impressive, and certainly more than what you’d want for practicing late nights at home.)
And speaking of what I’m sure you associate with Japan, it’s guys with flowing, blonde hair playing “Oh, Danny Boy” (seriously – these 30 seconds are freaking awesome – Eric is an insanely-talented Tokyo-based trumpet player with the locks to match his chops):
Here’s how the SILENT Brass system works: Continue reading »
Like superhero armor, the sleek Guitar Wing fits over the edge of your guitar – your existing, beloved guitar – and gives it badass bonus powers. The crowd-funded accessory finally brings control for digital instruments and effects to the fingertips of guitar and bass players, without forcing them to change instruments or give up their conventional techniques.
Instead, Guitar Wing, via Bluetooth connection, provides pressure-sensitive pads, faders, buttons, switches, and (if you like) three-dimensional motion control right to the instrument. USB charged, rechargeable battery-powered, and with RGB color feedback and editing options, it’s ready to go anywhere and control anything. It comes with its own multi-effects suite, but more likely you already have software on a computer or mobile device you want to use.
And now, if you want one but put off buying one – just as we are late in writing about this – well, now is the time. Our friends Moldover and Livid Instruments, creator of the instrument, are bringing us the latest videos you may not have seen elsewhere. And in under 48 hours, as this week reaches its end, the crowd funding comes to its conclusion. That means it’s your last chance to get first in line for one under US$200 (or back it, starting at a buck).
Guitar Wing: Wireless Control Surface for Guitar and Bass
by Livid Instruments
Let’s have a look at how people are using this. And no, it turns out “controllerism” is not limited to minimal techno and EDM. Ahem. Like, let’s start in Spanish-language Colombian head-banging awesomeness. Continue reading »
Electronic musicians – controllerists, if you will – may choose to augment themselves with machines. They may build elaborate custom electronics so they can express themselves live more than the default music technology would otherwise allow – acoustic, amplified, or digital.
But there has to be a human there first.
In a documentary film from November, Moldover talks about what drives him to make music. It’s that emotional place that motivates both his technological expression and songwriting, and that’s something I imagine will be poignant whatever genre you choose as your own.
Continue reading »
R. Lippok + D. Delcourt – Raster Noton Showcase, Mapping Festival 2013, Geneva from Dimitri Delcourt on Vimeo.
Minimalism for its own sake isn’t terribly meaningful. But economical sound and geometries can become a medium for beautiful moments, if artists truly focus on form and relationship. It’s doubly true when combining music and visual elements, and that leads to some gorgeous intersections of the aural and optical in the work here.
Robert Lippok, the Berlin-born Raster-Noton artist, and Dimitri Delcourt, the Swiss designer and live visualist, collaborated in one of my favorite performances of last year’s Mapping Festival in Geneva, Switzerland. The data relationship between the two is simple – Robert jams live with Ableton’s Push hardware, and feeds tempo via MIDI clock to Dimitri to produce gliding, generative geometries. It’s the classical, oft-repeated setting – big projection rectangle, laptop. But if there’s no novelty in that frame, there is wonderful execution. That canvas can still work.
Continue reading »
Now we know how an MPC would behave if it were engineered on planet Vulcan.
If you’re tired of conventional slicers and step sequencers, Sector turns audio into glitchy, stuttering, elaborate electronic patterns. Sound is fractured into a massive circle, resembling nothing if not some sort of archaic astronomical calendar, as arcing lines connect one slice to another and brightly-colored dots in the center illuminate to show more conventional steps as they advance.
Still too regular for you? Fret not. All of this is randomized for coin-flip pattern variations. Warp modes and modulation shapes, all controllable, add additional glitching and stuttering.
The basic model:
Sound is divided into slices, called sectors (2-32 of them).
There’s a matrix for probability – the Markov-chain matrix.
There’s a pattern sequencer (the more conventional part, though sounding anything but when used in combination).
Time warping performs stretching on the sound.
Continue reading »