philios

There was a time when “live” or live PA meant “I’ve hauled a bunch of gear to this gig and made a mess of cables and I’m going to improvise live for you.”

Now, too often, it means “I’m going to DJ with Ableton Live instead of Traktor or CDJs.”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not so much about a laptop or hardware. But there is a spectrum – a useful spectrum, applicable to different artists at different times. And if you really want “live,” you want an artist who constructs music before your eyes out of building blocks. Electronic music across genres often strays from traditional instrumental performance. The very nature of the technology means you’re often not playing every note. But you can make the process of assembly a performance, and something that involves audience participation, and surprise.

You can do this with a laptop and controllers; you can do it with hardware. You can do it with a combination.

Here’s what’s a bit strange: some of the people who are absolutely mastering this aren’t getting a fraction of the attention they deserve.

Watching Phelios is a real pleasure. Keep this video on; it has a reasonably slow build-up, but in the end, you watch an album-sized live set evolve beautifully before you. This is a live set you can enjoy in your living room as well as on the dance floor. (Photo, top: Schlagstrom Festival, Betriebsbahnhof Schöneweide, (CC-BY) Carsten Stiller.)

And he’s clearly at home with his ensemble:
ELEKTRON Analog Four, Octatrack, Machinedrum
ROLAND AIRA TR-8

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effekt_aktion

Digital music can go way beyond just playback. But if performers and DJs can remix and remake today’s music, why should music from past centuries be static?

An interactive team collaborating on the newly reopened Museum im Mendelssohn-Haus wanted to bring those same powers to average listeners. Now, of course, there’s no substitute for a real orchestra. But renting orchestral musicians and a hall is an epic expense, and the first thing most of those players will do when an average person gets in front of them and tries to conduct is, well – get angry. (They may do that with some so-called professional conductors.)

Instead, a museum installation takes the powers that allow on-the-fly performance and remixing of electronic music and applies it to the Classical realm. Touch and gestures let you listen actively to what’s happening in the orchestra, wander around the pit, compare different spaces and conductors, and even simulate conducting the music yourself. Rather than listening passively as the work of this giant flows into their ears, they’re encouraged to get directly involved.

We wanted to learn more about what that would mean for exploring the music – and just how the creators behind this installation pulled it off. Martin Backes of aconica, who led the recording and interaction design, gives us some insight into what it takes to turn an average museum visitor into a virtual conductor. He shares everything from the nuts and bolts of Leap Motion and Ableton Live to what happens when listeners get to run wild.

First, here’s a look at the results:

Mendelssohn Effektorium – Virtual orchestra for Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Museum Leipzig from WHITEvoid on Vimeo.

Creative Direction, GUI and Visuals by WHITEvoid
Interior Design by Bertron Schwarz Frey
Creative Direction, Sound, Supervision Recording, Production, Programming by aconica Continue reading »

Xone-K1-White-Front-ThreeQ

UK DJ builder Allen & Heath may be best known as a mixer company, not so much a controller maker. But that’s a pity, because they make one of the most compelling controller units on the market.

Spoiler alert – the K1, like the K2 before it, feels great, has a terrific layout, works with anything you like, and more or less beats every other slim-line controller for DJing or VJing. Whatever you own now, you may find yourself wanting one of these to go along with it.

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DS1_top_wlense

The world has no shortage of MIDI controllers. There are big ones, small ones. There are, increasingly, loads of specialized controllers designed around apps.

The DS1 is designed to be something different: it’s a mixing controller. And as conceived in a partnership between educational studio Dubspot and Austin, Texas boutique builder Livid Instruments, it’s meant to mix in any app. It’s a mixer for prodution, but also for DJing. With templates for a variety of tools, it’s made to be as comfortable in Traktor as in Ableton Live as in Logic.

We’ve still yet to test whether it delivers on that mission, but what we can share now is the final design, pricing, and a pre-order.

The layout of the DS1 is mixer-inspired — so, it has what readers have told us too many controllers lack. That means, primarily, loads of knobs along with traditional faders, but in a form factor the makers say will be portable. As some controllers sprawl out into sizes that require their own luggage (yes, Maschine Studio, I’m looking at you), this is still backpack-sized, but without sacrificing number of controls.

What you get:
9 faders
44 knobs (note those color lenses in the image)
4 encoders
25 RGB buttons
Expression pedal input

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The original monome project did more than just create a novel piece of hardware for music. It established a design language for what essential digital interfaces might be, in the deceptively simple form of its light up grid of buttons.

It’s not so interesting to just copy that hardware, then. More compelling are efforts to extract the elements of the design in ways that can be turned into new things.

Adafruit has been slowly building up a nice set of building blocks clearly inspired by monome. Trellis is a system for making the grids component work – lighting the buttons and responding to keypresses in a big array. Add something like an Arduino as the “brains,” and you can add grids to your own hardware. In typical Adafruit fashion, everything is exquisitely well-documented and perfectly friendly even to those just dabbling in making their own stuff for the first time.

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ddd

From the early days of techno and electro, dance rhythms in electronic music have been woven together from international sources. The machinery of the groove has evolved from the threads contributed by a global tribe, absorbing sounds and forms, driven by the energies they find on the dance floor.

That image of solitary music making is a myth – what you’re hearing is a sound made by connections between people, across the normal constraints of geography.

And now, the technologies developed in Berlin and elsewhere take on new life in the hands of a new generation of musicians, and their own flourishing communities. So there’s something perfect about welcoming Dengue Dengue Dengue! – here the live trio, Felipe Salmon and Rafael Pereira on sounds and Nadia Escalante on visuals – to Berghain Kantine tonight in an event co-hosted by CDM. There, they’re halfway between the development houses that built the tech they’re using (Maschine and Ableton Live), even as they’ve honed those chops half a world away.

Dengue Dengue Dengue! join a lineup that shows just how explosive these musical transformations can be. There’s CLAP! CLAP!, the footwork-influenced Afrofuturist wonder from Italy. (The exclamation points in these names reveal some of the unbridled enthusiasm of the artists, I think.) There’s Argentinian-born EL G. There’s MR. TOÉ of Chile. And yes, Germany is represented – METEORITES, reuniting Marcus Rossknecht and Max Turner. (Marcus might or might not also have some connection to one of those aforementioned Berlin developers, too. But Berlin has a long history of making electronic technologies for music – and of finding ways of linking itself closer to the Americas, Latin America very much included.) If you’re in Berlin, you simply can’t miss this.

We decided to focus in on the Dengue crew and their approach to music and visuals, to find out how they play live and what their community is like.

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reason8-screenshot-2

Let’s face it: Reason has started to look a little bit crowded lately. What began as a small rack of virtual effects and instruments has grown to add an enormous mixing console. Sequencing features have, since the beginning, been squeezed to tiny lanes at the bottom of the UI. And a browser floated around in a window.

Reason 8′s individual parts aren’t so different from Reason versions you’ve seen before. But it’s the way they fit together that has changed – rather radically.

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