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.
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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.
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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.
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Brian Eno, portrait by Ralf Schmerberg.
Forget for a moment that Red Bull Music Academy has for a decade and a half assembled some of the world’s greatest-known artists to dish out inspiration. Forget that that’s Brian Eno’s mug staring back at you with cool, blue eyes. Forget that music “careers” can span from finding ranking in Forbes to scraping together extra tips at a bar to own a synth, with a gulf in between that can make people question the value of their work.
If you’re reading this, it means that you probably have made music your life. You build music and maybe you build music tools, too.
And with something so meaningful, you have to wonder sometimes what it all means.
Well, now there’s a feature film dedicated to you.
What Difference Does It Make? is labeled, simply, “A Film About Making Music.” It’s available as a free download from Red Bull Music Academy on the occasion of their fifteenth anniversary.
The work of Mindpirates (sometimes-CDM-collaborating collective out of Berlin), the movie is set in New York with Red Bull Music Academy as the backdrop. There’s no lack of talent: the likes of Brian Eno, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Giorgio Moroder, James Murphy, Debbie Harry, Egyptian Lover, and Stephen O’Malley spill their guts and wisdom in equal measure. But the stars are also the earnest, young musicians gathered to learn from them.
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Ominous | Incarnated sound sculpture (Xth Sense) from Marco Donnarumma on Vimeo.
For all the interfaces that involve turning knobs or waving your hands in the air, artist Marco Donnarumma wanted to go deeper. His work pulses with his flesh, listening deep inside muscles for every slight impulse. And in Marco’s hands, it seems the air itself can be molded into sound – not with ethereal hand flapping, but as though the ether itself is made of dense clay.
It’s been nearly two years since we spoke with Marco about his work, and the wwirord he coined for this kind of art: “biophysical music.”
In that time, he’s been on the road endlessly, touring his performances and teaching anyone who will listen about the techniques behind it. His interfaces are portable, simple, and cost just a few dollars, backed by free software, so they’ve spread along with his workshops as he trots around the globe, Johnny Appleseed style.
Equally important, though, for a man-cyborg who uses muscle interfaces to make music, Marco has evolved alongside his machines. The latest video is evolved musically, and Marco melds dance theater ritual with the musical work that has grown more rigorous and mesmerizing.
Marco describes his latest creation as “incarnated sound sculpture” – he is, in other words, the sculpture. Befitting his angular, extended gestures, he has dedicated the work to sculptor Alberto Giacometti and his lanky, stylized men.
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Submerged Turntable from Brian Lilla on Vimeo.
Once upon a time, Romantics dreamt of ruined architecture, rubble and stones on hillsides and whatnot. Today, we imagine ruined technology as our artifacts of culture lost. We don’t need a burning library of Alexandria. We can wait until our machines go out of warranty and go kaput.
That subconscious seems to flow in the literally-murky pool of “Submerged Turntables,” an art installation by Evan Holm. But the results are oddly beautiful, making the physical quality of the record enduring.
And here’s the upbeat bit: in those dark waters, the record still plays.
Evan calls the result a performance: the DJ as ark, saving music in the flood. He writes: Continue reading »
We live in a strange world when it comes to music hardware. On one hand, there are near-daily introductions on Kickstarter of new hardware, and people willing to put up money for future products that don’t exist yet.
On the other, we’re seeing a new stream of historical recreations of products from the 1970s.
And then, in between, like some sort of 70s-turned-2014 steampunk-style mashup, a lot of people are making things with analog that are genuinely new.
It’s as though the entire industry has been given a time machine, at any moment ready to lurch forward into either the past or the future, or into alternative timelines.
KORG is certainly flirting with products that resemble museum creations. Last year’s MS-20 mini saw a surprising follow-up this year – a non-mini MS-20, distinguished from the original only by a USB and MIDI port. And now, the company will partner with ARP co-founder David Friend to recreate the ARP Odyssey. Due in September, KORG promises a faithful recreation. (We’ll see if it gets MIDI or not, but don’t expect much beyond that.)
David Friend, for his part, did go on to life after ARP – and recently stepped down as chief executive of the online backup company he co-founded, Carbonite.
To be clear, as apparently everyone isn’t: KORG and ARP are embarking on their first-ever relationship. The ARP Odyssey was made by ARP, not KORG! Continue reading »