The challenge in making tools, as in making anything else, is really the making. It’s one thing for an idea to exist in your head, another to really get down to construction. And very often great engineering means testing, means building the idea and then refining it. So prototyping is everything.

That could explain the increased passion for hacking. Whereas big development efforts are a morass of meetings, or traditional prototyping could mean elaborate distractions from testing what we really works, “hacks” work to get something usable more quickly. And that means testing the usability of an idea happens faster.

libpd, an embeddable version of Pure Data, is meant to be a tool that works both in a weekend hackathon and in a shipping product. (For some shipping products CDM helped with, check out the mominstruments site – more on these this week and next, in fact!)

And this set of video tutorials by Rafael Hernandez is the best introduction I’ve seen yet to using them. I usually actually hate sitting through video tutorials. But these are clear, concise, and give accurate advice – and they walk you through the latest version of Xcode, which is sometimes otherwise confusing.

I have no doubt you could watch these over a half hour breakfast and build a cool app hack by the end of the day.

If you don’t yet know Pd, he also has a video series on that:

There are some real gems in there, worth a browse even if you’re a Pd user. Pd is a bit deeper, though, so I’m back to also liking to read and not just watch videos – see also the pd-tutorial and flossmanuals as they cover some more sophisticated techniques.

Maybe you’ll get to do some of this hacking with us in person, if you’re in Berlin: Continue reading »


From small boxes, big sound, and enormous fun…

Something has happened in the evolution of electronic music production. What was once so often a slow process has become a jam, what was carefully orchestrated on screens finds itself embodied in gear. And small and affordable “toys” can often deliver the greatest “switch-on-and-play” satisfaction.

Helsinki’s Recue and Jolea first found their way to their album by playing live, so it’s fitting we start with a live set from them. Their fusion is beat-driven, left-field pop – settling into moody, experimental grooves with effortless hooks over top. It’s melancholy surfaces with sparkling edges.

See video below; embed is now fixed!

Recue brings the soundscapes and beats, while Jolea adds her songwriting and vocal talents in really nicely-balanced collaboration. (Jolea also does production and manages the label Audiobaum.) The result is dreamy and evocative, layered song craft with endless production details.

Their aptly-named We’re Not Like the Most LP is out now, but let’s chat about the process of making this hardware jam of the cut “Tempo 17″ – especially as that’s the distinctive, grimy growl of our MeeBlip cutting through the mix. (That’s an SE, but I really appreciate that our engineer James Grahame managed to change the architecture and filter but maintain a particular personality.)

The track is “using various quirky little synths including a Yamaha ”toy” keyboard, an awesome DIY kit synth, a ”hackable digital synthesizer” and a drum machine that looks like a pocket calculator,” they announce. Here’s more:

rxj_skulls Continue reading »


For all the power you might imagine of various tools, sometimes it’s combining simple devices that yields the greatest results.

Our friend Chris Stack is no stranger to deep synths and powerful modulars. But he’s been doing inspiring things with the littleBits line of snap-together modules made with KORG – particularly now that they’re paired with modules for MIDI and CV.

You might have seen some of these videos on (cough) other sites, while I was getting behind in my workload, but Chris has kept making more in the interim. He writes: “I was able to hook LittleBits into my DSI Pro 2, Moog Voyager, Ableton and Koushion in some really interesting ways, and the results were surprisingly musical, especially in the Koushion + Ableton video.

A lot of fun… I wish they had these when I was a kid.”

Let’s watch: Continue reading »


You’re going to need some bigger pockets. (Overalls?)

British-born, Kyoto-based Ally Mobbs has hacked the inexpensive Teenage Engineering PO-12 drum machine into a full-sized box. Instead of the tiny, fingertip-challenging buttons, you get nice, big arcade buttons. He’s also made a lovely-looking wooden case and a jack connector.

Continue reading »


Two terrific Moogerfoogers have reached the end of their run. But that’s an excuse for more music, which sounds good to me.

2007′s FreqBox takes input signals and modulates an internal oscillator; the 2009 MIDI Murf is an animated filter sequencer. They’re both pretty great boxes, though now even before delving into modular, there are a lot more choices now than perhaps just those few short years ago. Koma Elektronik’s FT-201 runs further with the idea of sequencer-plus-filter. I can’t think of anything quite like the FreqBox, actually – I’d love to see Moog find a way to make a Minifooger around this idea. With either, there may be reason to go snap one up from a dealer before they’re gone.

But let’s get to the music – the end of these two units gives us an introduction to the inventive sound universe of Los Angeles-based artist M. Geddes Gengras. Mr. Gengras has composed a short EP to the Moogerfoogers. (He calls it a Eulogy, though that seems the wrong word unless Moog have some rather violent planned obsolescence strategy I don’t know about.)

His music is a calming flight of fancy, a wonderful and happily strange trip through sound, and these are no exception:

He explains the ideas here: Continue reading »

I fought the law and the law won.

Grooveshark, announcing the April 30th shutdown of their streaming music service:

We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service.

That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation.

They go on to concede that hundreds of other services provide the same ability to listen to music without violating the ownership of music. And they’ve lost everything, from patents to the site itself. Continue reading »

The music and sound industry is increasingly about big-league consolidation. InMusic – the company behind Akai and M-Audio – is growing. Long-standing Japanese titan Yamaha has snapped up Line6. Gibson now includes everything from Tascam to the website Harmony Central to consumer gear branded Philips. (And yes, throw out whatever you think you know about Gibson from the 90s – this has nothing to do with that.)

Now, count the giant MUSIC Group – the parent of Behringer, with Uli Behringer as its chief – among the big sharks on the acquisition market.

MUSIC Group announced today it has acquired TC Group. You probably know them as the makers of vocal effects and guitar effects and sound processing and mastering, under brands like TC Electronics and TC Helicon, or for their Tannoy label. And that’s clearly a big part of this deal, with MUSIC Group’s presence in that market with Behringer as well as Midas and Bugera tube amps (among others).

It’s more than that, though. TC Applied Technologies are in semiconductor designs, networking, and interface tech too, which gives Behringer a big boost in terms of intellectual property and the electronics market beyond musical instruments. And closer to home, MUSIC Group call out their interest in A/V and broadcast.

For their part, Danish-based TC say that they had other big suitors, but chose the Behringer folk – I wonder who those other players may have been.

Regardless, this is very big news, combining two powerful international companies. And any of us who think of Behringer as the “cheap mixer people,” we may do well to take them seriously – MUSIC Group now have their own factory complex in China and a 300-person engineering team. Continue reading »