Error 303, anyone?

Computation is everywhere – phones, tablets, watches (apparently), and yes, browsers in all of those places. And that computational power can be harnessed to completely distract you from doing real work in the office — um, I mean, make music.

“Acid Machine Beta” is a rather fun implementation of two synths and a drum machine, all running in your browser. The “Randomize” function alone should hook you for a bit. Beyond that, you get a decent complement of synth and percussion controls that could make a reasonable little groove. (Recording isn’t directly possible, but you could route audio from your browser to another app.)

I’ve tested the app in all the browsers I have here. Google Chrome/Chromium, as advertised, works best. Firefox is working, too, though UI activities can make sound skip. Safari is not functioning. It’s a start – maybe not enough to justify buying that new Google Chromebook Pixel, but a nice proof of concept.

If you want other stupidly-fun ways of accessing acid, we’ve got you covered. Continue reading »


We’re all touched by the musical inventions of technologists. But it’s something special to see those creations in their original hand.

The Bob Moog Foundation has been posting circuitry, panel layouts, and prototype drawings made by Bob Moog (many in his hand) – and they’re beautiful. Don’t drink a lot of coffee before drawing plans if you want yours to look anything like this.

You’ll see a range of creations – oscillator circuits from classic modular units, synth control panels, and even a percussion controller and tape heads. I’ve pasted a few here, but go to the Moog site for the full collection and lots of notes:

Via SonicState: Moog Circuitry Revealed

SonicState reports that if you’re near Ithaca, New York, you can see more in person through the end of May at a special exhibition. Continue reading »

You may not like the song “Blurred Lines” much. But if you find that tune grating, you may find the inability of US copyright law to differentiate degrees of copying even more painful.

Here’s the latest strangeness. When we last joined the American courts finding extreme interpretations of copyright, an appeals court decided to blow away the de minimis doctrine for sampling. That’s “de minimis” (Latin), as in “size matters not” (um… Yoda).

The idea was, there was no need to measure the significance or size of a sample in the N.W.A. song “100 Miles and Runnin’.” The court helpfully offered at the time, “Get a license or do not sample. We do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way.” Here’s a reasonable summary (my Keyboard article I think is not online):

Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films

In fact, many at the time thought that stifling creativity is exactly what could happen. Without a de minimis standard, or “bright line test,” any sample becomes infringement. A common sense law wouldn’t do that: almost any logic of justice looks at harm and amount. (Imagine if shoplifting counted stealing a corner of a leaf from a strawberry.) With digital sampling, just working out where sounds have come from can be a challenge. As if to illustrate that point, you’ll notice that the N.W.A. case involved Dimension Films. The N.W.A. sample was licensed – it just lacked mechanical rights, so Bridgeport descended on an unauthorized use of the sample (by way of the song) in a film. Continue reading »

If rock music had the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster, hip hop and dance music have the TR-808. And if its sound seems sometimes overly familiar, even that is in some sense a hat-tip (pardon the pun) to its enduring ubiquity.

Now, the Roland TR-808 gets its own full-length documentary, told primarily through the eyes of the people who repurposed its idiosyncratic sound to spin new musical genres and start a revolution. The film features extensive input from Arthur Baker, who acts as a centerpiece for the movie. Baker was the producer behind Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock,’ a record that would arguably guide the long-term influence of the 808 and the course of dance music. Apart from an executive producer credit to Baker, the film is centered enough on his story that it originally even included Planet Rock in the title.

We knew a large-scale 808 documentary was coming, but now, at last, you can see it – if you’re in Texas this month, that is. Multiple screenings around Austin during South by Southwest will mean residents and visiting hipsters will get some chances to pack theaters. No word yet on when it will tour, but early press indications and demand suggest this could see a wide release. (CDM isn’t at SxSW this year, so let us know if you see it; we’d love to hear your review!)

The film is the work of newcomer director Alexander Dunn and a small UK house called You Know Films.

There are some notable points on the way the film has gone.

808movie Continue reading »

This has never ever happened before with Apple. Well, except all those times it happened before. Photo (CC-BY) Marcin Wichary.

This has never ever happened before with Apple. Well, except all those times it happened before. Photo (CC-BY) Marcin Wichary.

If you’re a music maker, a DJ, or anyone working with creative audio and video, you care about connectivity so you can do your job – rightfully so. So, if that has you freaked out by the strange “all-new MacBook,” let me the first person to tell you: relax. You don’t want it, but you don’t have to lose sleep over it.

It seems Apple yesterday introduced a new product tier. Apple has done that before, creating different categories for their computers to serve different markets. (It’s what has turned them into a hugely profitable company.) You may still prefer a PC, but if you do want to stay on the Mac and this has you worried, there’s no reason to over-think this. The introduction of the Apple Watch yesterday doesn’t mean everything from Apple will now be strapped to our wrists, either.

Here’s my take – and yes, we’ll see if I’m proven right or wrong.

Apple now has three laptop lines where there once were two. Here are Apple’s product names, followed by how I am (apparently controversially) interpreting those product names:

1. “MacBook Pro” and “MacBook Pro with Retina Display.” A version of the MacBook for pros.
2. “MacBook Air.” A lighter version of the MacBook Pro.
3. “The all-new MacBook.” An all-new MacBook.

See, that wasn’t that difficult, was it? Continue reading »


Yes, Apple is today talking about wristwatches. But judging by those glowing logos I see absolutely everywhere all the time, it’s probably MacBooks that matter to you music creating folk.

Apple today has three items of computer news:
1. They’re introducing a new, 12″ display model called the “all-new MacBook” (note that exact wording).
2. They’re updating the 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display.
3. They’re updating the MacBook Air.
(There are no changes to the 15″ model, but these revisions have historically been staggered.)

With Apple, nomenclature is everything. It’s been a while since Apple called anything “MacBook” without appending either the word “Air” or the word “Pro” to the end.

So, here’s what you need to know about the “all-new MacBook”: you don’t want it. Seriously, if you’re reading this right now, you’re not going to like it.

Just don’t panic yet. What you need to know about the Air and in particular the Pro is that nothing substantial changes, and that’s a good thing. So you won’t want the “all-new MacBook” – but Apple probably knows you won’t want it, and continues to take your money for the ones you do want. Continue reading »



Coinciding with International Womens’ Day, advocacy group and networking platform Female Pressure yesterday launched themselves on Tumblr. In a stream of photos, they’ve been sharing images of female-identified artists engaged in process with music creation technology. (Some randomly-selected images are here; see the rest via the link below.)

The images alone are a humbling and inspiring for me, just because I see so many familiar faces – friends and artists that have been personal role models for my work, including in moments of personal struggle as an artist and writer.

The idea, say Female Pressure, was partly a response to an extensive commentary by Björk. In an interview with Pitchfork provocatively titled “The Invisible Woman,” Björk speaks at length about authorship as a producer. She talks about her new record, too; the whole story is a must-read. But the question of Björk and credit – her, even with superstar status, unable to be properly acknowledged – must have struck a nerve, because it got a lot of traction online in the weeks since.

Simply put, Björk’s comments got attention because of widespread frustration with press and fans assuming by default that women aren’t actually doing production. And surely that’s an absurdly Medieval notion to survive in 2015. Björk’s thoughtful consideration of why this could be, though, went further (whereas the rest of us, myself included, might have stopped with “WTF?!”).

“It’s a lot of what people see,” Björk told Pitchfork. What people see onstage, and what people see in the press, she said, determines their opinion of how female artists are involved in the music: Continue reading »