Saying your device isn’t as responsive to sound as you’d want is a bit like saying you’re feeling sick to your stomach. The symptom is easy to describe, and everyone would agree it’s not a desirable state. But the fix can be rather complex.
And when it comes to engineers who care about music and sound, experiencing latency – or its equally evil mirror cousin, crackles-and-pops – will make you sick to your stomach.
Google I believe is deserving of some criticism over this issue. Years of subsequent updates saw the company largely silent or unresponsive about critical audio issues. It took some time before even basic APIs were reliable and on par with other platforms. At the same time, I don’t believe even all developers – let alone users – appreciate the challenges of making music-quality low latency performance work. There’s no silver bullet: any number of issues with drivers and firmware and battery management can cause things to go wrong, and only a delicate combination of ingredients will make it go right. Indeed, that’s part of why Apple deserves some credit. Being the company making both hardware and software is a big boon, no question, but even that is no guarantee you’ll get results.
What once was in the hands of a few early adopter Lemur owners and technologists is now available to the masses: most musicians own some kind of touch device, capable of spawning faders and X/Y controls and buttons and layouts for just about anything they can imagine.
And the app that is perhaps best known for that, TouchOSC, gets a major update this week. What it means depends on what you own. Continue reading »
If your ears and spirit need an ambient reboot, you could do worse than this gorgeous, abstract wash of sound pieced together from two wonderful Spanish artists.
From bzzzbip, aka multimedia artist Antònia Folguera, and about:blank!, a photographer/filmmaker/artist, comes this project in sonic exchange. Antònia writes:
About:Blank! and I exchanged songs via email and dropbox in order to put together an abstract ambient mixtape. When we were done with the selection I mixed the first half, and he did the other half. If it were an actual mixtape that would be side A and side B. this is the result. I hope that you enjoy it!
about:blank!’s poetic imagery fits the mix nicely, so it seems only right to pair this gallery with the mix (tracklist below). And the timing couldn’t be better – with Flickr’s relaunched interface, you can go muse on images in high resolution:
I hadn’t actually seen this quote from Daft Punk. I don’t want to beat this issue like a low-polygon future Derezzed horse, but I realized I missed a very important quote from Billboard. Bangalter:
We really felt that the computers are not really music instruments, and we were not able to express ourselves using a laptop. We tried, but were not successful.
The problem with the way to make music today, these are turnkey systems; they come with preset banks and sounds. They’re not inviting you to challenge the systems themselves, or giving you the ability to showcase your personality, individuality.
Spoiler alert: the secret Daft Punk suits are apparently flame-retardant asbestos. From the (very fancy-looking) Pitchfork cover story, made, apparently, for CSS geeks.
Who’s afraid of laptop musicians?
Music stories are more exciting when there are eight-foot-high walls of flames and hype to match. But what when it’s all just a special effect? And when does mystique trump the actual music in music journalism?
The new Daft Punk record is perfectly likable. It is at times arguably polished to the point of being over-thought, the opposite of the original duo’s personality that was “punk” and not just “daft.” But their new, sparkly-shiny persona is guided by a sense of their musical taste, and the earworm-y hit single is a reminder that, with pop, getting lucky really isn’t a factor. These guys know what they’re doing. It’s may, yet we already know 2013′s “summer jam.” (Your brain will, sadly, be enslaved to this track as a result. I’ll bet it’s already in your head, and I didn’t even really mention it. Let’s sing something else – “London Bridge is Falling Down,” anything.)
The problem for music journalism is, what’s the narrative?
Let’s see: Daft Punk are still hiding in bike helmets. They apparently got bored with electronic music production as they had done it in the past, so they swapped sampled parts for studio musicians. Only, because of the fame they’ve accrued, their Rolodex – erm, iPhone – has “studio musicians” like Giorgio Moroder.
Well, that’s clearly not enough. The press story has to be as big as the band. There is something genuine to pop stardom, artificial as it may seem: there are lots of people who are deeply emotionally connected to them, in a real way. And those people are your readers – and, often, writers.
So, what’s the story? Fortunately, the artists known for being masters of disguise are ready to fill in the blanks. As marketing, it’s brilliant. But it can cause the press to fall back on tired cliches about what technology and music making mean – mangling history in the process.
Enter Pitchfork, with a massive cover story showing off their Web coding chops. Here, it’s literally an orchestrated stunt, completely with fireballs. The fact that the writer describes the scene of shooting that stunt – oh, no, will someone Instagram the new outfits? – is the musical equivalent of a behind-the-scenes Blu-Ray featurette extra on your copy of Avatar. It doesn’t really dig into the meaning or substance of what you’re watching.
There is a message to the Pitchfork story, though. See if you can spot it. I’ll help – emphasis mine: Continue reading »
My friend Deceptikon (http://deceptikon.net) tries Arpeggionome for iPhone for the first time, connecting it to his MS-20 mini. Levels, drums, and effects with [M-Audio-made] Evolution U-Control controlling Ableton Live.
Yes, Midiman acquired Evolution and continued to make the controller here. Shame the UC-33e hasn’t seen a successor, actually.
And the whole rig is in the hands of an old favorite artist, Deceptikon (aka Zack Wright of San Francisco). (2011 release below, some nice stuff – happy to hear a new album is in the works.)
If the iPhone unnerves you and you want something a bit more … nostalgic … here’s the MS-20 mini cozying up to long-time Japanese Korg rival Roland. Ebony and ivor… erm, gray. Photo by Deceptikon.
If this fiddling doesn’t fit your fancy, we have a fantastic free mix of remixes from Zack, too. Listen: Continue reading »
Properly configured, a Linux system can breathe life into old hardware or finely-tune performance on new gear. The problem has often been not the OS, but having a comfortable tool for production when you load it. And so that means Linux fans – or would-be fans – will likely be pleased to see the image above.
It’s Tracktion, the lovely but oft-overlooked, bargain-priced DAW, running on Linux. (I highly recommend the just-released Ubuntu Studio. The update includes loads of fixes that solve the kinds of audio configuration problems that have kept many people from Linux, and the compatibility of that release is unparalleled. Ubuntu 12 is in fact directly supported here.)
First off, Tracktion has escaped its past. As some readers note, while developed by Mackie, the software fell behind, causing compatibility woes. Since then, Tracktion has again become independent – and is moving faster than ever, with a major reboot that makes it compatible with the latest and greatest stuff.
And Tracktion could have a future, too. Footholds in this business are largely to do with distribution, so a recent Behringer bundling deal, combined with a major upgrade earlier this year (and existing Mackie bundling), could give Tracktion a shot in a marketplace that remains pretty well dominated by a few players. You know, some trac– augh. Sorry. Never mind.
Of course, Linux isn’t likely to cause any explosion in users, but it’s nice to see 64-bit Linux alongside 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and Mac releases – and for enthusiasts, it’s nice to see attention given to a dedicated community regardless of its relative size.
There’s reason to root for Tracktion. It has a really nice, one-screen, drag-and-drop interface that eschews the mold other tools (even the mighty Ableton Live, in some regards) fit. Upgrades are $29.99; full licenses $59.99.