tempotap

It’s the little things. This just got added to my bookmarks; maybe it’ll be on yours.

http://www.tempotap.com

Press the spacebar repeatedly, and you get an accurate BPM count for a song. It’s actually useful to help learn to recognize BPM, as well, if you listen frequently when at your computer. (The trick used to be to look at the second hand of your wristwatch, as two ticks would be 120 bpm – but that requires an analog wristwatch.)

And yes, surely this will be one of the first native Apple Watch tools when its native SDK ships next year.

Thanks to the wondrous Esther Duijn, DJ friend, and her Facebook page.

rhythmwolf

Dance music, it seems, has come full circle. Techno’s roots began with affordable oddball hardware, abused into new genres. And now, the appetite for cheap little boxes that make grooves is back.

But does “cheap” and “analog” always make for a winner? Well, not necessarily. But let’s find out why.

This is the AKAI Rhythm Wolf. When we first saw it, it was clear people would want it, because physically, visually, it has the things you’d want – even before you get to the accessible price. There are velocity-sensitive pads for each part, coupled (cleverly) with x0x-style buttons for simple 16-step patterns (which you can chain into 32-step pattern). There are the requisite controls for changing step length, and recording step sequences or performances. There’s ample I/O – proper MIDI in/out and thru (plus MIDI over USB), gate trigger in and out, and separate mono outputs for the synth and drums. Continue reading »

volcasample

The KORG volca sample is here – and it’s more open than we thought.

We’ve seen KORG’s affordable, compact, battery-powered volca formula applied to synths (BASS and KEYS) and a drum machine (BEATS). I’m especially partial to the booming kick of the BASS, the sound of the KEYS (which despite the name also works as a bass synth), and the clever touch sequencing interface.

Well, now having teased the newest addition to the family, we’re learning about the details of the KORG sample. It’s not a sampler per se – there’s no mic or audio input – but what KORG calls a “sample sequencer.”

We’ll have a unit in to test soon, but my impression is that sample sequencing isn’t a bad thing at all. Sequencing has always been a strong suit for the volca, and here, it’s the main story. Every parameter of a sample is ready to step sequence, from the way the sample is sliced, to its playback speed and amplitude envelope, to pitch.

Additional features:

  • Reverse samples
  • Per-part reverb (ooh)
  • Active step / step jump (for editing steps)
  • “A frequency isolator, which has become a powerful tool in the creation of numerous electronic genres.” Or, um, to make that understandable, there are treble and bass analog filters.
  • Swing
  • Song mode – 16 patterns x 6 songs

That leaves only how to get samples into the volca sample, beyond the 100 samples already built in. Continue reading »

hacklab1

For the past two winters, CDM has joined with Berlin’s CTM Festival to invite musical participants to grow beyond themselves. Working in freshly-composed collaborations, they’ve built new performances in a matter of days, then presented them to the world – as of last year, in a public, live show.

This year, they will work even more deeply inside themselves, finding the interfaces between body and music, biology and sound.

And that means we’re inviting everyone from choreographers to neuroscientists to apply, as much as musicians and code makers. Playing with the CTM theme of “Un Tune,” the project will this year encourage participants to imagine biology as sonic system, sound in its bodily effects, and otherwise connect embodiment to physical reality.

Joining me is Baja California-born Leslie Garcia, a terrific sound artist and maker who has already gone from participating in last year’s lab to organizing her own in her native Mexico. You can glimpse her below looking like a space sorceress of some kind, and hear the collaborative work she made last winter.

The 2014 hacklab's output, all wired up for the performance. Photo: CTM Festival.

The 2014 hacklab’s output, all wired up for the performance. Photo: CTM Festival.

We don’t know what people will propose or what meaning they will find out of that theme, but it might include stuff like this: Continue reading »

The impressive, futuristic physical form of the 4DSOUND system. Photo: George Schroll.

The impressive, futuristic physical form of the 4DSOUND system. Photo: George Schroll.

You can’t really hear the results of the Spatial Audio Hacklab sitting at your computer – by definition, you had to be there to take in the experience of sounds projected in space. But you’ll probably feel the enthusiasm and imagination of its participants.

And that’s why it’s a pleasure to share the video documentation, produced for 4DSOUND by a team from FIBER – the Dutch audiovisual events and art platform – at Amsterdam Dance Event last month. In unleashing a diverse group of artist-experimenters on 4DSOUND’s unique speaker installation, we got a chance to create a sonic playground, a laboratory experiment in what people could do. It’s tough to overstate just how much those participants brought to the table – or just how little time they had. Actually working on the system was measured in minutes, forcing artists to improvise quickly with reality television levels of pressure. (Only, unlike TV show challenges, everyone kept their nerves and wits.)

4DSOUND Spatial Sound Hack Lab at ADE 2014 from FIBER on Vimeo.

To get through it, these artists focused on collaboration, finding ways of connecting essential skills. In the days and weeks leading up to Amsterdam, many of them fired missives back and forth wondering how best to exploit the spatial sound system. They then worked intensively to devise something they could try quickly, forming spontaneous teams to combine resources. They did in minutes what resident artists had done in days. With input from Nicholas Bougaïeff from Liine and a whole lot of guidance and assistance from the entire 4DSOUND team, in particular founder Paul Oomen, gathered hacekers managed to get a whole lot up and running. No project went silent; with tweaks, everything worked.

This wasn’t merely a show of coding prowess or engineering. Each project found some way to involve musical practice and sound, each was a “jam” as well as “hack.” That’s something different from the typical shape of hack days; these projects weren’t just demos. They were given a voice — sometimes literally singing, rather beautifully. Continue reading »

lemurlemur

Before there even was an iPad or iPhone, there was Lemur. The touch-based controller device was theoretically the first-ever consumer multi-touch hardware. Early adopters connected the pricey smart display via Ethernet to a computer, and wowed friends with flying faders and bouncing balls and new ways of doing everything from manipulating spatial audio to playing instruments.

Then, the iPad arrived, and Lemur had a new life as an iOS-only app. For many of us, it’s alone reason enough to own an Apple tablet.

But Apple tablets are pricey. Android tablets are cheap. And Android tablets are increasingly available in more sizes. So, maybe you want to run Lemur on Android. Maybe it’s your only tablet. Or maybe you’re just worried that now your live performance set depends on an iPad mini, and if it dies, you’re out hundreds more – so Android is an appealing backup.

Well, now, Lemur has come to Android. It wasn’t easy; it required lots of additional testing because of the variety of devices out there and weird peculiarities of making Android development work properly. (Disclosure: I was one of Lemur’s testers, and was gratified when it suddenly started working on my Nexus 7, which is a fairly excellent low-cost device.)

But now it’s here. And it’s fantastic. Nick from Liine came to our monthly mobile music app meetup in Berlin and showed us just how easy it is to code your own custom objects using the canvas – more on that soon. But combine that with a stable app for hosting your own creations, and Lemur is simply indispensable. It’s US$24.99 on the Google Play store.

Oh, and one more thing: wires. Continue reading »

max7collage

Being “software about nothing” isn’t easy.

Max has for years been a favored choice of musicians and artists wanting to make their own tools for their work. But it’s been on a journey over more recent years to make that environment ever more accessible to a wider audience of people.

The aim: for beginners and advanced users alike, work faster, producing tools that work better. Okay, those are easy goals to set – a bit like all of us declaring we’re going to “get in better shape” in a few weeks from now on New Year’s Eve. But Max 7 somehow brings together a range of plotlines from years of development and evolution.

This is very quickly looking like the visual toolkit for media that Max has always longed to be.

What’s new?

Too long/ didn’t read? Here’s the quick version:

  • Patch faster and prettier with a new UI, styles, new browser, and loads of shortcuts.
  • Elastic, pitch/tempo-independent audio everywhere, syncable everywhere.
  • Loads of pitch correction and harmonization and pitch effects, straight out of the box.
  • Use Max for Live patches directly – even without a copy of Ableton.
  • Use video and audio media directly, without having to make your own player.
  • Use VST, AU plug-ins seamlessly, plus Max for Live patches – even without a copy of Ableton.
  • Make video and 3D patches more quickly, with physics and easy playback, all taking advantage of hardware acceleration on your GPU.

And what’s new in detail, as well as why it matters: Continue reading »