Music in the Age of Democratization: Gerhard… by SMWBerlin

Music as social medium is perhaps as profound as any connection as we can have between people. And it’s a unique pleasure to get to reflect on that with someone like Gerhard Behles or Matt Black. Yesterday, we got both at the same time. I’ll even listen to this conversation again; there’s plenty of fuel for further thought.

Before apps, Gerhard Behles and Robert Henke shared their Monolake Max/MSP sequencer (by Henke – still available); back when music production offered little in real-time, they had the vision to offer Ableton Live. When “VJ” still meant a host on MTV, Matt Black was building new tools to remix video alongside music, inspired by hip-hop technique to re-conceive digital expression and sampling.

Now, Ableton serves millions of users; Matt Black and Ninja Tune encourage users to remix their artists on their phones with Ninja Jamm.

And it seems anyone, anywhere can produce. Matt and Gerhard reflected with me yesterday on where they’ve come from, where their endeavors are today, and where we’re headed.

They got deep into the philosophy of why we make music, and where their responsibilities lie as tool makers and as individuals, where artists and labels and communities might go.

We have audio on SoundCloud:

And video (top).

Thanks to Social Media Week Berlin and Platoon for hosting us!


Music is all around us, yadda, yadda – we hear these aphorisms all the time, but to most, making music is still about the classical idea of instruments. Not so for this Madrid-based artist, who has transformed his body and all the objects around him into an instrument. The results are mad and magical – and CDM’s Matt Earp talked to the artist to find out just how he put this all together, and what it has to do with music like flamenco.

There’s a noisy, lively spot for co-working in Neukölln, Berlin called Agora – a space full of travelers, coders, entrepreneurs, activists, musicians and even chefs with a lovely kitchen/cafe, light and space, and a welcoming vibe. Sitting down at the communal table in early September and amidst the clutter and rattle of the kitchen and the noise of conversation, I notice a couple busily checking their phones, but the guy was also busily finger-drumming away on the the table, the chairs, himself – everything. Even his texting seemed nuanced and rhythmic and somehow sonic.

Turns out I was watching Ain TheMachine AKA Diego Ain at work. Ain is an artist who makes self-described “Musica Biotronica” – electronic music entirely out of “voice, body and objects”.

Continue reading »

The iPod Classic is dead, sure.

Now it’s really dead. And the cassette player outlasts its shiny Apple hipster-fashion-accessory counterpart with the non-removable battery – by kicking its sorry ass with a giant mecha fist punch to the face.

Hold on… if it seems we may be losing our grip on reality, that’s just because we’re entering the wild world of cassette label / music collective Chrome Brulée.

The retro-electro artists, comprising Tony Johnson, Michael Shredlove, Alex Mayhem, Kid Supreme, Aximus & Club Cannibal, make music that’s intentionally backwards-looking, and then release it on cassettes. And then they make crazy trip-out videos with vintage-styled computer graphics and impossibly-high 80s-ish production values, all in a cranked-up hyperactive fantasy world that looks like you had way too much of one of those nondescript sugary goo/slime concoctions marketed to young Americans as candy.

And they aren’t letting the iPod Classic go quietly into that good night. Cassette mechs triumph.

Through this hallucination, you will learn something about the ability to buy their cassette tapes, too. Happy Cassette Store Day, iPod drones. But if you just haven’t tripped enough, let’s have some more videos. Continue reading »

Updated: the video stream is over, but we have archived audio and video:

Listen to/watch the entire discussion

Today is Social Media Week in Berlin and various other cities across the world. I’m fortunate to get to join Gerhard Behles, co-founder and CEO of Ableton, and Matt Black, co-founder of Coldcut and Ninja Tune, in discussion. If you’re in Berlin, you can join us in person; the event is free. But we’re also live streaming from 14:05 Berlin time (08:05 over your cup of morning coffee New York, or California… uh, you might wait for the recording if you aren’t an early riser, that’s 05:05.) We expect to have higher-quality audio after the event.

It’s a great chance to get these two in a room together, because of where they’ve been, what they’re doing, and where we’re all going. Description: Continue reading »

Suzanne Ciani is a beacon of inspiration - not simply a pioneer to visit in the archives, but working on fresh, new collaborations, a light for 2014, too.

Suzanne Ciani is a beacon of inspiration – not simply a pioneer to visit in the archives, but working on fresh, new collaborations, a light for 2014, too. And that’s before we even get to the collaborators. Next stops: Unsound in Kraków, CTM in Berlin. Welcome, October.

The electronic music calendar makes the shift of seasons readily apparent. It’s not unlike the movies. Gone is summer blockbuster season, sequels and comic book movies, Ibiza and confetti cannons, big-budget special effects. Now, as in the cinemas, it’s date night dinner and a movie, trip-out night, delicious chin scratching, voyages to other worlds. And it’s not that we love this time because it’s smarter and summer is dumber: it’s because this is the season where the festival calendar can bring us deeper pleasures, richer sensations, and more powerful feelings, the shallow popcorn diversions out of the way.

There’s indeed so much – I can count off the top of my head half a dozen notable electronic music festivals just in Europe, just in the next 30 days – that writing a preview is all but impossible.

So let’s take just one act out of October to start. Suzanne Ciani, one of the all-time legends of the synthesizer, has lent the electronic instrument a lot of the voice we know today. She is artist and advocate, keyboard diva and endlessly imaginative composer. She composed transcendent standalone works, but also made sounds for arcades and pinball machines and Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab – yes, arcades and eggheads, alike.

Ciani headlining is a good headline. But we get a bit more. Continue reading »

Reaktor Lighting up Komplete Kontrol

All the light-up colors and built-in displays on the upcoming NI Komplete Kontrol keyboard may be aimed mostly at users wanting plug-and-play access to instruments in Komplete. But for the DIYer, there’s potential, too. Komplete Kontrol is the first hardware interface built with Reaktor patchers in mind.

It’s not likely to be a feature of the marketing, but Reaktor lovers will be able to build specific integration into their creations. Kontakt scripting will have the same functionality, if you’re designing sample libraries. We spoke to Gwydion at NI to get some specifics even before this launches.

This should come as good news to Reaktor fans even if you don’t get Komplete Kontrol. The integration will be possible whether or not you own the hardware, and should generate more attention and enthusiasm around Reaktor.

First off, let’s talk about what you can’t do. You can’t control those colored light-up LEDs via MIDI. That I think qualifies as bad news; even Native Instruments’ own Traktor Kontrol line lets you send RGB messages to the colored pads via MIDI.

Komplete Kontrol is different, however; the host software is what controls the colored LEDs and parameter displays (Komplete Kontrol). But Kontakt and Reaktor builders will be able to access that feature via scripts and patches. That means especially interesting stuff in Reaktor: you’ll be able to use colored light feedback directly in a patch, would could lead to unusual new instruments and sequencing ideas.

So, to review: MIDI mapping lets you add custom CC labels and colors above the keys. But in both Reaktor and Kontakt, you’ll get interactive control of each per patch. In detail: Continue reading »

While everyone has been pouring over leaks of Native Instruments’ new Traktor controller, few took notice that one enterprising engineer has made his own touchscreen prototype – an entirely DIY effort, from the guy who first took controllers to the market.

Kontrol-Dj, the decade-long, one-man engineering shop for DJs, over the summer quietly showed a custom solution for adding touchable displays to existing DJ controllers. There’s capacitive multi-touch support – out of the box, working with Image-Line’s Dekcadance software.

And for now, this little video is about the only DJ rig not involving an iPad or Android tablet that uses touch in this way. One thing you don’t see in the NI film about the Kontrol S8 is anyone touching the screen. It seems neither new Numark nor NI controllers yet incorporate touch.

Luis Serrano should know something about the history of DJ controllers: he invented the world’s first commercial offering, the KDJ-500. (The key word here is “commercial” – everything else was a DIY, one-off affair.) You’ll notice some familiar features even in that original model: jog wheels are combined with mixer controls. The arrangement and build would be perfectly desirable today, some 11 years later, for DJing, live music, or live visuals. (You’ll occasionally see someone ask around for one.)

If you bought this box in 2003, congratulations: you were way, way ahead of the curve.

If you bought this box in 2003, congratulations: you were way, way ahead of the curve.

Luis is now lead software engineer on Deckadance, Image-Line’s somewhat underrated, under-the-radar DJ app, and has made various other controllers (plus a mixer) over the years.

The touch solution here is compelling. Rather than use one control separate from the screen to control what’s on the screen, you touch the screen – and the waveform – directly. Ironically, Native Instruments has probably done more than anyone to popularise just that concept. Touch in Traktor DJ on the iPad is a revelation: suddenly, making and triggering loops and the like is stunningly intuitive. (Traktor is hardly alone, but I think deserves special mention because of its unique focus on touchable looping, etc.) Continue reading »