The most important thing to know about Stems, a new multitrack specification for audio, is that it’s simple by design. That simplicity means that it could really take off as a way of sharing music with multiple tracks, for DJing or live-remix applications.
Stems won’t solve every problem of file exchange and sharing. It’s not a multichannel spatialization format. It’s not a sophisticated project format for storing metadata. I say that, because after we covered Stems at the beginning of this week, I found my inbox flooded with every use case for every file format imaginable, and complaints that Stems didn’t solve them. Some went as far as to get into video.
I get it: you have problems in search of solutions. Just be aware, solving every use case imaginable gets complicated fast. Take the industry standard on which Stems is based – MPEG-4. Covering everything from codecs to files, video to audio, the MPEG-4 spec has 31 parts and 15 levels, each containing still more specs inside the specs. There are international trade treaties that are simpler. And to anyone saying that there are already standards for complex project interchange and sophisticated multichannel audio – you’re absolutely right. That’s why Stems isn’t trying to be any of those things.
Instead, Stems is really a format for releasing music, and it’s intended to be as simple as possible.
Following the announcement of Stems, it seems there was some misinformation about the specs of the format. Some of this was simply technically wrong – like a report that Stems uses “MP3 files” (it uses AAC-encoded audio), or doesn’t support lossless audio (it does). And a lot of people tried to read into the future of Traktor – that’s fair, but it misses part of the point of Stems, which is to try to bring other developers onboard.
Since at least some of those developers are reading CDM, alongside producers and DJs, let’s take a look.
I had a fantasy today that I’d tune into my favorite time-wasting dance music site, wundergroundmusic, and discover that they were celebrating April Fools’ Day by posting actual news. (wundergroundmusic is to dance music as The Onion is to world events. It is, with all apologies to myself, the best thing on the Internet.)
Sadly, that didn’t happen. So, I was curious what it would look like. In the easiest CDM article research I’ve ever done, this is what I’ve turned up from the last days alone. These are … real headlines, not April Fools’ jokes – a stunning number of them from the 31st of March alone.
And, to be fair, now is a great time to find EDM strangeness – spring break 4eva CDM style! Here we go!
And I’m not making up this quote. This is a news story from March 29.
“I’m 37 now, so 2045 is 30 years from now. I’ll still be alive,” Aoki told us. “I mean, I’ll be a robot, so I won’t have wrinkly skin and I might not have any organs in my body anymore. As long as I got my consciousness and my brain working in all cylinders, then I’m good to be in any sentient body.”
Allen & Heath aren’t bombarding the market with products. They’re not hopping on lots of new gimmicks. What they are doing is quietly releasing well-designed mixers that dominate the DJ scene. And the Xone:43 looks nothing if not eminently sensible – enough so that I suspect some might eye it as a mixer for live sessions, as well as the obvious club installs and DJ rigs.
A&H are serious enough about this tool that they’re releasing a new flagship — on the first of April. (No fooling.) But they can do that: because there’s absolutely nothing silly or far-fetched about this box.
There’s not too much to say about the 43. The big selling point is its filter, which is switchable between high pass, low pass, and bandpass modes with resonance.
And there’s the effects send. Sure, it’s got a stupid name (X:FX) – yeah, kind of sounds to me like an unknown hip-hop band. (Whoa. I’m actually not wrong.) And it makes some of us think of computer gaming graphics cards.
But X:FX works the way you wish effects sends always worked for live setups – you just get a stupidly-simple wet/dry control with a dedicated control on each channel for adding to your outboard effects. And you can route it to the filter, too.
The next time you’re facing a life-threatening fire in, say, your kitchen, you may simply shout, “where’s the drop?”
George Mason University engineering seniors Seth Robertson and Viet Tran have made a fire extinguisher that works entirely using sound. If you haven’t seen it making the social media rounds yet, of course, it’s worth posting here. Not only is it absurdly cool to watch, but it’s the latest reminder that music, sound engineering, and science can go hand in hand. That is, music is made of sound, and the study of sound overlaps with engineering and physics.
In fact, this is a sound engineering problem: it’s an amplifier, coupled with power, sound generation (think oscillator), and a tube that focuses that sound.
Best of all, here’s what most people would think was a chemistry problem solved by a couple of electrical engineers. 30-60Hz sounds work, with regular oscillations. (They say “music” doesn’t work well, but… well, is anyone else tempted to turn this into a musical composition?)
The Washington Post has a detailed story that’s well worth reading – not all the practical applications are yet worked out yet. (As the video suggests, one idea is drones fighting forest fires – and of course, then you need only electricity.) But it’s still a fascinating project, all built with just US$600 in parts: When it comes to putting out fire, GMU students show it’s all about that bass
After a press event briefly quoted famed philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, I’m pleased to announce that the Ghost of Friedrich Nietzsche today will make his review of Tidal, the new streaming service. It’s a surprise, of course – the master of perspectivism doesn’t normally take time out of his day for something like this! So I’m honored. Here’s Fred:
Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest.
Did you see how they ripped off Spotify’s interface? Here, look at this image from Twitter. Shameful.
I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.
Seriously, this lineup of ultra-celebrities is pretentious as f***. Kanye, I’m looking at you. What, you think you’re some kind of Übermensch, or what? Continue reading »
littleBits’ Synth Kit began as a lot of fun. Snap together small bare boards connected by custom magnets, and you can create basic synthesizers, or mix and match more exotic littleBits modules light light sensors. No soldering or cable connections are required.
But while you could use various littleBits components, your options were comparatively limited as far as connecting to other gear. That changes today with the release of new modules for MIDI, USB, and analog Control Voltage (CV), ranging $35-40 each.
There are three modules, each made in collaboration with KORG:
You can also buy a US$139.95 “Synth Pro Pack” that includes two of the CV modules, a MIDI module, a USB module, mounting boards, and cables.