Now that anything can become an instrument, musicianship can become the practice of finding the spirit in the unexpected. It’s what Matt Moldover championed in the notion of controllerism, what years of DIYers have made evident. It’s not just a matter of finding a novelty or two. It’s really taking those novelties and making them a creative force.

Adriano Clemente, the Italian-born, Brooklyn-based artist (aka Capcom), is a shining light of just that sort of imagination. Regular CDM readers will see some familiar techniques. There’s a laser harp, a circuit-bent toy, mic transducers making objects into triggers, a Numark Orbit controller, a LEAP Motion, a Kinect, an Ableton Push, and I’m fairly sure that’s fellow Italian Marco Donnarumma’s wonderful Xth Sense controller in VICE/Motherboard’s featurette on the artist. But it’s the way Adriano puts it all together that becomes the magic.
To put it simply, it’s hard not to get infected by his enthusiasm. He doesn’t just play these unusual objects – he really plays. He’s exploring the reality around him.

This is in fact the perfect companion to last week’s story by Matt Earp, with Spanish artist Ain TheMachine:
Music That’s All Human Body and Objects, No Instruments: Biotronica with Ain TheMachine [Interview]

The scene for this kind of work, once limited to isolated experiments and academia, is really heating up. It’s actually becoming a realm in which people are outdoing one another, as the world community of experimental performance grows.

I think readers here will also respond to what Adriano says about encountering conservatism – about the people who try to put these different approaches into boxes. (The “that isn’t real music” argument is something we’ve all certainly found.) Continue reading »

Synthesist Chris Stack has had his hands on a lot of gear – and a lot of it with the Moog Music moniker on it. But every chance he gets, he’s bugging me about how in love he is with the Dave Smith Pro 2, the richly-appointed, nicely-overpowered monosynth on steroids as we described it earlier this summer.

And he’s having a lot of fun, transforming it into a hybrid digital/audio “hub” – a sound source, but also a central brain for exceptional soundscapes.

And in Chris’ hands, I’m certainly convinced, as this beast sequences beautiful frontiers of noise and melody. Just like Chris, making us lust after a synth over the weekend. But, as this often comes up in comments, my interest is never in whether you have to have some particular bit of kit. To me, the fusion of musicianship and instrument building is always inspiring – it’s something we can take back to our own work, whatever we’re using. Here’s Chris on his summer fling with this synth: Continue reading »

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 »