Careful what you joke about on the forums. It just might turn into reality.

Somehow, it all started with some discussion about what software serial numbers “sound” best. Apparently developer SzcZ / Fairly Confusing Waveforms decided to take the idea and run with it.

The result is a free plug-in that’s good enough that you can safely ignore how it’s working and just have fun creating gorgeous, percussive, granular cinematic soundscapes. You could easily make a whole album out of this stuff.


Continue reading »

Lineup Sónar+D 2015 from Sónar on Vimeo.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with asking the same questions repeatedly. Cyclical inquiries are necessary in any practice. And over time, you refine answers.

But this year’s SONAR+D program promises something different.

SONAR+D is the younger, digital discourse alongside Barcelona’s massive electronic music festival. SONAR itself deserves a lot of credit for helping create the template a lot of digital music and media festivals follow today. And as that has since blurred into a parade of headliners, SONAR+D added a lot of dimension. There were good talks, hacklabs, workshops, and a showcase of makers.

Speaking as someone who either follows or participates in a lot of these things, though, I can’t wait for this year’s lineup. It seems uniquely ambitious and relevant, and I hope it sets the tone for the rest of this year.

Here are the threads I hope to follow – and why I’m glad CDM is a media partner of SONAR this year. Continue reading »

It looks either like a hand pan (if you know your percussion instruments) or a flying saucer sitting in someone’s lap.

But Oval is actually a digital instrument, a physical object that connects to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and then produces any sound you want.

It’s also emblematic of how the scene in alternative instrumental controllers have changed. A few short years ago, something like this most likely would have seen a one-off prototype. Its natural habitat would be an academic conference (hello, NIME). Maybe you’d see it onstage, maybe you’d read about it.

Nowadays, things are different. Just a couple of days after launch, the project reached its initial 100,000€ Kickstarter goal. It’s connected to an app, an extension of your mobile gadget (though you can use it via MIDI with software if you like).

The usual pitch about this allowing anyone to play music apply. Of course, that’s not something new to digital instruments. Folk instruments have let anyone play music more or less since the dawn of civilization. So it’s about time that digital instruments undo the damage that a century of recorded music, cultural fragmentation, and uneven musical education have done to the once-common practice of getting together and jamming. (That’s a rant for another time.)

The heart of the project is a team centered on a collaboration between (traditional) handpan musician Ravid Goldschmidt and designer/technologist Alex Posada. We’ve seen Alex and team work before on the RGB open source Bhoreal grid. This feels like a leap forward – something genuinely new, in contrast to a project that was compelling but at least related to tools already available. (Bhoreal I want to follow up on, too, though – it’s more compact and possibly more practical for many CDM readers. So stay tuned for the latest on that project once I head south to SONAR.)

Now, then, the question is whether you want to cozy up to this big UFO in your lap or not. Well, there are some interesting features of the design:

Berenguer1_OPT Continue reading »


For years, the steady disappearance of ports from our computers has been unquestionably a bad thing for musicians.

Things we used have been disappearing: Audio input jacks. Dedicated FireWire connections. Extra USB ports. And I’m not just talking Apple, here, either – slimmer and lighter PCs have often dumped connectors you needed, leaving us with a tangled mess of adapters and incompatibilities. Get a bunch of laptop owners together, and you’re lucky to connect anything without a Santa Claus-style bag of spaghetti.

So, music and audio users can be forgiven to being resistant to change, because some of those changes have been a huge pain.

That may make the next thing I’m about to say sound strange.

Everything we use is about to be replaced with USB-C connectors, the new reversible ports designed as successor to USB. You’ll buy a laptop, and one or two of these things will be all you get for connecting everything.

That is, even more ports are going to disappear, but this time, it’ll make things better, not worse. (Erm, mostly.)

Wait, what?

Let me explain. Continue reading »

It’s no step backward. Standalone hardware is now smaller, lighter, more affordable, more capable, and easier to use than before. So why not help focus on a live gig or creating musical ideas by getting away from the computer now and then?

This video from Meta Micro Labs shows how easy it is to plug in and get going – even if you’ve never worked this way before.

And it stars the MeeBlip anode, our own humble monosynth (co-produced with CDM), featuring our gritty bass sound with analog filter. The timing is right, as we’ve just put anode on sale for $119 worldwide with free or discounted shipping. (Seriously, I had on my task list to shoot a video like this, and then discovered someone had already done it – thanks!)

That raises the question, though – which is the best simple sequencer for the job? Continue reading »


Soon, music features could arrive the same way episodes do in Netflix. Since unveiling its “Membership Program” at the beginning of the year, Cakewalk has been putting out free monthly updates for its members. And now there’s one that’s pretty newsworthy.

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to powerful music tools, but getting features baked into a DAW offers some additional convenience and integration – and, let’s face it, you might wind up using a tool that you otherwise wouldn’t buy on its own.

“Everett” (sharing a name with the make of piano I had growing up) released this week adds a new Drum Replacer if you have SONAR Platinum and a membership. It’s the first time I can think of a Drum Replacer showing up in a DAW.

And that’s a big deal I think to anyone recording drums or producing. It offers some unique options even if you’re just producing ‘in the box’. The folks at Cakewalk have put together some nice suggestions in a video playlist. Possibilities:

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The latest limited edition sound instrument animal has been born, and it’s a sampler delay … thing.

Daedelus, the California producer who first popularized the monome, is teaming up with John-Mike Reed aka Dr. Bleep of Bleep Labs (designed in Austin, Texas and produced in America) to invent the Delaydelus. (Say that ten times fast.) Listen to Alfred’s spacey, trippy voiceover intro in the teaser video below, or stick around for the later videos in order to learn how it actually works.

This being an “artist” edition hardware, there are some Daedelus-designed sounds to get you started. After that, you get one minute-plus sample memory at 12-bit, 30kHz, and a 1-second delay for adding effects. (Nicely enough, you don’t have to overwrite the default bank when you add your sounds.)

That’s not so terribly interesting on its own, though it does come with some nice knobs and pads. Where this gets interesting is the patch bay, which provides long screws you can use as terminals, patching via cables with alligator clips. That lets you combine samples. The other modes add some options, too: with an external source, it’s just a delay, and you could use the sampling facility for triggering and modulation as well as the optional feedback. USB is unfortunately not included, so shell out US$25 more to get MIDI control and USB via an adapter.

It all has the DIY, lo-fi feel of Bleep’s best stuff.

Trek Matthews has also done some beautiful artwork.

Preorders available now, closing July 2. They’ll tailor the run to that preorder, then ship 5-7 weeks afterward.

I spoke with Alfred a bit about the ideas behind this. Continue reading »