Every new season brings new music tools. Some of these designs, of course, are splashy and grab headlines. Some just look like no-brainers that will see heavy use in your work.
Arturia’s BeatStep stood out at the recent NAMM trade show as just an insanely-great use of a hundred bucks, in a tiny box that sort of does everything you’d want.
It’s a pad controller. But it’s also a step sequencer. It connects to your computer via USB. But it also does analog CV and MIDI (via breakouts) when your computer isn’t around. It works as a controller. It works with an iPad. It can be a clock source.
In short, it’s mobile control and step sequencing for pretty much anything you own, with or without a keyboard.
We’ve already heard from a lot of readers who were drawn to it, many of them already wanting something just like this. Now, we have some extensive tutorial videos from Arturia that show how it works, plus some questions and answers from the makers. Continue reading »
If you want an explanation for why you’d want to build sophisticated audio into the Web, maybe it’s just because you don’t like fun.
Fun is what you get out of this Web Audio Theremin toy, the work of one Luke Phillips of Femur Design.
As the user interacts with the screen synthesized sounds are generated in the style of a moog theremin and the canvas displays a visual representation of the audio.
“Theremin” is a loose term here. In terms of continuous pitch control and amplitude control, each on a separate axis, it counts. Of course, it lacks the gestural input mechanism that sort of is the whole point of a Theremin. Then again, if you’re good with your mouse/trackpad, you might be able to fake it.
There’s more coming, too. Luke says he’s working on a version that will let you play along with your favorite songs – a sort of browser Theremin karaoke.
Now, of course, there are likely some serious Thereminists out there in our audience, but part of the magic of this is that it appeals to people well outside our music tech fields. I’m watching this spread through all my social feeds. Score — Productivity: 0. Whoopy sounds: 1.
There are actually some nice touches, too, including a pleasant, gritty distortion entitled “Scuzz,” waveform selections, and a nice built-in delay.
Who needs to print business cards? Just make a Web-powered Theremin and make sure there’s a link to your portfolio. Time much better spent.
Sometimes, images say it all.
Pictured below is what happens when you try to use Pacemaker’s Spotify functionality on the iPad without an Internet connection. Tracks simply don’t play at all. Even though Spotify Premium users have offline access to their tracks when listening one at a time, you won’t be able to DJ that way any time soon.
Above, you’ll see that you can’t record mixes even with an Internet connection if you try to use a Spotify song.
But given how many small, boutique labels and independent artists rely on enthusiast DJs to care enough to download their records, it’s hard to see this as bad news. That enthusiast market has been a ray of hope for people who want music to have value – not even necessarily in a terribly-profitable monetary sense, but as a way of distinguishing the relationship you have to music you really care about.
And Pacemaker had to specifically license Spotify. Other DJ apps don’t yet support the functionality, and it’s unclear whether Spotify will open up to them, too if they do seek such a license.
Of course, for wedding and other party DJs wanting to quickly play requests, Pacemaker will still be a huge boon in venues that do have an Internet connection. And those are probably not tracks you really care about.
Oh, yeah – and as mobile Internet becomes more readily available, this app may still send chills down the spines of anyone working on recording music.
Pacemaker, with or without Spotify support, remains an elegant and beautifully-designed DJ app, and proof that there’s more than one way to provide DJ functionality. Just don’t expect this to be the last word in what happens to the download economy for DJs – more like the beginning of an even more vigorous debate. For more on the app itself, see our first hands-on:
Mixing Spotify with iPad, Pacemaker Might Be DJing’s New Killer App for the Masses [Hands On]
It’s been a while since digital DJing has seen a bona fide major hit.
Traktor continues to dominate the scene. But Traktor is still software molded for the professional DJ, and particularly those in the club scene. When Traktor came to the iPad, it saw a significantly-streamlined interface, but the underlying functionality remains geared for the professional user – so much so, in fact, that it’s possible to exchange libraries and hardware interfaces between the two. That’s a good thing for Traktor’s intended audience, but it leaves open a window in the market. Even arguably more consumer-friendly software like Algoriddim’s market-leading djay still resemble DJ apps of old.
Pacemaker might not be who you’d bet on as the new major player. Founder Jonas Norberg has so far hit two strikes – an app for Blackberry Playbook (oops) and a pricey hardware gadget that failed to compete with laptop DJ solutions.
But Pacemaker for iOS has an ace in the hole: Spotify. And that could change DJ consumption.
It might also be disastrous news for producers who at least could rely on selling music to DJs. But more on that in a moment.
Let’s have a hands-on with the actual app. I’ll see if my colleague sitting in the same room does this:
Continue reading »
Man & Machine: A Naked Robotic Love Story from Jesse Roesler on Vimeo.
Making music with machines, we all become somehow more than human. We are people, augmented by technology. Those technologies strip us bare, expose us as naked emotionally … sometimes, literally. Through the eyes of one filmmaker, here are two parallel images that drive that point home.
Last week at Berlin’s CTM Festival, we began a week-long hacklab by touring the Generation Z exhibition with curator Andrey Smirnov. One thing Andrey repeatedly emphasizes about the revolutionary Russian artists who came together in the 1920s is their belief in a future utopia, one constructed through technology to make a new breed of humans, humans merged with their machines. It was a tragedy that the Soviet state ultimately chose to repress the radical work of these artists.
But if their vision sounds like science fiction, if it sounds naive, that utopian fusion is something artists today are actually building. This is not some abstract vision of the cyborg: it’s people who have something to say, something deep to express, building tools that allow them to do so. That seems the fundamental need that drives all makers of music and musical instruments, whatever the technological medium.
Emmy-award winning filmmaker Jesse Roesler tells that story beautifully in his portraits of two artists.
On Sunday, we got to see his moving documentary of Godfried-Willem Raes and Moniek Darge, artists from Belgium. Raes, who was in attendance on Sunday, is an instrument builder and performing artist. His search for expression and his search for love intermingle.
Oh, and he has an unusual way of controlling his hand-built robotic symphonies. He strips buck naked and allows his bared body to control sounds through movement. The results are as weird and wonderful as they sound, but they also say a lot about the potential of body in tech and expression.
Continue reading »
Turn your radio on. In an age saturated with a tyrannical quantity of choice, tuning into something consistently inspiring matters more than ever. Our resident sound seeker Matt Earp looks into one channel that’s providing just that. Dewtone is a fantastic place to go for a range of music, so much so that it’s worth investigating the person behind it. Matt talks to Dewtone’s Dustin Morris about how he’s making this work. -Ed.
Dewtone has been a complete joy to my ears ever since I found it – and the more I explore it the more I love it. I first came across it as a Bandcamp label that focused on deep music – sometimes more ambient, sometimes slightly glitchy, often on the slow hypnotic end of dubby techno. I’ve been exposed to countless new artists through it, and in turn to many new labels by further exploring those artists works. Nikosf. and Sven Laux have seen me through hard times. Because I write to them, it’s totally possible I’ve listened to the two Dewtone albums by Purl and Deflektion (2012′s Growing and 2013′s Rest In You) a greater number of times than any other albums in the last year.
Turns out my explorations, and the connections I’ve drawn, were just what label owner Dustin Morris had in mind when he launched the project as a streaming radio station. Dewtone.fm is a carefully curated channel (or actually now twin channel) of beautiful music. Many of the world’s best labels operating in the ambient, downtempo and dub techno worlds have their music on the station, and while it does have a fairly specific sound in some ways, it’s defined broadly enough to never be boring. Listening to it has actually been quiet humbling really – the more I explore the family of labels on Dewtone.fm, the more I realize what a small percentage of this world’s artists I know. Fortunately, if I ever get overwhelmed, I know I can just return to the Dewtone catalog itself, which has curatorial standards at unparalleled levels.
Dustin took time to answer some of my questions about the history of the Dewtone project and what’s coming up for it in 2014. It’s below, and if there was ever an article made to be read while listening to music, this is it. In order to hear Dewtone.fm, you’ll have to sign up for their mailing list to get an access key, but barring that, 29 staggeringly great releases are available on Dewtone’s Bandcamp page for streaming right now. Continue reading »
Hardware and software continue to thrive (above). Pro audio lives on. People still make strange, wonderful products for tiny niches of people passionate about every element of sound. Marsha Vdovin is a veteran of the NAMM trade show like few people we know, so seeing the show through the eyes of her camera reveals some weirdness and wonderfulness we always appreciate.
And Wonder Woman, too.
Magic Kingdom, indeed. Gallery II, go! -Ed. Continue reading »