chromaphone_overview

Tested: Chromaphone 2 has kinder, gentler acoustic modeling

If it feels at times like everything has been done in sound synthesis, every new sound uncovered, then look to physical modeling for a way forward. This collection of techniques simulates the way sound is produced by acoustic objects. Applied Acoustics Systems (AAS) of Montreal has been one of the leaders in that field – and they’ve got a new product out that might be the friendliest offering in this field yet.

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Steinway Model D. Photo courtesy Steinway & Sons.

These piano breakthroughs changed music forever

Yesterday was Piano Day – a day recently christened by composer/pianist Nils Frahm in order to celebrate that ubiquitous keyboard instrument. (It’s held on the eighty-eighth day of the year.) There are concerts, marathons, project, releases – and unlike Record Store Day, this event won’t clog the ability to produce piano music. With that day as inspiration, I thought it was a good moment to look at some of the technology of and around the piano, to understand what has made this instrument special. That includes both strictly acoustic innovations as well as design features and breakthroughs that either inspired …

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It's all acoustic technology. But, at last, it's 21st century acoustic technology. Photo: CDM.

Watch Una Corda, a software piano with a difference

The piano has been living with a beautiful legacy, but that legacy can double as tyranny. The Steinway Model D, favorite instrument of mine that it is, has also frozen the technological development of the keyboard instrument. And that’s why the Una Corda is different. Built custom by David Klavins, and associated with that builder’s collaboration with pianist Nils Frahm, this lightweight piano is unlike any you’ve seen or heard before. And now, you can get a taste of playing the real thing with a software instrument.

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tubes

Bach Played on Tubes Will Remind You That Acoustic is Fun

I must admit to knowing neither the term tubes musicaux, nor “boomwhackers.” We’re on the eve of the Musikmesse trade show, which for music technology sites means time spent largely in Hall 5.1 – the bit dedicated to electronic stuff and “DJs.” But that’s no reason to ignore the possibilities afforded by acoustic sound. So long as people are being inventive with materials, that end of the spectrum (so to speak) will remain compelling. And the “Boomwhacker” is a great example. As Wikipedia kindly fills me in, “Boomwhackers Tuned Percussion Tubes are lightweight, hollow, color-coded, plastic tubes, tuned to musical …

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midiharp

MIDI Makes an Augmented Harp Performance Like None You’ve Heard

The harp: it’s big. It’s temperamental. It’s pretty much associated with an established set of music. And when you hear “MIDI harp,” you’re typically in store for something kind of cheesy involving laser beams. Not this time, though: this is an actual harp, augmented with MIDI into a pretty wacky one-off one-person instrument. Time for Throwback Thursday, because I hadn’t seen this before even though it’s rather old. But, maybe unearthing it in this fashion will inspire Arnaud Roy to make something new (or share what he’s been up to lately). The project is the “HarpJamX” – a conventional acoustic …

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ERATP060_cover

Perfect, Beautiful Music for Free From Erased Tapes [2014 in Review]

Erased Tapes was an endlessly inspiring label in 2014. With a singular, understated focus on quality and music orbiting the keyboard, the acoustic, and minimal post-classical introspection, they were a calming counterpart to the year’s steroid-pumped festival commercialism. And first and foremost, they were about records — not fancy design accessories, not “throw everything at a wall and see what sticks” experiments in distribution. (There’s a place for that, yes, but a record label about records was nonetheless refreshing.) And Nils Frahm was a consistent star amidst all of this, a favorite live performer cutting across genres, wrangling keys electronic …

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Acoustic Revelation: Inside the Una Corda, the 100kg, 21st Century Piano Built for Nils Frahm

Now this is a revolutionary etude. There’s no question the acoustic grand is an engineering wonder, a musical instrument with literal tons of string tension producing unparalleled sound. But it’s a 19th Century technological marvel. Innovations, apart from subtle variations, have been largely frozen since the likes of the Steinway & Sons Model D-274. The Model D is a beauty; the question is, what have builders been doing with the 155 years since it was introduced? Builder David Klavins is a master instrument maker re-imagining the piano for our century. And he isn’t afraid to go to extremes to do …

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dunning_apiarysetup

Watch Mechanical Techno, Dance Music Made Organic, Physical by Graham Dunning

Even in hardware, the repetitive patterning of dance music remains invisible to the eye. Sure, you might get a blinking light here and there, but otherwise, the process is virtual, whether the sound process is analog or digital. Graham Dunning’s Mechanical Techno project is different. Every pattern is made physical and tangible, every machine rhythm mechanically constructed rather than abstract. As such, the UK-based experimental musician, composer, and sound artist makes sounds that evolve organically from the devices that make them. As contact mics brush against physical objects, those rhythms are often slightly imperfect, emerging from a kind of kinetic …

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jojo

The Human Drummer Battles Drum Machine, in Poetic Film with Jojo Mayer

Between Zero & One from ApK on Vimeo. What does it mean to be human in a world of drum machines? Not just whether drum machines have soul – how do you define your soul? Drummer Jojo Mayer doesn’t shy away from the deep issues around digitality in the brief film meditation that is Between Zero & One. He reflects on the states of being that the computer and machine represent, and then he does what any great drummer would do. He doesn’t get mad. He gets even. He refines drum technique to play what a drum machine can’t, framed …

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Listen: Greg Gives Peter Space, Intimate Vocals Meet Live, Spacey Sound [CDM Presents]

The label Erased Tapes lies perfectly at the crossroads of craft today, from instrument building and modification (electronic and acoustic) to performance and composition (again, electronic and acoustic). And a new collaboration weaves together all those threads. We couldn’t be more pleased to get to share the first exclusive track from that project, as well as announce an event we’ll co-present here in Berlin in June. Peter Broderick and Greg Haines are each multi-instrumentalist composers, at home singing and playing instruments both new and old. Their relationship spans several years, but this year brings the debut of a finished record …

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