16th Century Music Tech: 11-yo Sirena Huang on Design Marvel of Violin

We hear lots of discussion of how to make better digital instruments. But to fully understand instrument design, it’s often best to look at instruments from around the world that have evolved over centuries. (Hey, these synthesizers and such, by comparison, are mere infants.) Here’s a fantastically virtuostic performance from 11 year-old Sirena Huang, via June Cohen on the TEDtalks blog. Following the music, she discusses in frank terms why the instrument is such a timeless design. She’s got a smart audience for such thoughts: the performance comes from the Technology, Entertainment, Design conference, a legendary gathering of “thinkers and …

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Powerful Piano Tuning on Windows Mobile: Pocket RCT

Tuning pianos involves some heavy science and art. In other words, Reyburn Pocket RCT has absolutely no relation to that simple guitar tuner you’ve got in your gig bag. It’s a US$900 powerhouse of visual tuning: Reyburn Cyber Tuner / Pocket RCT, for PocketPC (Windows Mobile) This is probably old news if you’re a piano tuner (either this or the Mac/Windows laptop version), but I saw it this weekend while I was staying at my parents’ house and a tuner came over to adjust our Baldwin grand. The tuner was more than happy to show it to me. You can’t …

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Hearing Like Humans Do: New Sonic Analysis Methods Clear Through Noise, Promise Better Music Software

Hearing over the din of noise is something that humans do a lot better than computers. A new mathematical technique promises to provide highly accurate models of sound, even with broadband noise in the picture. Why does this matter, aside from mathematical curiosity? For one, better sonic analysis could mean more realistic models of instruments and more flexible sound editing tools, inspiring a new generation of music software. From our friend kokorozashi: ‘In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Marcelo Magnasco, professor and head of the Mathematical Physics Laboratory at Rockefeller University, has published …

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Hemispherical Loudspeaker: Ultimate Performance Speaker?

If you frequent experimental music concerts and performance art events, you might have seen them: mysterious, spherical and polyhedronalish speaker arrays, looking a bit like an unmanned space probe or an alien soccer ball. Now you can have one of your very own: Electrotap has announced they’re shipping the Hemisphere speaker array. And forget the odd looks of other speakers for a second: this sounds downright practical. It weighs just 17 lbs., but contains six Polk Audio db525 fullrange drivers. It sits on a surface. Sound fills the space, but it actually comes from the location where you’re playing. And …

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Can BIAS’ Peak Make Your Sound Sound Better?

Converting sample rate and bit depth to lower-resolution data, as you’d do when a project was finished for output to CD and online files or when converting prior to assembling a project, is a dangerous task. It’s the moment at which you can lose a lot of what you put into your sound: the spectral content that gives the result the extra ‘sparkle’ you want. A test performed by Mac developer AudioEase recently took a shot at the sound quality in BIAS Peak, the flagship audio editor and perennial Mac fave. I’ve chatted with BIAS about this, and needless to …

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GBP15 Doppler Effect for Windows, More Free/Cheap Windows Goodies

In response to yesterday’s Doppler Birthday Roundup, Adrian Anders points us to a terrific-looking Doppler plug-in for just GBP15: Spacestation [Windows VST] My colleagues at Computer Music like it, but here’s my kind of endorsement (from KVR: “. . . I spent the evening in front of my monitors listening to the same noise swirling around in space again and again.” I could give you more specs, but doesn’t that say it all? Lots of other cool stuff over there, like endless audio effects, experimental filters, and freeware plugs. Just the motivation I need to go fix my poor Windows …

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Happy Birthday, Doppler! Sounds, Sights, and Software of the Doppler Effect

November 29 is the 205th birthday anniversary of Christian Doppler, the Austrian mathematician and physicist who hypothesized what’s now called the Doppler Effect. (You know, that effect when an ambulance or other fast-moving vehicle flies by and the perceived pitch changes.) That calls for Doppler trivia, astrophysics, audio software, and a drink. In celebration, go check out the excellent Wikipedia page on the Doppler Effect, including one of my favorite Physics equations (while I wasn’t failing.) And if the idea isn’t sinking in, there are plenty of online demonstrations of why this effect occurs. (Science aside, I also recommend celebrating …

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Digitally Modeling Percussion: DJ/Scientist Cynthia Bruyns

[Updated: Had the wrong record label — it’s not Muti, it’s Pretension. Though Pretension is also cool.] I asked readers to brag about their work, and, wow, does Cynthia Bruyns have amazing things to brag about: She’s a DJ — check out her mixes She’s working part-time with Apple’s Interactive Media group She’s involved with a really cool electronic record label She’s been busy modeling instruments in 3D The Vibration Lab is a sophisticated 3D modeling app for the Mac that accurately models percussive sounds. (Digitally-modeled cowbell? Not so far-fetched, after all!) See the project page for audio samples. She …

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David Byrne’s Playing the Building, Saturday in Stockholm: Architectural Music

By architectural music, I don’t mean some sort of funky digital installation. David Byrne’s new installation uses the pipes, metal beams, and girders of the Färgfabriken space in Stockholm as a musical instrument. It is definitely an installation (though the curator tries to say it’s not): there are automatic blowers forcing air through pipes, motors vibrating crossbeams, and solenoids (mechanical devices for, well, hitting things) striking the columns. But David Byrne’s installation is as notable for what’s not there as what is: no amplification involved. All the circuitry is exposed. It’s basically just a building, controlled by an organ. And …

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SpectraFoo, Beloved Audio Power Tool, Finally on OS X

If you have to ask, you probably don’t need it. But if you’re a hardcore audio engineer, odds are you already love SpectraFoo for its insanely powerful metering and analysis options. And you may still be booting an old PowerBook into Mac OS 9 just to run it, because SpectraFoo — until last week — didn’t do X. Metric Halo feels your pain, and an upgrade will cost existing users a measly US$149. Everyone else can get the software for $400 to $800, or bundled with one of Metric Halo’s highly respected audio interfaces: SpectraFoo [Product information] Foo Promotion And …

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