If a Computer Were a Chanting Monk: Crazy Live Sounds from Kyma + Gametrak

If a computer could throat-sing, meditating on numbers, it might sound something like this. Electro-acoustic composer Jeffrey Stolet is Professor of Music and Director of the Intermedia Music Technology at the University of Oregon, but “sonic shamanism” might apply as well. Mysterious sounds emerge from his laptop as he tugs and pulls on a controller, as if extracting sounds from within. (The hardware in question is a Gametrak game controller – a toy game device that has become an affordable 3D music input. Apparently some 300,000 units were sold by 2006, but the controller never caught on as a mainstream …

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Mark Fell investigates nanostructures and dancing particles. A visual reveals some of those Brownian Motion-produced forms. Photo courtesy Mark Fell.

Nanomusic: Mark Fell Turns to Neuroscience and High-Power Microscopes for Particle Music

Making new sounds means doing more than just making new sounds. Artist/composer Mark Fell (also known as half of SND) dives directly into the thorny question of form. And when he looks for new forms, he literally looks. The visually-trained artist speaks about making “non-representational” music in the same way an abstract artist might. (No surprise that arresting imagery invariably accompanies his work.) And in his latest creation, he looks even further, collaborating with a neuroscientist to peer at tiny particles through a high-power optical microscope. The result is alien music, constructed from the dance of those nanostructures. The work …

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In Bad Hotel, Addictive iOS Game, Composing Music to Tapped Interactions [Behind the Scenes]

What if a game made you both player and remixer/composer? What if that music plugged into your gameplay brain just like the interactive elements? This week, we get another try at just that – and find out how the whole thing works behind the scenes, with free software you can use, too. If you’re like me, you’ve loved the soaring, gaslight-style music soundtrack, as it makes its sweep across a film, swelling at just the right moments. Or you’ve closed your eyes and enjoyed the frozen narrative of a great score or great record as it washes over you. But …

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Rock Zebra2 Like Hans Zimmer: Dark Zebra Pairs Soft Instrument, Dark Knight Sounds [Video, Screens]

A shadow was unquestionably cast across the film by tragic events last week in Colorado. But while it became an unexpected stage for terrible events, The Dark Knight Rises itself is also a cultural object from artists we care about, and as musicians and sound designers, we value every chance to express ourselves. Composer Hans Zimmer and synth sound designer Howard Scarr are today releasing some of their work in a unique piece of software. It’s simultaneously a work of engineering – one of the most sophisticated software instruments available, Zebra2, and sound designs for that tool – and a …

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A Symphony of Speakers, Carried By a Crowd, as Choir “Of Sleeping Birds” [Android+Geolocation]

Orchestras generally sit in place, safely contained in a hall. Speakers are arranged in twos, fours, and sixes in fixed positions. Audiences sit and listen, and players play. In “Of Sleeping Birds,” those boundaries are all erased. In “Of Sleeping Birds,” dubbed “a geo-locative multi-speaker symphony,” mobile speakers held by participants form a chorus of sound. Location is everything: it spreads the music through a city, and, with the aid of GPS satellites, determines the music that the speakers play. That same mobility also gets an audience on their feet, participating in the performance. All of this aside, the work …

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Credit Cards, Turned Into Musical Instruments, Sound Pretty Freaking Amazing [Video]

What sort of musical instruments can you make out of plastic credit cards? You might imagine results are limited. But with some clever use of mics, and brilliantly-simple application of time-tested ideas ranging from single-string monochords to music boxes, the results are eminently, wondrously sonorous. And the project benefits greatly from having some compositional intent behind it; the music is focused and makes those credit cards expressive. The project was a promotion for local Austrian banks, but they’re just as effective as promotions for making your own, unique instruments. Vienna-based composer Dr. Richard Eigner describes the project and the team …

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A Concerto for iPad and Orchestra, as a Composer Takes on Tablet as Instrument

For all the ubiquity of electronic instruments and computers in the past half century, it’s still comparatively rare for composers to add these sounds to the largely-unchanging makeup of an orchestra. Therefore, as composer Ned McGowan writes a concerto that claims to be the first for iPad, he’s forced to admit the addition of a computer remains somewhat novel. A composer himself, Frank Oteri has compiled a list of works for orchestra and technology. The scores typically call, however, for the integrated instrument of a “synthesizer”; computers are often relegated to making appearances on tape even in relatively recent works. …

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Synths Versus Real Primates: So Easy, a Monkey Can Play Them? A Zoo Finds Out

Synths meet monkeys. Photo: Andreas Tilliander. Composer and Swedish dance music maestro HÃ¥kan Libdo has been a constant source of experimentation. But his latest project yields zoo-like new adventurousness. Six species of monkeys are equipped with synthesizers to test the question of whether playing a synth is really playing music – or if it’s so simple, a monkey can do it. Describing the project, there’s a bit of a defense of the complexity of the instrument: “You just press a button and out comes music, right?” Well… you do press buttons, twist knobs and faders, but there are endless ways …

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I Dream of Wires Documentary: Carl Craig, Canada, and Modular’s Beauty and Agony [Video]

Like the modulars themselves, an upcoming documentary on these analog synth beasts has been lurking behind closed doors. But that won’t be the case for long. “I Dream of Wires,” the crowd-funded documentary that probes artists’ fascination with making music by connecting patch cords, will see a public showcase at Montreal’s MUTEK Festival. This and an upcoming film release, atop a big get-together in New York, could make this a proper summer of modular. In anticipation of their showcase, MUTEK has released two significant excerpts from the film. One talks to Carl Craig, Detroit techno legend, top. Craig describes how …

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Sculpting Sound with Maja Ratkje [Film]

The worlds of sound open to us as musicians seem limitless, endlessly unfolding in variety and possibility. So, even in a series of impressionistic moments from an upcoming film, it’s a delight to see composer Maja Ratkje play with sound. The Norwegian musician and vocalist, an improviser frequent collaborator with artists like Jaap Blonk, is seen making wild sounds with her voice, experimenting with found sounds from field recordings and music boxes, and playing, too, with electronics and technology. There’s perhaps not much more to say about this other than to let the experience of exploring sound in music wash …

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