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Minimoog controller reminds us hardware, software go hand in hand

What’s an ‘app’? For years, it was an uphill battle just getting people to recognize the ability of computers to generate sounds. When Native Instruments was founded in Berlin in 1996, their name was a clue to where they imagined the future going. Propellerhead’s release of ReBirth in 1997 began a concerted effort by the Stockholm-based company to campaign for in-the-box emulations of gear – and their partner Steinberg would shortly thereafter push ReWire and its own VST. Now, it’s not so much the app as the map – the physical control given to software. Whatever analog versus digital debates …

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This Custom Suitcase Will Make You Lust for Modular

Having something pretty won’t necessarily make you make better music. But from the carved face on a viola da gamba to the shine of brass on a trumpet, musicians have long imbued the objects that make music with visual features reflecting the unseen beauty of the sounds they emit. And this suitcase for sound, the work of Swedish design Frédéric Sebton, is beautiful both aesthetically and in its practicality. This one-off creation houses the “Verbos Composition Suitcase” – a very practical and reasonably affordable starter kit of Verbos modules, the title a cheeky reference to the (unrelated) VCS modular. Inside …

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UMIDI are Custom-Designed DJ Controllers, Built to Order [Gallery, Video]

umidi – The World’s First Custom & Visual DJ Controller from umidi on Vimeo. DJs, laptop musicians, and VJs may never agree on what layout is optimal for controlling their apps. With UMIDI, they might not have to. The Kickstarter-funded project has an ambitious goal: building whatever control you want, to order. Use a graphical Web interface to select a layout, and the producer will custom-machine a case out of aluminum, etching it with your own design, and adding the controls you want. The resulting hardware is USB class-compliant and works with any software, they say, and weighs under 3 …

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Insane Colors, Touch, Knobs: Ander’s Crazy Custom Live Controller, and Some New Music

What if software could leap off the screen, transforming into physical form? Ander’s custom controller for live performance looks like just that. An epic array of candy-colored buttons, with a dizzying arrangement of knobs atop it, it’s the opposite of what many live performances these days can be. Rather than a spectacle that distracts from the live performance, it is a spectacle that embodies the performance – not only Ander’s physical gestures, but the way he conceives his music. By making all of his set touchable – even though that involves a lot of advance preparation – the performance it …

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If I Only Had a Brain: Livid Builder Brain v2 Could Be Heart of Your Next DIY Project

If you’re dreaming of creating your own controller from scratch, there are certain basic elements you’ll need – and a strong case for reusing, not reinventing, the wheel. There are a range of products out there that cater to you DIYers; Livid’s Builder line is certainly one of the most comprehensive. It’s a line of hardware accessories that help you piece together MIDI controllers with all the requisite knobs and buttons and sensors you might like, and its brain just got an upgrade. The soul of any controller is the electronics and microcontroller that read all of those inputs and …

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A Monster Frankenstein Controller, with Fur Keys and Borg-Like Eyepiece, Built by Julie Covello

Photo by Nina Mouritzen; courtesy Julie Covello/Shakey. In an explosion of color, buttons, keys, velcro, and fur, and coupled with a cyborg-chic eyepiece, the VoltAxe is controllerism gone Mad Max, a post-acocalyptic keytar bred from salvaged parts. And if you want to make a unique construction of your own, creator Julie Covello – aka New York’s DJ Shakey – is willing to tell all her secrets, as well as why this was important to her music. In modeling (the basement hobby variety, not the skinny fashionista one), “kitbashing” is the act of combining bits of multiple kits to produce one …

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Choppertone, Wooden Ableton Jazz Controller, and Folk Music of the 21st Century: Video

“Folk music of the 21st Century” – radio broadcaster, jazz aficionado, and jazz-based Ableton Live instrumentalist / remix artist Nick Francis really sums up what this whole site is about. As he chops up jazz greats in Ableton, his mash-up music chops are as much musical analysis as they are performance. He walks through his controller moves in a pedagogical way, highlighting the meat of the jazz legends he puts into play. It’s a kind of digital transcription, transcribing re-imagined for Ableton’s colored blocks in place of. Of course, you’ll only be able to reflect on this once you can …

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Not a Turntable, Not a Knob: A New Inertial Sensor Music Controller, as Artists Explore

The appeal of new controllers is melding gesture and sound, metaphor – in tangible form – and musical idea. So before talking about this controller, have a listen to the sounds it produces in the hands of one user, even if another user might do something very different. In a demonstration by Richard Devine, sparse percussive sounds reminiscent of early sonic experiments by the likes of Varese echo in clusters of water-like drops and echoing rumbles. (Richard is perhaps better known for dense, sometimes raucously relentless walls of sound; this formally more contemplative, which I really enjoy, even if it’s …

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An Epic, Evil-Looking MIDI Controller: the Custom SR MixControl

From Austin, Texas, a bit of a haven for brilliant custom sound hardware, comes this epic-looking MIDI controller by Mad Zach, the SR MixControl. Covered in blinding super-bright LEDs, and with an absurdly-thorough complement of sliders, knobs, and arcade buttons, it looks as thought it’d be right at home on your evil flying saucer or Mad Max Interceptor. Here’s what the makers have to say about it in their sales pitch:

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A Custom Shop for Music Gear, a “Third Deck” DJ Controller, and DIY Hardware Secrets

Dave Cross thinks more about the design of DJ gear than even most passionate electronic music enthusiasts. Aside from stints at DJ Times and Ableton, this is a man who wrote an honors thesis on the history of the DJ mixer [PDF]. Then again, maybe it’s more a matter of the industry being painfully behind. In, 2006 when he designed his beautiful, vintage-styled Briefcase into the chassis of a 70s Sony mic mixer, there were few MIDI controllers for DJs even on the market. Times have changed, and in the mind-numbing cycle of industry products, it’s likely this year’s NAMM …

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