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 …

READ MORE →

Watch a Short Film on the Play Between Musicians and Instruments, Design and Technology

From Rush to the classical clarinet to rethinking the keyboard interface, a lovely new film by Michael Shane explores the relationship between music and technology, and the philosophy behind new musical inventions. Two New York-based characters figure prominently in that investigation. There’s Martin Yee, the drum tech, who talks about humans and drums. (Sadly, we don’t get into the question of acoustic technology – that’s something I hope to cover in upcoming reports, both in transforming and augmenting the drum kit, and re-designing the acoustic piano.) Then, there’s the ubiquitous keyboardist Jordan Rudess, whom I think puts on one of …

READ MORE →

Moog Werkstatt: Listen to its Creator Make Sounds; Why It Could Bring Moog Back to Modular

The newest Moog Music synth is in the hands of a select few. Werkstatt means, effectively, “workshop” in German. And so, Moog Music at Moogfest this year unveiled a synth you can’t buy anywhere but in a workshop. (Not to be confused with the one you might be able to buy, but can’t afford! Start on those lottery tickets!) Available exclusively to Moogfest Engineer VIP Package purchasers, Werkstatt was more than just a fun piece of gear. Designer/engineer Steve Dunnington of Moog Music, creator of the instrument, led participants in soldering and assembling the synth, then into exploring the world …

READ MORE →
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

It started as an April Fools’ Joke. Then it turned out to be real. But with plenty of new instruments to work on, why would Moog remake a dinosaur – both in form and literal size? Engineer Gene Stopp doesn’t blink when asked that question. In a tour of the modular for me and Keyboard Magazine – a magazine whose very existence is partly indebted to the legacy of Keith Emerson and Moog – he was confident. Do this once, and no one can ever question whether you know what it means to make a real, exact replica of the …

READ MORE →

Watch a Tank Make Sound, as Nik Nowak Makes Weapons, Vehicles for Music

In a world of machine weapons, construction equipment waging destruction, mechanized warfare and economic mayhem, maybe giant sound machines are a friendlier alternative. Nik Novak certainly has a way of giving sound physical being. And ironically, if some of his creations might appear to assault the senses, his own sensibilities came from the frightening experience of sonic trauma. He recasts that assault in machines, but also finds ways of working with sound that get past the damage to his hearing. And far from places of fear, the club – and studio – are refuge. (Or, okay, if that description doesn’t …

READ MORE →
facetech

Could You Someday Wear Speakers? Wearable Tech and Expression

Wearable tech so far has often tended to dresses that light up or wristwatches that act as remote controls for your smartphone. But what if wearable tech actually produced sound – and it wasn’t a pair of headphones? That’s the question posed by SubPac. It’s a sort of backpack subwoofer aimed both at improving tactile bass response for consumers and allowing proper bass monitoring for DJs and producers – you know, when they can’t just try their latest mix on a big club PA. We’ve covered wearable tech on CDM before – we’ve even hosted workshops and labs on the …

READ MORE →

How MIDI Works on the Linnstrument, or “Sometimes 14 Bits is Enough”

“How can an instrument be truly expressive if it only supports MIDI?” This seemed to be a frequently-asked question in our coverage of the upcoming Roger Linn Linnstrument. While OSC certainly has its merits, however, it is possible to get higher-resolution data via MIDI. You’re likely most familiar with MIDI’s standard 0-127 values, or the 7-bit data, as used in simple Control Change messages. A 14-bit message, by contrast, gives you over 16,000 levels of resolution – most for most tasks. The way the Linnstrument works is to send that higher-resolution data for pitch, via standard pitch bend messages. And …

READ MORE →
1525601_10151951792231513_690764284_n

Pattern and Design: A 2-Day Festival Turns Vintage Type into Musical Scores

It’s time to reinvent the graphical score. With musical practice more international, more broad and varied than ever, and electronics in the mix, conventional notational idioms just aren’t enough. For curator and prolific electronic producer Hanno Leichtmann, the starting point was a collection of vintage Letraset and Letratone type, as pictured above. Leichtmann, a graphic designer himself (and maker of beautiful record covers), is passionate about digital and ink-based design processes alike; even the posters for the event are exquisitely (and expensively) hand-produced. He then invited a who’s who of illustrators and graphic designers from Germany, Austria, France, Great Britain, …

READ MORE →

A Surround Sound System You Can Carry Like an Umbrella, ‘Anywhere’

Music is transformed by context, by instrumentation and space and setting. With amplified music, thinking about content alone isn’t enough. Visualists now work with projection mapping and lighting constructions and lasers and the like. It seems electronic musicians as a scene may benefit from thinking more about speakers. We saw recently 4DSOUND, an immersive architectural installation. But that requires carrying around columns. Here’s a multichannel system you can tote along with you, like an umbrella. The results look like a prop from a post-apocalyptic Terry Gilliam movie; it’s sound as object. pseudo multichannel personal autonomous sound installation with 10 panning …

READ MORE →
theremini

Making the Theremin Digital: How the Moog Theremini Works, What MIDI Brings

Let’s get one thing straight: Theremins aren’t digital. (Apologies for the headline for a moment, but stay with us.) Theremins are based on perhaps the most important analog process there is in sound, heterodyning. And Leon Theremin can’t claim credit for this, nor Bob Moog or USA or Russia or Germany – it’s initially Canada, in the form of one Reginald Fessenden. (Go, Canadian engineering! Later on, Edwin Howard Armstrong develops the superheterodyne circuit that most resembles the Theremin, so that’s actually one gold medal each to USA, Russia, Canada.) It’s a fancy word, but the concept is dead-simple: you …

READ MORE →