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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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The Arcane Arts of Experimental Instrument Design: 3DMIN [Videos, Gallery]

From the dawn of civilization, musicians could always be counted on as the ones inventing the truly weird technologies to make noise. Here – bang on this. Blow into this. It’ll make some sound; it’ll be noisy; it’ll get everyone’s attention. And so, the art of such designs continues. New instrument design explorations have gone hand in hand with electronic music research from the moment electronics (and, eventually, digital technology) were capable of real-time performance. But if 3DMIN follows in the footsteps of those programs, it also seeks to intertwine questions about other fields and disciplines. And tonight in Berlin, …

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Mods Make The Moog’s Werkstatt Synth More Educational, More Fun

It began as an exclusive for a limited-edition workshop. But it’s turned into more. Moog’s Werkstatt synth is a lovely little analog synthesizer in its own right. But, driven by its educational mission, it’s also become a means of learning electronics. This is a synth you want to hot-rod.

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Lo-Fi SES Looks Like a Game Controller, Plays Like a Chip Instrument

What if there were a hacky, hackable handheld game platform – just for making noises? That’s what the Arduino-powered, Lo-Fi SES is all about. It’s basically a little 8-bit music toy, with a control layout borrowed from Nintendo of the past, but expandable, hackable, and open. The sound is very grungy and digital, but it all appears easy to play. The cutest touch: you expand the board with “cartridges,” add-ons that connect to the top to add functionality. “One”Final Sound Adventure” adds more sounds. “USB: A Link to the Hack” lets you program the board from your computer, using Arduino …

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Hack Biology, Body, and Music: Open Call for MusicMakers Hacklab

For the past two winters, CDM has joined with Berlin’s CTM Festival to invite musical participants to grow beyond themselves. Working in freshly-composed collaborations, they’ve built new performances in a matter of days, then presented them to the world – as of last year, in a public, live show. This year, they will work even more deeply inside themselves, finding the interfaces between body and music, biology and sound. And that means we’re inviting everyone from choreographers to neuroscientists to apply, as much as musicians and code makers. Playing with the CTM theme of “Un Tune,” the project will this …

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Turn a Rock Band Keytar Into a Mellotron, And More Standalone Instruments

Lurking in the bargain bins of game shops is a surprisingly well-built keyboard. The Rock Band “keytar” controller may have been made for games, but the keybed is solid, the thing is light, and it can run on batteries. So why not turn it into a standalone instrument? That’s what Jamie Robertson has done with his, and he shows you how. The magic here is something he calls the WAV Trigger. Without naming any names, while there are a lot of cool Arduino shields and the like out there, a lot of them are pretty functionally limited. They’re cool to …

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Meet A Glitchy Nightmare Marshall Pedal, Then Play Rusty Bent MegaDrive DESTROYING EVERYTHING

The world of circuit bending continues to help electronics to mutate, finding new organic selves. There’s a steady stream of this stuff these days on social media (ah, I remember covering this before anyone had used The Facebook), but sometimes things will catch your eye. Take this brilliantly-evil rendition of a Marshall RG1 “regenerator.” This actually sounds as alien, glitchy, and weird as something with that name would make you expect. Details (and, um, I’m really sorry if you were bidding on this):

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Don’t Miss Five of the Most Futuristic Music and Audio Hacks: Pictures from SF

Put some of the best brains in music and sound together in a room. Give them a deadline. Tell them to invent the future as quickly as they can. What results is crazy, from better ways of teaching music production to composing inside Minecraft to strapping displays on your wrist to simulate the Apple Watch before anyone’s even able to get one. So, we sent one of the smartest brains we know to find the best stuff – that’ll be Gina Collecchia, engineer, technologist, and data scientist as well as writer/musician, the kind of person who studies acoustics in Peru …

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Watch Adriano Make Surprising Objects, Laser Beams into Triggers for Wild Music

Now that anything can become an instrument, musicianship can become the practice of finding the spirit in the unexpected. It’s what Matt Moldover championed in the notion of controllerism, what years of DIYers have made evident. It’s not just a matter of finding a novelty or two. It’s really taking those novelties and making them a creative force. Adriano Clemente, the Italian-born, Brooklyn-based artist (aka Capcom), is a shining light of just that sort of imagination. Regular CDM readers will see some familiar techniques. There’s a laser harp, a circuit-bent toy, mic transducers making objects into triggers, a Numark Orbit …

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littleBits Adds “User-Generated” Hardware, Launches Store with Oscilloscope, Bleep Drum

littleBits, the snap-together magnetic hardware module system for easy DIY hardware mash-ups, has a unique take on how to add new hardware. Previously, modules came from littleBits; the popular Synth Kit collaboration with KORG being a significant exception. littleBits has certainly offered a lot of options, including the recent Cloud Kit for adding Internet connectivity. But now, it’s opening up hardware development to anyone with an idea. While littleBits calls itself “open source hardware” – founder Ayah Bdeir even co-founding the Open Hardware Summit — that openness has always been restricted when it comes to the magnetic connectors. Those are …

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