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Put a Radio in Your Modular: Music Thing Radio Music

Once upon a time, musicians made music from the sound content pouring invisibly, inaudibly from the air. The likes of John Cage and Kalrheinz Stockhausen turned the radio into stochastic source and instrument, a means of making music in the now. And now, you can, too, in the latest Eurorack module. Whether you want a modular or not, this is one module you definitely don’t need. You don’t need to act out Cage-ian fantasies and turn your local hit FM station greatest tracks of the 80s and 90s into an experimental noise performance. Nor do you really need to understand …

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Dave Smith Prophet 6 Synth: 6 Analog Voices, and a Dilemma

Never say never. Few would have imagined just a few short years ago that essentially all – not most, but all – the major 2015 electronic instrument news out of the annual NAMM trade show would come down to 70s-/early 80s-style analog synthesizers, in the form of keyboards and modular. Nor would you imagine two of the big names would still be Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith, alongside Korg and Moog. (Well, maybe Tom and Dave did – how ambitious were you three decades ago, gentlemen?) Certainly, no one ever expected to see the name Sequential Circuits again. But that’s …

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Everything You Need to Know About KORG’s Arp Odyssey Remake

KORG, having resurrected their own MS-20 monosynth, have now turned to another analog classic: the duophonic ARP Odyssey. We’ve known for some time that they would begin manufacturing a new edition of that in collaboration with its original creators. Now we know what it looks like, and what it’ll cost. If you already love the classic ARP Odyssey, there’s not much to say. KORG’s launch, in fact, focused on the ARP you know – the fact that its sound is something you recognize from songs. That’s partly an explanation of why such instruments deserve recreation. And the original holds up …

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Nintendo Game & Watch Inspires Tiny, $59 Synths from Teenage Engineering [CDM Hands-on]

“Pocket” is a term often used loosely to mean anything small. Not so the Teenage Engineering PO-12 series of instruments. They’re each literally small enough that you could put them in your jeans comfortably and still cram in your phone. We’ve got units from TE (and collaborator Cheap Monday) here at CDM, so let’s talk about what our wacky Stockholm friends have done this time. Remember Nintendo’s Game & Watch series? These business card-sized pocket games used crude but charming LCD animations, characters making jerky, repetitive movements for basic games. The ultra-cheap toy titles preceded the NES, the ingenious work …

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Moog’s Historic Big Modulars Return – You Say You Want a Resurrection?

Synthesizers are now old enough to become “classics,” to have a canonical form – much like the Steinway D in pianos or the Stradivarius violin. So, that leaves us a choice: do we make something new, even if fashioned out of the old, or do we reissue the historical instrument as it originally was? Answer: all of the above. At NAMM this week, I expect you can find representatives from the whole spectrum between past and future. But the company that more than any other has defined what it means to be a “classic” is now setting their time machine …

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How A Plug-in Recaptured the Robot Voices of Your Childhood

I’ve just gotten lost making my computer sing. And now I can’t stop. You see, a funny thing happened on the way to the future. As speech synthesis vastly improved, it also became vastly more boring. Intelligibility robbed synthesized words and singing of its alien quality, which was what made it sound futuristic in the first place. Chipspeech takes us back to speech synthesis as many of us remember it growing up. It’s weird-sounding, to be sure, to the point of sometimes being unable to understand the words. But it’s also loaded with character. And there’s a history here. To …

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The Original Speech Chip Is Coming To A New Plug-In

While everyone else worries about emulating the same synthesizers for the umpteenth time, Plogue have been lovingly recreating the greatest chip sounds of all time. They’ve done Chipsounds, the instrument, and Chipcrusher, the effect. And now, finally, your computer will sing to you – not just with any voice, but with the speech chip that launched them all. From computing to arcades to classic tracks, this legendary voice has echoed through the decades with an unmistakable sound. This is the first-ever commercially-available chip to include speech synthesis.

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Hear Beautiful, Melancholy Christmas Mixes from Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm is a gem in music right now, a sensitive and reflective voice. And infused into everything he does is an unwavering sense of taste. If you’re feeling the weight of the endless rotation of overplayed saccarine-sweet Christmas tunes, Nils can cure what ails you. For the second year in a row, he’s released an achingly mellow mix of favorites he’s dusted off from his vinyl collection. Curl up under the crackling analog fuzz of those records and settle in. Each has obvious touchstones of piano inspiration; last year’s he described as “your mobile campfire.” We have this year’s …

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Jeff Mills on Audiences, Techno’s “Who Cares If You Listen”

Techno legend Jeff Mills has a beautiful quote making the rounds on social media, responding to the question of audience. He’s still making music for them, he says – but doesn’t want to get pulled into simply giving them what he knows will work. Watch from about 8:30 for the video above, in its original context (a 2010 tugobot piece). It resonates for me with the Milton Babbitt’s “Who Cares if You Listen?” (That’s a title Babbitt claimed he never used; this is a tale so familiar to contemporary music that it has its own Wikipedia entry, for those of …

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The Berlin Wall Reimagined as a Brutal Sonic Portrait, in Sound and Time

SoundCloud has posted a somber memorial to the Berlin Wall, for the 25th anniversary. The concept is intriguing not only for its content, but also its form. The work uses time as a measurement of space – the duration sound would take to travel the length of the whole wall. In comments on SoundCloud, the 120 people who lost their lives are counted out in their fateful location. See the full description below. I’m curious to hear what readers think; my own preference would have been for an abstract interpretation rather than such literal, figurative sounds, but this is entirely …

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