Four Tet Walks Through His Unique Live Rig for Red Bull Music Academy [Video]

Playing with laptops can become performative in conventional ways, just by adding instruments – voice, guitar, live drums, ukelele, or whatever it is you play. But it becomes more mysterious in the hybrid performance media that emerge from “playing” the arrangement directly, manipulating the larger bits of a track in the form of stems and samples. That can be really boring – the “press play” approach – or it can begin to embody an artist’s musical imagination. They can improvise with the composition. You’ll want to make sure you don’t tune out early in this video with Four Tet, shot …

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Google Glass Ensemble: Viola Composition Made in Glass Videos

Alexander Chen is turning into Google’s resident composer. In his latest experiment, he uses the controversial-but-buzzed-about Google Glass wearable tech as a video source for making music. Layering together a series of loops of his solo viola playing, he weaves a contemplative, modal composition. It’s a sort of overdubbed chamber ensemble in video. (The spare, parallel writing is to me reminiscent of a Copland string quartet.) There’s nothing here that couldn’t be done with a head-mounted camera, but perhaps that’s the lesson. In our camera sensor-filled lives, a big part of the design statement Glass makes is the vision of …

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Push, In-Depth Test: What’s it Like Playing The New Hardware from Ableton?

When Ableton Live was first released over ten years ago, it was labeled a “sequencing instrument.” The radical idea was that you could “play” your production tool, which had (and has) big implications in studios, at home, and onstage. “Playing” with a mouse and keyboard is unsatisfying for most, so even that relatively primitive first version had MIDI controller mapping. In the intervening decade-plus timespan, musicians have found a variety of ways to connect their hands and bodies to the software model of music contained in their laptops. They’ve constructed massive custom hardware (DJ Sasha’s Maven and Robert Henke’s Monodeck …

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With Advanced MIDI Controls, Radial Loopseque App on iPad Gets More Interesting

In a world of $5 apps and no upgrade fees, the fear of abandonware casts its shadow on the otherwise lush gardens of the App Store. (The spectre was raised just yesterday by iMaschine lovers eager for new functionality.) Here’s a terrific counter-example. Loopseque was a compelling app when released; we covered its launch and design in 2010, complete with one of my favorite images from an iOS story on CDM, impromptu ballpoint-pen sketches of its circular interface. Loopseque hasn’t just gotten updates. It’s gotten MIDI functionality so rich that it could be worth a second look, even if you …

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Novation Puts Launchpad in a Keyboard, Makes iPad Apps Part of the Experience [Q+A]

What should a keyboard controller do for you in 2013? Should you plug it into Ableton Live and get colored control of clips? Or leave the laptop at home and use it with an iPad for synths and loops? Novation takes on both those ideas in their latest offering. Back in fall 2009, CDM was the first to get a hands-on with Novation’s Launchpad. At the time, this was big news. Grid controllers had gained popularity in the handcrafted, niche monome community, but hardware built just for Ableton Live with an integrated, light-up grid was something novel. Maschine, Push, and …

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Sneak-Thief’s Sneaquencer is a DIY Monster, Dream Hardware for Performance [Open Source Music]

You can dream of something, you can complain about it on forums, or you can do it. Sneak-Thief, aka Michel Morin, is a doer. And what’s great about him is that he doesn’t just produce geeky, obsessive hardware – he has the musical chops to match. He can wrangle his own hardware, coding in C, but he can also make people dance. Designing hardware isn’t just an exercise in doing something because he can – it’s part of his musical expression, the line between his ideas and reality. Talking to Michel about what he’s done, he really focuses on his …

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Weekend Listening: Kishi Bashi Shows the Simple, Elegant Art of Looping

For all the sophisticated synthesis and remix tools out there, for a lot of musicians, the best thing sound technology can do is just give them a way to record and play. Looping is a simple technique – it involves recording a snippet of sound, playing it back, and then adding layers. But used masterfully, it can become transformative, producing rhythms and layers and letting solo artists accompany themselves. “How do I get started looping?” is a question I hear from a lot of musicians, particularly those who are already expressive with their instruments and voice. There’s a technical answer …

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Like a Wheel Within a Wheel: Beautiful Optical Turntables Generate Spinning Rhythms

Music is deeply tied up with motion; seeing that in a machine is somehow satisfying. Soundmachines, from the enigmatically-titled Berlin studio TheProduct*, is an interactive physical installation made from optical turntables. By moving the “tone arm” – really in this case an optical sensor attached to an extended mount – you can change rhythms and sound sweeps. We’ve naturally seen many visualizations, tangible and digital, that make loops into wheels. But it’s worth noting the particular connection to a kinetic experiment by The Books’ Nick Zammuto from the film earlier this week. In fact, my one criticism of this piece …

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DJing, Decks, and a Grid of Samples: NI’s New Take on Traktor

What should DJing software look like, anyway? It’s just a teaser, but for once, the idea is simple, straightforward, and clear. Native Instruments have taken their DJ software, Traktor, and combined it with a grid of pads for sample triggering and loops. The upcoming hardware/software combination we expect later this spring. At the risk of stating the obvious, what’s significant about adding loop triggering to any DJ set is that you can more easily move beyond playing and mixing tracks. Even without drum machines, this kind of manipulation is part of the grand tradition of DJing, made all the more …

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Shuffling, Slicing, and Glitching Audio, and Other Modular Max for Live Devices

For fans of slicing, dicing, glitching, reversing, and shuffling incoming audio streams, this Max for Live Device is for you. Shuffler 2.0 is the latest in a series of “modular” Max for Live devices from developer Isotonik Studios. Mappable to MIDI, the suite of Devices focuses on simpler tasks in ways that can be combined. There are interactive Follow Actions, for instance — a feature I’ve long argued should be native to Ableton Live — plus tools for more easily mapping MIDI to envelopes. There’s a convenient Looper. From last week, there’s a module called Smart, capable of mapping some …

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