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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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Grid Machine Slice: Custom Kontakt Sample Library, Gone Mad

I tend to tune out when it comes to sample libraries, but here’s one that takes the scripting capabilities of Native Instruments’ Kontakt sampler to extremes. The Grid Machine line developed by Lindon Parker (Channel Robot) and distributed by LoopMasters brings to Kontakt the sort of grid-based, sliced-up sample manipulation we’ve seen in the monome community and in custom tools in environments like Ableton Live and Renoise. Using KSP, the scripting environment in Kontakt, these produce entirely-custom instruments that cut, chop, stutter, reverse, mix, trigger, sub-loop, re-trigger, and modulate. You can change speed, mute, skip, reorder, and play patterns, and …

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Sound, the Final Frontier: Audio Collections as Planets in Space, Intelligently Related

Two spacey ways of finding media: music collections, heirarchy, and images of planets in Planetary for iPad, top. Sound and loop collections, “magnetic” relations, algorithmic categorization, and rapid torchlight auditioning in Soundtorch 2.0 for Windows, bottom. If your music and sound collections seem like outwardly-expanding universes, two new tools promise to bring order by representing media as virtual planets and stars. One works on albums and tracks on the iPad; the other uses computer-aided analysis of loops and samples (not just music) on Windows. One will make your eyeballs pop; one might help you manage gigs of samples for a …

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Native Instruments’ Razor Synth: Dubstep to Ambience, Free Tutorial and Loops

Native Instruments has a new synth based on the Reaktor engine, and it’s one about which to be genuinely excited. Taking additive synthesis to a new conceptual level, it works with the concept of per-partial control but adds functions like wavetables, enveloping, and effects to each partial individually. The result is a synth that gets sonically surprising in a hurry, and it represents the sort of multi-dimensional thinking I hope catches on in synthesis. In a step forward for Reaktor, this synth doesn’t just sound different – it looks different, too. Whereas incredible sonic creations have been hidden too often …

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Subcycle: Multitouch Sound Crunching with Gestures, 3D Waveforms

multi-touch the storm – interactive sound visuals – subcycle labs from christian bannister on Vimeo. What if you could mash, mangle, mush, and morph sounds with your fingers on a screen, watching the waveforms dance in response in three dimensions? That “what if” is expressed beautifully in a project by musician-developer Christian Bannister of Portland, Oregon, who works as Subcycle Labs. The result is like being able to touch sound directly. Three-dimensional forms morph and vibrate using visuals programmed in Processing, making architectural-organic shapes and spaces that really begin to “look” like sound. These forms can represent synthesis and effects …

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iPhone Gets New Groove Boxes: Is it Live Synthesis, or is it Canned?

The iPhone has become an almost absurdly-popular platform for music apps this year, even given more capable, more plentiful PCs. But to those who don’t yet “get” the appeal, talk to a mobile music addict: having the ability to be creatively musically in corners of time that would otherwise go unused, like a cramped bus ride, can be a beautiful thing. (Now, you start talking about taking away my PC/Mac experience, and I will start screaming in agony – but that’s a topic for a separate post.) The question is, what form should that app take? Today, I’ve got an …

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ParamDrum: Reaktor-Powered Drum Sequencer an Rx for Drum Variety

ParamDrum TR Edition from Peter Dines on Vimeo. Imagine a machine that lets you walk a thin line between control and chaos. You’ll be tweaking it, for sure – you’ll want to invest a sufficient amount of time shaping its sounds and adjusting its instruments to alter its flightpath. But once set in motion, it will give you variety and delicious insanity. That’s the idea behind Peter Dines’ ParamDrum, a Reaktor drum machine with granular goodies inside providing sample manipulation and a set of clear sequenced controls for adjusting parameters. The “Param” bit refers to the parameters you’ll control – …

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Audiomulch 2.0, Available Mac+PC; Live Patching Video with Hypnotic Guitar

AudioMulch 2.0 live patching screencast from AudioMulch on Vimeo. Wonderful things come from Australia. Developer Ross Bencina has released AudioMulch 2.0, the audio patching environment, now on both Mac and Windows. Audiomulch is all pretty in black now with a new UI. But why is it special? AudioMulch has always been distinguished in its quick workflow, its ready-to-use objects that allow sophisticated patches with relatively simple structures, and its idiosyncratic soundmakers. The Metasurface multi-parameter controller is also a favorite. The price is higher, which may scare away some – US$189, or $89 upgrade. There‚Äôs a 60-day trial that you can …

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Loops for Real Drummers: Musicianship, Technology Don’t Have to Compete

Loops have gotten an unfortunate reputation as being a stand-in for real musicians or real musicianship – perhaps because, too often, they are. That’s why it’s always refreshing to see a discussion of how looping can incorporate musical technique. Like many electronic musicians, I have zero background in drumming; I’m a keyboardist and was trained in Classical Piano. But then, part of the gift of being a composer is getting inside the heads of musicians who play instruments you can’t. And when it comes to understanding rhythm, there’s a limitless supply of work to explore from around the world. Ryan …

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