gameboy_micro

Steve Reich played on Game Boys is mesmerizing

Steve Reich’s exploration of rhythm and phase take on special meaning in the age of ubiquitous electronic instruments. What started with clapping, with pianos and marimbas, and tape loops doubles now as a way of thinking about machine rhythm, too. Hearing Reich on Game Boys here isn’t just a novelty. It feels like a real re-instrumentation – Wendy Carlos’ Switched on Bach approach for the Mario Bros. generation. Listen & watch (it’s all live):

READ MORE →
rhythmiconcrop

Music and math unite, from Chowning to Rhythmicon

You have to love German. In English, I can string together whole paragraphs that try and fail to capture the potential of electronic sound. In German, we get to call an event Technosphärenklänge – a word whose utterance is a timbral adventure in itself. And in an event with that name promising to be a landmark for the electronic music sphere, CTM Festival is bringing together pioneering machines and pioneering humans. It’s a convergence of the worlds of mathematics and music that has never happened in this combination on one stage before – and we’ll take you there.

READ MORE →
Steinway Model D. Photo courtesy Steinway & Sons.

These piano breakthroughs changed music forever

Yesterday was Piano Day – a day recently christened by composer/pianist Nils Frahm in order to celebrate that ubiquitous keyboard instrument. (It’s held on the eighty-eighth day of the year.) There are concerts, marathons, project, releases – and unlike Record Store Day, this event won’t clog the ability to produce piano music. With that day as inspiration, I thought it was a good moment to look at some of the technology of and around the piano, to understand what has made this instrument special. That includes both strictly acoustic innovations as well as design features and breakthroughs that either inspired …

READ MORE →
theremin_collage

Read the article Bob Moog wrote when he met Leon Theremin

It’s hard to imagine what the evolution of the synthesizer would have been without Leon Theremin. For one, it was Theremin’s invention that first captivated Robert Moog. Theremin kits were Dr. Moog’s first product and many would say, his first electronic instrumental love. That impact was significant, too, on a whole generation – actually, even my own father made building a kit Theremin one of his early experiences with electronics. The fall of the Soviet Union still has ripples felt in the electronic music world today. And surely there’s no more poignant moment in the intertwining of post-Cold War history …

READ MORE →
eyewitnessnews

Watch a 1986 TV story on house music, plus too many documentaries

In our last episode of “watching things on the Internet instead of doing real work,” we were enjoying a full-length 90s electronic music documentary and a bunch of music videos. Well, here we are at yet another weekend. And hopefully we can give you some video watching pleasure yet again, in those moments when you aren’t, well, hopefully, making music. Leading the pack is a 1986 story from Chicago TV news back when house music was in its early days, as spotted by Dancing Astronauts. And it’s an astounding document, featuring Danny “Sweet-D” Wilson, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Steve “Silk” Hurley, …

READ MORE →
modulations

Watch a full-length electronic documentary from the 90s, and more free videos

America’s on-again, off-again love affair with electronic music – often, with idioms it helped create – is endlessly full of unexpected twists and turns. But all this bears examining. For some, it’s a journey back to the music that first inspired them. For others, it’s a chance to learn, perhaps, how where music has been might help lead to where it’s going. It’s a chance not just to repeat electronic music past, but go beyond it. And if you’re looking for something to entertain you this weekend, you could do worse than Modulations, a documentary from 1998. Back then, it …

READ MORE →
light_show_0

Watch the Clavilux, an ethereal light organ from 100 years ago

Long before trippy visualizers and computer animation, before liquid light shows or laser parties, Thomas Wilfred was building organs for visuals. He called the art they produced Lumia, and the instrument Clavilux – a keyboard for light. That first instrument was built all the way back in 1919. But unlike a lot of the spectacles of the era, this one is still hypnotic today, even after all the advances of cinema and computing. Drawing on a tradition that included displays of fire and fireworks, and the ability to place sound “at the command of a skilled player at a piano,” …

READ MORE →
pierreschaeffer_grm

If you use samples, then wish Pierre Schaeffer a happy birthday

It’s French composer Pierre Schaeffer’s birthday, and if you’re using any form of sampling, it’s worth pausing to remember him. At 105 years of age, he’s more relevant than ever. Listen, to his Cinq études de bruits : Étude aux chemins de fer. Amazingly, this 1948 piece (made when my Mom was born) sounds like it’d still be a good listen on SoundCloud today (thanks, Yuri Spitsyn):

READ MORE →
robert_hood

Techno innovator Robert Hood tears up as he recalls younger self

It’s easy to look at music’s superstars, the people on pedestals – regardless of genre – and see them as something beyond human. Yet the reality for most musicians, the lifeblood of what making music is, is people who are vulnerable. It’s wrapped up in the human experience. The thing is, we don’t always get to see famous artists go off-script, especially when getting personal. But that’s what happens in a moving interview with Robert Hood at RBMA Tokyo last year, posted yesterday to their Twitter feed. Robert Hood has been a seminal figure in techno across several decades, still …

READ MORE →
IDOW Gear 6 (Eurorack)

I Dream of Wires Doc Gets Premiere; Here are Pics and Facts

The modular synthesizer, that wild animal covered in wires, has seen its once-endangered populations flourish and its revival in full swing. And now, it has its own movie. Some years now in anticipation, and with limited screenings here and there at film festivals, I Dream of Wires gets a wide release. The film is surely a landmark, but the launch is likely to be, too, bringing one of the modular synth’s greatest composers (Morton Subotnick) back to Berlin, Germany for a gala release performance, joined by video artist Lillevan. Mr. Subotnick is a rare figure, having made an impact not …

READ MORE →