The Most From Free Software: Book Review, Getting Things Made, Un-Procrastination

Is it time to get a round tuit? Photo (CC-BY-ND) Denise Mattox. For this book review, we welcome guest writer Andy Farnell, who himself has a terrific book on interactive sound design and free modular patching environment Pure Data, entitled Designing Sound. It began as a review of a book on using free software – but it could be, more than that, a chance to fight procrastination. And while this runs the gamut, including graphics and design and not just sound, that could be even more relevant to those of us who need to delve into those other areas for …

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Record as Record Player: DIY Turntable, Donuts for Serato in New Releases

Record giant Universal Music Group is cutting prices on the CD, as analysts clamor for still-lower prices. But as for actual records – the kind made of vinyl – odder and odder innovations flourish. If the CD is dying, the vinyl record is an undead, sexually-alluring vampire. Two recent releases not only treat the record as “delivery mechanism,” but also tools for playing the record. The late hip hop great J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) gets a well-deserved tribute from his label Stones Throw, complete with some fantastic, unreleased instrumentals (“Safety Dance”, “Sycamore”, “Bars & Twists,” and remastered cuts for …

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Extended Through Friday: One Button Objects Call

You have until Friday to change the way we think about buttons. We live in the age of multi-touch, of sophisticated GPS and accelerometers tracking gestures, of augmented reality and $100 computers. In other words, it’s the perfect time to meditate on the lowly button. And as visualists and designers, you have a unique relationship to buttons and the digital worlds they control. I can’t wait to assemble the results of the One Button Game Objects show, opening at Gray Area Foundation in San Francisco with the collaboration of CDM and gaming collective Kokoromi. I’ve already seen fascinating contributions that …

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Back to the Future: Save an Old Laptop, Make it a Music Workstation

Computers can have longevity as musical instruments, but it takes a little extra effort. (CC-BY-NC-SA) Bill Van Loo. Computers and computer software can have as much or even more longevity than traditional music hardware – that is, if elements like copy protection don’t intervene first. As a postscript to the discussion last week, prompted by a new software release for the Apple II, here’s a report from our friend Bill Van Loo. He was able to make a productive little workstation out of an old iBook (500Mhz), with access to Reaktor Session instruments and an Apple electric piano now gone. …

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DIY MIDI In, MIDI Out For Your Gear: New Kits from HighlyLiquid

MIDI control of analog devices from Michael Una on Vimeo. John at HighlyLiquid has been busy this year- he’s got a new kit out and one in the works that really step up the game. You may be familiar with his previous kits, which add MIDI control to Speak & Spell, Atari 2600, or pretty much every Casio. HighlyLiquid also stocks more open-ended kits which can add MIDI control to pretty much anything- I used one in my MAKE Magazine article last year to build a drum-playing robot.

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Mod the $50 SX-150 for MIDI: Instructions + Code

Photo via Flickr courtesy (C) MrBook aka heurtubia aka Hector Urtubia. A $50 synth that makes neat noises is fun. But a $50 synth that has a proper housing, audio jacks, and can be MIDI controlled — that’s a whole lot better. So readers were wowed last week as we saw the work MrBook did with his Gakken SX-150. Now, by popular demand, MrBook shares his techniques with specs, instructions, and code. This isn’t a bad project to get started with if you’ve been thinking of doing something on these lines. The basic ingredients and process: Find the connections on …

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$50 Gakken Synth Kit Meets MIDI, Ableton Live

Via Collin Cunningham at MAKE, MrBook has a lovely rig with a modified Gakken SX-150, the synth kit that sells for US$50 in the States and has even been seen as a free add-in with Japanese magazines. He’s added MIDI control and a digital audio converter, and put it into a housing, which makes for a quite-playable instrument. Really terrific work! Of course, a few thoughts: We need an OSC-compatible synth. (Anyone out there?) I love you, Live, but this looks like a perfect job for Numerology (for its modular sequencing) or Renoise (for tracking). Looks like more controls would …

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Wireless MIDI Hack: XBee + MIDI Hardware = No Wires

Interested in experimenting with MIDI, minus the wires? Why not try a DIY hack yourself? Limor Fried aka Lady Ada of Adafruit Industries has posted a detailed tutorial on transmitting MIDI over the inexpensive and relatively friendly XBee wireless module. It’s a bit of a hack – you force the XBee to communicate at MIDI baud rate, and on Windows, at least, you have to fool the OS into using MIDI’s non-standard baud rate for serial communications. But it seems to work. That’s where you come in: Limor’s got some folks testing this, but we could use some additional real-world …

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Handmade Music March Noise and Mayhem Recap; Call for Stuff Next Thursday

Wonderful things happen when you invite lovers of noise together in a room. Musicians and non-musicians, electronics geeks and first-timers, folks pick up a soldering iron — often for the first time — and cause utter mayhem. So we again had a fantastic time at Handmade Music last month. I’ve just gotten the photos in, so decided to share. We’re looking for folks to bring stuff to Handmade Music on 4/16 – see the bottom of the article and give us a shout if you have software or hardware creations to share. They don’t even have to work, entirely – …

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Make:TV Meets Stanford Musical Inventors, Feedback Piano

Maker Profile – Computer Making Music on Make: television from make magazine on Vimeo. Make:Television has done a really lovely piece on CCRMA, the research center at Stanford University that works on problems ranging from acoustics and sound to musical instrument design. CCRMA is really just one microcosm of the whole music tech making scene around the world – a lot of increasingly beyond the walls of academia. But what a microcosm it is: I don’t think it’s understatement to say this is just the kind of institution a lot of us dream of. Among the highlights from the MAKE …

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