LegoTechno: Sliding Lego Blocks Make Music with littleBits, Maschine, Arduino

Keep watching: this LEGO sequencer, playing a littleBits synth kit, does something amazing. Sliding tiles around actually changes the sequence, all reading the blocks, in a terrific real-world, physical user interface. (Well, it certainly pleased the crowds at the Music Hack Day at SONAR in Barcelona.) And yes, this means the team we saw earlier keeps working on this. Intrepid hackers can use the just-barely-hidden Lua back-end of Maschine to do their own custom scripting. More on that soon. In the meantime, let’s check out the details:

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littlebitswide

littleBits Synth Kit Will Add USB Audio, CV, and MIDI; See Snap-Together Modular Live in NYC

littleBits has already won over some synth enthusiasts with snap-together modules you can combine via magnets, and a collaboration with KORG. But until now, the open source gizmos have been largely a world unto themselves. You could route audio in and out, but that’s it; any expansion was dependent on buying more littleBits modules. Over the course of this year, that will change. Already, there’s a US$36 Arduino module, opening up custom-coded functionality and computer connectivity. And by the end of the year, littleBits will add three modules that make the Synth Kit into more of a synth (or controller, …

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The Visualized Opera: Vitruvian Melds Dance, Digital with Operetta [unrender]

Get ready for the high Renaissance of the digital. The individual ingredients remain the same. But the threads of transmedia work, spanning everything from traditional costume design and choreography to the latest generative projections, draw ever closer. A new generation of artists treats projection in the theater as something elemental, something that demands exploration. Vitruvian, premiering its latest iteration in Berlin Friday as part of our event unrender with LEHRTER SIEBZEHN, has gradually evolved in the ways it interweaves dance with opera, projected visualization and interactive sound with dance theater. An “interactive opera” in one act, it unapologetically adds digital …

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BearAndSea

New Leaves: A Mix of 2013 Artists and Music to Inspire Your 2014

Ed.: If you, like those of us at CDM, find yourself again at the precipice of new musical possibilities, now is a wonderful time to get you bearings. It means as producers and music lovers that we try to find sounds not just to imitate or accept passively, but that can push us further. In German, there’s a wonderful New Year’s greeting that has no direct translation – “Guten Rutsch!” means literally a good “slide” into the new year. Matt Earp aka Kid Kameleon helps us navigate that slide, from the old to the new, that’s at the heart of …

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Grid Tricks: How Launchpad S Differs, Emulate Push with Launchpad, 11 Launchpad Display, More

Life on the grid gets better and better. Yes, these blinky, lighty arrays of squares do continue to proliferate. But musicians are also hacking away to make them more useful. And they do that with perhaps nothing as much as the Novation Launchpad, a kind of workhorse of the grid world. While one of the simpler grid controllers available, Novation’s hardware is also uniquely affordable – and uniquely rugged, standing up to plenty of abuse. Here, we get to see how the Launchpad S differs from the original, how both Launchpads can emulate Ableton’s flashy-new Push, and what happens when …

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Deconstructed Dance Floor: EVOL’s Strange Experiments with Light, Sound, and Acid

For all the years of “classical” electronic music performance from academia, the experience of entering a club or dance music program can be awfully avant garde and surreal. There’s a barrage of sensory input – flashing lights, strange, repetitive sounds. The Spanish/British duo Roc JimĂ©nez de Cisneros and Stephen Sharp, aka EVOL, have taken that feeling to its extreme. And the results are weird, wonderful fun. (The two play Berlin Thursday night at N.K. on a diverse program including Chris Douglas and Bill Kouligas; N.K. is one of Europe’s most consistent venues for electronic experimentalism, and somehow will keep feeding …

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Begone, Mouse: The Latest Upcoming Ableton Live Touch Controllers [Gallery]

The “live” in Ableton Live suggests making musical decisions in real time – not slowly with painstaking editing, stopping and editing and drawing, but as you listen and work. But while the onscreen interface is built around the mouse, and the precision of the mouse, focusing on those settings in performance, DJing, or studio work really wants something else. So, you have two choices. One is to use external physical control, like a conventional MIDI controller or the just-released Ableton Push. And that works very well for many people. Or, you can use a touchscreen. The advantages of the screen …

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Redefining Architecture, in a Dance of Lasers

We live in an age in which the art of architecture and the art of light have come into close duet. One such example is the 2012 project Blau, receipient of a 2013 Ars Electronic nod. As the creators describe it, time here enters three dimensional architectural space, lasers outlining a close choreography of sound as projected into spatial volume. Run by custom hardware, motors move the emitters and trace the space in beams of light, moments in the music cueing geometries. Blaus from Playmodes on Vimeo. But it isn’t just architecture responding to music. The creators say the dimensions …

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Bhoreal Makes Grids Color, Open, Controls Robots and Lasers; Final Hours of Funding

BHOREAL gets ready from MID New Media Design on Vimeo. It’s been almost a decade since the monome first began making appearances. Now, grids are everywhere – and that raises the question, where will the next innovation come from? What’s exciting about Bhoreal is that, far from simply cloning the monome, it realizes potential frontiers that the original monome couldn’t. And as Bhoreal reaches the final hours of crowd funding, the last chance to be first in line for the first hardware, it’s performing a lot of tricks to show off. Think lasers and robots. See the video at top …

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Cascading Topologies of Data, in 3D Surface and Projection Mapping

Yota Devices / Scenarios from onionlab on Vimeo. Beyond the tired repetition of look-alike work, collaborations between areas like architecture and visual design really can light up our cities in new ways. I spent some time today touring the Fab Lab Barcelona, a multi-disciplinary fabrication studio peopled by experts in architecture and design. What’s special about this space to me is not only the well-stocked array of tools, but a commitment to applying technology to new contexts. The campaign just wrapped up yesterday on a crowd-funded sensor board that will provide intelligent environmental data from around the world, called Smart …

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