Teaser: Synplant, a Genetic, Morphing Soft Synth from Magnus Lidström

I’ve had the weekend to begin working with Sonic Charge Synplant, a wonderful new synth creation from Magnus Lidström. Lidström is a Propellerhead veteran best known for creating Reason’s Malström synth. But while Lidström has made a name in sound, I have to say, Synplant is something very, very different. Partly because of the user interface, partly because of the strange and mysterious sounds that emerge, Synplant makes you feel like you’re on an episode of Star Trek – like you’ve smuggled some alien vegetation after shore leave and are squeezing its leafy bits so it makes odd sounds. (Watch …

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Touching Reaktor, with Touchscreen Laptop, Touch Projections

Having looked at two examples of what the Lemur multi-touch hardware can do, the videos above illustrate directly what I’m talking about when I describe two different approaches. Metrognome is an insanely-talented guru in the modular instrument/effects-building environment Reaktor. He’s working to build new live performance tools that meld live arrangement / remixing / DJing with a kind of computer meta-instrument. It’s really a great illustration of how software can become a live instrument. It also represents one of two paths in thinking about what touch can do for live music performance. 1. Multi-touch as virtual controller: The Lemur’s design …

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Circle Synth is Here: New Instrument Built Around Flow

We’ve been lucky enough to break the story of Circle, a new soft synth with a creative user interface, and to take you behind the scenes of its creators thinking process in creating the software. But maybe you don’t buy into the idea of a synth that focuses on flow and working method, or its wave morphing, modulation and effects, and quick MIDI learn features. Well, now you can give Circle a try for yourself, because it’s publicly available: Future Audio Workshop Circle It’s obviously something a lot of people are eagerly anticipating, because, having missed the announcement only by …

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Back to the Future: 1962 Graphic User Interface Still Looks Fresh

Want more evidence that tradition in user interfaces has blinded us to the possibilities for making graphics fluid and intuitive? Just look at the first known GUI, Dr. Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad. His 1962 PhD thesis at MIT, Sketchpad represents a whole bundle of firsts: the first object-oriented programming project, the first use of a toolbar, the first real-time graphics system, the first drawing program, the first GUI, the first use of instances, the first use of draggable vector graphics … and yet, that’s not what’s impressive about this. What’s really impressive is that the work of this one man still …

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Faux Quartz Composer in Java, for Cross-Platform Nodal Visuals: Bean Machine

It’s still early in development (read: it often crashes), but The Bean Machine applies nodal, patch-based development to Java. The interface is mysteriously close to Quartz Composer, down to capabilities, UI, and even the 3D cube tutorial. Personally, I use Java because it can do things Quartz Composer can’t, but it’s interesting nonetheless — and raises, again, the question of why we don’t see more tools that try to meld the capabilities of code and patches. The cool bit: nodes are Java Beans, so you really could use this to combine the best of both worlds if it matures. No …

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First Max 5 Preview: Music Patching, the Next Generation?

Not just skin deep: Changing the Max interface should make it easier and faster to produce patches for beginners and advanced users alike. What’s this new Max about, and why was it such a big deal at the AES trade show? To really understand, let’s turn to gaming for a moment. When Nintendo described their vision for the Wii, they talked about appealing to three groups of customers: The “hard-core” gamer; that is, their existing audience, of course “Lapsed” gamers: people who had done some gaming at some point but lost interest Entirely new gamers, across a variety of demographics …

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Gadget Lust? Down with Upravlator; Give us Chumby!

The blogosphere this week is all abuzz about the supposedly desire-inducing Upravlator. The awkwardly-named hardware comes from Art Lebedev, the mysterious designer who first promised the Optimus Keyboard, a unique “design concept” with tiny color displays under each key. That indeed sounds cool, but instead, after months of delays and promises, the shipping product turned out to be the Optimus Three, with three little displays that double as buttons. Full keyboard with displays: interesting. Three display buttons with no real function: erm? Instead of spending about US$150 on an Optimus Three, why not a Nintendo DS Lite? Which do you …

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Ableton Live 6 Crossfader Curves, and 100 Years of DJ History

The way it was: Philip LeBash in the early days of modern DJing; see the complete LeBash history, interview, and images at DJ’s Portal. Technology and music have always had dynamic, changing, intertwined histories. It’s easy to forget that we’re in the middle of that history, both in terms of the now ubiquitous practices of DJs and the mind-numbing progression of software updates. I recently got to chat with Ableton’s David Cross about the new crossfader curves in Live 6, and we wound up talking more generally and philosophically about crossfaders, how they’re designed, and how they evolved. Crossfaders are …

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KVR Contest: Developers Get Prize Money, You Get Free Music Plug-Ins with Unusual Interfaces

Music-making in the age of ElectroPlankton: colliding organisms and physics may be just as likely on your plug-in interface as the usual fake-aluminum knobs. NuSofting’s Collide and Play. Johan Larsby points us to a developer contest at the mind-bogglingly comprehensive audio plug-in site, KVR Audio: KVR Audio Developer Challenge Developers are competing for a prize fund donated by readers and users, currently up to US$1770 (probably more than you’d make from a small plug). Developer entries are currently closed, but that means voting is on. There are 31 entries; the contest is pretty Windows-biased with only 5 Mac-compatible entries, which …

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AutoTune 5: Graphical Input, Microtonal Tunings, Pen Tablet Input, Beat Sync

Yes, now not only will Jessica Simpson be able to sing in tune, she’ll be able to be tuned to an Indonesian pelog scale! AutoTune, the ubiquitous and now pretty ridiculously powerful tuning software, has some major new improvements in AutoTune 5. Central to the upgrade is a graphical mode that lets you draw pitch envelopes over a representation of the detected pitch. Here’s where things start to get interesting: the developers at AutoTune have added pen tablet input, so you can hook up your Wacom tablet, polish off your drawing skills, and perform either subtle tweaks or expressive, experimental …

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