The new Jaguar cars sound like spaceships, thanks to Richard Devine

Music, film/TV, games… yes. But another frontier is opening for sound design you might not expect: cars. That has led automaker Jaguar to sound designer Richard Devine, and that in turn means when this Jag accelerates, it sounds like it’s headed into hyperdrive, bound for the outer rim.

Sounds will be another differentiation point of the auto brand experience, a way to set luxury vehicles apart, it’s true. But when it comes to engine noise, there is actually a safety issue. Fully electric cars don’t make the noise that internal combustion engines do, which means you can’t hear them coming – which makes them dangerous.

The cool thing is, manufacturers are finally beginning to consider aesthetics in sound design. And in a world that’s flooded with repetitions of the Windows startup sound, that Nokia theme tune (only mostly driven away by the iPhone), horrible sirens, beeps, and whatnot, this couldn’t come a moment too soon.

Richard Devine has been doing sound design across various industries, from sounds used in films to strange presets you find lurking in your plug-ins (as well as making some great music himself). Now at last he can share publicly that he did sound for the mighty Jaguar, and its all-electric I‑PACE car.

The design team at Jag get to crow about their work in a company blog post:
https://www.jaguar.co.uk/about-jaguar/jaguar-stories/i-pace-design-secrets.html

Here’s how the external sound system works:

The engine acceleration noise is cool, and with good reason – this car may be ecologically minded, but it also does 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds. (I’m not advertising for Jaguar, though… uh, hey Jag, I accept money. And automobiles. Be in touch.)

Engage:

Iain Suffield, Acoustics Technical Specialist at Jaguar:
“We have taken a completely blank canvas and worked with electronic musician and sound designer Richard Devine to interpret the design language of the vehicle, to create building blocks of sound we can craft into the I-PACE.”

And they’ve worked on every aspect of the sound: “The Stop/Start noise of the motors, the audible vehicle alert system, the dynamic driving sounds all have been designed completely from scratch.”

From the outside, the car hums. Inside the cabin, you get different sound sets to reward you as you engage “dynamic” mode, and there is manual customization. (Yes, your car has sound sets. I’m waiting until I can drive a car that looks like a LADA on the outside but sounds like the Enterprise-D on the inside. I’ll keep dreaming.)

You can expect major car companies to enlist these sorts of sound departments more frequently, along with other manufacturers of various products keen to engage customers. And since these teams are developing internally, as well as hiring outside creative talent as with Richard Devine, that means more opportunities for music producers and audio engineers.

So the next time you’re obsessing over getting a sound right and layering instead of just dialing in a preset the easy way, think of it as a career investment. It worked for Richard.

Previously on CDM, German maker Audi following a similar path:

Designing the Sound of a Real Car: An Audi, from Silence to Noise [Video]

Plus a homebrewed solution for bicycles:

Velosynth: Bicycle-Mounted Synth is Open Source, Hackable, Potentially Useful

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Detunized releases Fiat Panda car sound library

Detunized Fiat PandaDetunized has announced the release of Fiat Panda, Type 169, a sound library featuring a collection of sounds recorded and edited by Stephan Marche. Fiat Panda 169 library delivers vehicle sounds of a usual mass production car. The featured model was manufactured in late 2009 and has run about 40.000 miles at the time of […]

Get the sounds of Formula 1 with new ambience library by U.S.O.

USO Monaco Grand Prix 2018Unidentified Sound Object has announced the release of Monaco Grand Prix 2018, a Formula 1 race ambience library that offers a genuine sonic document of the 76th edition of the Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco, the world’s most glamorous race. If you’re looking for unique and modern race engine sounds and ambiences to use in […]

There’s a synth symphony for 100 cars coming, based on tuning

100 cars, 100 sound systems, 100 different versions of the pitch A: Ryoji Ikeda has one heck of a polyphonic automobile synthesizer coming.

The project is also the first new hardware from Tatsuya Takahashi after the engineer/designer stepped down from his role heading up the analog gear division at KORG. And so from the man who saw the release of products like the KORG volca series and Minilogue during his tenure, we get something really rather different: a bunch of oscillators connected to cars to produce sound art.

Tats teams up for this project with Maximilian Rest, the man behind boutique maker E-RM, who has proven his obsessive-compulsive engineering chops on their Multiclock.

And wow, that industrial design. From big factories to small run (100 units), Tats has come a long way – and this is the most beautiful design I’ve seen yet from Max and E-RM. It’s a drool-worthy design fetish object recalling Dieter Rams and Braun.

I spoke briefly to Tatsuya to get some background on the project, though the details will be revealed in the performance in Los Angeles and by Red Bull Music Academy.

The original hardware is simple. In almost a throwback to the earliest days of electronic music, the boxes themselves are just tone generators. Those controls you see on the panel determine octave and volume. Before the performance, details on the execution are a bit guarded, but this sounds like just the sort of simple box that would perfectly match Max’s insanely perfectionist approach.

What makes this tone generator special is, there are a hundred of them, each hooked up to one of one hundred cars.

Yeah, you heard right: we’re talking massively polyphonic, art-y ghetto blasting. The organizers say the cars were selected for their unique audio systems. (Now, that’s my way of being a car fan.) Car owners even contributed special cars to the symphony, making this an auto show cum sound happening, evidently both in an installation and performance.

One hundred cars tuned to the same frequency would sound like … well, phase cancellation. So each oscillator is tuned to a different frequency, in a kind of museum of what the note “A” has been over the years. The reality is, we’re probably hearing a whole lot of classical music in the “wrong” key, because the tuning of A was only in standardized in the past century. (Even today, A=440Hz and A=442Hz compete in symphonies, with A=440Hz is the most common in general use, and near-universal in electronic music.)

That huge range is part of why any discussions of the “mathematically pure” or “healing” 432 Hz is, well, nonsense. (I can deal with that some time if you really want, but let’s for now file it under “weird things you can read on the Internet,” alongside the flat Earth.)

Once you get away from the modern blandness of everything being 440 Hz, or the pseudo-science weirdness of the 432 Hz cult, you can discover all sorts of interesting variety. For instance, one of the oscillators in the performance is tuned to this:

A = 376.3Hz
*1700 : Pitch taken by Delezenne from an old dilapidated organ of l’Hospice Comtesse, Lille, France

Hey, who’s to say that particular organ isn’t the one “tuned to the natural frequency of the universe”?

You’ll get all those frequencies in some huge, wondrous cacophony if you’re lucky enough to be in LA for the performance.

It’s presented as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Music Festival, October 15. (I have no idea how you’d evaluate the claim that this is the largest-ever symphony orchestra, though with one hundred cars, it’s probably the heaviest! If anyone has historical ideas on that, I’m all ears.)

And of course, it’s in the perfect place for a piece about cars: Los Angeles. Wish I were there; let us know how it is!

https://la.redbullmusicacademy.com/event/ryoji-ikeda-a-for-100-cars

Photo credit: Carys Huws for RBMA.

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Xils-Lab vollpolyphoner Polymoog für alle!

Xils-Lab PolyM

Der Polymoog ist anfällig, groß aber auch besonders. Wieso gab es davon bisher eigentlich nie irgendeine Software-Emulation? Jetzt ist sie da.

Kein Geringerer als Arturia-Gründer Xavier Oudin hat mit seiner Firma Xils-Lab so viele Emulationen gebaut und sich teilweise auch an exotischere Instrumente gewagt. Nun erscheint mit dem PolyM der Polymoog, der mit den beiden Panels übereinander sogar schöner aussieht als mit einem sehr breiten schmalen Bedienfeld.

Der Klang des Polymoog ist bekannt von Musikern wie Gary Numan oder Kraftwerk, die ihn beide auf der Bühne und im Studio eingesetzt haben. Die Besonderheit beim Polymoog ist die vollständige Polyphonie. Das war damals durch die von den Orgeln stammende Frequenzteiler-Schaltung möglich. Damals wie heute war und ist die Hardware etwas anfällig und aufwendig – da ist eine Software-Version sicher eine gute Idee. Weshalb mag das so lange gedauert haben?

Das berühmte Preset aus “Cars” ist lustigerweise gar nicht so ein mächtiges Beispiel, das extrem viele Töne gleichzeitig erklingen lässt. Dennoch hat es bisher keine Hardware geschafft hat, einen Klassiker faktisch ohne Limit von Stimmen herzustellen. In Software gibt es allerdings diesen Trend durchaus.

Der Resonator im Polymoog ist neben dem sonst noch vorhandenen Moog-Filer, welches aber nicht für jede Note da ist, sondern nur “ein Mal für alle”, ein wichtiger Baustein. Der Resonator ist eine Gruppe von Filtern, die ebenfalls einen Flächenklang “vorbiegen” kann und sollte und den Aufwand, so viele Filter und Resonatoren wie Tasten zu verbauen, verhindern können. Das wäre etwas, was eine Software durchaus machen könnte. Dennoch Xils-Lab PolyM einfach eine Simulation des Orginals mit einigen kleinen Extras. Es sieht trotzdem echt gut aus mit diesen zwei Fader-Reihen.

Und so klingt es:

Car Stereo Done Right: with a 303 and a 606 Playing Acid

Remember the days when we had “car phones” permanently mounted in our automobiles, and we listened to cassette tapes? Ha – how dated. Now, we do things properly: adding a Roland TR-606 and TB-303 to the dashboard so we can make acid while we drive.

No, I’m not entirely certain you want your insurance company to know about this. (Even less so if they’re unfamiliar of the usage of the word “acid” in this context.)

Via the Facebook page of muno.pl, the excellent Polish electronic music/club site.

Totally obligatory:

yodawg

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Pioneer DJ Got Sold So Pioneer Can Focus on Cars, and the DJ Division Can Keep Growing

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Spin off those spinning CDJs. Pioneer DJ is now a separate company, sold to an equity firm in New York at the price of roughly US$551 Million.

Pioneer Corp in its past form was diversified in the old-fashioned model of Japanese brands. So, yes, it made the mixer and the CD player in your discotheque … but also your car stereo, and iPod docks, and earbuds, and a system for monitoring your cycling activities while you pedal bicycles, and it put its name on all of them. (This is the same country where the Yamaha brand is on both jetskis and grand pianos, after all.)

Now, that changes. Pioneer already dumped the home audio-video business to an Asian private equity firm (controlling stake), splitting the rest with Onkyo. Next, Pioneer Corp is divesting the bit we care about: Pioneer DJ. So yes, your DJM mixers and CDJs – and soon new turntables – get made by one company, in the DJ business. Pioneer Corp meanwhile focuses on car stereos.

The timing comes at an interesting time; Pioneer DJ is celebrating its 20th anniversary. But can you read some sort of deeper meaning into what’s happening in digital DJing? Not necessarily, no. The company is healthy and from your perspective as a Pioneer user, nothing much is likely to change visibly.

Instead, this appears to be what happens when Japanese conglomerates decide to focus. And that leaves an American equity firm in this case to snap up the business and try to make money as it grows.

The buyer is none other than Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), the leveraged buyout company made famous by Barbarians at the Gate, a book that chronicled the dramatic story of KKR’s attempted purchase of RJR Nabisco. Yes, that’s RJ Reynolds, the tobacco folks, and Nabisco, the snack people. See also Altria: the 80s were all about getting rich trying to kill you with crackers and cigarettes. I know about this chapter in business history first-hand, as my Dad was working for a company in the sights of legendary corporate raider Sir James Goldsmith, in that case a company involved in retail, insurance, and tobacco.

KKR isn’t really a corporate raider these days in that mold; they’re just a hugely successful equity company that shops for companies a lot. And now they’re looking at Japan, already having bought Panasonic’s spun-off healthcare unit. Two solid bets in the current globalized world would certainly be old people and ravers. See Sophie Knight writing for Reuters for some background.

If you think Pioneer was diverse, KKR is just about money. They own the Chinese farming giant that sells chickens to KFC. They also have wind farms. Their portfolio includes a Milwaukee company that makes industrial blowing machines, Go Daddy (the domain company), an off-highway tire company, and the water and wastewater company in Bayonne, New Jersey, to name just a few. David Petraeus, the American former NATO commander, works with them to talk about global opportunities.

I don’t yet know how the new business will be structured, so this is all speculative. But here’s what’s most important: Pioneer DJ sounds healthy, and this may give them more resources while their previous parent worries about what’s happening in your Volkswagen.

The Pioneer DJ staff are moving to the new spun-off company. (700 in total go to that company and the new audiovisual group at Onkyo according to Reuters; we don’t have breakdowns.) And the business is profitable, if dwarfed by car stereos.

Here’s Reuters again:

Kotani said that the DJ business was highly profitable, running an operating margin of nearly 20 percent on sales of 21.6 billion yen in the year ended March 31, giving it a 60 percent share of the global market, but further growth in such a niche business would require significant further investment.

20% margin on roughly US$200 million – nice margins, but small, in other words. Presumably KKR could then make the sort of investment that could make that grow. With club culture booming worldwide, that’s a big deal. Remember, we’re mostly focused on the US and Europe, but clubs are about young bodies, and the youth population is booming in the rest of the world even as it shrinks in just those places. So if you want to speculate about the future of DJing, the question may not be what, but where.

In fact, the DJ business to me sounds safer than the car business. Pioneer has effectively no competition for devices like the CDJ and a growing market for everything it makes; the cuthroat car stereo business means going head to head with some of the world’s largest car companies inside their own vehicles.

See Mixmag – though I disagree with the notion that the introduction of a new turntable changed the buyout picture.

I do agree with Dan White at DJ TechTools. The parallel here is Allen & Heath’s sell-off. The only difference there was the equity partners were in the UK rather than US, but the ultra-diversified company is in the same model. And sure enough, Allen & Heath has continued strong since that happened in the middle of 2013.

So, in other words, unless you are weirdly fascinated by 80s corporate raider culture as I am and this sends you off on into a link-hole, there’s nothing to see here; move along.

For DJs, this probably changes nothing – and, if anything, ensures Pioneer’s power in the DJ booth will remain formidable for the foreseeable future.

Seriously, CDM should probably talk more about CDJs. It’s hard to imagine music in clubs today without them.

Pioneer to spin off DJ audio unit to KKR in $550 million deal [Reuters]

Photo credit: (CC-BY-ND) Will Will.

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Attempt to Make A Music Award That Matters, But Winning Act Calls It ‘F***ing Insane’

Godspeed, to themselves: "Yo us, we're really happy for us, Imma let you finish but ... our country is fucked."

Godspeed, to themselves: “Yo us, we’re really happy for us, Imma let us finish but … our country is fucked.”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Amidst award shows like the Grammies, Canada’s Polaris Awards seemed to be something different. As Internet over-abundance has made some feel big media has grown yet more powerful, Polaris seemed oozing with indie cred. Metric, Purity Ring, and Metz played the award ceremonies. Tegan and Sara, Zaki Ibrahim, and A Tribe Called Red got shortlisted. There’s even a cute infographic explaining how the selection process works, and it seems legitimate. (One potentially-bad sign: cloned, hipster-like characters in the image, vintage eyewear present, people of color entirely absent. But designers will be designers.)

Past selections have been laudable, too: Feist (2012), Arcade Fire (2011), Karkwa (2010), Fucked Up (2009), Caribou (2008), Patrick Watson (2007) and Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) (2006).

Faced the question of why music couldn’t shortlist artists the way the Pulitzer, Man Booker, and Orange prizes do, ever-thoughtful American radio network NPR praised Polaris as a music award show that actually mattered and its ten “wildly eclectic albums.”
The Good Listener: Forget The Grammys — Which Music Awards Matter?

And then Godspeed You! Black Emperor wins the award – well afield of the mainstream. It seems that’d seal the deal. The Polaris is a Grammy for people who actually care about music.

Well, maybe. There’s just one catch: Godspeed You! Black Emperor questions whether the award show should have happened at all.

Oops – better change the plot on this one.

The band is humble and grateful, but they also issued a scathing critique of Polaris and their home and native land of Canada.

3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=

-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.

-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.

-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.

On the last point, they may be a bit hard on Toyota. As car companies go, Toyota (here via their Scion brand) have had a mixed record, but not an entirely negative record. The Daily Beast wrote in 2007 how volunteer-run environmental megagroup Sierra Club’s Dan Becker went from championing the company (for Prius) to attacking it (for policies that opposed climate change reforms). Under public pressure, Toyota finally distanced itself from some of those policies, though it still is a member of the climate change-denying US Chamber of Commerce. (Disclosure: I worked with the Sierra Club when the Prius thing was happening, and even met Dan on occasion. I’ve also pitched Scion. I make no claim for my own independence.)

But generally, it seems the adventurous band have a point.

It’s worth reading their whole statement, as there are a number of lines of critique:
A FEW WORDS REGARDING THIS POLARIS PRIZE THING [Constellation Records]

And they’re not just complaining: they have a proposal.

maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn’t just lazy money patting itself on the back.

They’re taking their prize money to give prisoners in Quebec musical instruments, and suggest more government funding for lesser-known artists in more venues.

And perhaps, ultimately, there’s a message here. The Internet and the rise of “indie” (perhaps alongside the accompanying rise of “EDM” in dance music) has often rewarded sameness, not the utopian variety it once promised. The aforementioned NPR could perhaps be part of the critique: the network’s music selections are high quality and help amateur listeners navigate the online sea of possibilities, but have none of the experimental edge of the independent radio stations. (You know, the “what sounds is that cat making in the percussion room” feeling of music. Seriously – I miss some of that.) And those affiliate stations have weakened profoundly, many only repurposing centralized radio.

Award shows may, indeed, not be the way to make things better.

More parties in cruddy halls sound nice.

And in a weird way, Godspeed may have made an event out of a non-event, by Kanye West-ing-Taylor-Swift-ing … themselves. (For the record: Taylor Swift is hanging out with Tegan and Sara, as the trying-ever-so-hard Polaris blog was keen to tell us.)

Maybe what we need is not an alternative to the big awards after all. Maybe we need things that don’t even invite the comparison – even as parody.

The band deserves it. Not the prize – they deserve the chance to say what they want about the position of music in their country. And Constellation is putting out some wonderful music. Queue it up, and make your own party:

For my part, I’m heading to Reeperbahn Festival – Hamburg, Germany’s “don’t compare it South by Southwest” music fest – for a couple days. I’ll let you know what happens. If it goes awry, I can always blame Canada.

Update: Note that a Calgary Herald editorial asks a relevant question: if GY!BE felt that way, why didn’t they bail when first nominated, rather than … now?

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Designing the Sound of a Real Car: An Audi, from Silence to Noise [Video]

Hear the idea of creating a car sound, and you might imagine a sound designer working on a video game or film. Imagining that person producing a sound for an actual car could sound like a joke. But as today’s vehicles go silent – whisper-quiet electric cars to human-powered bicycles – the problem of imagining noises for them to make becomes deadly serious.

Our brains are wired to respond quickly to sound, so when cars suddenly don’t make any noise, alerting us to their presence is a serious issue. Audi’s engineers are working on that problem in the video here (thanks to reader Vadim Nuniyants for the tip!):

Audi’s future e-tron models will cover long distances powered by practically silent electric motors. To ensure that pedestrians in urban settings will hear them, the brand has developed a synthetic solution: Audi e-sound.

Audi’s not alone, either; it’s a safe assumption that many electric makers are working on this problem. Cyclists may want to consider it, too, though mechanical solutions (letting the wheels produce a click) and the old-fashioned bell aren’t a bad start. Before the TV show Portlandia poked fun at Portland, readers chuckled at an open source synth out of PDX that produces sounds for a bike – but now, automaker Audi is basically doing just that with real cars. The video of that solution (which isn’t really such a bad idea – now we just need extra lights):