Music lovers are sharing black artists, labels, and causes today on Bandcamp

Alongside protests and conversation, it’s a moment for black artists and labels to make themselves visible to one another – and for allies to amplify their voices and help organize, too.

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Eye see: visual live-programming vvvv comes together online

Visual development environment vvvv is at it again, with a worldwide meetup of leading artists – and a ground-up new release, too.

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Feed yourself with a free cookbook from Korg and the electronic music and synth community

Here’s a different sort of compilation and synth collaboration – KORG Germany in Berlin invited the likes of Joan La Barbara, Suzanne Ciani, Alva Noto, Dave Smith, and a lot of us relative newcomers, too, to make a cookbook. And it’s free to download.

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Instrument makers, technologists, synth lovers – let’s meet up virtually

Human connections are what make the community around creative music and live visual technology matter. Since we don’t get to meet, here’s one chance to meet up virtually.

Previously, this time of year might have brought us together at events like Superbooth and Ableton Loop in Berlin – and I had originally planned travel to Russia, Greece, and more, as well. That travel is worthwhile partly because it’s tough to substitute for face-to-face communication.

That said, I’ve always been one to enjoy working a bit slowly. I like reading and taking time. I like writing rather than live streaming. I enjoy great still photos sometimes instead of video. I appreciate putting off listening to music weeks or months so I can find the right moment, close my eyes, put on headphones, and really get lost. So yeah, this idea that everything should be a multi-way Zoom chat or Facebook or YouTube stream is a bit strange to me.

Even when we’re together at events, there’s never enough time.

So if you’re a manufacturer – or artist, or just reader – with something on your mind, let us know. It’s the equivalent of grabbing a beer or Club-Mate and having a chat. And of course, some of you have never been able to come somewhere like Berlin, so now here’s our chance – in some weird way, we’re all the same distance from one another.

I have no idea what will get talked about here, but I promise some responses in the next couple of weeks, and to cover what I can on the site – slow style. And yeah, I’m keen to know what you’re doing just to pass the time, CDM related or not.

Also, if you do like streams, I’m on tonight with Hainbach on his live stream – plus Ableton are doing #loopathome on their channel, too.

Stay safe and healthy, thanks to all our CDM readers working on the front lines from health care to grocery lines, stay in touch.

Got some other ideas around this, too, but this was more fun than just asking for you to do a video stream or just send in news.

Form embedded below or head to https://forms.gle/tzmXSoj89gzGADQf9

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MeeBlip jam festival: watch all the wild and wonderful creations of these synth lovers

The joy of synths – as long as you’ve got a box with knobs on it, you’re never alone. And it’s incredible what people can do with tiny, ultra-affordable gear – including ours.

So, we invited our community of MeeBlippers to share what they’ve been making.

And wow, those MeeBlippers are making some fantastic stuff. The whole reason engineer James and I have stuck with making synth hardware, and trying to make it as accessible as possible, comes down to this – you keep surprising us. It’s a different model of music, inventing something that people can use.

We’re in stock and shipping MeeBlip geode synths, plus cubit go interface and cubit splitter. geode remains the best culmination of all we’ve done, with analog filter, tons of hands-on control, and internal USB MIDI so you don’t need an interface. Delivery times may fluctuate as we deal with COVID-19, but we’re doing our best to keep operating, and we really appreciate your support – it’s what keeps our independent effort going and allows us to make new things even in uncertain times.

Here are a few of our favorites who sent stuff in. I declared MeeB-leap Day a special holiday, but keep them coming! We’ll send some MeeBlip thru5 MIDI kits to a few of you, too! Thanks for all the submissions – and do follow these fine musicians. Here we go:

TriWave: I’m in love with this project, new grimy, groovy techno of Jean-Claude Langensand from Zürich, Switzerland. He tells us he makes them all live with just three pre-programmed MIDI clips, combining MeeBlip with Roland’s TR-8 and SH-01A.

Um this (for two examples):

Joseph Rhodes: “Had a lot of fun tonight using the #meeblip for leads. I played a line in Ableton and had it arpeggiated, then freaked out the knobs. Such a cool box.”

Joseph also made a free sample pack for the OP-1. I actually look forward to loading this on the OP-1 and running the geode alongside for a sort of meta geode*geode jam. Doube double your refreshment! (The sample pack is on Google Drive.)

Mårten Nettelbladt: From Stockholm comes this track with MeeBlip geode drenched in reverb, sounding almost like some long-forgotten classic 70s electroacoustic studio recording. Need to learn more about “Peggy” the MIDI arpeggiator on the right! Check out the Peggy project on Instagram, also from Mårten.

Heat Impact posts some raw, rapid techno combining the geode with Elektron’s Digitone. Love this; it’s a jam, but already sounds like a track. “I am sequencing the Geode from the Digitone, which is a great combo as I can use the scale lock on the sequencer and use the full 64 steps. The Phaser and the Zoom really add something extra to the meatiness and fullness of the Geode, a perfect mono bass synth.” And apparently it was a Christmas gift. Take note! (Birthdays, too, naturally…)

Radio Coriolis: James Taylor writes, “Radio Coriolis volumes 25/26/27 feature heavily MeeBlip. The first synth I found that can equal the Moog Rogue of my accomplice.”

zhorli: More with less – just a Novation Circuit and MeeBlip triode are enough for zhorli to make a full jam session in a tiny amount of space (check his polyrhythm tutorial on the Circuit, too):

Dharma Club: Daniel Hengeveld writes, “I have used the triode and geode in a lot of stuff … but I wanted to share this – the ‘blips are in the rotation for my “liminal techno” project with a friend, Dharma Club, which is live techno-adjacent improvising incorporating samples recorded in the middle of the night when waking up from weird dreams.” Top sampling tip, yes!

Eine Kleine China: Jazzy, avant-garde, spaced-out MeeBlippery on this track combines MeeBlip geode (melody) with a vintage MeeBlip triode (on bass):

daionsavage: Studio jam, spread thick, with MeeBlips geode and anode, plus KORG volca kick and volca drum, and KORG minilogue and monologue, and even Waldorf Streichfett (which literally references covering something in buttery goodness). Heavy stuff, and proof the MeeBlips can cut through anything.

Crypto-oriental techno, indeed!

Ac- Tone: Blast from the past: a vintage orange-and-black MeeBlip SE paired with Eurorack rig, MeeBlip grit against luxurious Euro percussion and chimes:

valleyroadex: MeeBlip anode and triode power everything but drums on this hard-hitting clip:

Bonus round here from our friend Alexey in St. Petersburg, who’s back with a quartet of his own DIY hand-built MeeBlip copies (three of them made the original, open-source generation that started it all):

See you at MeeBlip.com. Keep blipping and for all you’ve given to us.

https://meeblip.com

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In quarantined China, concerts are going online as a safe place to meet

Even in the capital Beijing, once-crowded streets are now empty, as the 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak forces people at home. The solution for live musicians: turn to streaming.

Streaming was already a popular hangout for Chinese musicians and artists across the region, before the viral shutdown of public space. That already included experimental artists looking to reach one another in their niche. The difference is, now online interaction in China is essential because people are effectively all isolated at home.

I caught some small window into this via Edward Sanderson, based in Beijing, who has been sharing the streams of his friends. (To this I’m again indebted to C-drik and his Syrphe Facebook group on experimental music in Asia and Africa, as I wrote up recently.)

Edward writes, ” As group events in China have been curtailed because of the coronavirus threat, the online space has become more important for meeting up.” (Many of these events are also shared via Facebook even though that site is blocked by default in China; in experimental music circles, it seems VPNs are popular.)

So, for instance, via streaming, two experimental clarinetists can play together.

Zhu Wenbo played a concert from his home in Beijing:

In Dali, located in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan, clarinet player Ding Chenchen could join in a day later, as a duet:

You won’t see anything until a stream is active, but there’s a streaming space on Shanghai-based Bilili, with a URL like this one:

https://space.bilibili.com/505035552/

That’s a Chinese-only service that now boasts tens of millions of users, largely focused around games, animation, and comics, but evidently branching out into clarinet noise music. These services are blocked outside China, though, so the only way to tune in would be to find some way to VPN into the country (in an unusual reversal of the normal order).

Artist Zhao Cong had announced a stream for today. I couldn’t locate it in time for this post, but here are some of her gorgeous textural compositions on Bandcamp – engrossingly fuzzy, lo-fi looped constructions:

Plus as part of the “Practice” series, new live-streamed performances were just announced with music by Zhu Wenbo, Zhou Yi, and Li Song (Chinese-language link, but you can get QR codes for concerts coming up in the next week):

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/opP6L9YTtevuRtwvjchpTg?fbclid=IwAR3qgeJNGXj0DmT6YLCeZtxqxXcJw8wJUjR1Fxubvfwo9gWvDCUtryXGH9I

Instead of links, event promos heavily feature images, and even QR codes. The number below Bilibili represents a “space” on the streaming site; head there at the appointed time, and you get live-streamed music. So think more underground – less Facebook notifications from the Boiler Room page everybody and their dog subscribes to.

Just as China has led the way in expanding the uses of mobile chat, mobile-based streaming has taken off in the country even as the West embraces the tech in fits and starts. (I’d say the reason is, markets like the USA still split usage between desktop and mobile, and are dominated by Facebook and Google and their business models – including for how music fees are structured.)

Anyway, our Chinese readers now far more about all of this than I do (from streaming to the current state of Chinese quarantine). So, since we do have a large readership that’s now trapped in your houses –

Open call to Chinese artists and other readers under quarantine! If you do have some ideas for streaming concerts, go for it! I’ll be happy to share that across the readership here. We can basically create, for now, not Boiler Room, but a sort of Coronavirus Room for bored and isolated quarantined musicians.

And to everyone dealing with life in the shadow of this virus, we wish you the best health. A big thanks to all the people working to contain its spread and doing research to help humans respond in ways that are well-informed and effective. I am not an immunologist and I don’t know that I would make a very good one, but what I imagine we can do as musicians is to help share accurate information across communities, bring people together, and to process emotions.

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Now is your last chance to register for Ableton Loop, coming to Berlin, April 2020

After an edition in LA and a half-year break, the music-making summit hosted by Ableton is coming home to Berlin. Monday is your last chance to register if you want a chance to join.

After Live and Push, Loop has become a kind of third major product from Ableton. It isn’t an event about Live – Ableton’s software and hardware have seemed almost subdued in their role as the event has grown. It has instead become Ableton’s own contribution to bringing together the community of makers around their tools, with a strong emphasis on the diversity of that community – both in the people and how they work. (I’ve been at each edition.)

This year’s edition seems more than any before to promise to bring that full range of diversity back to the Berlin home base. So they’ve added Sylvia Massy, the experienced engineer who worked with the likes of Johnny Cash, REM, and Tool. But there’s also Mexican Sotomayor, continuing Loop’s interest in mixing electronic production with live instrumentation. There’s vocalist Colin Self, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and the quartet Ex-Easter Island Head.

Very pleased Antenes is on the artist roster for this year – she embodies the spirit of creative production and DIY in her work, so CDM readers, take note.

That’s not to say tech or electronic music is getting short shrift. I’m really looking forward to seeing Antenes and Eric Pitra, who build their own instruments. Antenes, aka Lori Napoleon, is a singular personality who is both able to hold down epic techno sets around the world, and construct wild new experimental DIY instruments from telephone switchboards.

And we’re getting folks like the wondeful Deena Abdelwahed and Georgia Anne Muldrow, as well. It looks like a killer lineup, and clearly the Loop team continue to build on what is resonating with their audiences.

So, now is your chance. Monday the 4th is the deadline. A full pass is 275 EUR (or 375 EUR with one of the valuable workshops and studio sessions), but there are student and youth passes available (for 18-26 year olds), plus crucially subsidized passes for just 50 EUR which still include a studio session and workshop. (Details on who get subsidized are at the site.)

Ableton didn’t put me up to this – this isn’t an advert. I can’t think of anyone else in our industry doing anything like this. And the team at Loop have made an extraordinary commitment to removing boundaries based on gender, genre, age, and cultural background, as well as employing a strict code of conduct to make their spaces safe.

Of course, the one barrier to entry is, you do have to get yourself to Berlin and there are limited passes available.

And time remains a barrier. (Sorry, nothing we can do about that!) So you need submit by tomorrow Monday November 4, and then best of luck – I hope some CDM readers luck out in the drawing (or even with youth passes or subsidies).

You can do that here:

https://loop.ableton.com/2020/register/

https://loop.ableton.com/2020/

And here are some 2018 highlights, to either inspire you to register or, if you can’t, to let you sit back and make a little virtual Loop for youself in the comfort of your own home. (Now that’s also a nice way to spend a Sunday!)

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Founder of music tech forum has died; outpourings of support for Mike McGrath

One of the largest forums for music tech nerd-kind this week reports the loss of its founder: Muff Wiggler’s creator, Mike McGrath, has died. The Internet responds.

I want to first say, my heart goes out to all of you who have lost a friend, a family member, a personal connection, or even a far-off but meaningful Internet connection.

Muff Wiggler, the forum, has for more than a decade been the single most influential online community for people interested in modular synthesis, as well as a range of DIY topics – it’s a common go-to for how-to documentation on electronics, among other topics. It has also hosted widely trafficked official forums for a number of brands, including the likes of Expert Sleepers, Hexinverter, Metasonix, and Snazzy FX. It’s been the object of love, of hate – but always has played a central role in conversations about music making technology and the voltage and circuits pulsing underneath.

And it’s worth saying that the whole project really began with one person, Mike – known by many exclusively online, but host to a community of strangers who often grew close. Like a lot of the blogs and forums that support the music tech community, Muff Wiggler and its creator have even become synonymous. I know personally how demanding that can be.

It wouldn’t be any exaggeration to say that part of the explosive growth of Eurorack and modular synthesis is because of Mike’s creation of the forum – one that inspired rabid consumers at the same time as it collected knowledge of how to engineer the modules.

Photo above, at top by I Dream of Wires, who interviewed Mike in their work on the evolution of the modern modular synthesis fandom.

The Muff Wiggler platform grew into other projects – a store, live events (like a collaboration with TRASH AUDIO in Portland, Oregon), and others, which helped people meet the man behind the forum in person, some of them flying from literally the other side of the world to do so.

About that name – it comes from a handle Mike chose that combined the names of two popular Electro-Harmonix effect pedals, Big Muff and The Wiggler.

For their part, a message from Muff Wiggler’s team promises they’ll keep the site going in Mike’s absence. Kent writes on a admin post: “The moderator and admin staff are going to take the needed time to get things in order and ensure the smoothest of possible transitions. It’ll be rough for a bit.”

In the meantime, there is an outpouring of sadness and gratefulness from people who knew Mike personally and those who knew him in the virtual arena – from the community of people for whom he created a home where none had existed.

The main thread on Muff Wiggler

Synthtopia obituary

Modular giant Ken MacBeth writes: “Mike McGrath……….I hope that you find your peace now……..RIP.”

Mike himself wrote in 2017 about his passion for the project in a Facebook Group, saying it began from wanting to learn about modular synthesis, amidst options that were “intimidating” – to create instead a place where you could make friends. And he talked about the importance of music and his machines in his personal life – in good times and in dark times.

Matrixsynth has a heartfelt obituary which traces some history – even before the forum, including the first blog posts by Muff Wiggler (back when it was just Mike’s alias):

Mike created the de facto modular synth forum on the internet … and he did it in a way that put members first. He created a platform for makers and users of synths to come together and engage directly with each other.

And yeah, I think all of us who have run enterprises on the Internet for music feel this one in our gut. Again quoting the mighty Matrixsynth:

I just can’t believe he is gone. As the host of this site, I feel like I lost a fellow compatriot. Someone I had history with through the ups and downs. Running a site can be a challenge, and just knowing he was out there doing his thing helped. I am going to miss him and the lost experiences we would all have had with him around.

RIP Mike McGrath of Muff Wiggler

Finally, long-time collaborator Surachai writes, “Mike is the connective tissue that bound almost every modular user when information was scarce.”

He goes on to say:

I invited whoever was interested in welcoming the overlord of the synthesizer community to a BBQ at my place and we were met with one of the kindest and smartest people to grace our lives….

His contributions to and maintenance of information cannot be overstated. His reach and ability to connect people cannot be overstated.

Mike McGrath / Muffwiggler

You’ll also find some videos online.

http://muffwiggler.com/

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/index.php

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Resident Advisor shuts down comments; what’s the forum for non-toxic chat?

Resident Advisor announced today it’s shuttering comments on its site, closing on-article commentary on one of the world’s leading venues for electronic music information.

Comments are already closed on the article, so — sorry, toxic commenters, no chance for you to chime in! But many of the comments on Twitter are in the “’bout time” category:

Hateful comments aren’t victimless, and the victims are disproportionately women, minorities, and LGBTQ members of the community. That means shutting down comments could have a major positive impact for those people. And note the link above – the conversation continues elsewhere.

But that raises a question: how do you make online conversation more productive and inclusive and less hurtful? The editorial announcing the change seems to blame comments for being antiquated:

Social media introduced a more broadly accepted way for people to communicate online. Comments sections served an ever-smaller portion of users, not just on RA but across the internet.

That raises a question, however: did social media absorb mainstream conversation, leaving toxic commenters in threads on articles? Or has social media itself inflamed ever-lower standards of interaction? Haven’t social media channels been blamed for exactly the same sort of toxic chatter?

When RA’s own Will Lynch singled out sexism in comments a couple of years ago, it was Facebook, not article comments on RA, were originally the case in point:

Opinion: Misogyny and mob mentality

And that’s just one case; countless others have seen Twitter, comments on Facebook posts, comments on Facebook and YouTube videos. Maybe comments on articles serve few enough readers to warrant turning them off. But toxicity is alive and well on mainstream social media.

RA for their part promise “new ways of fostering community that are more in line with the times and, most importantly, that are welcoming and inclusive to everyone.” For now, we can’t really fault them or credit them, not knowing what they have in mind or how it will work.

In the meantime, there are no shortage of ways of communicating with RA. Part of the challenge of a site today is the sheer magnitude of moderating all those social media channels. But note that all those channels are operated by large corporations, each of which sets the rules for how moderation works.

RA in the same editorial encourage readers to communicate with them on “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.” For the record, that’s:

Facebook, Inc.: California-based, publicly-traded corporation, 2.2 billion active users (01/18), established 2004.
Google, LLC: California-based, publicly-traded corporation. (YouTube LLC is the California-based subsidiary, established 2005).
Facebook… again.
and Twitter, California-based, publicly-traded corporation, 300+ million active users monthly, established 2006.

I don’t mean to implicate RA here – far from it. I started writing online (and in print) in the early 2000s. RA was established in 2001; CDM in 2004, publishing regularly starting early 2005. You can see the problem from the dates above: YouTube and Twitter didn’t even exist yet. Google had recently gotten into blogging with Blogger. Facebook existed but was still limited to campuses. Now the world has changed. And while this is a topic for a different article, I think it’s fair to implicate these large corporations for worsening the problem, by resisting moderation (especially human moderation), and emphasizing “engagement” in the interest of rapid growth and corporate profits. That “engagement” often translates to turning up noise and down signal.

I’ve certainly made major missteps running CDM (mostly single-handedly – mea culpa). I’ve failed at administering online forums – twice. I’ve had the site overrun with spam – numerous occasions – and even once compromised by a right-wing European group. (That was an interesting day.) I’ve screwed up on major social media sites, too.

Comments will continue here, but we’re fortunate to have built up a community here over 14 years. I know a lot of regular readers personally now. And this site is obviously on a much smaller scale than RA. I’ve stepped in when comments turned ugly. I believe firmly in moderation, and as I hope CDM does expand its community offerings some time in the future, that means designing moderation into it.

In fact, let me pause and say this – thank you. This site got its start partly thanks to what you’ve written in comments – your ideas, your corrections, heck, your copy editing, your constructive criticism, your tips. If anything, I think I owe it to the readers to find new ways of creating online community because you’ve demonstrated what that community can be. And if that’s because this site is small and niche, well, maybe there are some good things about small and niche.

But this is about more than this site. I hope we can make a platform to start to discuss what online community can look like – technologically and culturally. This is surely as much a part of music technology today as a drum machine or a DAW. And it’s also been a place with arguably the least innovation, in a field dominated by those massive transnational information megacorporations that now dominate traffic on the Internet.

I’m glad to see RA comments go. But we all need to come together to create something better – and we can’t count on Silicon Valley to do it for us.

Worth reading:

Opinion: Why we’re closing comments

I welcome your … comments. Still open below. What should future discussion look like? And is there a place for comments on articles at least on smaller sites like this one? (Okay, selection bias there, but sound off!)

Try not to call me or anyone else names. Actually, me, I can take it – just not anyone else. Thanks.

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Conversations and an overflow of music, streaming from Ableton Loop

Don’t have a ticket to Ableton’s Loop “summit for music makers” in Los Angeles? There’s an overabundance of music and conversation from the gathered artists streaming, much of it live, available now.

It’s easy to imagine Loop as turning into something really focused on the particular software and hardware products from Ableton, but the people programming the event have made it something very different. Loop’s programming itself extends through a range of artistic and technological frontiers, many of them only tangentially related to Live or Push – everything from AI to electronic instrument engineering to sonifying data from space. Most of that does require a ticket – which means you need to be in Los Angeles right now, and tickets were in short supply. (Even for ticket holders, capacities are constrained as workshops and seminars often take place in small quarters.)

What you can get access to is a couple of the mainstage talks, and a whole bunch of the music culture around Loop. That says a lot about the kind of artists Ableton has befriended, and the sort of hub Los Angeles can be for musicians. So Dublab Radio are broadcasting, for instance – and they’ve made Loop their home.

We’ll be talking to artists, too, in our own way – stay tuned for that. But meanwhile, part of what I get is that there’s a ton of music to experience. It’s not just one genre, and it’s also not just about the people Loop programmers thought were important. If music production tools are driven by an urge to create and share, then it’s little wonder that the participants here have self-organized their own collaborative playlist to share what they’re doing.

So let’s listen. Here’s your guide:

Loop has their live streaming schedule online, with events starting mainly 2PM (5PM NYC, 11PM Berlin) daily, earlier on Saturday:
https://loop.ableton.com/2018/streaming-schedule/

Timing on the West Coast of the USA tends to run a little late even in the Americas, and winds up at weird hours for Europe/Africa and the Eastern Hemisphere. But here you go — think afternoon – early evening LA time Friday and Saturday and afternoon Sunday. That means evening east coast USA, early morning Japan, and … Europe you might want to wait for the archive unless you’re a night owl.

Highlights for me include Sunday – Damien Licht has been doing some great productions and has a new album, and shesaid.so, Naomi Mitchell & Coco Solid should be terrific as they’re bringing in loads of new and diverse music interests and community activation. Plus Dennis DeSantis, Laura Escudé, Patrice Rushen, Photay talking Saturday about what happens when plans go awry – well, that’s relevant to all of us, and this is an utterly amazing selection of different life experiences professionally. We all talk about the Instagram-friendly perfect side of our creative lives, and very rarely about the failures – even if adjusting to failures is usually where the good stuff happens.

Plus there are live performances in the evening if you can catch them.

Music you can tune in any time, though, via Spotify.

What’s great is the chance for participants to share with one another:

And Dublab would love to welcome you to LA’s extraordinarily dynamic scene:

For more sounds – including the lineup at Loop and a guide to why the venue EastWest Studios has put out music you already know and love:

https://loop.ableton.com/2018/loop-spotify/

And if you are at Loop, see you here:

Touch, Code, Play: creating hybrid physical-digital music instruments

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