Brushed Drum Sample Pack by Ben Burnes FREE through January

Ben Burnes Brushed Drums Sample Pack

Ben Burnes has released a new sample collection that brings the sound of brushed drums in collaboration with Mark Powers. The Brushed Drum Sample Pack includes over 150 individual brushed drum samples, 28 unique loops, and two Ableton Drum Racks. These samples are completely unprocessed. They were recorded on a Yamaha Birch Custom Absolute snare […]

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BBC gives away 16k WAV sound effects, but disallows you using them

Maybe it’s time for the idea of a “commons” to get a new boost. Whatever the reason, BBC’s 16,000 sound effects are available to download – but with strings attached.

The BBC Sound Effects site offering has gotten plenty of online sharing. This is a sound effects library culled from the archives of the BBC and its Radiophonic Workshop, a selection of sounds dug up from broadcast sound work. There’s both synthetic sound design and field recording work – sometimes not really identified as such. I know this, because I used what I believe is the edition of this that was once released on a big series of CDs.

If you just want to listen to some interesting sounds, you can stream or download WAV files of sounds ranging from “‘Pystyll Rhadn’ falls, North Wales, with birdsong” to lorries, and, this being England, lots of exotic sounds from the far reaches of the former British Empire and a bunch of business to do with ships. (There’s a reason English is dotted with obscure boat-related idioms like saying someone is “two sheets to the wind” when they’re drunk.)

And it’s good fun. Right now the sound of a parrot is trending:

http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/

The catch is, you’re probably thinking of downloading those files and making a Deep House track with the parrot. But you can’t – not legally. If you want, you can wade through the murky terms, which seem to be written for schoolchildren in terms of language level, but oddly evasive about what it is you’re actually allowed to do:

https://github.com/bbcarchdev/Remarc/blob/master/doc/2016.09.27_RemArc_Content%20licence_Terms%20of%20Use_final.pdf

I can save you the trouble, though. There’s no explicit allowance for derivative works, which rules out even “non-commercial” sampling. That is, your parrot track is out, even if you plan to give it away. Non-commercial use itself suggests you need to have a site that not only has no ads (like this one does), but may even explicitly have some educational purpose. “Personal” use implies you can sample the sounds, so long as no one else hears your remix, which rather defeats the point. So you almost certainly can’t sample the parrot and even upload the result to SoundCloud.

The easy way to look at this is, you can build an educational app around these sounds or listen to them on your own, but you can’t really use them the way you’d tend to use sound samples.

For that, you need to buy a licensed product. Sound Ideas has the full library for around four hundred bucks. And then you can use, they advertise:

1936 Raleigh Sports Bike
Euston Railway Station
St. Paul’s Cathedral
1986 Silver Sprite Rolls Royce
Audience Reactions at the Royal Albert Hall
County Cricket Match
Big Ben
Markets in Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Zaire, Ethiopia, Kenya…

I’m sure the CDs themselves also had a lot of license restrictions attached, though owning a physical object might make you feel as though you had purchased rights for use.

British taxpayer license fees fund this sort of work, just as taxpayer money funds media in many countries of the world. That raises the question of what a government funded archive should be, and how it should be made available.

For background, this project came out of a now-ended four-year project to make UK archives publicly available:
https://bbcarchdev.github.io/res/

I’m not arguing the BBC have made the wrong choice. But it’s clear that there are two divergent views on public archives and content in the public sphere. One looks like this: the government retains copyright, and you can’t really use them beyond “research” purposes. The other is more permissive. For instance, the US space program actually does allow commercial use of a lot of its materials, provided an endorsement is implied. So even while releasing content into the public domain, the US government is able to avoid implications of endorsement or people posing as their space agency, which the BBC agreement above does, while allowing people to get creative with their materials.

And that ability to be creative is precisely what’s lacking in the BBC offering. Restricting content to “research” and “noncommercial” uses sounds like a lofty goal, but it often rules out the activities of artists – the very impulses that generated all those BBC sound effects in the first place. The reason is, unless you explicitly allow derivative and (often) even commercial use, it’s too easy for those creative uses to technical qualify as a violation.

It seems like this idea of commons could use a fresh boost, around the world. (The British taxpayer-funded sounds should have been an easy one; it gets much harder as you go to other parts of the world.)

The US government’s notions of public access content date back to the 1960s. But there are signs governments can begin fresh, digital-friendly initiatives. For one example, look to the European Space Agency, who last year managed an open access programs across a variety of different governments and private contractors (no small task):

http://open.esa.int/

Anyway, for now, it is still fun listening to that parrot.

http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/

By the way, speaking of Creative Commons: the feature image for this story comes from Paul Hudson, taken at Rough Trade East (of a tape machine from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop collection), under the attribution-only CC-BY license. It was released on Flickr, from a time when this sort of license metadata was deemed important.

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Let’s talk about open tools at Ableton Loop and beyond

From libraries to circuits to hacks to instructions, a lot of you are sharing the stuff you make. We’re using Ableton Loop to bring some of you together.

Ableton’s Loop festival/conference/summit is now more than just a get-together for Ableton users. It’s become a kind of international music happening. And so lots of interesting folks are gathering here in Berlin later this week.

That’s just a tiny, tiny fraction of the people reading this, though. Now, if only we could get more of you here, sort of virtually.

With that in mind, I’m going to do an open call for any kind of project you’d like to share. I’ll survey these and keep tabs on them here in CDM. And for those of us who are gathering in Berlin Sunday, we can share in person and get back to all of you through the power of the Internet.

By “open,” I mean anything that has some kind of permissive license for copying and modification, or that’s totally free. It could be a project for making contact mics or documenting how to make field recordings, too – not just software and hardware. And it doesn’t have to be Ableton-related, either – I do expect a good mix of people already at this event.

Of course, with open source tools, this is really important. Just making something open source doesn’t necessarily get people to collaborate on it. So if you want to invite users, testers, collaborators, and other feedback, you need to make connections.

Here’s the notion, as described on the Loop site:

A get-together to exchange, discover, and collaborate on open and handmade hardware and software.

Sometimes, realising the sounds in your imagination means making or modding your own tools and instruments.This meetup is a chance for us to share these inventions, born of necessity, with each other. CDM editor Peter Kirn talks about how to use open licensing to allow collaboration and learning, and takes a look at some of the more interesting creations in today’s global music community. Then, he’ll hand the floor over to you. Pack your own handmade gear, custom code, patches or hacks if you’ve got them, and be ready to play with others.

Open Tools Meetup [Ableton Loop; Sunday, 11-13:00 Maker Zone]

And if you want to submit your project for that get-together (or later coverage on CDM), fire away here! I’m curious what you’re working on.

https://goo.gl/forms/E9wWiKaiBoLlREvg2

After all, CDM is what it is – and arguably Ableton Live, too – because of people getting started with creative controllers, hacks, and new ways of making and playing music. It’s time to check in on the state of that landscape, and the stuff you’re most passionate about.

(and yeah, if you sent something lately and I ignored it, please don’t be shy about nagging me now! Only so many hours in the day…)

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Listen to space’s spookiest sounds with this NASA playlist

Earth, the solar system, and the stars are full of eerie “sounds” – if we listen in on waves in light and radio, converting those signals to sound.

NASA has assembled a playlist of unusual sounds – from electromagnetic tones to the glitchy radar echoes off Titan. And that means you can listen in for sonic inspiration, or download for sampling, remixing, and sound design.

Sure, we’re cashing in here on Halloween hype, but – they’ve got a point. These sounds really are spooky and otherworldly (well, both literally and to our ears). It’s sound design gold:

In addition to the EMF sounds, there are also some really beautiful sounds that happen in a lab on Earth – like this recording of ultra-cold liquid helium:

The materials actually largely mislabeled as Creative Commons ShareAlike – Noncommercial – most of these NASA assets are in fact public domain, and you can’t add a more restrictive license once a less restrictive one is out there. (The one restriction is that commercial projects can’t imply NASA agency endorsement.) That’s not always the case, though, as sometimes NASA shares content that is partly owned by third-party contractors. But then CC licenses are at least a minimum for this playlist.

I’m not the only person to have noticed this:

I’ve talked (with ESA here in Europe) about space sound before:

Feature photo: Jovian moon shadow. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt. Cue the Cat Stevens…

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Listen to space’s spookiest sounds with this NASA playlist

Earth, the solar system, and the stars are full of eerie “sounds” – if we listen in on waves in light and radio, converting those signals to sound.

NASA has assembled a playlist of unusual sounds – from electromagnetic tones to the glitchy radar echoes off Titan. And that means you can listen in for sonic inspiration, or download for sampling, remixing, and sound design.

Sure, we’re cashing in here on Halloween hype, but – they’ve got a point. These sounds really are spooky and otherworldly (well, both literally and to our ears). It’s sound design gold:

In addition to the EMF sounds, there are also some really beautiful sounds that happen in a lab on Earth – like this recording of ultra-cold liquid helium:

The materials actually largely mislabeled as Creative Commons ShareAlike – Noncommercial – most of these NASA assets are in fact public domain, and you can’t add a more restrictive license once a less restrictive one is out there. (The one restriction is that commercial projects can’t imply NASA agency endorsement.) That’s not always the case, though, as sometimes NASA shares content that is partly owned by third-party contractors. But then CC licenses are at least a minimum for this playlist.

I’m not the only person to have noticed this:

I’ve talked (with ESA here in Europe) about space sound before:

Feature photo: Jovian moon shadow. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt. Cue the Cat Stevens…

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What if you used synthesizers to emulate nature and reality?

Bored with making presets for instruments, one sound designer decides to make presets for ambient reality – and you can learn from the results.

“Scapes” is a multi-year, advanced journey into the idea that the synthesizer could sound like anything you imagine. Once you’ve grabbed this set of Ableton Live projects, you can bliss out to the weirdly natural results. Or you can tear apart the innards, finding everything from tricks on how to make cricket sounds synthetically to a veritable master class in using instruments like Ableton’s built-in FM synthesizer Operator. The results are Creative Commons-licensed (and of course, you can also grab individual presets).

The project is the brainchild of sound designer Francis Preve. Apart from his prolific writing career and Symplesound soundware line, Fran has put his sound design work all over presets for apps, software (including Ableton Live), and hardware.

As a result, no one knows better than Fran how much of the work of making presets focuses on particular, limited needs. And that’s too bad. The thing is, there’s no reason to be restricted to the stuff we normally get in synth presets. (You know the type: “lush, succulent pads” … “crisp leads…” “back-stabbing basslines…” “chocolate-y, creamy nougat horn sections…” “impetuous, slightly condescending 80s police drama keyboard stacks…” or, uh, whatever. Might have made some of those up.)

No, the promise of the synthesizer was supposed to be unlimited sonic possibilities.

If we tend to recreate what we’ve heard, that’s partly because we’re synthesizing something we’ve taken some care in hearing. So, why not go back to the richness and complexity of sound as we hear it in everyday life? Why not combine the active listening of a soundwalk or field recording with the craft of producing something using synthesis, in place of a recording?

Scapes does that, and the results are – striking. There’s not a single sample anywhere in the four ambient environments, which cover a rainy day in the city, a midsummer night, a brook echoing with bird song, and a more fanciful haunted house (with a classic movie origin). Instead, these are multitrack compositions, constructed with a bunch of instances of Operator and some internal effects. Download the Ableton Live project files, and you see a set of MIDI tracks and internal Live devices.

You might not be fooled into thinking the result sounds exactly like a field recording, but you would certainly let it pass for Foley in film. (I think that fits, actually – film uses constructed Foley partly because we expect in that context for the sounds to be constructed, more the way we imagine we hear than what literally passes into our ears.)

You wouldn’t think this was internal Ableton devices – not by a longshot – but of course it is.

And that’s where Scapes is doubly useful. Whether or not you want to create these particular sounds, every layer is a master class in sound design and synthesis. If you can understand a cricket, a bottle rocket, a rainstorm, and a car alarm, then you’re closer not only to emulating reality, but to being able to reconstruct the sounds you hear in your imagination and that you remember from life. That opens up new galaxies of potential to composers and musicians.

It might be just what electronic music needs: to think of sound creatively, rather than trying to regurgitate some instrumentation you’ve heard before. This might be the opposite of how you normally think of presets: here, presets can liberate you from repetitive thought.

I’ve seen this idea before – but just once before, that I can think of. Andy Farnell’s Designing Sound, which began life as a PDF that was floating around in draft form before it matured into a book at MIT Press, took on exactly this idea. Fran’s scapes are “tracks,” collaged compositions that turn into entire environments; Farnell looks only at the component sounds one by one.

Otherwise, the two have the same philosophy: understand the way you hear sound by starting from scratch and building up something that sounds natural. Scapes does it with Ableton Live projects you can easily walk through. Designing Sound demonstrates this on paper with patches in the free and open source environment Pure Data. As Richard Boulanger describes that book, “with hundreds of fully working sound models, this ‘living document’ helps students to learn with both their eyes and their ears, and to explore what they are learning on their own computer.”

But yes – create sounds by really listening, actively. (Pauline Oliveros might have been into this.)

Designing Sound | The MIT Press

Sound examples

A PDF introducing Pure Data (the free software you can use to pull this off)

But grabbing Scapes and a PDF or paper edition of Designing Sound together would give you a pairing you could play with more or less for the rest of your life.

Scapes is free (only Ableton Live required), and available now.

https://www.francispreve.com/scapes/

For background on how this came about: THE ORIGIN OF SCAPES [TL;DR EDIT]

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Francesco Novara – Astron [EP] brings evocative, comet-inspired music

On 8th September, Novaro will debut a downtempo album drawn from a single sonification of a comet, in collaboration with the European Space Agency.

After last year’s inaugural four releases, our label Establishment is back in a big way starting this fall. Opening our next season of releases is Italian composer Francesco Novara, with a unique, open Creative Commons-licensed project that was constructed almost entirely from a single sound.

We’ll have more to share about this music soon, as well as the commons-based collaboration with ESA that has made it possible (and how you can benefit from that, too). Stay tuned to CDM, of course.

Here’s a listen:

And you can preorder via Bandcamp (which helps support further open / Creative Commons-licensed projects!) …

Our full announcement:

Grooves From A Comet’s Song, As Franceso Novara Debuts ‘ASTRON’ EP

Out September 8th On Establishment
& In Conjunction With
The European Space Agency

Fresh wonders of space exploration continue to awe and inspire artists. In a fresh downtempo release, Italian composer Francesco Novara delivers an EP fabricated from just two sound samples of a European spacecraft that visited (and landed on) a comet. It marks a unique collaboration between record label Establishment and the multinational European Space Agency ESA.

Novara has honed silky-smooth virtuoso production craft on prolific work for TV and film. He shows off that prodigious talent by weaving every sound in the entire release from a single sample of sonified data from the spacecraft Rosetta. The raw materials for every pad, every drum sound, every melody in the album is derived from the oscillations in the magnetic field of the comet – a kind of comet song found by scientists reviewing the data.

But the music is far from academic. The resulting grooves have the cool, collected self-assurance you’d expect from an astronaut mission commander. The album tells the saga of a mission in four tracks, recalled in chilled out, precise electronic cinema. Far from the drugged-out or dystopian spaceflight music of the past, this is 21st century technology, efficient and dazzling.

Then, Novara delivers a surprise pop single in “Ready to Fly.”

The work also continues ESA’s commitment to Creative Commons, Open Access and Remixing. The original adaptation of the magnetic data from the comet into human audible-sounds was performed by German composer Manuel Senfft, then made available to the public under a Creative Commons license. Establishment’s partner music technology site CDM has been an open advocate of using this data for creative purposes, and label chief Peter Kirn has worked with ESA to deliver talks on the topic at ESA’s science and research center in the Netherlands and in Moscow.

By bringing Establishment, CDM and ESA together, Astron is a small step for sharing science and artistic output around spaceflight, one that heralds more giant leaps to come.

EP Title: Astron
Artist: Francesco Novara
Label: Establishment
Release Date: September 8th 2017
Formats: Digital

1. Ignition
2. S.O.S.
3. Sexy Astronaut
4. Back Home
5. Ready to Fly

Pre-Order: Bandcamp

https://francesconovara.bandcamp.com/album/astron

https://establishmentrecords.bandcamp.com/

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Now hear the audio from an ISS spacewalk – and sample and remix it

In our ongoing look at the sounds from space, here’s another angle: the same day as astronauts Thomas Pesquet (ESA) and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough (France) were making an “Extravehicular activity” (EVA / “space walk”) outside the International Space Station, we have publicly available, openly licensed sound from that experience.

This is more spoken word than ambient sound, of course. At the same time, you get a feeling for what the routine of this work is like. This is humans doing what still challenges robotic instruments – space maintenance. (Without humans, the in-flight repair of Hubble, for instance, would never have happened.) That’s narrated most clearly by CAPCOM Jessica Meire and PAO Dan Huot. (“CAPCOM” is a now-anachronistic term, referring to Capsule Communicator; PAO is the Public Affairs Officer, narrating a bit like color commentary over a golf tournament, only even slower and way geekier.)

So, it’s routine. But now… to those silences, imagine peering over your feet at open space above the planet. (And tell me you don’t get a little dizzy doing that.)

As Thomas said of the picture: “This is what a spacewalk is: 400 km of void under your feet.”

So, there you are, music lovers. Challenges for our community:

Can audio like this prove useful in samples and remixing, without falling back on the cliché of dull CAPCOM chatter over techno tracks?

Can you envision other means of sound collection in situations like this? (Before you say “there’s no sound in space,” various forms of vibration detectors can capture the equivalent of sound even in something like an EVA.)

And with or without this audio, can you produce music that sounds like 400 meters of nothingness? (No, just stealing that title for your next ambient album does not count. I can see you.)

I’ll leave you with that thought.

Photo by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst , from a 2015 spacewalk. Photo source ESA/NASA.

Photo by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, from a 2015 spacewalk. Photo source ESA/NASA.

But the important thing is, ESA has shortened the time to releasing content. That’s a glimpse of a real-time commons that follows science, including audio – and that says a lot about the promise of what commons material could provide for culture:

Space Sounds from ESA are Now Free to Use on SoundCloud

European Space Agency just gave away a bunch of space media for use

More on today:

Two more spacewalks for Thomas Pesquet

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European Space Agency just gave away a bunch of space media for use

Quick — think about the planet you live on. What does Earth look like from above?

Probably, some very clear imagery just popped into your head – iconic Apollo-era photography, or perhaps the more contemporary view of the planet from the orbit of the International Space Station. But our generations – ours, our parents’ and grandparents’ generations – are unique in human history. We’ve been given these images by the radical breakthrough of our species leaving Earth, via our own human spaceflight and myriad machine exploration missions.

Earth as seen from Apollo 17 - an image that has become widely known partly because the NASA-produced photo is in the public domain. (And partly because it's an amazing image that humans had never seen before.)

Earth as seen from Apollo 17 – an image that has become widely known partly because the NASA-produced photo is in the public domain. (And partly because it’s an amazing image that humans had never seen before.)

Earth imagery may well have even saved our species. The Atomic Age gave us the nuclear arsenal capable of wiping out life on Earth, but it also gave the public and world leaders a tangible picture of just how fragile that planet could be. The “Blue Marble” image from Apollo coincided with some of the deepest tensions in nuclear escalation, and planetary science, advanced by this same imagery, was able to go into specifics about the dangers of nuclear winter (as it now continues to warn us of the threats of climate change). And Earth is just the beginning, as we’ve looked deep into the cosmos and clearly into our planetary neighbors.

Part of what has made these particular images imprint in your mind, though, is because they were freely shared. One of the more positive legacies of the space race is the fact that the United States of America has produced a lot of civilian space-related content that, under US law, is released into the public domain, from sounds to images to films to various ephemera. Now, the legal basis for how this comes about in the USA, plus the complex set of exceptions (some NASA-specific, some related to particular limitations on the scope of where and how that public domain status applies, some related to acquisition of content from NASA contractors) could be the topic of a whole extended story. Suffice to say, NASA’s public domain doesn’t cover everything, but it’s still a lot of content. (NASA summarizes its general guidelines for media. See also: Federal Acquisition Regulation, the US government’s own explanation of the works it produces, or this third-party explanation of US government public domain for background.)

And free access to this content has been a big part of what has helped this imagery find its way deep into public consciousness, from research to advertising to artwork. The cultural impact is not to be overlooked: even sci fi television has inspired future astronauts. And space media is unique of all the cultural artefacts produced by humans, because it gives us a window into what would be to nearly all of us inaccessible. Only a handful of people can gain access to spaceflight facilities, let alone go into orbit and peer out the cupola of the ISS. And satellites and rovers can boldly go where no one will go, ever. So because we don’t have the power to produce this media ourselves, we rely on that access. And, oh yeah, your tax money paid for it, too – so it’s nice to get a return on investment.

Having access to American content was a good first step. Now it’s Europe’s turn.

And the European Space Agency’s media should be uniquely interesting to the sorts of people who read this site. ESA has led some of the most compelling scientific missions in recent years, both in terms of observing our own planet and exploring the solar system and further universe. ESA is also far more engaged in artistic collaboration than any of its other partners (even NASA), and does so inside the framework of a network of European institutions similarly dedicated to finding connections between arts and science.

In one sense, ESA faces extra challenges beyond its counterparts. The agency’s venture into open licensing is newer than NASA’s, and has to explicitly license content since nothing is generally public domain by default. It also involves a greater number of partners, because ESA is by definition a joint project of a number of European nations (on top of the usual private partners).

But we’re at an historic moment, as years of groundwork at ESA have now led to a public, wide-reaching release of content into the commons.

And this includes all the necessary ingredients to making this a success: a public commitment on a philosophical level, a bunch of content, a clear permissive licensing scheme, and well-organized access so anyone can get at all the good stuff.

The result is a new landmark, freshly employing a more contemporary approach to Creative Commons and a focus on new and bleeding-edge materials – because, really, it’s time to leave the Apollo era behind and see our cosmos through new eyes (and ears).

The necessity of ESA explicitly licensing the material under a Creative Commons license also makes usage far less murky than with NASA content. (Even NASA communications has sometimes appeared befuddled by this, incorrectly adding license restrictions like “non-commercial” to materials that technically have no such limitation, beyond the requisite that the US government legally cannot appear to endorse a product. Cough.)

Europe’s efforts place content under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (intergovernmental/international) license. The ShareAlike restriction is really useful; unlike public domain content, it ensures derivative content will be equally permissive. But note at the same time there’s no non-commercial restriction – which is good, because there’s no bright line test for what constitutes a “commercial” application (and all of us need to eat!).

ESA joins other intergovernmental organizations like the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the World Health Organisation. This also benefits the likes of Wikipedia and its Wikimedia Commons.

Okay, now having gone into the history and rules – what’s there?

Germany - in a new image released today. Credit: ESA/Belspo – produced by VITO, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Germany – in a new image released today. Credit: ESA/Belspo – produced by VITO, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Loads. There’s every kind of content imaginable. You can find photos and videos and work them into VJ sets. There are data sets you could try sonifying, or 3D print into sculptures. And yes, there are sounds – some contributed by yours truly, as part of an initiative I hope to continue to build upon.

We have so much in the form of imagery and video that a lot of people may not appreciate just how powerful data and sound could be. Sounds are a fundamental part of how scientists and engineers do their job on Earth, how they diagnose technology in space, and how they process information and data from space. Indeed, a lot of what we can process on our human scale from the cosmos comes in the form of waves and vibrations, either directly sonic or in forms that can be easily translated to sonic timescales.

Beyond that, I think data will be a rich new area to mine for artists and researchers – and a medium in which artists and researchers can potentially collaborate. And the ESA announcement in this regard couldn’t have come at a more important time. The incoming United States administration has threatened to scrap Earth observation missions, and gone far enough toward suggesting climate change-related datasets would be scrubbed that scientists were scrambling to make backups and public clones. At best, while this data is public domain, it could threaten NASA and climate agency work by the US government to keep that data easy to find for a non-technical public. So having a renewed public effort to share data on the European side, and make it easy for the public to find and understand, is obviously relevant.

Now, maybe your experimental ambient album made from climate change data isn’t going to save the world. But anyone learning how to find and read data, and sharing what they’ve learned, is contributing to a better-informed public that can converse more easily with scientific specialists. And whatever your political inclinations, I think you’ll agree that’s a good thing. We live in a rapidly changing world and economy driven by reams of data. And that means that the public needs to find ways to get smarter about how to handle that data, not just specialists. When you make a piece of music, you’re also learning about data processing, about coding, and about handling scale and perception. That’s knowledge (and code, and sonifications, and more) that we can share with scientists and share with students.

In fact, I think that one reason it’s great musicians ad artists are getting into this is precisely because this is out of our usual comfort zone. (I’m sure my high school physics teacher will attest to that.) To shamelessly paraphase President Kennedy, we can do it not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.

If you’re interested in the political side, here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about:
Coders volunteer to capture NASA climate data as scientists rally for anti-Trump protests [Christian Science Monitor]

It’s worth reading that whole story, because ultimately the conclusions go beyond Trump. The hackers wind up helping to assemble centralized, independent, easily navigable datasets that weren’t available in any form before – and recognize the importance of independent scientific information, free of any government involvement.

And regarding the effort to convince the Trump administration that funding Earth observation is significant (some of these projects impacting European efforts, too):
Eyes in the sky: Cutting NASA Earth observations would be a costly mistake [The Conversation – article here is written by climate change scientist who advises some of these projects, and talks about how bleeding edge science can ultimately transfer to more general use]

These kinds of discussions, while acute at the moment in the USA, are ultimately global. They’ll be part of policy debates all over the world, and from specialists to newcomers, we’re all learning how to better understand and share data.

I think adding cultural voices to this discussion is significant. And wherever you are on the political spectrum, I think we all have a basic human need to change perspective and get out of the microcosm of political debate. Imagining space exploration, our Earth, and our universe is a rich common realm for that imagination.

I hope we’ll get the chance to examine more what’s available. I can’t think of a better way I’d want to see my Euros and VAT spent.

Here’s where to go for more:

ESA affirms Open Access policy for images videos and data [ESA announcement]

Conditions of Use / FAQ

The central repository and news site for all this stuff, plus home to explanation of the licenses and so on, is
http://open.esa.int

Sounds from Space – sonic content from ESA (including some of mine, though mostly I hope we can wrangle more!)

And on top of a lot of imagery, here’s the 3D comet model you always wanted

Also, see NASA’s public domain transfer programs, which even cover things like patents:

https://technology.nasa.gov/publicdomain

Or NASA’s data portal:
https://data.nasa.gov/data

I tried to locate a single multimedia portal for NASA and, well, there isn’t one. That’s why this site above from ESA is going to be a huge boon. But your best bet is now actually the main NASA site (and then larger projects tend to have their own media archives):

https://www.nasa.gov/

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PushPull is a crazy futuristic squeezebox instrument you can make

PushPull will blow apart your idea of what a typical controller – or an accordion – might be. It’s a bit like a squeezebox that fell from outer space, coupling bellows with colored lights, sensors, mics, and extra controls. And you can now make one yourself, thanks to copious documentation.

You may have seen the instrument in action in the last couple of years ago – gasping in the dark.

PushPull Balgerei 2014 from 3DMIN on Vimeo.

But with more complete documentation, you get greater insight into how the thing was made – and you could even follow the instructions to make your own.

Things you expect to see: a bellow, valves, keys.

Thing you might not expect: RGB LEDs lighting up the instrument, six capacitive touch sensors, six-direction inertial sensing (for motion), microphones, rotary encoders.

And many of the parts are fabricated via 3D printing. That combines with some more traditional techniques – yes, including cutting, folding, and gluing. It’s all under a permissive Creative Commons attribution license. (That’s a bit scant for open source hardware, actually, in that they might consider some other license, too. But it gets the job done.)

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It’s eminently hackable, too, with X-OSC messages sent wirelessly from its sensors, loads of moddable electronics, and recently even integration with Bela, the lovely low-latency embedded platform.

The project is the work of Amelie Hinrichsen, Till Bovermann, and Dominik Hildebrand Marques Lopes, who combine overlapping skills in art, product design, soundmaking, music, industrial engineering, and hardware and software engineering. PushPull itself is part of the innovative 3DMIN instrument design project in Berlin, a multi-organization project.

Check out the instructions for more:

http://3dmin.github.io/

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