Eerie, amazing sounds from tape loops, patches – like whales in space

Fahmi Mursyid from Indonesia has been creating oceans of wondrously sculpted sounds on netlabels for the past years. Be sure to watch these magical constructions on nothing but Walkman tape loops with effects pedals and VCV Rack patches – immense sonic drones from minimal materials.

Fahmi hails from Bandung, in West Java, Indonesia. While places like Yogyakarta have hogged the attention traditionally (back even to pre-colonial gamelan kingdom heydeys), it seems like Bandung has quietly become a haven for experimentalists.

He also makes gorgeous artworks and photography, which I’ve added here to visualize his work further. Via:

http://ideologikal.weebly.com/

This dude and his friends are absurdly prolific. But you can be ambitious and snap up the whole discography for about twelve bucks on Bandcamp. It’s all quality stuff, so you could load it up on a USB key and have music when you’re away from the Internet ranging from glitchy edges to gorgeous ambient chill.

Watching the YouTube videos gives you a feeling for the materiality of what you’re hearing – a kind of visual kinetic pcture to go with the sound sculpture. Here are some favorites of mine:

Via Bandcamp, he’s just shared this modded Walkman looping away. DSP, plug-in makers: here’s some serious nonlinearity to inspire you. Trippy, whalesong-in-wormhole stuff:

The quote added to YouTube from Steve Reich fits:

“the process of composition but rather pieces of music that are, literally, processes. The distinctive thing about musical processes is that they determine all the note-to-note (sound-to-sound) details and the overall form simultaneously. (Think of a round or infinite canon.)”

He’s been gradually building a technique around tapes.

But there’s an analog to this kind of process, working physically, and working virtually with unexpected, partially unstable modular creations. Working with the free and open source software modular platform VCV Rack, he’s created some wild ambient constructions:

Or the two together:

Eno and Reich pepper the cultural references, but there are aesthetic cues from Indonesia, too, I think (and no reason not to tear down those colonial divisions between the two spheres). Here’s a reinterpretation of Balinese culture of the 1940s, which gives you some texture of that background and also his own aesthetic slant on the music of his native country:

Check out the releases, too. These can get angular and percussive:

— or become expansive soundscapes, as here in collaboration with Sofia Gozali:

— or become deep, physical journeys, as with Jazlyn Melody (really love this one):

Here’s a wonderful live performance:

I got hooked on Fahmi’s music before, and … honestly, far from playing favorites, I find I keep accidentally running over it through aliases and different links and enjoying it over and over again. (While I was just in Indonesia for Nusasonic, it wasn’t the trip that made me discover the music – it was the work of musicians like Fahmi that were the reason we all found ourselves on the other side of the world in the first place, to be more accurate. They discovered new sounds, and us.) So previously:

The vaporwave Windows 98 startup sound remix no one asked for

http://ideologikal.weebly.com/

https://ideologikal.bandcamp.com/

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Powerful SURGE synth for Mac and Windows is now free

Vember Audio’s Surge synth could be an ideal choice for an older machine or a tight budget – with deep modulation and loads of wavetables, now free and open source.

And that really means open source: Surge gets a GPL v3 license, which could also make this the basis of other projects.

People are asking for this a lot – “just open source it.” But that can be a lot of work, often prohibitively so. So it’s impressive to see source code dumped on GitHub.

And Surge is a deep synth, even if last updated in 2008. You get an intensive modulation architecture, nearly 200 wavetables, and a bunch of effects (including vocoder and rotary speaker). Plus it’s already 64-bit, so even though it’s a decade old, it’ll play reasonably nicely on newer machines.

Inside the modulation engine.

Features:

General

Synthesis method: Subtractive hybrid
Each patch contain two ‘scenes’ which are separate instances of the entire synthesis engine (except effects) that can be used for layering or split patches.
Quick category-based patch-browser
Future proof, comes as both a 32 & 64-bit VST plugin (Windows PC)
Universal Binary for both VST and AU (Mac)

Factory sounds

1010 patches
183 wavetables

Oscillators

3 oscillators/voice
8 versatile oscillator algorithms: Classic, Sine, Wavetable, Window, FM2, FM3, S/H Noise and Audio-input
The classic oscillator is a morphable pulse/saw/dualsaw oscillator with a sub-oscillator and self-sync.
The FM2/FM3 oscillators consists of a 1 carrier with 2/3 modulators and various options.
Most algorithms (except FM2, FM3, Sine and Audio-input) offer up to 16-voice unison at the oscillator level.
Oscillator FM/ringmodulation
Most oscillator algorithms (except FM2/FM3) are strictly band-limited yet still cover the entire audible spectrum, delivering a clear punchy yet clean sound.
Noise generator with variable spectrum.

Filterblock

Two filter-units with arrangeable in 8 different configurations
Feedback loop (number of variations inside the parenthesis)
Available filter-algorithms: LP12 (3), LP24 (3), LP24L (1-4 poles), HP12 (3), HP24 (3), BP (4), Notch (2), Comb (4), S&H
Filters can self-oscillate (with excitation) and respond amazingly fast to cutoff frequency changes.
Waveshaper (5 shapes)

Modulation

12 LFO-units available to each voice (6 are running on each voice and 6 are shared for the scene)
DAHDSR envelope generators on every LFO-unit
7 deformable LFO-waveforms + 1 drawable/stepsequencer waveform
LFO1 allows envelope retriggering when used as stepsequencer
Extremely fast and flexible modulation routing. Almost every continuous parameter can be modulated.

Effects

8 effect units arranged as 2 inserts/scene, 2 sends and 2 master effects
10 top-quality algorithms: Delay, Reverb, Chorus, Phaser, EQ, Distortion, Conditioner (EQ, stereo-image control & limiter), Rotary speaker, Frequency shifter, Vocoder

http://vemberaudio.se/surge.php

Via Synthtopia.

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Vectors are getting their own festival: lasers and oscilloscopes, go!

It’s definitely an underground subculture of audiovisual media, but lovers of graphics made with vintage displays, analog oscilloscopes, and lasers are getting their own fall festival to share performances and techniques.

Vector Hack claims to be “the first ever international festival of experimental vector graphics” – a claim that is, uh, probably fair. And it’ll span two cities, starting in Zagreb, Croatia, but wrapping up in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.

Why vectors? Well, I’m sure the festival organizers could come up with various answers to that, but let’s go with because they look damned cool. And the organizers behind this particular effort have been spitting out eyeball-dazzling artwork that’s precise, expressive, and unique to this visceral electric medium.

Unconvinced? Fine. Strap in for the best. Festival. Trailer. Ever.

Here’s how they describe the project:

Vector Hack is the first ever international festival of experimental vector graphics. The festival brings together artists, academics, hackers and performers for a week-long program beginning in Zagreb on 01/10/18 and ending in Ljubljana on 07/10/18.

Vector Hack will allow artists creating experimental audio-visual work for oscilloscopes and lasers to share ideas and develop their work together alongside a program of open workshops, talks and performances aimed at allowing young people and a wider audience to learn more about creating their own vector based audio-visual works.

We have gathered a group of fifteen participants all working in the field from a diverse range of locations including the EU, USA and Canada. Each participant brings a unique approach to this exiting field and it will be a rare chance to see all their works together in a single program.

Vector Hack festival is an artist lead initiative organised with
support from Radiona.org/Zagreb Makerspace as a collaborative international project alongside Ljubljana’s Ljudmila Art and Science Laboratory and Projekt Atol Institute. It was conceived and initiated by Ivan Marušić Klif and Derek Holzer with assistance from Chris King.

Robert Henke is featured, naturally – the Berlin-based artist and co-founder of Ableton and Monolake has spent the last years refining his skills in spinning his own code to control ultra-fine-tuned laser displays. But maybe what’s most exciting about this scene is discovering a whole network of people hacking into supposedly outmoded display technologies to find new expressive possibilities.

One person who has helped lead that direction is festival initiator Derek Holzer. He’s finishing a thesis on the topic, so we’ll get some more detail soon, but anyone interested in this practice may want to check out his open source Pure Data library. The Vector Synthesis library “allows the creation and manipulation of vector shapes using audio signals sent directly to oscilloscopes, hacked CRT monitors, Vectrex game consoles, ILDA laser displays, and oscilloscope emulation software using the Pure Data programming environment.”

https://github.com/macumbista/vectorsynthesis

The results are entrancing – organic and synthetic all at once, with sound and sight intertwined (both in terms of control signal and resulting sensory impression). That is itself perhaps significant, as neurological research reveals that these media are experienced simultaneously in our perception. Here are just two recent sketches for a taste:

They’re produced by hacking into a Vectrax console – an early 80s consumer game console that used vector signals to manipulate a cathode ray screen. From Wikipedia, here’s how it works:

The vector generator is an all-analog design using two integrators: X and Y. The computer sets the integration rates using a digital-to-analog converter. The computer controls the integration time by momentarily closing electronic analog switches within the operational-amplifier based integrator circuits. Voltage ramps are produced that the monitor uses to steer the electron beam over the face of the phosphor screen of the cathode ray tube. Another signal is generated that controls the brightness of the line.

Ted Davis is working to make these technologies accessible to artists, too, by developing a library for coding-for-artists tool Processing.

http://teddavis.org/xyscope/

Oscilloscopes, ready for interaction with a library by Ted Davis.

Ted Davis.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the other artists in the festival, too. It’s wonderful to watch new developments in the post digital age, as artists produce work that innovates through deeper excavation of technologies of the past.

Akiras Rebirth.

Alberto Novell.

Vanda Kreutz.

Stefanie Bräuer.

Jerobeam Fenderson.

Hrvoslava Brkušić.

Andrew Duff.

More on the festival:
https://radiona.org/
https://wiki.ljudmila.org/Main_Page

http://vectorhackfestival.com/

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This free tool could change how you think about sequencers

Context, built in Pure Data, is a free and open source modular sequencer that opens up new ways of thinking about melody, rhythm, and pattern.

Sequencers: we’ve seen, well, a lot of them. There are easy-to-use step sequencers, but they tend to be limited to pretty simple patterns. More sophisticated options go to the other extreme, making you build up patterns from scratch or program your own tools.

The challenge is, how do you employ the simplicity of a step sequencer, but make a wider range of patterns just as accessible?

Context is one clever way of doing that. Building on modular patching of patterns – the very essence of what made Max and Pd useful in the first place – Context lets you combine bits and pieces together to create sequencers around your own ideas. And a whole lot of ideas are possible here, from making very powerful sequencers quick to build, LEGO-style, to allowing open-ended variations to satisfy the whims of more advanced musicians and patchers.

Where this gets interesting in Pd specifically is, you can built little feedback networks, creating simple loopers up to fancy generative or interactive music machines.

It’s all just about sequencing, so if you’re a Pd nut, you can combine this with existing patches, and if not, you can use it to sequence other hardware or software instruments.

At first I thought this would be a simple set of Pd patches or something like that, but it’s really deep. There’s a copious manual, which even holds new users by the hand (including with some first-time issues like the Pd font being the wrong size).

You combine patches graphically, working with structures for timing and pattern. But you can control them not only via the GUI, but also via a text-based command language, or – in the latest release – using hardware. (They’ve got an example set up that works directly with the Novation Launchpad.)

So live coder, live musician, finger drummer, whatever – you’re covered.

There are tons of examples and tutorials, plus videos in addition to the PDF manual. (Even though I personally like reading, that gives you some extra performance examples to check out for musical inspiration!)

Once you build up a structure – as a network of modules with feedback – you can adapt Context to a lot of different work. It could drive the timing of a sample player. It could be a generative music tool. You could use it in live performance, shaping sound as you play. You might even take its timing database and timeline and apply it to something altogether different, like visuals.

But impressively, while you can get to the core of that power if you know Pd, all of this functionality is encapsulated in menus, modules, and commands that mean you can get going right away as a novice.

In fact… I really don’t want to write any more, because I want to go play with this.

Here’s an example of a performance all built up:

And you can go grab this software now, free (GPL v3) — ready to run on your Mac, Windows PC, Linux machine, or Raspberry Pi, etc.:

https://contextsequencer.wordpress.com/documentation/

https://contextsequencer.wordpress.com/

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Patchstorage is a friendly site packed with free visual and music patches

Patching music and visuals is fun, but it helps to learn from other people. With everything from apps (Audulus) to modulars (Softube, VCV Rack) to code and free software (Pd, SuperCollider, Bela), patchstorage is like a free social network for actually making stuff.

It’s funny that we needed international scandal, political catastrophe, numerous academic studies of depression, and everyone’s data getting given away before figuring it out – Facebook isn’t really solving all our problems. But that opens up a chance for new places to find community, learn from each other, and focus on the things we love, like making live music and visuals.

Enter Patchstorage. Choose a platform you’re using – or maybe discover one you aren’t. (Cabbage, for instance, is a free platform for making music software based on Csound.

Then, browse through the tools. There’s an entire VJ engine for Pd extended, a Gregorian guitar synth for the Audulus app, some crazy stuff for the monome aleph hardware, and an entire emulation of a Yamaha DX-7 for SuperCollider, the free code-based environment.

If you’re a newcomer, you can attempt to just load this up and make sound. And a lot of these patches are made for free environments, meaning you don’t have to spend money to check them out. If you’re a more advanced user, of course, poking through someone else’s work can help you get outside your own process. And there are those moments of – “oh, I didn’t know this did that,” or “huh, that’s how that works.”

Pure Data and Critter & Guitari’s Pd-based Organelle hardware are nicely represented.

There are also, naturally, a ton of creations for VCV Rack, the free and open source Eurorack modular emulation we’ve been going on about so much lately.

Oh, yeah, and — another thing. This doesn’t use Facebook as its social network. Instead, chats are powered by gamer-friendly, Slack-like chat client Discord. That means a new tool to contend with when you want to talk about patches, but it does mean you get a focused environment for doing so. So you won’t be juggling your ex, your boss, some spammers, and propaganda bots in the middle of an environment that’s constantly sucking up data about you.

More (project in beta):

https://patchstorage.com/

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A life cycle for open modules, as Mutable Instruments joins VCV Rack

The free and open VCV Rack software modular platform already is full of a rich selection of open source modules. Now, Rack users get first access to the newest Mutable Instruments modules – and your $20 even goes to charity.

Mutable Instruments is unique among modular makers partly in that its modules are open source – and partly in that they’re really exceptionally creative and sound amazing.

Mutable’s Olivier Gillet was an early adopter of the open source model for music hardware, (along with CDM and our 2010 MeeBlip), starting with the classic Shruthi-1 desktop module (2012). But it’s really been in modular that Mutable has taken off. Even as Eurorack has seen a glut of modules, Olivier’s creations – like Braids, the Macro Oscillator, Clouds, and others – have stood out. And the open source side of this has allowed creative mods, like the Commodore 64 speech synthesis firmware we saw recently.

But Rack, by providing an open software foundation to run modules on, has opened a new frontier for those same modules, even after they’re discontinued. Rack’s ecosystem is a mix of free and open modules and proprietary paid modules. Here, you get a combination of those two ideas.

The hardware.

The software. (Macro Oscillator 2, “Audible Instruments,” in VCV Rack.)

Mutable’s Plaits, a successor to the original multi-functional Braids oscillator, isn’t out yet. And its source will be delayed a bit after that. But for twenty bucks, you get both Plaits (dubbed Macro Oscillator 2 inside VCV) ahead of release, opening up a wonderful new source for pitched and percussion sounds. Most of your money even goes to charity. (Actually, I’m happy to support these developers, too, but sure!) These are two of the more versatile sound sources anywhere.

The idea is, would-be hardware purchasers get an advance test. And everyone gets a version they can run in software for convenience. Either way, all synth lovers win, pretty much. Synthtopia has a similar take:

Is This The Future Of Eurorack Modules?

Maybe, maybe not but — on another level, even if this is just the model for Mutable’s stuff, it’s already good news modular fans and VCV Rack users.

And let’s not forget what it all sounds like. Here’s a mesmerizing, tranquil sound creation by Leipzig-based artist Synthicat, showing off Plaits / Macro Oscillator 2:

Another bonus of VCV Rack support for studio work – you get multiple instances easily, without buying multiple modules. So I can imagine a lot of people using elaborate modular setups they could never afford in the studio, then buying a smaller Eurorack rig for live performance use, for example. Check out Synthicat’s music at his Bandcamp site:

https://synthikat.bandcamp.com/

You’ll find a bunch of sound models available, from more traditional FM and analog oscillations to granular to percussive to, indeed, some of that weird speech synthesis business we mentioned. You also get a new interface with more flexible control and CV modulation, unifying what are in fact many different models of sound production into a single, unified, musical interface.

Loads and loads of models. Pop them up by right-clicking, or check the different icons on the center of the module panel.

As for Plaits hardware, here’s some more beautiful music:

https://mutable-instruments.net/modules/plaits/

The official announcement:

When Mutable Instruments releases a new Eurorack module, its source code is kept closed to limit the proliferation of opportunistic “DIY” clones at a time when there is a lot of demand for the module and to avoid exposing dealers to canceled pre-orders. After several months, a second production run is finished and the source code is released.

In a collaboration between VCV and Mutable Instruments, we allow you to test these new modules before their source code is publicly available with the “Audible Instruments Preview” plugin.

We don’t intend to profit from this collaboration. Instead, 80% of sales are donated to the Direct Relief (https://www.directrelief.org/) Humanitarian Medical Aid charity organization. The price exists to limit widespread distribution until each module is mature enough to be merged into Audible Instruments.

I have no doubt this will get hardware people hooked on the software, software people hooked on the hardware, and everybody synth-y and happy.

Note from VCV deveoper Andrew Belt [Facebook VCV Rack Group]

https://mutable-instruments.net/modules/plaits/

It seems more ports/previews may be coming, too, even just in the Audible Instruments preview purchase.

That’s not the only Rack news, either. VCV also have a powerful patchable parametric EQ called Parametra:

It’s $30 – so another proprietary offering that then supports development of the Rack platform.

https://vcvrack.com/Parametra.html

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Cram Commodore 64 speech synthesis into your rack with this firmware

The open hardware Braids macro oscillator gets an alternative firmware that brings new features – including a speech engine known from the Commodore 64 days. Speech synth means modular synthesis:

Mutable Instruments’ open, digital modules have been one of the best things about the modern modular revolution. And this alternative firmware is a great example of that. Without removing any of the existing Braids 1.9 features, you get new oscillator powers.

The banner feature here is the robotic text-to-speech engine SAM (Software Automated Mouth), known from the Commodore 64. Here’s that engine in action – glitchy and distinctive:

Naturally, that opens up some wild possibilities once you patch into it in a modular environment. Listen to this firmware demo for an idea:

It’s also very fun how this works:

There are three SAM entries in the oscillator model list, named SAM1 to SAM3. Each of these SAM models contain 16 different words.

SAM is configured to work similarly to a granular sampler. By changing Timbre, you “scrub” through the word selected by Color. With Timbre at 0 position, SAM is playing the first grain of the current word. With Timbre fully clockwise, SAM is playing the last grain of the current word. The speed of an envelope can control how fast SAM says the word, independent of the pitch.

If you send SAM a trigger it will automatically play the word, starting from the current grain, at the “natural” speed of the word. In this situation, the pitch input controls both the speed and pitch of the output.

It’s not all that’s on offer, though. You also get six oscillators, evenly spaced:

6xsaw, 6xsquare, 6xtriangle, 6xsine. 6 oscillators starting at the 1v/oct input, spaced evenly across the currently selected quantize scale. Color controls the number of scale steps between oscillators, and Timbre scans through various amplitude settings for the 6 oscillators. When the Braids quantizer is turned off, the oscillators are evenly spaced by semitones (controlled by Color)

There’s already a model of this on VCV Rack, so even if you don’t have the discontinued Braids hardware, it should be possible to use in software. I’ll see about forking it and report back. The Macro Oscillator under Audible Instruments would be the obvious starting place. (Any other Braids fans, other stuff you’d want to see in an ideal fork of the module? Maybe we can make a wishlist. Macro Macro?)

Via Richard Devine.

Here’s the firmware:

https://burns.ca/eurorack.html

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VCV Rack modular is about to get gamepad support

Computer or Eurorack, you still want to get those grubby hands on your sounds. So the latest update to the free and open modular platform Rack makes that cheap and easy, with gamepad support.

Developer Andrew Belt is clearly a busy man. His latest update maps from gamepads to virtual voltage inside the software modular environment. Watch via this — uh gentle ambient demo?

Anrew explains on Facebook:

Just added gamepad and computer keyboard support to VCV Rack, soon to be released in Rack 0.6.1.

Joysticks are mapped to voltages -10 to 10V for each axis using the MIDI-CC module from Core with the new “Gamepad” MIDI driver. Buttons can be converted to 10V gates using MIDI-Trig. Similarly to actual MIDI controllers, click the CC or note name display to learn/assign a gamepad joystick/button.

“But I don’t have a USB gamepad controller!”

They’re super cheap on eBay or Amazon by searching “usb gamepad” for around $10. Compare that with $300 MIDI controllers, and this is more fun per dollar if you’re on a budget (so you can save your money for the next upcoming VCV module!)

The “Computer Keyboard” driver supports the QWERTY US layout and spans two octaves with octave up/down buttons.

This update also adds the ability to use the same MIDI device on Windows with multiple virtual MIDI modules. Previously this was caused by the Windows MIDI API requiring exclusive access to each MIDI device, so having multiple instances would crash. I have written a MIDI “multiplexer” that solves this.

Good stuff. I can also imagine an ultra-portable sound rig with a compact PC and a gamepad and keyboard attached – running Linux, of course.

More:
http://vcvrack.com/

Speaking of Linux, until there’s native support in JACK at some point, hopefully, there’s already a hack for the best audio system on Linux (and the best way of piping sound between software):

https://gitlab.com/sonusdept/hijack

Oh yeah, and while VCV Rack is free (with inexpensive software add-ons for high-quality modules), there is this problem – it could make you buy hardware.

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Free VCV Rack modular platform adds plug-in DAW integration, more

VCV Rack is still in a pre-release, beta cycle – but it’s already up and running with a vision of what an open platform for software modular could look like. With 0.6.0, the software integrates with your DAW and manages third-party modules more easily.

If you’re just joining us, VCV Rack is an open source platform that runs a modular synth on your computer. It’s closely modeled on Eurorack modular, down to the way signal flows and modules bolt into the virtual rack. It’s even got simulations of a lot of popular real Eurorack modules, along with new modules that only run in this software environment. You can even use it to try out those real modules before you buy them, and you can integrate the software modules with outboard physical modular gear, if you choose.

Rack isn’t alone – Reaktor Blocks does something like this (though without the front panel patching), and Softube Modular also emulates a Eurorack and includes simulations of existing hardware. But Rack is unique in its open model. Rack itself is open source software, and you can make free third-party open source modules. But without locking users and modular developers into a proprietary platform, it’s also possible to sell modules. That means that you can both support free and open software, and make sure developers have a chance to pay their bills and get compensated for their work.

And that’s why this release is important.

Right now, hardware modular is a great ecosystem. But if you want to make software modules, your choices are limited. Conventional plug-in architectures like VST, AU, and AAX aren’t suited to these sorts of modular interactions. Modular environments available for development need to be proprietary, or don’t have any clear way for developers to make back money to support their time, or even both those things. (Reason Rack Extensions are one extension, but that covers just one host and workflow.) So this offers a new way forward.

First off, a disclaimer: this is a developer release. Installing and using Rack is still a bit hack-y. If you like building software, if you’ve got some experience testing software or providing beta experience, you may well enjoy that. But if not, think of this more as a preview of stuff to come. (And you may still want to dip your toes in with our guides below.)

Plug-in DAW integration

Rack is a standalone application, and that comes with a lot of benefits. But VCV Bridge offers another way to integrate Rack with your DAW. It’s a VST/AU plug-in with support for macOS and 32/64-bit Windows. For now, you set it up as a send/return, much as you would with a modular in a real studio environment and a mixing desk. Then you can route audio. Coming soon: MIDI, DAW clock transport, and instrument plug-ins.

This is mainly a convenience; as we wrote previously, you can already use inter-app MIDI and audio options (or something terrific like JACK) to connect Rack and other tools. But since users are accustomed to plug-ins and they offer some added benefits with saving and recalling project files in your DAW, it makes sense.

More on this and where it’s going:

https://vcvrack.com/manual/Core.html#Bridge

https://github.com/VCVRack/Bridge

Expanded, easier management of modules

The whole beauty of Rack as a platform is its support for a third-party module ecosystem. And 0.6.0 shows where the developer is headed with this, both for open source and paid plug-ins. The Plugin Manager was already providing a way to manage installing extra modules; now it does a lot more.

  • Plugin Manager now works with open source plugins, too (as well as paid)
  • Browse in a new Module Browser
  • Star your favorites (yes!)

  • Add modules quickly from the keyboard

A new SDK, other enhancements

Now that the Rack API is stable, developers will want to check this out: there’s a new Rack SDK, which lets you compile plugins without having to compile the whole Rack from source. There are a lot of other relevant notes here:

https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack/issues/258#issuecomment-376293898

Also new in this build are a bunch of UI improvements and enhanced Core modules for MIDI and audio support.

0.6.0 changelog [GitHub]

Learn more

Our friends at Synthtopia have been on top of some of the recent module additions. For instance:

VCV Router Sequential Switch Matrix

Here’s an example of how to build a hybrid system, combining a computer running VCV with hardware modular:

And amazingly, VCV Rack is a one-person development shop. Darwin Grosse interviewed creator Andrew Belt for his podcast series, also on Synthtopia:

Open Source Synthesis: Behind The Scenes With VCV Rack Creator Andrew Belt

And lastly, check our our ongoing guide to the software – see the links at the bottom of this story. We’ll keep working on that, and welcome your feedback if you find anything confusing or want to know more, in the interest of having a complete guide ready roughly as VCV Rack hits 1.0. Thanks to Ted Pallas for his work on this series.

A guide to VCV Rack, a software Eurorack modular you can use for free

Step one: How to start using VCV Rack, the free modular software

How to make the free VCV Rack modular work with Ableton Link

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Mammut is free software that does completely insane things to sounds

From the darkest arts in auditory alchemy, you can find gems like Mammut, a free tool that will utterly mangle digital audio into forms beautiful and chaotic.

And I mean really weird. From producing eerie, smeared convolutions of files to manipulating the spectrum of a sound in ways that are actually unlistenable (as in, they cause excruciating pain), Mammut is delightfully un-commercial and totally unpredictable.

Here’s how this all started. Last week, I noticed that popular time stretching algorithm PaulStretch had found its way into a convenient plug-in form for Mac and Windows. That opened the floodgates to lots of discussion of where to find similar tools.

If you want PaulStretch, it’s worth checking out the original, or the version now baked into free sound editor Audacity:

http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/paulstretch.html

More tools also came up with Soundhack. As creator Tom Erbe wrote me (after I mentioned I loved his software for doing convolution all the way back to the mid 90s), he mentioned:

“++spiralstretch does a pvoc stretch on realtime incoming sound with up to 8 overlapping “stretchers”. also does granular stretching for a less spectral sound. (shameless plug)”

http://www.soundhack.com/

Mammut represents a different path to strange noises. You know you’re in for something out of the ordinary from the moment you launch it, and are treated to a woodcut of a woolly mammoth and some braying animal noises and … wind … or something. Then, with that dizzying animation looping in the background, you load a sound. You’re then able to directly manipulate the spectrum of the sound, via a seemingly random assortment of tabs with different functions. These have descriptions that range from detailed and useful to glib to … tabs that have no explanation at all, or one that says “Rather useless.”

Okay, then!

There’s some beautiful stuff in there. In addition to being able to edit a spectrum directly, you can apply more beautiful time stretching and features like convolution, which combines audio waveforms by spectra.

And there’s undo/redo, too, accessed by up and down arrows in the middle of the interface, so you can back out of decisions that just screwed up the sound. (Those you’ll find pretty readily!)

As the creators describe it:

Mammut is a rather unpredictable program, and the user must get used to letting go of control over the time axis. The sounding results are often surprising and exciting. Mammut is also ideal for common operations such as filtering, spectrum shift and convolution and it provides an optimal performance.

Mammut is old software, from pre-2007, but thanks to being built in the free JUCE environment still compiles and runs nicely. It’s a project of Notam, the electronic art research center in Oslo, and developed by Øyvind Hammer, with a UI by Kjetil Matheussen.

The “mammoth” reference is because it takes the FFT of the whole sound file at once instead of using windows / chunks of the sound. While the results here are radical, similar techniques find more practical applications – like building a smooth waveform pad synth.

Anyway, I suspect you can from here go down either a link hole looking at that research and the engineering side, or get lost playing with sounds.

http://www.notam02.no/web/prosjekter/mammut/?lang=en

I wound up making sounds with it, including convolutions of other productions I was working on, and assembled a track:

In honor of Mammut, I think it’s also only appropriate to paste in this film – enjoy!

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