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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No Love Parades this time: in the midst of crisis, an image of tonedeaf ravers in Berlin

A large swath of Berlin’s club scene kicked off the summer with an illustration of how not to respond to a crisis. The message: if the crisis doesn’t apply to me, I won’t acknowledge its existence.

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When these 3 orchestras couldn’t play Beethoven in person, this artist took them to 360 VR

Three orchestras in Berlin had a concert that was the victim of social distancing. Artist Lucas Gutierrez was able to give them a new, virtual home together – and it’s Pastoral gone pastel, in 360 degrees.

Lucas has done some extraordinary 3D work in the past, including an ongoing collaboration with Robert Lippok (raster media). For this project, he had to work extremely fast, but the results are dazzling – sort of what looks like would happen if Lisa Frank did new color consulting for the planet Krypton.* (Uh, see bottom of the article…)

The project is produced in the real-time 3D platform Unity, as you can see from the screen grabs.

It’s yet another example of how augmented and virtual reality can be a more compelling form of delivery of live music, when being there in person isn’t possible. If the economics can be solved, this does seem the sort of thing that could endure post-virus.

More on the rest of Lucas’ work soon, since this is an example of how he works fast.

https://lucasgutierrez.com/trikestra_360

https://lucasgutierrez.com/

See also iheartberlin.de [ENG + DE]

I mean, Superman II was dealing with this notion of people on a two-dimensional surface which you rotate inside a three-dimensional environment. Amiright?

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Blistering driving acid and searing glitches in Vee – Litha music video (CDM premieres)

It’s a feverish, pounding acid nightmare – in a kathartic way. Get knocked back in your chair for Vee’s “Litha” on Failed Units, as we meet the artists.

“Litha” is the latest release from the aggressive, underground up-and-comer label Failed Units, a collaboration between musician Vee and visual artist ZOR.

This is perhaps even unintentionally on-zeitgeist; the music video combines moshed-to-death, AI-mangled hyperactive disintegrating visuals with relentless acid madness. It’s a digitally dying flow of imagery with echoes of a 2020 update to Emergency Broadcast Network. (see below to see what I’m talking about)

Watch. Crank up the volume. Obviously.

ZOR, short for Zion of Rudeness, sends along a statement and some idea of how this video came together. ZOR shares with us:

STATEMENT. Destroyed by overstimulation. The over-stimulation of the media propaganda machine. The system of enslavement in which we all play our part. The mainstream masses are kept going by torrents of fear and see-through fake happiness, like lab rats in an experiment.

PROCESS. In order to represent the everyday sensory overload, a rough cut was created for the first level, matching the music of Vee. This first level was then gradually cut or additional cut-outs and animated 3D objects were added so that the story played out on many different image levels at the same time.

The various levels were partially processed using data-moshing. I also worked with pixel sorting and other digital glitch processes. In one setting, the Google DeepDream AI [background] was used, for example, and alienated in the further process. After the files were destroyed, they were digitally cut out again and inserted into the overall picture. Finally, I digitally destroyed the work in several rounds in order to regain a certain consistency.

ZOR’s artist page: https://www.facebook.com/ZionOfRudeness/

And the release, from September – the label is centered between Manchester and Berlin, with the secretive Vee coming out of Manchester.

☨: This one’s come out wrong too
Ϟ: FUCK! This is not looking good…
☨: Who knows about all of this?
Ϟ: The directors will be expecting our report.


Ϟ: But what is going on?
☨: I don’t know. We’ve been following the protocol. I’ve run through the data again, there’s been no deviation…
Ϟ: … My head hurts.


☨: So what do we do now?
Ϟ: Put it with the other one.

Ϟ: We can’t let any of this filter out. I hope you understand?
☨: All clear. What do we tell them?

https://failedunits.bandcamp.com/album/dawn-of-the-failed-units-pt-2-vee

Failed Units makes these releases in a sort of sequential narrative, if you want to follow along.

We too often watch new media without any sense of history. Just as appropriate for the pandemic information meltdown is Emergency Broadcast Network’s “Channel Zero.” This early 90s group out of Providence, Rhode Island looks pioneering in its deconstruction of propaganda through audiovisual mayhem. And yeah, it seems the time is right for just this kind of resonance across the decades – EBN to Vee.

Of course, now we have AI and streaming alongside satellite dishes and television. Well, and no more channels.

STAY HOME.

WATCH TV.

Oh yeah, we actually have to do that now. Hey, as they say, there’s nothing wrong with that.

On that note, here’s the video ZOR produced last year for the ear-catching Duane Reade outing that debuted the label:

Failed Units lives exclusively on Bandcamp – and yes, should continue purchasing downloads there if you have the money; it still makes a big difference for artists and labels even minus Bandcamp’s own (minor) take:

https://failedunits.bandcamp.com/

Addedum, if it’s more glitch-y eye candy you’re after, the USA-based label Detroit Underground has a full channel crammed with nonstop music and visuals, running right in-browser, much of it also in a similar aesthetic musical and optical vein:

http://detroitunderground.net/du-vhs/

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German music tech events encounter COVID-19; Musikmesse postponed

Novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, meet the musical instruments and music tech business. Events in Germany are threatened, and more could be in store worldwide.

It’s too tempting to use the virus image instead of Messe, since, well, while they’re deadly, viruses look amazing – thanks, science and nature, mostly.

This isn’t really about spreading fear about the disease itself. It makes sense to keep connected with health authorities and heed their advice to reduce our own exposure and help prevent infecting others.

But the other power of epidemics is to disrupt other activities – not just by making us sick, but by making us adapt as the world around us changes.

In Germany, documented cases are growing, and travel is being curtailed. It’s possible that simply the economics of trade fairs can break down – if there aren’t enough flights, or workers supporting the airport system, the travel infrastructure itself starts to devolve.

For now, Messe finds themselves in the part of Germany with more cases, and therefore more restrictions. And on top of it, not all exhibitors will be able to travel. In a press release from today:

The ongoing spread of Covid-19 in Europe called for a reassessment of the situation in close cooperation with the public-health authorities in Frankfurt who require that steps be taken to prevent event participants from high-risk regions coming to Frankfurt and visiting the fair when ill. Given that these participants could also be infected by Covid-19, it is necessary to conduct a health check to prevent the infection spreading even further. This is an important part of the infectiological risk assessment. Messe Frankfurt is not able to implement such measures. Additional factors behind the decision include the growing number of travel restrictions, which will make it difficult for many potential visitors and exhibitors to get to Frankfurt.

This should also make it clear why it’s not just “panic” closing events – at least, not in areas with greater infection. These sort of precautions at large scale events help prevent those gatherings from turning into hubs for spreading disease.

At least in the case of Messe, these are science-based precautions, made in consultation with people who study infectious disease.

Musikmesse runs 1-4 April. The organizers say they’re looking for other dates and tickets will remain valid.

Photo: Pietro Sutera, Musikmesse.

For now, part of the event remains on schedule – a local marketplace of instruments and gear and a festival of events across Frankfurt:

The ‘Musikmesse Plaza’ pop-up market (3 and 4 April) and the ‘Musikmesse Festival’ (31 March to 4 April 2020) can take place as planned. These events are aimed primarily at a regional audience from the greater Frankfurt area.

See: www.messefrankfurt.com

Musikmesse is one of three major music instrument/tech manufacturing events in April, all of them in Germany. Superbooth and Ableton’s Loop could also be impacted.

For now, both Ableton and Superbooth say they’re pressing on. Berlin currently has more limited cases than the western part of Germany, which might help, though travel restrictions elsewhere or the continued expansion of the disease in Germany could change that.

Synthtopia has some coverage of the news this week:

Ableton Loop Going Ahead As Planned

Coronavirus Not Stopping Superbooth 2020, Say Organizers

Superbooth’s statement:

With SUPERBOOTH20 starting in about 8 weeks from now, we prefer to rely on facts rather than speculations about the future. Please check Robert Koch Institute in Berlin for further information (German/English).

Without any carelessness about health or risks, we basically are very careful with the daily news spreading and panic producing sensational reports. We are observing the development, but can not say how the situation will change in the coming weeks. If we have the impression that we should act in any way, we will do so. By now we can only say, the situation in Berlin is safe and we do not want to be part of any speculations.

As long as there is no official ban by the authorities, we have decided to keep on working on the finalization of this year’s Superbooth.

Musikmesse is not alone. Leipzig Book Fair, ITB Berlin (a tourist fair), Berlin Tourism Festival, and the Hannover Messe tech fair have all postponed.

The good news for Germany is elsewhere; despite some closures, Germany for now is not resorting to quarantines or shutting its borders, at least for now. Trade fairs are an especially difficult case because of their complexity and dependence by nature on lots of travel.

The larger impact in music tech may come from the supply chain. Whether they’re Chinese-made or not, the vast majority of music hardware is dependent on China for a lot of their components. And manufacturing in China is off – way, way off. As the country has struggled to find workers and move goods, its capacity is dramatically reduced. (See the BBC on their just-released manufacturing numbers.)

It might sound callous to talk about economics when a potentially deadly virus is around, but the reality is, both could impact lives. Jobs in Asia and internationally in music gear face some new challenges. An overstressed health care system can put both lives and livelihoods at risk, too. That hits especially hard for people lacking access to good health care or absent health insurance and job security.

And artists face hardships, too, as travel is diminished, economies weaken, and large-scale events like festivals and clubs cancel.

Of course, the one place we can go is online. I have real belief in the resiliency of the music, immersive visual, and musical instrument communities and industries. I wish everyone strong health and easy travel and – even if we’re stuck in one place, hope we keep talking about ideas so we keep exchanging music and supporting ourselves. Watch this space. (I, uh, just hope I’m not quarantined or down with a virus with extra time as a result!)

Image:

NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), U.S. NIH – https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/novel-coronavirus-sarscov2-images

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.

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Gaze into the geometric sound and visual world of Alva Noto, with UNIEQAV

German music and media master Alva Noto, aka Carsten Nicolai, has released his full UNIEQAV audiovisual show online. In other words – get your sine wave on, ears and eyeballs, from the comfort of your own home.

As you’d expect from the Noton founder, the world of UNIEQAV is digital in its purest sense – mathematics and code on full display, raw single-cycle wavetables, minimal graphics celebrating color and line.

The full playlist is on YouTube. Some of these clips are not advisable if you have epilepsy. (Oddly, the things that trigger epilepsy victims make me really calm, which I presume says something about the brain, and makes me wish I better-understood neurology and perception.)

Some pleasing moments:

All sound and conception/design is Carsten Nicolai/Alva Noto, with visuals programmed by NIBO FX of Mohali, India. (Also on YouTube.)

The 2018 album is available direct (including lossless, physical) on the Noton site:

https://noton.greedbag.com/buy/unieqav/

For higher quality movies, check Apple Music. (Hey, “would you like to watch some Alva Noto on my giant flat panel in high res” would probably get me to come home with you, so I guess I’m a digital media nerd.)

https://music.apple.com/us/artist/alva-noto/27060192#see-all/recent-videos

Carsten once told us in a talk I moderated at SONAR, alongside Raster founder and friend/collaborator Olaf Bender, that these abstractions were a way of resisting audiovisual propaganda. It’s programming, then, not to serve a pre-defined narrative, but for programming’s sake – mathematical philosophy and objectivism.

I suspect it’s also possible Carsten really, really likes Japan. This piece references Tokyo’s UNIT nightclub, third in a series there. I suppose one personal attraction for me to both Germany and Japan is that they both contemplate tools as art – whether it’s Berlin and software code, or traditional Japan and the careful study and trade of even utensils of tea preparation. I don’t even mean that by analogy – I think many of us who care about sound and visuals also consider time spent contemplating their tools to be part of the process. I can easily imagine that also is part of the connection for Alva Noto artworks.

At least in modern Japan, strict rules governing dancing may also have produced a particular environment for audiovisual work. A 67-year dancing ban has meant that a nightclub is not synonymous with a dancefloor. Even with those laws loosened, it’s not uncommon today to see people stand in contemplation of a show, presumably as a remnant of this history. But for the club-artwork mix of classic Alva Noto, it fits.

I haven’t gotten to speak with Carsten about this and whether it’s connected, but Japanese aesthetics and a history playing there have been part of the whole (former) Raster-Noton crew. Oh, plus Noton will sell you a very attractive Japanese calendar. I also like their logo. Can’t put my finger on why, exactly.

If you’re in Berlin rather than Japan, you can catch Carsten and his brother go up against Robert Lippok and his brother in a back to back to back to back DJ pairing at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. (Seriously, that is the full name of the museum. When German can’t make really long single words, it can still compensate by making really long names for things with multiple words!)

It’s a DJ battle for the ages, and true to form for Carsten’s art world savvy, it also makes the museum the showcase for music. I cannot report for certain whether this “battle” is also a contest for the honor of the two labels Noton and Raster, but it at least makes a fine show of fraternity and love of music. Enjoy that tomorrow night; I’m in Montreal.

Here is that talk, maybe one of the last to put Olaf and Carsten together onstage as Raster-Noton, though – it’s all still in the family, even as each label and platform now focuses elegantly on their own direction.

Image at top: SONAR Istanbul 2018 performance of this show, photo Feli Gutiérres.

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KORG starts a new instrument division in Berlin, focusing on sustainable “things that matter”

Former KORG Chief Engineer Tatsuya Takahashi is leading a new division in Berlin, alongside COO Maximilian Rest. And it sounds like a different kind of synth business.

It’s not clear just what exactly KORG Germany will do, apart from design instruments in Berlin. But the fact that “Tats” and Max are in charge, and that they’re writing some lofty mission statements, is enough reason to take notice. And they’re hiring, too, largely across engineering roles – mechanical, electrical, and software.

Tatsuya was at the engineering helm at KORG through some of the most innovative synth industry accomplishments of recent years. That includes the monotron and monotribe series, which helped kick off a boom in affordable modular and compact synths, followed by a string of volca hits (beats, bass, keys, sample, kick, fm), the collaboration with open source magnetic snap-together kit maker littleBits, the ARP Odyssey and MS-20 remakes which helped push the historical clone concept, and the fresh monologue synth.

Then Tats went to Yadastar, the independent marketing company that ran the Red Bull Music Academy program before Red Bull pulled the plug. And what we got from Tats was interesting, but nowhere near as accessible as his work for KORG – the Granular Convolver, for instance.

Well, now Red Bull’s loss is the synth world’s gain, because Tatsuya is back full-time with KORG. (He continued consulting for the company in the interim, as I understand it.) And he’s bringing with him collaborator Maximilian, who has long been a champion of making more sustainable products and reflecting on issues like labor practices. Max has also run his own independent business making modular and timekeeping pieces, E-RM; I’m unclear on what its future will be as he steps into the role at KORG.

So, what we get is a new enterprise that these two promise will engage both in new instruments and partnerships, and investigate “things that matter” and are made sustainably. With some flux at Behringer, ROLI, Native Instruments, and others, they may find some talent becoming free agents, too.

Team building is a big deal, and it’s worth noting that all those KORG products were possible because of collaborative, team-driven engineering efforts. So this talk of collaboration is itself compelling – even as some of Tats’ own private projects like audio-rate triggering a TR-808 are also rather cool and I suspect may figure into this, as well. (One of my highlights of 2019 was definitely making loud noises in a Latvian warehouse and then partying to Tats’ set!)

From their statements –

Tatsuya is CEO and says the company will make instruments with a core team “but also through per project partnerships and collaborations. “

Maximilian talks about sustainability and getting out of business as usual: “We will only market the things that matter, because the key to our way of great business is to respect each other as humans and the resources of our planet.”

More, plus job applications:

https://korg-germany.de

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Cubase 10.5: what do you get for the DAW that has everything?

The software has always been feature packed. But in addition to serious workflow tools, the latest release might add some inspiration, too.

Even as we’re spoiled for choice in production tools, Cubase stands out as one of a few tools that does it all. If you’re looking for a cross-platform production environment that never says “I can’t do that,” it makes it fairly hard to go wrong. So – how do you add more to that?

Let’s break that down into an overview. This update has some different additions for different audiences.

Oh yeah, and another thing – Cubase has quietly turned 30 years old with this release. That says something about Steinberg’s dedication, and also the endurance of specialized, mature tools for the unique demands of producing music and sound.

The new multi-tap delay puts Steinberg again head to head with its old rival from across Hamburg, Apple Logic (nee Emagic). But Steinberg runs their software cross-platform, and they’ve got something else in store – a powerful granular instrument.

Creative inspiration

There’s a new MultiTap Delay, adding to Cubase’s creative tools. (Pro/Artist)

Padshop 2 upgrades this unique granular instrument, which is also out on iPad. I’ll write about that separately, because, well, it’s granular. Also, while Logic has its own wild delays, here Steinberg has the edge. Oh, and it runs on Windows, too. (Pro/Artist)

Plus the Elements version now has the Stereo Delay, De-esser and Roomworks processors, which makes it actually a very fine entry level DAW investment.

Lately, all the DAWs seem to be adding a feature for recording ideas before you hit record. Steinberg calls is “Retrospective MIDI Record” which sounds better than “oh I forgot to hit — £$&* it!” Or “why do my ideas always suck when the recording is on; that was great and what did I even just play I forgot it already?!”

Match EQ visually by spectrum.
Sometimes it’s the little things – like channel strip color coding.

Mixing and editing

You can now colorize mixer channels. (Pro/Artist/Elements)

There’s a new Pro-only Spectral Comparison EQ. That’s an interesting new approach doing equalization and precise mixing; I’m curious how it’ll be received (especially by people whose ears already do this pretty well – and those who struggle, too).

A serious tool for production

There’s a bunch of other stuff:

  • Import tracks individually from a project (Pro)
  • Export video as H.264 with 16-bit stereo audio (Pro/Artist/Elements)
  • Combine Select Tools Mode for precise selection (Pro/Artist)
  • Optional dBFS Max normalization (Pro)

And the Score Editor, Macro creation window, and other areas see improvements, among lots of other improvements.

Maybe best of all – you can run in Safe Mode without plug-ins for easier troubleshooting, which all DAWs really ought to make easier. Word is also that Steinberg is finishing Catalina compatibility, though part of the appeal of Cubase – unlike Logic – is that you don’t need a Mac to run it.

More information:

https://new.steinberg.net/cubase/new-features/

It’s also worth saying that Steinberg isn’t employing a one-size-fits-all-approach – unlike, for example, their German neighbors at Ableton (or Pro Tools, for that matter). So in addition to editions, there are differentiated tools.

There’s Cubase, but there’s also Nuendo for heavy-duty production work, as favored by a lot of broadcast and film users.

And maybe most interesting is that Steinberg is one of the few companies left really developing the idea of dedicated wave editing, which is crucial to a lot of pro workflows and mastering and other engineers.

While WaveLab has long been a stalwart in this category, they’ve added something rather new with SpectralLayers, a new visual approach to editing. So you’ve got your choice of ways of working.

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White Privilege and the Electronic Music Artist – BELP shares one European take

Don’t go offline yet – there’s an opportunity to discuss deeper issues around race, politics, power, and electronic music. Guest writer BELP delves into the core of the challenges in those issues – and invites more discussion.

To anyone who wants to question whether this conversation belongs here, let me answer that directly – I see this as fundamentally and obviously in tune with the mission of exploring ideas for futuristic music. Apart from being an ethical responsibility and the right thing to do, for any of us who love music, here’s a chance to learn and expand music making and remove some very ugly obstacles that many of us otherwise will help perpetuate.

(See last week’s discussion for why the issue of race in electronic music blew up at that particular moment on social media. I’d also argue that Twitter in 2019 counts as relevant music tech as much as the production tools, for better and for worse.)

BELP responded via Twitter that he was working on a text to deal with some of the more nuanced dimensions of these questions.

BELP’s production and curation is a stand-out of an up-and-coming scene in Munich. He’s a self-described “DJ / Producer from Munich, Europe, having released several albums with electronic music, focussing on broken beats, ambient & noise. Involved with running the JAHMONI Music / Schamoni Musik label and as an artist member of the SVS Records collective.” (Seriously, check out the diverse Munich musical scene at the moment – and “stick to the music” crowd, uh, yeah, go listen to BELP and other Munich cats and don’t waste time trolling our comments.)

So that gives us a musical soundtrack, not just words (more links at the bottom of this story):

There is an open invitation to develop this text over time, not just from BELP’s own perspective. And my favorite phrase: “you can still be a genuine human being acting normally.” (Yes, please do that.)

Let’s read.

By BELP, November 2019

White Privilege and the (Electronic) Music Artist

As seen from a european perspective

Introduction

I would like to share my
thoughts on the recent debates on white privilege and the electronic music
scene, especially in Europe. This is not intended to lecture you. I am simply
documenting my (current) position and thoughts. By doing so I am not implying I
have more knowledge than you or anybody else. Nor do I think it will make me
immune to criticism. It might appear self-centered, and maybe it even is – at
the same time, the debates around white supremacy, structural racism, inherent
white privelege, western dominance and collective colonial responsibility will not
go away. I believe they will even intensify further. This is why I believe
being silent and ignoring all this is not going to help. So here is what I, as
someone from the electronic music scene in Europe, currently believe is worth
pointing out.

Reducing yourself to being
just a single individual saying you treat every person as equal (regardless of
race/origin/ethnicity/etc.) is simply not enough.

As a white person and a
member of a western society, you cannot simply opt-out and reduce everything to
yourself. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings. You do have some
collective responsibility. We profit from past and current colonialism, as well
as structural mechanisms in place that ensure western dominance and wealth.
Even if that wealth is not with you personally on your bank account you still
very much profit from all this indirectly.

Multiculturalism is great,
but its only great when every culture is coming from a more or less equal
position.

And this is very often not
the case. As a (white) member of a western society, when you engage in
multicultural artistic work, even if you have people of other ethnicities
involved directly within your work or even if the work itself is a mixed-race
effort to begin with, you as a member of a (white) western society have
inherently more power and responsibility associated with yourself (your
options, your behaviours, your ability to express and distribute yourself) than
members from an oppressed group, a member from a different ethnicity and/or
part of the world with less access to resources, wealth, power and rights. You
must be aware of that, and not pretend everything is okay, even if you meet
(and work) in real-life with these people as human beings and show respect. You
must not be over-apologetic or excuse yourself and do weird things, you
can still be a genuine human being acting normally, but when you see an
opportunity to counter-balance this imbalance of power you should rather try
and make it happen than rather not try to make it happen. This means
understanding other perspectives and making room for non-eurocentristic voices
and individuals in your (musical) work with the consent of those, if you
can and it is appropriate.

If you are not directly
involved with individuals from a different cultural background in the work you
are doing (which is totally fine), you can split things up, while still being
honest about references and giving credits where stuff comes from in your work
(knowing where you profited e.g. from black culture as an influence and being
honest about that), on a personal/private level you try to understand those
perspectives, you have those debates and try to help, within your circles,
where you possibly can, to reduce these inequalities, acknowledging that this tension is generated by the imbalance of power, and not dismissing it.

Nuanced criticism vs.
Defensiveness.

Having said the above, things
are still incredibly complex here. One of the issues I found is that people (of
all backgrounds) are coming from very different places in this construct called
the Western World pretending to be able to apply the same principles and
supposedly commonly shared values and background knowledge in debates on The
Internet. The so-called West is a somewhat artificial construct that is very
much linked to american (cultural) imperialism. On the other hand, it becomes
very real with military / economic power structures (e.g. NATO) and a shared
cultural domain (Netflix / Pop Culture), while non-US-western nations often do
a poor job differentiating / distancing themselves when necessary.

But at the same time it should be said, many of these debates are coming from a US-domestic background, with specific (segregated) racial situations happening in the US, and are being extrapolated 1:1 from there on to everything that is remotely associated with The West or even just “white”. While many things can be applied and linked, some cannot. Those distinctions are unfortunately currently not really being made. There is for instance a specific european version of collective colonial responsibility that is slightly different than the US-version. There is a specific real-life mixed-race day-by-day practice being lived in a city like London that is slightly different than in some other metropolitan area in North America (e.g. Brooklyn). And German colourblindness is slightly different than American colourblindness (due to different historical backgrounds), etc., etc. I am not saying anything is better or worse by-the-way, just different, without us even really knowing about those differences well enough when those debates happen. This is just one of the reasons why there can be such really big misunderstandings / shitstorms on the internet, currently (apart from a definitive level of ignorance, unawareness and defensiveness electronic music  artists certainly have).

But this last point
especially brings me to why I believe it is so important to get involved, to
try to understand and follow those debates, to reflect, to question yourself –
because for instance, copying US black activism debates 1:1 onto your local
(european) community will not really work and not really help. But that doesn’t
mean we don’t have similar issues and problems over here in Europe as well we
really need to discuss and fix. You should be able to understand those issues
better and be able to engage in those debates with our own, nuanced position
and perspective, instead of remaining completely silent or being defensive.

Most producers I personally
know actually have good mechanisms, ideas, views how to navigate within a
multi-ethnic / multicultural artistic space, but they lack the terminology,
buzzwords and background knowledge that would currently be necessary to engage
in these debates on a global (US-dominated) internet scale. I encourage you as
a fellow artist and musician to not be too afraid here. Speaking up is
important, learning is important. Only through communication we can slowly make
this a more fruitful debate for everyone (and bring positive change), instead
of remaining silent and waiting for the next shitstorm in this US-style callout
/ cancel culture to happen and then just go duck and cover.

Disecting what was not meant
to be disected: What is the goal – Inclusion or exclusion?

Personally, I believe segregation is never ideal, should not be the
goal. I realise that sometimes things go so bad, that separation remains the
only option. Just like in personal relationships, there can be a point of no
return where ending contact and communication becomes the only way out. But
this is then the last option, and very sad. A lot of things went wrong before
that.

White supremacy far-right groups want racial purity and segregation. As
a result and consequence, communities of other ethnicities and cultural
backgrounds living in these western societies where white supremacy ideologies
are particularly dominant (e.g. the US under Trump, but not only) want to
largely distance themselves, be left alone and peacefully do their own thing,
as far as this is possible within that particular western society. I have total
sympathy for this. It must be possible in a democracy “to leave” and
be left alone, for self-defense and self-healing reasons.

But is this the case everywhere in the so-called West? I don’t even
really know, and I am of course not entitled to make a qualified judgement
about this here since I do not belong to a marginalized group, nor do I have
enough knowledge about how things are in each and every western society. But
must we now a priori assume this new bottom line of de facto
segregation
– regardless, for a moment, whether one group agressively
called for this initially or its the other group‘s reaction being under attack
– as the default setting behind every white privilege / white supremacy /
cultural appropriation debate on The Internet? Can we still believe in
integration (as opposed to assimilation, segregation or marginalization)? Is
the mixing of cultures always by default harmful – a “sell-out” of a
“weaker” / oppressed culture towards a dominant (white / western)
culture?

It is complicated. Personally, when you want segregation in
principle
, I would like to respectfully disagree. If you want segregation
only as a (temporary) consequence of past and current oppression and harm, I
fully agree. So to me, the intention, the end goal, is the important thing. I
am okay to be called out for cultural appropriation I may have done, for my
white privilege, etc. as an intermediate, temporary step to overcome
inequalities (by pointing them out, so we learn) and to even perhaps take a
step back from all this mixing and integration (multiculturalism) for healing,
self-reflection and adjustment for a while, as long as this is not meant to be
the ideal situation forever and later we can perhaps mix again (culture-wise),
when we as the (white) dominant western society have learned how to do this in
a less (and hopefully zero) aggressive way.

If we assume for a moment, that throughout the so-called Western
World, we have different distributions / ratios of whether you believe in
inclusion or exclusion, whether you believe segregation is the way to go in the
long run, or not, and different views and lived practices of exactly what level
of (cultural / racial) mixing / integration is good and where to draw the line,
what happens when you say, publish or post something reflecting one background
setting
from some part of the so-called West, without any geographical
delimiter or mention of any scope, to all other parts?

Lets try and go further towards specifically the (Electronic) Music
Artist in Europe, while not questioning that some basic, broad argumentation
lines (intentionally kept a bit vague here) do indeed apply everywhere in the
so-called West, e.g. western dominance / imperialism, eurocentrism, colonial damage
& responsibilities (+ reparations) and inherent white privilege, but not
pretending that the so-called West is a mono-ethnic, mono-cultural, monolithic
bloc where everything is the same everywhere just because The Internet might
imply that.

Easy to assemble, hard to take apart.

Before we go there, we need some background. This entire debate is very
important, it is an opportunity to finally bring some very important issues on
to the table. After centuries of colonialism, Europe & North America – The
West – are under serious attack, and very rightfully so. Rarely has any western
culture taken full collective responsibility for anything. In fact, Germany’s
understanding of its responsibility for the Holocaust, albeit this not being
enough and past achievements being currently reversed, is one of the few
exceptions. But even Germany is completely ignoring the genocide of the Herero
and Nama in its former colony Namibia, unwilling to make a connection between
extra-territorial white terror & genocide as a predecessor, a
“prototype”, for european domestic genocide at a much larger scale
later on, unwilling to officially accept this earlier genocide on african
territory and pay real reparations, instead of half-heartedly “foreign
aid” as merely a form of White Saviour Complex.

The list of colonial aggressions and violence is endless. The ignorance
and defensiveness to at least mention and remember those within western
societies is immense, without even mentioning the possibility of reparations. A
rise of (far-)right governments in western countries over the last decade,
making this principle of ignoring past failures and aggressions even a state
doctrine, made things even worse.

So there is a lot to unpack here, for generations to come. In the
meanwhile, what can an ethnic group, a minority, living within The West,
knowing all this, suffering from all this to this very day, having direct links
thru its ancestry to past colonial oppression, even perhaps having been
displaced by colonialism and stripped of its original culture by colonisers and
now additionally (still) suffering from structural racism, actually do? For one
thing, keeping, upholding, re-establishing and rebuilding their unique cultural
identity and not giving it up to a general (white) culture surrounding them
being associated with their oppressors, the colonisers.

This is the reason why multiculturalism is being attacked.
Multiculturalism, from this perspective, is a violent “Mixing
Machine”, it consumes all other cultures and integrates them into a single,
bigger, more powerful, white / western culture. In fact it is the mixing of
cultures, the assimilation of everything you throw at The West from elsewhere,
that makes The West powerful. You can even make the picture look like: The West
sucks everything else in, without asking for permission, like a black hole, not
giving anything back. This is one of the aspects of modern colonialism, to many
marginalised groups, today. First The West took resources and labour (slaves),
now its culture.

At the same time, attacking multiculturalism is a very powerful sword
indeed. The West would basically stop to exist if it ended multiculturalism.
There is actually not much it really owns, not much it can truly rely on, in
terms of any attractive pieces of truly own culture. Everything was mixed, or
stolen, depending on how you look at it.

This entire idea of course depends on the model of Social Capital
– the idea that cultures or cultural assets are owned by specific social and /
or ethnic groups. You can dismiss this idea entirely, saying no-one owns
anything, but doing so is only possible from a dominant perspective where there
is little truly own culture people really want and more culture from elsewhere
integrated you actually depend on to make yourself (also economically)
attractive (apart from maybe Oktoberfest). If you are an oppressed and
marginalised group with limited access, suffering from structural racism but
with some attractive cultural assets you call your own, then of course you will
want to protect that, and not give it away for nothing.

Has this something to do with copyright? Yes, also. Has this something
to do with respect? Of course, always, but not only. The issue is, in the days
of neoliberalism white western individuals do exactly what they are told to do
within neoliberalism – act as individuals, only. It is precisely the musician,
the artist, who often is reluctant to see these bigger connections and
collective responsibilities and chooses to act on a personal consumer-level
only: the consumption of cultures. Things tend to get even more ironic when
those artists consider themselves as outsiders of society, believing it
makes them automatically allies with truly oppressed groups.

It is nearly impossible for artists to escape their role, as this is a
really fundamental, intrinsic mechanism to western societies – artists as scientists
exploring ever new forms of mixtures of cultures for the advancement of
western culture. When a (white) western artist or musician is for instance
attacked for some form of cultural appropriation, this goes deep. It goes
beyond not having understood inherent white privilege, it goes beyond not
realising structural racism or not understanding western dominance or colonial
collective responsibilities – it essentially questions himself entirely, his
role within The West and The West in itself (and this is not meant to be any
excuse in terms of white tears or white fragility, just the way it is).

Is this a good thing?

Not in terms of individual feelings, but as a system-wide end result
when we think this further: Has The West f*cked up so entirely, that the only
option is to dismantle it completely (or to at least slow down its machinery of
cultural progression by limiting the possibilities for some key protagonists,
the artists)?

Perhaps, yes. However, I find this to be too fatalistic and dark.
Essentially, this is just a continuation / redistribution of already conducted
(and ongoing) oppression and violence, even if its very legitimate to do so and
probably hitting the right people when you come from a marginalised group.
However, this cycle should be stopped (at some point in time). We ought to do
better, as humans, not because we are supposedly nice people, but the entire
business of applying limitations to humanity is fundamentally rather
undesirable (for marginalised groups in the first place and key actors within
western societies such as artists as a counter-measure and consequence in the
second place), even if there might be really good reasons for doing so. It can only
be the second best option, after we ran out of any better options, for everyone
(and maybe, for the time being in this age of Trump, Brexit and the rise of
far-right / nationalist movements, we did run out of better options).

I personally do understand that relaying / distributing the pressure a marginalised group experiences to a more privileged group through callout / cancel culture and sanctions will probably make that privileged group start to think and re-think for the very first time, which could well be the only reason why I am writing these words now, having seen this happening. That said, not questioning this form of resistance, not trying to end this process too quickly, not saying marginalised groups don‘t have really good reasons for being loud and making their pain under white supremacy, structural racism and colonialism visible by making other groups closer to the power structures of their oppressors feel that pain thru the few mechanisms they can actually use (within the domain of culture and this actually being a effective strategy), we shall respectfully try and move forward.

More on BELP: [because you should always be digging new music]

http://belp.audio

http://jahmoni.com

Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. NASA Earth Observatory image by Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center). Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense. More information on this image.

The post White Privilege and the Electronic Music Artist – BELP shares one European take appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Faderfox EC4 gives you the encoders your hardware, software are missing

Boutique German maker Faderfox has long been a go-to for controllers. The latest compact box looks like the encoder box to end all encoder boxes.

Hands-on control is everything, of course. You’ve got some particular parameter in your Ableton Live set, or your VCV Rack or Reaktor patch, or your favorite plug-in. Or there’s some particular gear parameters that are hidden behind menus and don’t have dedicated controls. So normally begins the dance of juggling a bunch of cheap, plastic controllers that too often break, or are meant for a particular piece of software, or feel flimsy and unsatisfying when you touch them, or just don’t have the layout you need.

Video performance can be even worse – and even less forgiving of low-resolution standard MIDI mapping, as stuff jitters across giant projection and LED walls because your crap MIDI controller has only 127 values.

The generic layout of the Faderfoxes has been a salve for this wound. Developer Matthias has been slowly evolving his “box full of stuff you can turn” concept. There were knobs, then there were encoders. Then there were push-button encoders, then ones that let you map the push function.

The EC4 is the latest evolution, and it puts everything in one place – and adds a screen, solving the problem of having to remember your mappings. (Though, hey, uh, happy accidents make you creative? No?)

There are encoders that can work as high-resolution encoders, too (14-bit) for more detailed precision.

But it’s really the display that makes this interesting. It’s a 4×20 character OLED, so small but still clear enough that you can see what you’re doing.

And you can customize the labels directly. You can do that on the device – Matthias has cleverly mapped the grid of 4×4 encoders to the old T9 layout used on cell phones, so think rapid-fire SMS rather than scrolllllllling through letters like on old arcade machines. That means this works without a computer handy. If you do happen to have a computer nearby, there’s an EC4 editor you can run directly from your browser in Chrome/Chromium.

Oh yeah, that editor is even open source.

https://github.com/privatepublic-de/faderfox-editor

The EC4 is pricier than other Faderfox options, at 251EUR before VAT (about $278) or EUR 299 if you’re in Europe. (If you’re on a budget, check for models right before they’re retired, as they tend to get discounted.)

But with all these advanced features in a compact size, I think it’s really appealing. There are plenty of low-resolution boxes with knobs and pots, but when you need some nuance and flexibility, this looks hard to beat – and essential for those of us in love with software like VCV Rack.

Specs:

  • Universal controller for all kinds of midi controllable hard- and software
  • iPad compatible
  • Control surface script for Ableton Live is shipped with the controller
  • USB interface – class compliant / bus powered / no driver necessary (consumption < 500mW)
  • MIDI in and out ports by 3.5mm minijack sockets type B with routing and merge functionality
  • 16 gridless push encoders – resolution = 36 pulses per revolution
  • Encoder push buttons can send separate commands
  • 4 x 20 character OLED-display to show control values (numeric/bar), names and programming data
  • Names for encoders, groups and setups are editable (4 characters per name)
  • 14 bit high resolution encoder mode for sensitive parameters
  • Programmable value ranges with min/max values
  • Data feedback avoid value jumps
  • All encoders fully programmable in the device by channel, type, number, mode, name etc.
  • Different command types like control change (CC), pitch bend, NRPN, program change and notes
  • Advanced programming functions like copy, paste and fill
  • 16 independent groups per setup for 16 encoders (256 commands per setup)
  • Learn function for fast assignment to incoming MIDI commands
  • 16 setups with backup/restore function contain all controller settings incl. names
  • Very compact design in a black casing (180x105x70 mm, 350 g)

I’m definitely saving some cash for one. The Faderfox stuff I own endures like nothing else.

http://www.faderfox.de/ec4.html

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