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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Fake a $30k pro video controller with an APC40 or Beatstep and Davinci Resolve

We’re living in an age of video and motion graphics. But now not only can you get a free license of Davinci Resolve to use pro-level tools, but this hack will let you make a standard music controller do a convincing impression of a $30,000 controller. Finally, visuals get as easily hands-on as music.

The Tacyhon Post has a bunch of excellent tools for users of Davinci Resolve. (Resolve is the editor / motion graphics / post tool from Blackmagic. It’s a pro-grade tool, but you can use a free license.) But most intriguing are controller mappings for the Akai APC40 and original Arturia Beatstep. If you don’t have an APC40 already, for instance, that’s an inexpensive used buy. (And maybe this will inspired other mappings, too.)

The APC mapping is the most interesting. And it’s ridiculous how much it does. Suddenly color grading, shapes and motion, tracking and all the editing functions are tangible controls. THe developer has also added in mappings for Resolve FX. And it’s updated for the latest version, Resolve 15, released this summer.

Watch:

The Beatstep version is pretty cool, as well, with similar functionality to the APC. This isn’t the Beatstep Pro but the “vintage” Beatstep. Unlike the APC, that controller hasn’t had quite the staying power on the music side – the Pro version was much better. But that means it’s even better to repurpose it for video, and of course then you have an effective mobile solution.

If you’re the sort of person to drop 30 grand on the actual controller, this probably isn’t for you. But what it does is to liberate all those workflows for the rest of us – to make them physical again. The APC is uniquely suited to the task because of a convenient layout of buttons and encoders.

I’m definitely dusting off an APC40 and a forgotten Beatstep to try this out. Maybe if enough of us buy a license, it’ll prompt the developer to try other hardware, too.

Super custom edition by the script developer, with some hardware hacks and one-off paint job. Want.

Meanwhile, where this really gets fun is with this gorgeous custom paint job. DIY musicians get to be the envy of all those studio video people.

Grab the scripts to make this work (paid):

https://posttools.tachyon-consulting.com/davinci-resolve-controllers/apc40-resolve-edition/

https://posttools.tachyon-consulting.com/davinci-resolve-controllers/beatstep-resolve-edition/

Thank you, Davo, for the tip!

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This light sculpture plays like an instrument, escaped from Tron

Espills is a “solid light dynamic sculpture,” made of laser beams, laser scanners, and robotic mirrors. And it makes a real-life effect that would make Tron proud.

The work, made public this month but part of ongoing research, is the creation of multidisciplinary Barcelona-based AV team Playmodes. And while large-scale laser projects are becoming more frequent in audiovisual performance and installation, this one is unique both in that it’s especially expressive and a heavily DIY project. So while dedicated vendors make sophisticated, expensive off-the-shelf solutions, the Playmodes crew went a bit more punk and designed and built many of their own components. That includes robotic mirrors, light drawing tools, synths, scenery, and even the laser modules. They hacked into existing DMX light fixtures, swapping mirrors for lamps. They constructed their own microcontroller solutions for controlling the laser diodes via Artnet and DMX.

And, oh yeah, they have their own visual programming framework, OceaNode, a kind of home-brewed solution for imagining banks of modulation as oscillators, a visual motion synth of sorts.

It’s in-progress, so this is not a Touch Designer rival so much as an interesting homebrew project, but you can toy around with the open source software. (Looks like you might need to do some work to get it to build on your OS of choice.)

https://github.com/playmodesStudio/ofxoceanode

Typically, too, visual teams work separately from music artists. But adding to the synesthesia you feel as a result, they coupled laser motion directly to sound, modding their own synth engine with Reaktor. (OceaNode sends control signal to Reaktor via the now-superior OSC implementation in the latter.)

They hacked that synth engine together from Santiago Vilanova’s PolyComb – a beautiful-sounding set of resonating tuned oscillators (didn’t know this one, now playing!):

https://www.native-instruments.com/es/reaktor-community/reaktor-user-library/entry/show/9717/

Oh yeah, and they made a VST plug-in to send OSC from Reaper, so they can automate OSC envelopes using the Reaper timeline.

OceaNode, visual programming software, also a DIY effort by the team.

… and the DIY OSC VST plug-in, to allow easy automation from a DAW (Reaper, in this case).

It’s really beautiful work. You have to notice that the artists making best use of laser tech – see also Robert Henke and Christopher Bauder here in Berlin – are writing some of their own code, in order to gain full control over how the laser behaves.

I think we’ll definitely want to follow this work as it evolves. And if you’re working in similar directions, let us know.

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Hack a Launchpad Pro into a 16-channel step sequencer, free

Novation’s Launchpad Pro is unique among controller hardware: not only does it operate in standalone mode, but it has an easy-to-modify, open source firmware. This mod lets you exploit that to transform it into a 32-step sequencer.

French musician and engineer Quentin Lamerand writes us to share his mod for Novation’s firmware. And you don’t have to be a coder to use this – you can easily install it without any coding background, which was part of the idea of opening up the firmware in the first place.

The project looks really useful. You get 16 channels (for controlling multiple sound parts or devices), plus 32-steps for longer phrases. And since the Launchpad Pro works as standalone hardware, you could use all of this without a computer. (You can output notes on either the USB port – even in standalone mode – or the MIDI DIN out port.)

You’ll need something else to supply clock – the sequencer only works in slave mode – but once you do that (hihi, drum machine), you’re good to go.

Bonus features:

  • Note input with velocity (adjustable using aftertouch on the pads)
  • Repeat notes
  • Adjustable octave
  • Setup mode with track selection, parameters, mute, clear, and MIDI thru toggle
  • Tap steps to select track length
  • Adjust step length (to 32nd, 16th, 16th note triplet, 8th, 8th note triplet, quarter, quarter note triplet, half note)
  • Rotate steps

On one hand, this is what I think most of us believe Novation should have shipped in the first place. On the other hand, look at some of those power-user features – by opening up the firmware, we get some extras the manufacturer probably wouldn’t have added. And if you are handy with some simple code, you can modify this further to get it exactly how you want.

It’s a shame, actually, that we haven’t seen more hackable tools like this. But that’s all the more reason to go grab this – especially as Launchpads Pro can be had on the cheap. (Time to dust mine off, which was the other beauty of this project!)

Go try Quentin’s work and let us know what you think:

http://faqtor.fr/launchpadpro.html

Got some hacks of your own, or inspired by this to give it a try? Definitely give a shout.

The open firmware project you’ll find on Novation’s GitHub:

https://github.com/dvhdr/launchpad-pro

More:

Hack a Grid: Novation Makes Launchpad Pro Firmware Open Source

Launchpad Pro Grid Controller: Hands-on Comprehensive Guide

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Bible thumper: watch a circuit bent bible, made on a dare

This week in blasphemy: LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER has another weird nerdy superhit, this time modding and glitching out an electronic bible. Jesus, take the soldering iron!

LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER is inventor-musician-composer Sam Battl of London, whose projects have included synths on bikes, flamethrower organs, and Theremin lightsabres, among other concoctions. And he has a knack for creating weird and wonderful inventions that then go viral.

But speaking of viral millennial sensations (okay, very different millennium), maybe you’ve heard of a bestselling book called … The Bible? All about a thought leader / influencer who … okay, I’ll stop.

Long story short: electronic bible. Soldering iron. Circuit bends. Apparently, a dare from deadmau5. And then, this:

And before I tempt getting struck by lightning while blogging, don’t worry, bible lovers – Sam says “Nothing against the bible here. I showed it to a couple of christian friends before and they seemed to like it.” There, that’s good enough for me.

Okay, sure, it sounds a little demonic, but you know, it’s still the actual Bible. If Christian rock sounded like this, I’d be up for it. (Bach, I like.)

As it happens, this project is interesting from an engineering perspective, too. Recent products are way harder to bend, thanks to fewer exposed bend points and chips hidden beneath black blobs and the like. There’s a reason circuit bending often starts with a trip to eBay or a flea market.

Sam promises more info on his site soon on just how he pulled this off. We’ll be watching.

For more on circuit bending, start with the man who started it all – Reed Ghazala, whose approach to bending is like an ecologist assisting machines in evolving. (He even gives them eyes and the like, for a window into their soul.) It’s radical, wonderful stuff – from an engineering perspective as well as a human and philosophical one. His site:

http://www.anti-theory.com/

And if you liked this project, you’ll love Sam’s Furby Organ, among others:

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Forget vinyl: here’s a DJ rig with two Amiga 1200 PCs

Computers will never die. Now they’re even old enough to be retro. So watch a DJ rig that combines two Commodore Amigas for MOD DJing, thanks to recent software.

“The kids are coming up from behind. I’m losing my edge. I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought Amigas.”

The beauty of this approach is, those Amigas play MOD files – tracker-based music sequences with elaborate, hyperactive sounds from the golden age of video game composition and chip music. And just as you really want to hear certain things on tape or digital or vinyl, some music really lends itself to that format.

And yes, there really is (fairly) new software for this – new Amiga software, no joke. It’s called PT-1210, and it transforms vintage Amigas (or Atari ST) into a kind of CDJ for MOD files. It debuted – where else, at a demoscene/hacker conference – at Revision 2014 in Saarbrücken, Germany. Here’s how the developers describe it:

PT-1210 Mk1 is a Protracker Digital Turntable, that is, a computer program that will let you play your Amiga Protracker module files (.MOD) as if you were playing with CDJ turntables, inspired by gwEm’s STJ. Think of it as Traktor for the Protracker generation.

Hilarious banner:

That software is the work of Akira (concept/UI), h0ffman (concept/code), and tecon (testing). It’s even written in Assembler code for maximum performance on vintage hardware. Grab it here:

http://pt1210.abime.net/

Atari ST fans, this Amiga creation was in turn inspired by Atari ST software with the same aim, by gwEM, cleverly dubbed STJ:

http://www.preromanbritain.com/stj/

The rig in the video at top:

Small monitors (for analog video output)
Mono-to-stereo adapters (since the Amigas have mono output)
DJ mixer
SD cards (in place of floppy disks, which means massive supplies of MOD files)

They found their MOD files at ModLand

Oh yeah, there are even instant doubles – you can load up the same track on both machines.)

Beat matching is still a thing here, so you get human sync by your ear rather than something electronically locked in. (That’s also beautiful, frankly!)

To show off all this goodness, the RetroManCave YouTube channel goes to these folks:

Retro Ravi – https://www.youtube.com/user/the4mula
8bitmixshow – http://8bitmix.com/

Okay, so that’s the tech stuff. But now the important bit – can you make a compelling DJ set with this rig? Here’s one answer, from Ravi:

Thanks to Noncompliant for the link! Can I request my favorite MOD at Berghain this Saturday, Lisa?

https://www.noncompliantmusic.com/#!

Don’t just want to DJ, but produce, too? Check this out:

The 90s are alive, with a free, modern clone of FastTracker II

The post Forget vinyl: here’s a DJ rig with two Amiga 1200 PCs appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Forget vinyl: here’s a DJ rig with two Amiga 1200 PCs

Computers will never die. Now they’re even old enough to be retro. So watch a DJ rig that combines two Commodore Amigas for MOD DJing, thanks to recent software.

“The kids are coming up from behind. I’m losing my edge. I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought Amigas.”

The beauty of this approach is, those Amigas play MOD files – tracker-based music sequences with elaborate, hyperactive sounds from the golden age of video game composition and chip music. And just as you really want to hear certain things on tape or digital or vinyl, some music really lends itself to that format.

And yes, there really is (fairly) new software for this – new Amiga software, no joke. It’s called PT-1210, and it transforms vintage Amigas (or Atari ST) into a kind of CDJ for MOD files. It debuted – where else, at a demoscene/hacker conference – at Revision 2014 in Saarbrücken, Germany. Here’s how the developers describe it:

PT-1210 Mk1 is a Protracker Digital Turntable, that is, a computer program that will let you play your Amiga Protracker module files (.MOD) as if you were playing with CDJ turntables, inspired by gwEm’s STJ. Think of it as Traktor for the Protracker generation.

Hilarious banner:

That software is the work of Akira (concept/UI), h0ffman (concept/code), and tecon (testing). It’s even written in Assembler code for maximum performance on vintage hardware. Grab it here:

http://pt1210.abime.net/

Atari ST fans, this Amiga creation was in turn inspired by Atari ST software with the same aim, by gwEM, cleverly dubbed STJ:

http://www.preromanbritain.com/stj/

The rig in the video at top:

Small monitors (for analog video output)
Mono-to-stereo adapters (since the Amigas have mono output)
DJ mixer
SD cards (in place of floppy disks, which means massive supplies of MOD files)

They found their MOD files at ModLand

Oh yeah, there are even instant doubles – you can load up the same track on both machines.)

Beat matching is still a thing here, so you get human sync by your ear rather than something electronically locked in. (That’s also beautiful, frankly!)

To show off all this goodness, the RetroManCave YouTube channel goes to these folks:

Retro Ravi – https://www.youtube.com/user/the4mula
8bitmixshow – http://8bitmix.com/

Okay, so that’s the tech stuff. But now the important bit – can you make a compelling DJ set with this rig? Here’s one answer, from Ravi:

Thanks to Noncompliant for the link! Can I request my favorite MOD at Berghain this Saturday, Lisa?

https://www.noncompliantmusic.com/#!

Don’t just want to DJ, but produce, too? Check this out:

The 90s are alive, with a free, modern clone of FastTracker II

The post Forget vinyl: here’s a DJ rig with two Amiga 1200 PCs appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

What culture, ritual will be like in the age of AI, as imagined by a Hacklab

Machine learning is presented variously as nightmare and panacea, gold rush and dystopia. But a group of artists hacking away at CTM Festival earlier this year did something else with it: they humanized it.

The MusicMakers Hacklab continues our collaboration with CTM Festival, and this winter I co-facilitated the week-long program in Berlin with media artist and researcher Ioann Maria (born in Poland, now in the UK). Ioann has long brought critical speculative imagination to her work (meaning, she gets weird and scary when she has to), as well as being able to wrangle large groups of artists and the chaos the creative process produces. Artists are a mess – as they need to be, sometimes – and Ioann can keep them comfortable with that and moving forward. No one could have been more ideal, in other words.

And our group delved boldly into the possibilities of machine learning. Most compellingly, I thought, these ritualistic performances captured a moment of transformation for our own sense of being human, as if folding this technological moment in against itself to reach some new witchcraft, to synthesize a new tribe. If we were suddenly transported to a cave with flickering electronic light, my feeling was that this didn’t necessarily represent a retreat from tech. It was a way of connecting some long human spirituality to the shock of the new.

This wasn’t just about speculating about what AI would do to people, though. Machine learning applications were turned into interfaces, making gestures and machines interact more clearly. The free, artist-friendly Wekinator was a popular choice. That stands in contrast to corporate-funded AI and how that’s marketed – which is largely as a weird, consumer convenience. (Get me food reservations tonight without me actually talking to anyone, and then tell me what music to listen to and who to date.)

Here, instead, artists took machine learning algorithms and made it another raw material for creating instruments. This was AI getting the machines to better enable performance traditions. And this is partly our hope in who we bring to these performance hacklabs: we want people with experience in code and electronics, but also performance media, musicology, and culture, in various combinations.

(Also spot some kinetic percussion in the first piece, courtesy dadamachines.)

Check out the short video excerpt or scan through our whole performance documentation. All documentation courtesy CTM Festival – thanks. (Photos: Stefanie Kulisch.)

Big thanks to the folks who give us support. The CTM 2018 MusicMakers Hacklab was presented with Native Instruments and SHAPE, which is co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union.

Full audio (which makes for nice sort of radio play, somehow, thanks to all these beautiful sounds):

Full video:

2018 participants – all amazing artists, and ones to watch:

Adrien Bitton
Alex Alexopoulos (Wild Anima)
Andreas Dzialocha
Anna Kamecka
Aziz Ege Gonul
Camille Lacadee
Carlo Cattano
Carlotta Aoun
Claire Aoi
Damian T. Dziwis
Daniel Kokko
Elias Najarro
Gašper Torkar
Islam Shabana
Jason Geistweidt
Joshua Peschke
Julia del Río
Karolina Karnacewicz
Marylou Petot
Moisés Horta Valenzuela AKA ℌEXOℜℭℑSMOS
Nontokozo F. Sihwa / Venus Ex Machina
Sarah Martinus
Thomas Haferlach

https://www.ctm-festival.de/archive/festival-editions/ctm-2018-turmoil/transfer/musicmakers-hacklab/

http://ioannmaria.com/

For some of the conceptual and research background on these topics, check out the Input sessions we hosted. (These also clearly inspired, frightened, and fired up our participants.)

A look at AI’s strange and dystopian future for art, music, and society

Minds, machines, and centralization: AI and music

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Free Ableton Live tool lets you control even more arcane hardware

They’re called “NRPN”‘s. It sounds like some covert military code, or your cat walked on your keyboard. But they’re a key way to control certain instruments via MIDI – and now you have a powerful way to do just that in Ableton Live, for free.

NRPN stands for “Non-Registered Parameter Number” in MIDI, which is a fancy way of saying “we have a bunch of extra MIDI messages and no earthly clue how to identify them.” But what that means in practical terms is, many of your favorite synthesizers have powerful features you’d like to control and automate and … you can’t. Ableton Live doesn’t support these messages out of the box.

It’s likely a lot of people own synths that require NRPN messages, even if they’ve never heard of them. The Dave Smith Instruments Prophet series, DSI Tetra, Novation Peak, Roger Linn Linnstrument, and Korg EMX are just a few examples. (Check your manual and you’ll see.)

Now, you could dig into Max for Live and do this by hand. But better than that is to download a powerful free tool that does the hard work for you, via a friendly interface.

Uruguay-born, Brazil based superstar artist and ultra-hacker Gustavo Bravetti has come to our rescue. This is now the second generation version of his free Max for Live device – and it’s got some serious power inside. The original version was already the first programmable NRPN generator for Live; the new edition adds MIDI learn and bidirectional communication.

It’s built in Max 8 with Live 10, so for consistency you’ll likely want to use Live 10 or later. (Max for Live is required, which is also included in Suite.)

Features:

Up to 8 NRPN messages per device
Multiple devices can be stacked
Setup parameters in NRPN or MSB/LSB [that’s “most significant” and “least significant” byte – basically, a method of packing extra data resolution into MIDI by combining two values]
Bidirectional control and visual feedback
Record automation directly from your synthesizer
MIDI Learn function for easy parameter and data size setup
Adjustable data rate and redundancy filters
Configurable MIDI Thru Filter
Easy draw and edit automation with multiple Data Sizes

User guide

Download from Maxforlive.com

https://www.facebook.com/gustavobravettilive/

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Escape look-alike Ableton Live colors with these free themes

You stare at its interface for hours on end. Why not give your eyes something different to look at? Now Ableton Live 10, too, gets access to custom colors.

Judging by looking over people’s shoulders, a lot of Live users simply don’t know that you can hack into Ableton’s custom theme files and modify things. And so we’re all caught in drab uniformity, with the same color theme – both unoriginal and uninspiring.

Fortunately, we have Berlin native and leading Ableton Live guru and educator Madeleine Bloom to come to our rescue. Madeleine has long made some pleasing variations for Live’s colors. Now she’s got two new sets (with more on the way) for Ableton Live 10. Live 10 can still read your old color modifications, but because of some minor changes to the interface, files made for its new XML-based format will work better. (Ableton also changed the name from “skins” to “themes,” for some reason.)

Free Ableton Live Themes Set #1

Free Ableton Live Themes Set #2 [I spot a naming pattern here]

To install theme, follow this tutorial (for both Live 10 and Live 9 and earlier):

Ableton Live Tutorial: How to install new Skins

And if you think these colors aren’t quite right, Madeleine has also written a tutorial for creating your own themes or making modifications to these:

How to Create Your Own Ableton Live Themes & Free PDF Theming Guide

There’s even a link there to a graphical theme editor for Mac and Windows with previews, in case you don’t like editing XML files.

“But, Peter!” says you, “you’re just now a paid shill for Ableton, trying to force me to upgrade to Live 10 when I don’t need it!”

Why, you’ve just made me spit out some of this lifetime supply of Club-Mate soda that Ableton has delivered to my flat every day, you ungrateful readers! Of course, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t upgrade to Live 10 — why, it’s The Future of Sound. Oh… wait, actually, that’s Native Instruments’ slogan. Sometimes I forget who I’m shilling for.

Anyway, if you are stuck on the clearly inferior and not-having-an-Echo effect Live 9 or earlier, Madeleine is nice enough to have you covered, too, with a whole bunch of skins for those versions. There are dozens of those, including various from readers:

https://sonicbloom.net/en/?s=ableton+live+skins&submit=Search

And there’s an accompanying guide to making your own skins, as well.

Now, enjoy. I have to go lie down, as I think all this Club-Mate sponsorship has made me feel a bit lightheaded.

You’ll find a ton of resources for Live at Sonic Bloom, the site Madeleine runs. It’s a complete hub for information, which is way better than trying to navigate random YouTube uploads:

https://sonicbloom.net/en/

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