From food stamps and survival to writing the songs you know

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” says artist and composer Allee Willis. Yet her output ranges from Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” to the theme song of Friends. If you don’t know Willis, you should – and her story might inspire yours.

Behind all the cheery social media these days, most artists you talk to have struggled. They’ve struggled with creativity and sobriety, mental health and creative blocks, unfriendly industries and obscurity. And sometimes they’ve struggled just to get by – which is where Allee Willis was in 1978, living off food stamps and wondering what would happen next.

What happened next is a career that led to an insane number of hit songs – along with plenty of other fascinating side trips into kitsch and art. (There’s a kitsch-themed social network, an artist alterego named Bubbles, and a music video duet with a 91-year-old woman drummer on an oxygen tank, to name a few.) But what it hasn’t involved is a lot of widespread personal notoriety. Allee Willis is a celebrity’s celebrity, which is to say famous people know her but most people don’t know she’s famous.

At least it’s about that gap. The odds that you don’t know her? Decent. The odds that you don’t know her songs? Unlikely.

Let’s go: Earth, Wind & Fire “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield’s “What Have I Done To Deserve This.” The theme from Friends, recorded by The Rembrandts (if you knew that, which I suspect you didn’t)… all these and more add up to 60 million records. And she co-authored the Oprah Winfrey-produced, Tony and Grammy-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple. More songs you know in movies: Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid (“You’re the Best”), Howard the Duck.

The Detroit native is an impassioned use of Web tech and animation, networked together machines to design an orchestration workflow for The Color Purple musical, and now lives in LA with … Pro Tools, of course, alongside some cats.

But this isn’t about her resume so much as it is about what she says drives her – that itch to create stuff. And for anyone worried about how to get into the creative zone, maybe the first step is to stop worrying about getting into the creative zone. We value analysis and self-critique so much that sometimes we forget to just have fun making and stop worrying about even our own opinions (or maybe, especially those). In the end, it was that instinct that has driven her work, and presumably lots of stuff that didn’t do as well as that Friends theme song. (But there are her cats. Not the Broadway kind; that’s Andrew Lloyd Weber – the furry ones.)

There’s a great video out from CNN-produced Web video series Great Big Story:

And her site is a wild 1999-vintage-design wonderland of HTML, if you want to dive in:

https://alleewillis.com

More:

How she wrote “What Have I Done to Deserve This” gets into her musical thinking – and incongruity (and she does sure seem like she knows what she’s doing):

Plus how she hears and why she needed a Fender Rhodes:

The post From food stamps and survival to writing the songs you know appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The 1976 Polymoog film reminds us of when polysynths were new

In case you missed it, Moog’s re-release of an aging red-tinted, humming copy of the original 1976 Polymoog promo is a treat. And it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.

Yes, there’s no question that a lot of today’s synths seem lifted from the pages of the 1970s, from monosynth to modular. And yes, a lot of keyboard chops today are shameful, though – well, if you’re going up against Chick Corea, you really ought to practice, regardless.

But there’s something charming about watching some of the great musicians of the last century explain what it means to use more than one finger at a time to play a keyboard instrument. And they approach the Polymoog almost gingerly, more a Rhodes with effects than a new instrument. That mid-70s sound is itself something unique and nice, and if anyone stands out as sounding contemporary, it’s Herbie Hancock. But you begin to appreciate that it’s only recently that the avant-garde and keyboard tradition have merged together in the mainstream ear. If we all bumble a little to keep up both chops and sound design, maybe we can be forgiven as those universes continue to squish together. It makes me optimistic.

Ten fingers, man.

In any event, going back in time is a wonderful historical exercise, and it just might give you some fresh musical ideas – or at least a different perspective on what you’re doing now.

The post The 1976 Polymoog film reminds us of when polysynths were new appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Free pack of sounds from the Polish Radio Experimental Studio

Think of it as the BBC Radiophonic Workshop of the east: the Polish Radio Experimental Studio produced unparalleled electronic sounds and inventions for decades. Recognition of those accomplishments is growing – and now Ableton are collaborating to produce a free pack of sounds and tell the PRES story.

Vital stats on this project:

Who’s behind this: Poland’s national cultural institution Instytut Adama Mickiewicza (IAM) commissioned the library from Ableton and contributors.

Where do the sounds come from: Works made at the studio by composers Krzysztof Knittel, Elżbieta Sikora, and Ryszard Szeremeta, 1970s-80s, comprise the original sound material.

Who built the pack: Project coordinator Michal Mendyk worked with Ableton Certified Trainer Marcin Staniszewski.

What’s in there: 300 sounds, loops, and effects organized into Drum Racks, plus custom Effect Racks, all pre-mapped with macros (making them easy to use with Push or other controllers)

Check out the pack and a full article on the studio and its history at Ableton’s site (plus more on Marcin Staniszewski and his music):

Sounds from the Polish Radio Experimental Studio

Lots more links there, but the history to me is the most compelling. Paralleling the hot-and-cold relationships of experimental sound and music technology in East Germany and the Soviet Union in the same period, there was a precarious relationship of electronic sound to the government in Communist Poland. Michal Mendyk tells the story of studio founder Józef Patkowski to Ableton:

Paradoxically, a couple of years earlier, it was Sokorski who introduced social realism and radical political and aesthetical censorship in Polish art and culture. He was famous for having said about Witold Lutosławski, one of the leaders of Polish music vanguard that “he should be thrown under a tram”. So, in 1957 the same guy was responsible for creating the most experimental music centre in the whole Eastern Europe! He later said that Polish Radio Experimental Studio was his way to redeem his previous sins. This is one of many example of how paradoxical cultural and intellectual life in an authoritarian system can be.

Here’s a great documentary on the studio:

And for an imaginative take on the studio’s work, see our previous story:

The retro-futuristic Apparatum draws from Polish electronic music history

Plus more on the ongoing legacy in Poland:

This 1971 Dancing Rectangle from Poland Predicts Modern Techno, AV

Live techno after Polish punk and communism: Dyktando of Brutaż

The post Free pack of sounds from the Polish Radio Experimental Studio appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Max 8: Multichannel, mappable, faster patching is here

Max 8 is released today, as the latest version of the audiovisual development environment brings new tools, faster performance, multichannel patching, MIDI learn, and more.

Max is now 30 years old, with a direct lineage to the beginning of visual programming for musicians – creating your own custom tools by connecting virtual cables on-screen instead of typing in code. Since then, its developers have incorporated additional facilities for other code languages (like JavaScript), different data types, real-time visuals (3D and video), and integrated support inside Ableton Live (with Max for Live). Max 8 actually hits all of those different points with improvements. Here’s what’s new:

MC multichannel patching.

It’s always been possible to do multichannel patching – and therefore support multichannel audio (as with spatial sound) – in Max and Pure Data. But Max’s new MC approach makes this far easier and more powerful.

  • Any sound object can be made into multiples, just by typing mc. in front of the object name.
  • A single patch cord can incorporate any number of channels.
  • You can edit multiple objects all at once.

So, yes, this is about multichannel audio output and spatial audio. But it’s also about way more than that – and it addresses one of the most significant limitations of the Max/Pd patching paradigm.

Polyphony? MC.

Synthesis approaches with loads of oscillators (like granular synthesis or complex additive synthesis)? MC.

MPE assignments (from controllers like the Linnstrument and ROLI Seaboard)? MC.

MC means the ability to use a small number of objects and cords to do a lot – from spatial sound to mass polyphony to anything else that involves multiples.

It’s just a much easier way to work with a lot of stuff at once. That was present in open code environment SuperCollider, for instance, if you were willing to put in some time learning SC’s code language. But it was never terribly easy in Max. (Pure Data, your move!)

MIDI mapping

Mappings lets you MIDI learn from controllers, keyboards, and whatnot, just by selecting a control, and moving your controller.

Computer keyboard mappings work the same way.

The whole implementation looks very much borrowed from Ableton Live, down to the list of mappings for keyboard and MIDI. It’s slightly disappointing they didn’t cover OSC messages with the same interface, though, given this is Max.

It’s faster

Max 8 has various performance optimizations, says Cycling ’74. But in particular, look for 2x (Mac) – 20x (Windows) faster launch times, 4x faster patching loading, and performance enhancements in the UI, Jitter, physics, and objects like coll.

Also, Max 8’s Vizzie library of video modules is now OpenGL-accelerated, which additionally means you can mix and match with Jitter OpenGL patching. (No word yet on what that means for OpenGL deprecation by Apple.)

Node.JS

This is I suspect a pretty big deal for a lot of Max patchers who moonlight in some JavaScript coding. NodeJS support lets you run Node applications from inside a patch – for extending what Max can do, running servers, connecting to the outside world, and whatnot.

There’s full NPM support, which is to say all the ability to share code via that package manager is now available inside Max.

Patching works better, and other stuff that will make you say “finally”

Actually, this may be the bit that a lot of long-time Max users find most exciting, even despite the banner features.

Patching is now significantly enhanced. You can patch and unpatch objects just by dragging them in and out of patch cords, instead of doing this in multiple steps. Group dragging and whatnot finally works the way it should, without accidentally selecting other objects. And you get real “probing” of data flowing through patch cords by hovering over the cords.

There’s also finally an “Operate While Unlocked” option so you can use controls without constantly locking and unlocking patches.

There’s also a refreshed console, color themes, and a search sidebar for quickly bringing up help.

Plus there’s external editor support (coll, JavaScript, etc.). You can use “waypoints” to print stuff to the console.

And additionally, essential:

High definition and multitouch support on Windows
UI support for the latest Mac OS
Plug-in scanning

And of course a ton of new improvements for Max objects and Jitter.

What about Max for Live?

Okay, Ableton and Cycling ’74 did talk about “lockstep” releases of Max and Max for Live. But… what’s happening is not what lockstep usually means. Maybe it’s better to say that the releases of the two will be better coordinated.

Max 8 today is ahead of the Max for Live that ships with Ableton Live. But we know Max for Live incorporated elements of Max 8, even before its release.

For their part, Cycling ’74 today say that “in the coming months, Max 8 will become the basis of Max for Live.”

Based on past conversations, that means that as much functionality as possibly can be practically delivered in Max for Live will be there. And with all these Max 8 improvements, that’s good news. I’ll try to get more clarity on this as information becomes available.

Max 8 now…

Ther’s a 30-day free trial. Upgrades are US$149; full version is US$399, plus subscription and academic discount options.

Full details on the new release are neatly laid out on Cycling’s website today:

https://cycling74.com/products/max-features?utm_source=press&utm_campaign=max8-release

The post Max 8: Multichannel, mappable, faster patching is here appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A marvelous sound machine inspired by a Soviet deep drilling project

Deep in the Arctic Circle, the USSR was drilling deeper into the Earth than anyone before. One artist has combined archaeology and invention to bring its spirit back in sound.

Meet SG-3 (СГ-3) — the Kola Superdeep Borehole. You know when kids would joke about digging a hole to China? Well, the USSR’s borehole got to substantial depths – 12,262 m (over 40,000 ft) at the time of the USSR’s collapse.

The borehole was so epic – and the Soviets so secretive – that it has inspired legends of seismic weapons and even demonic drilling. (A YouTube search gets really interesting – like some people who think the Soviets actually drilled into the gates to Hell.)

Artist Dmitry Morozv – ::vtol:: – evokes some of that quality while returning to the actual evidence of what this thing really did. And what it did is already spectacular – he compares the scale of the project to launching humans into space (well, sort of in the opposite direction).

Watch:

vtol’s installation 12262 is the perfect example of how sound can be made material, and how digging into history can produce futuristic, post-contemporary speculative objects.

The two stages:

Archaeology. Dima absorbed SG-3’s history and lore, and spent years buying up sample cores at auctions as they were sold off. And twice he visited the remote, ruined site himself – once in 2016, and then back in July with his drilling machine. He even located a punched data tape from the site, though of course it’s difficult to know what it contains. (The investigation began with the Dark Ecology project, a three-year curatorial/research/art project bringing together partners from Norway, Russia, and across Europe, and still bearing this sort of fascinating fruit.)

Invention: The installation itself is a kinetic sound instrument, reading the coded information from the punch tape and operating miniature drilling operations, working on actual core samples. The sounds you hear are produced mechanically and acoustically by those drills.

As usual, Dima lists his cooking ingredients, though I think the sum is uniquely more than these individual parts. It’s as he describes it, a poetic, kinetic meditation, evocative both intellectually and spiritually. That said, the parts:

soft:

– pure data
– max/msp

hard:

– stepper motors x5 + 2
– dc-motors x5
– arduino mega
– lcd monitor
– custom electronics
– 5 piezo microphones
– 2 channel sound system

Details:
Commission by NCCA-ROSIZO (National Centre for Contemporary Arts), special for TECHNE “Prolog” exhibition, Moscow, 2018.
Curators: Natalia Fuchs, Antonio Geusa. Producer: Dmitry Znamenskiy.

The work was also a collaboration with Gallery Ch9 (Ч9) in Murmansk. That’s itself something of an achievement; it’s hard enough to find media art galleries in major cities, let alone remote Russia. (That’s far enough northwest in Russia that most of Finland and all of Sweden are south of it.)

But the alien-looking object also got its own trip to the site, ‘performing’ at the location.

It’s appropriate that would happen in Russia. Cosmism visionary Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov and his ideas about creating immortality by resurrecting ancestors may seem bizarre today. But translate that to media art, which threatens to become stuck in time when not informed by history. (Those who do not learn from history are doomed to make installation art that looks like it came from a mid-1990s Ars Electronica or Transmediale, forever, I mean.) To be truly futuristic, media art has to have a deep understanding of technologies progression, its workings, and all the moments in the past that were themselves ahead of their time. That is, maybe we have to dig deep into the ground beneath us, dig up our ancestors, and construct the future atop that knowledge.

At Spektrum Berlin this weekend, there’s also a “materiality of sound” project. Fellow Moscow-based artist Andrey Smirnov will create an imaginative new performance inspired by Theremin’s infamous KGB listening device of the 1940s – also new art fabricated from Soviet history – joined by a lineup of other artists exploring similar themes making sound material and kinetic. (Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand, Sonolevitation, Camera Lucida, Eleonora Oreggia aka Xname share the bill.)

To me, these two themes – materiality, drawing from kinetic, mechanical, optical, and acoustic techniques (and not just digital and analog), and archaeological futurism, employing deep historical inquiry that is in turn re-contextualized in forward-thinking, speculative work, offer tremendous possibility. They sound like more than just a zeitgeist-friendly buzzword (yeah, I’m looking at you, blockchain). They sound like something to which artists might even be happy to devote lifetimes.

For another virtual trip to the borehole, here’s Rosa Menkman’s film on a soundwalk at the site in 2016.

Related (curator Natalia Fuchs, interviewed before, also curated this work):

Between art tech and techno, past and future, a view from Russia

And on the kinetic-mechanical topic:

Watch futuristic techno made by robots – then learn how it was made

Full project details:

http://vtol.cc/filter/works/12262

The post A marvelous sound machine inspired by a Soviet deep drilling project appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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.

The post This light sculpture plays like an instrument, escaped from Tron appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A flood of user-submitted faces make a poignant new Max Cooper video

It’s a kind of love letter to humanity – and strikingly personal, both in the music and imagery, finding some hopeful part of the current zeitgeist. Don’t miss the new “Lovesong” video, made by music producer Max Cooper in collaboration with artist Kevin McGloughlin.

There’s a lot of bombast both in mainstage electronic music and in music videos – shouting being one way of attempting to get above the din of media in our world. But what’s engaging about “Lovesong” is that it does feel so intimate. There’s the unaffected, simple chord line, wandering around thirds like a curious child, slow fuzzy beats ambling in and out with just enough bits of sonic icing and flourish. And the video, composed of a stream of user-submitted faces, manages to make those faces seem to gaze back through the screen. It’s where we’ve come at last: the visual effects aren’t so gimmicky any more, but seem more natural first language. (Compare the fanfare with which Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” arrived – see below.)

That is, while this video is surely fodder for design blogs and … well, this one … I suspect it’ll spread passed by one person to another, more on the human level suggested by the video.

The visual work, by the way, comes from fellow Irishman and animator/filmmaker Kevin McGloughlin, a self-taught artist and director. Here’s what Max and Kevin have to say for themselves:

From the album ‘One Hundred Billion Sparks’ [Mesh]
Stream / buy: MaxCooper.lnk.to/OHBS
For more information visit onehundredbillionsparks.net and sign up for first news exclusive content at maxcooper.net/#join

“My new album, one hundred billion sparks, is out today, so it seemed a good day to also launch the music video which you created. The whole thing is built from photos which were submitted by those of you who listen to my work, so many thanks for that, and I hope you can spot your face in there!

The topic itself was a difficult one to approach, as so much popular music is written about love that it seems to have become more of an exercise in sales than anything authentic. So it’s a topic I’ve always avoided, but one that came naturally during the process of creating this album about the mind and what creates us, especially with the arrival of a new tiny person at the end of the writing period.

I chatted to Kevin McGloughlin about how we could visualise the idea in a general sense, and we decided that imagery of the human face would be the way to do it. Kevin had the great idea of setting up a platform for the viewers of the video project to submit their own photos to build it from, so as to make the video a personalised, and more meaningful rendering of the love song. Then Kevin worked his magic with the photos creating a beautiful complex blending and processing of stills. Many thanks again to all of you who submitted your photos, and I recommend scanning through to find yourself in there and getting screenshot. It’s amazing how much is going on when you slow down the video to look at the individual frames too, hats off to the awesome Kevin McGloughlin once again!”

– Max Cooper

– – –

“I am completely honoured to have worked directly with so many people for this global portrait.
It was a great experience of collaboration and though some of the images are less prominent than others, each and every image was as instrumental and important as the next in creating the final piece.

When Max told me about his vision for ‘Love Song’, “love of the species”
I immediately had the idea to include real people and real moments in the video.
We asked for submissions and images flooded in from people all over the world, and work got under way.

This video is like a postcard for me. Something for all the people involved.

Big thanks to all the collaborators and to Memfies who aided us in the compilation of all the initial images.”

– Kevin McGloughlin

That idea of “love of the species” recalls for me one of my favorite texts, associated with a street corner in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. It comes from Catholic mystic Thomas Merton, but it’s universal enough that the Dalai Lama took it as a title when visiting the city. (And it’s partly about getting away from superficial religiosity.)

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

“Spurious self-isolation” is certainly an idea that music producers will find familiar, not only monks. But even though it’s not always easy, it’s great when we can find our way to wake from the dream of separateness and find love again – and we’re lucky to have music for those love songs.

maxcooper.net
kevinmcgloughlin.com/

By way of history, this piece on “Black or White” and early morphing is a must-read for lovers of animation and computer graphics:

An Oral History of Morphing in Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ [Cartoon Brew]

I had forgotten about the Plymouth Voyager, but I suppose you could argue the minivan is also a love letter to humanity. (The “pooling kids to soccer practice” one, maybe?)

The post A flood of user-submitted faces make a poignant new Max Cooper video appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Discover the surrealist charm of Kate NV’s music and films

It’s Moscow’s quirkier, playful side that’s probably easiest for us foreigners to miss. But Kate Shilonosova (Kate NV) is earning an international audience for her introspective, surrealist whimsy, and one that’s well-deserved.

Kate NV’s music is beautifully minimal and reflective. The Japan tour makes perfect sense – there’s a distinctively Japanese-compatible electronic aesthetic here. (The poppier nods to minimalism and extensive use of percussion remind me a bit of Cornelius, as do the hand-drawn graphics everywhere.) But her approach to found sound and sampling is equally enjoyable when taken in live. Kate was another highlight for me of Synthposium, and emblematic of Moscow’s experimental, open-minded, live performance-oriented electronic scene. Her own background is in punk and guitars, and she brings that musicianship and improvisational spirit even to this very different sonic idiom.

Live, she works with mics and small percussion and sampling (on various Novation gear and Ableton Live), pulling in elements in a way that’s accessible and fluid. And yeah, she’s the kind of producer who keeps a glockenspiel by her computer in her home studio.

She’s been picked up by RVNG Intl, the Brooklyn-based label with a particularly sharp nose for musical inventiveness. And her LP is terrifically charming. It’s also accompanied by cheery, trippy films from Moscow director Sasha Kulak. Watch “дуб OAK” (each is titled in a combination of the Russian and English equivalent of a word):

— or the extended film “для FOR”:

These films are also available in a generative form, which you can watch on her website – click, and you get different variations:

This project is based on works of Moscow conceptualist Victor Pivovarov,
more specifically on his series called “project for the lonely man”, 1975.
This movie is telling a story about one lonely man’s day.
Every time the button is pressed, the new, slightly different day is generated from the common routine actions.
Thus, creating the sense that all regular days are the same, but in its own way very different.

http://katenv.com/

To get a sense of the live set, here’s a representative set from last year: (Though I wish we had the video of this month at Synthposium! Will share if we get that….)

Her songwriting and singing are also exceptional, though; check, for instance:

Why is this woman smiling? She’s hanging out in Red Bull’s massive Cologne studios.

To get a sense of her tastes and DJ skills, here’s a mix created for DJ Mag – featuring Prokofiev, no less. (You know, I charted the guy and it’s like he almost didn’t notice.)

Lastly, of course, everything is better with a Japanese documentary:

I also love her series of illustrations on manuscript paper and glimpses she makes of her studio, which you can find on her Facebook and VK pages:

Postlude:

Mean YouTube trolls are mean. From the video I posted above, there are some angry comments blah blah guys mansplaining minimalist composers. What gives?

Oh, cool, you know who Steve Reich is. Some kind of expert then.

I think you can do better, trolls. You don’t look like you know what you’re talking about. You need to up your game. Let me help:

“I just talked to your mom and she wants your ‘Minimalist Classics for Babies Naptime Compilation’ album back.”

“You know so little about the early roots of minimalism you probably think La Monte Young is a cheap French perfume store!”

“What’s the sound of one hand trying to perform ‘Clapping Music’?”

See? Amateurs.

Anyway, I think she’s great, and I have, like, a really serious music education or whatever. If someone wants to argue with me they’ll have to get past these fightin’ mallets and my marimba.

The post Discover the surrealist charm of Kate NV’s music and films appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Watch futuristic techno made by robots – then learn how it was made

Roboticist, composer, and futurist Moritz Simon Geist has made an entire album using robotic machines. It’s stunning to behold – and he tells you all about how it developed. Let’s watch:

This is more than a gimmick: there’s a real difference in approach and process here. Moritz’s work is truly mechanical-acoustical and electro-acoustic, using mechanical, kinetic machines to produce sounds.

And Moritz has been working on this background for some time, including making an entire oversized TR-808 drum machine that replicates sounds not with analog circuitry or digital code, but by actually hitting percussion. (The claps even required a cluster of stuff to clap together.)

An extended making-of video walks through the behind-the-scenes process of how this came about and evolved.

It’s as much an exercise in kinetic sculpture as music, but then the album organizes those raw materials in an eminently listenable, musical manner. It’s quirky grooves, true to its mechanical-robotic nature – that is, even if you didn’t know what this was, you might quickly imagine dancing bots. The materiality comes through, in subtly off rhythms and precisely-placed organic sounds.

Moritz’ ongoing collaborators Mouse on Mars co-produced both an EP (“The Material Turn”, out October 12) and LP (“Robotic Electronic Music”, on November 16). And Moritz extends the musical role here, by being both inventor/builder/maker and musician – not to mention label head.

It’s great to see Moritz starting a new label devoted to this medium – Sonic Robots Records – but also getting the help not only of Mouse on Mars but legendary German label Kompakt to handle global distribution.

You can preorder the EP already, in both digital and vinyl forms:

… with the LP to follow soon.

Here’s our look at how Moritz is working with Mouse on Mars:

Here’s how Mouse on Mars are using robots to expand their band

And here’s how we first got to meet Moritz, through his robotic TR-808:

A Robotic, Physical 808 Machine Advances Weird Science of Music, Tech Alike

Want to try making your own robotic music? Dadamachines is an easy way to start, and you can explore sound and musical arrangement without having to know about the building side right away:

dadamachines is an open toolkit for making robotic musical instruments

Don’t miss Moritz’ talk, too, for our MusicMakers Hacklab this year, discussing speculative futures for machine learning:

https://moritzsimongeist.bandcamp.com/album/the-material-turn

The post Watch futuristic techno made by robots – then learn how it was made appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Peter Theremin’s haunting music, on his great-grandfather’s invention

Most of us never got to know Leon Theremin (Lev Termen) or hear him play live. But we can take in his great grandson continuing the tradition of playing his invention – and Peter Theremin’s music is just as hauntingly human.

The Theremin has a special role in music history and the birth of electronic sound. Its sounds were among the first to suggest that electronic, not only acoustic, instruments could be expressive, that its electrical utterances could be like a human voice. It’s history is bound up with the history of US-Soviet relations, and the shaky relationship of electronics to espionage (and, in turn, the Communist sphere’s oscillating position on how acceptable electronic music would be). And is if that weren’t enough, the instrument also inspired Bob Moog to create synths, forever altering the course of the synth’s evolution.

But even with so many other choices now, there’s something uniquely pure and arresting about the Theremin’s sound and dead-simple design. And so among various international artists and in particular Russians carrying on that tradition, Peter Theremin (Петр Термен) is the one who literally carries on the inventor’s name. His music lives up to that, and then there’s the fact that he unmistakably carries some of the same DNA.

I got to here Peter play most recently last week at Moscow’s Synthposium, within walking distance of a lot of Theremin history in the Russian capital (not to mention the US Embassy where Maestro Lev once bugged the US Ambassador’s office, Trojan Horse style. (We really need to build one of these in a workshop. Anyone tried that?)

That performance is online:

“The Swan” as played by Clara Rockmore is one of my favorite Theremin performances ever, and Peter comes pretty darn close in his rendition for BBC Music:

Following his VKontakte page is the best way to dig through his music, if you don’t mind a little Russian text here and there – a login isn’t even needed. (VK is a social network mostly popular in Russia, where it’s based.)

https://vk.com/thereminmusic

His TEDx talk covers the history of the instrument (in Russian but with English subtitles):

Russian search engine Yandex posted this beautiful chamber music piece with Peter’s performance:

Oh yeah, and here’s what Peter’s all-Theremin booth at Synthposium was like … in fast forward!

Just be careful using this instrument to serenade the love of your life, you know?

Previously:

Watch Bob Moog play and talk about the Theremin

The post Peter Theremin’s haunting music, on his great-grandfather’s invention appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.