Bizarre, sexist MIDIPLUS audio interface mimics a makeup case

Taiwanese manufacturer Midiplus, normally known for perfectly reasonable and utilitarian low-price MIDI gear, has gone off the rails. As part of their “fancy” series, they’ve fashioned an audio interface as an mock eyeshadow palette, literally dubbed MIRROR.

I feel obligated to write about this just to stop all the people sending it to me, so – against my better judgment, here we go.

The ad copy and the way this is marketed? Sexist. The design? Yeah, I want one. So Midiplus, make up for the “designed specially for females” error here by sending me one to review for CDM.

The absurdity of saying this product is “SPECIALLY DESIGNED FOR FEMALES” is self-evident; there’s no doubt this is horrific and offensive. But let’s not let the sheer sexism here distract us from just how weird this thing is. Under the hood, it’s a perfectly normal audio interface – it’s a 24-bit, 192kHz audio box with mic in (with preamp and phantom power), and two headphone outs (apparently independent). There’s also a guitar input and something labeled “phone” – which seems to just be a minijack in.

No. And “for females”? Just… really, really, no.

It’s the case itself that gets odd, along with the profoundly strange, broken English ad copy. As a makeup kit, the device is sadly non functional: those are just dials in the shape of eyeshadow palettes, not actual eyeshadow. (Opportunity missed.) But the mirror at least works, flipping open and lit by an LED lamp (5500K, say the maker).

But yes, be ready for more of this sort of weirdness from OEMs as manufacturing costs plummet and designers get … creative. At a recent Musikmesse there was a manufacturer hawking audio interfaces covered in fake fur, a pricey sequined backpack kit, and a sales guy dressed as a magician.

The MIRROR isn’t along in the “fancy” line Midiplus are unleashing on us; there’s also a VINTAGE model. That one at least is absent the sexist ad copy, but crosses visual cues from a cassette tape, a practice amp, and a radio, and has some sort of live waveform display.

The other “fancy” model.

Anyway, all this gets me thinking. See, I may have to respond to MIRROR by making my own CDM jetlag/tour emergency kit. Mirror and LED, yes. But I’m also imagining some cover up for the dark circles under my eyes, a bit of hair pomade, and a built-in USB hub with various Rekordbox-formatted USB sticks, plus a Raspberry Pi running a looper/effects unit so if my luggage gets lost I can still do a live PA set.

I’m only half joking. I may have to actually make this thing. I’m slightly fatigued of being confused for an extra from The Walking Dead each time I travel more than two hours. So, with actual working makeup (which MIRROR lacks), my product will help me to LOOK AT THE BEAUTY ONE IN THE MIRROR. Oh, hi there.

As for Midiplus, the only line that rings true is this one: “DISCARD THE COMMON THINKING FLOW.” Yeah, you did that.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, how did this misogynistic design trainwreck happen?

http://www.midiplus.com/html/MIRROR.html

And yes, this was apparently the way they conceived “female” design:

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Techno: The Gathering, scene satire fantasy game, keeps getting better

Curse if you must the fact that modern DJing requires managing social media accounts, navigating scenes, understanding the dimensions of cool. But some DJs will mix all those things as adeptly as they do records – and hold up a mirror to the rest of us.

Well – or at least Leipzig’s Vincent Neumann has made a killer Magic: The Gathering parody with techno.

First things first: let’s here acknowledge that Vincent is a brilliant musical selector, as well as social media satirist. Closing sets at Berghain can turn into ponderous marathons of endurance, but whether there or in (briefer) outings mixing and DJing, Neumann is a deep digger, consummate nerd of eclectic selections. Listen to the mix at bottom. This is to say, while he can keep the fashionistas dancing, the guy is not simply a flavor of the month.

But hey, if you do need some Instagram fame, Maestro Neumann has found a clever and amusing way of doing so. Techno: The Gathering has become a bit of an ongoing commentary on the techno scene. As Europe’s industry of nightlife churns onward, here’s at least one person not taking things too seriously. The in-the-bubble in-joke here is at least, you know, a joke.

My favorites:

He’s nerd enough that you can see via Instagram stories how he has reflected on color choice and deeper meanings.

Let’s actually print the things out and start playing the game. (Has anyone started doing that, or is everyone too hungover from the weekend to bother?)

But seriously, go behold one of the best things on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/technothegathering/

And Vincent’s normal DJ account, which is, naturally, the best Instagram account name ever:

https://www.instagram.com/instagramsucks/

And yes, you can listen to his mixes and enjoy those, as well:

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Deep Synth combines a Game Boy and the THX sound

Do you love the THX Deep Note sound – that crazy sweep of timbres heard at the beginning of films? Do you wish you had it in a playable synth the size of a calculator? Deep Synth is for you.

First, Deep Note? Just to refresh your memory: (Turn it up!!)

Yeah, that.

Apart from being an all-time great in sound design, the Deep Note’s underlying synthesis approach was novel and interesting. And thanks to the power of new embedded processors, it’s totally possible to squeeze this onto a calculator.

Enter Eugene, Oregon-based professional developer Kernel Bob aka kbob. A low-level Linux coder by day, Bob got interested in making an audio demo for the 1Bitsy-1UP game console, a powerful modern embedded machine with the form factor of a classic Game Boy. (Unlike a Game Boy, you have a decent processor, color screen, USB, and SD card.)

The Deep Note is the mother of all audio demos. That sound is owned by THX, but the basic synthesis approach is not – think 32 voices drifting from a relatively random swarm into the seat rocking final chord.

The results? Oh, only the most insane synthesizer of the year:

Whether you’re an engineer or not, the behind the scenes discussion of how this was done is fascinating to anyone who loves synthesis. (Maybe you can enlighten Bob on this whole bit about the sawtooth oscillator in SuperCollider.)

Read the multi-part series on Deep Synth and sound on this handheld platform:

Deep Synth: Introduction

And to try messing about with Deep Note-style synthesis on your own in the free, multi-platform coding for musicians environment SuperCollider:

Recreating the THX Deep Note [earslap]

All of this is open hardware, open code, so if you are a coder, it might inspire your own projects. And meanwhile, as 1Bitsy-1UP matures, we may soon all have a cool handheld platform for our noisemaking endeavors. I can’t wait.

Thanks to Samantha Lüber for the tip!

Previously:

THX Just Remade the Deep Note Sound to be More Awesome

And we got to interview the sound’s creator (and talk to him about how he recreated it):

Q+A: How the THX Deep Note Creator Remade His Iconic Sound

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Mammoth Beat Organ is a giant crazy mechanical music machine

What if music were made mechanically, with giant wheels and bellows and valves? The Mammoth Beat Organ makes that happen, using parts from toilets, a hearse, and a treadmill.

Yes, it has balloons connected by tubes and something called a “wind sequencer” with pegs and … it sounds like a calliope that’s gone a bit mental. And it comes with roll-on “modules” so you can add different layers of sound (like mechanically played drums). Watch:

It’s the Dunning Underwood Mammoth Beat Organ, the creation of two wild musical minds – Sam Underwood and Graham Dunning – in their first collaboration. It has the sonic thinking of the Giant Feedback Organ (Underwood) and the mechanical performance approach of Mechanical Techno (Dunning). And accordingly, it’s even meant to be a two-player contraction, involving both artists.

That performance spectacle is really part of the magic, as components are wheeled around and bits and bobs added and subtracted. Having seen Graham’s live show, that performance energy drives things in a way different than you’d get from just an installation – it has improvisation in it.

More on how this works – in particular, still more deep research into historical instruments and the alternative histories it suggests, and how they incorporated the back of a hearse and a treadmill into construction:

This project is just getting going, so it’ll be fun to watch it evolve – especially if we get to see it in person.

It’s worth noting that they talk about the need to have years and years to continue building and rehearsing with the invention. We of course value novelty in tech, but that’s telling, whatever your fantasies are (whether large and mechanical or compact and digital or anything else). So I do hope they’ll keep us posted as they continue developing, and as they use this instrument to spark new creative directions in their own imaginations.

The video at top is shot and explained by Michael Forrest of Michael & Ivanka’s Grand Podcast – well worth a listen:
http://grandpodcast.com

And yes, there’s a tape coming. More:

Sam Underwood: http://mrunderwood.co.uk
Graham Dunning: http://grahamdunning.com

Forthcoming album of recordings on tape by Front & Follow http://www.frontandfollow.com/

Full-length live performance:

I’m not a fan of YouTube and the next videos it plays, but following this with Sir Simon Rattle conducting Chariots of Fire with Mr. Bean sure as hell works. In case you need some motivation for today’s soldering / hammering DIY instruments, have at it.

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Watch this $30 kit turn into all these other synthesizers

DIY guru Mitch Altman has been busy expanding ArduTouch, the $30 kit board he designed to teach synthesis and coding. And now you can turn it into a bunch of other synths – with some new videos to who you how that works.

You’ll need to do a little bit of tinkering to get this working – though for many, of course, that’ll be part of the fun. So you solder together the kit, which includes a capacitive touch keyboard (as found on instruments like the Stylophone) and speaker. That means once the soldering is done, you can make sounds. To upload different synth code, you need a programmer cable and some additional steps.

Where this gets interesting is that the ArduTouch is really an embedded computer – and what’s wonderful about computers is, they transform based on whatever code they’re running.

ArduTouch is descended from the Arduino project, which in turn was the embedded hardware coding answer to desktop creative coding environment Processing. And from Processing, there’s the idea of a “sketch” – a bit of code that represents a single idea. “Sketching” was vital as a concept to these projects as it implies doing something simpler and more elegant.

For synthesis, ArduTouch is collecting a set of its own sketches – simple, fun digital signal processing creations that can be uploaded to the board. You get a whole collection of these, including sketches that are meant to serve mainly as examples, so that over time you can learn DSP coding. (The sketches are mostly the creation of Mitch’s friend, Bill Alessi.) Because the ArduTouch itself is cloned from the Arduino UNO, it’s also fully compatible both with UNO boards and the Arduino coding environment.

Mitch has been uploading videos and descriptions (and adding new synths over time), so let’s check them out:

Thick is a Minimoog-like, playable monosynth.

Arpology is an “Eno-influenced” arpeggiator/synth combo with patterns, speed, major/minor key, pitch, and attack/decay controls, plus a J.S. Bach-style generative auto-play mode.

Beatitude is a drum machine with multiple parts and rhythm track creation, plus a live playable bass synth.

Mantra is a weird, exotic-sounding sequenced drone synth with pre-mapped scales. The description claims “it is almost impossible to play something that doesn’t sound good.” (I initially read that backwards!)

Xoid is raucous synth with frequency modulation, ratio, and XOR controls. Actually, this very example demonstrates just why ArduTouch is different – like, you’d probably not want to ship Xoid as a product or project on its own. But as a sketch – and something strange to play with – it’s totally great.

DuoPoly is also glitchy and weird, but represents more of a complete synth workstation – and it’s a grab-bag demo of all the platform can do. So you get Tremelo, Vibrato, Pitch Bend, Distortion Effects, Low Pass Filter, High Pass Filter, Preset songs/patches, LFOs, and other goodies, all crammed onto this little board.

There, they’ve made some different oddball preset songs, too:

Platinum hit, this one:

This one, it sounds like we hit a really tough cave level in Metroid:

Open source hardware, kits available for sale:

https://cornfieldelectronics.com/cfe/projects.php#ardutouch

https://github.com/maltman23/ArduTouch

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The 808 just got its own hipster IPA beer in London

Okay, for anyone who thought the TR-808 shoes were too much, you may want to sit down. Now there’s a craft beer immortalizing the Roland drum machine for #808day.

It’s called the BR-808, and it’s quite silly – but you do get a celebrity endorsement from the likes of pioneering artist A Guy Called Gerald:

The specs:

Filmmakers Origin Workshop have teamed up with beat loving brewers Mondo Brewing Company (U.K.), DevilCraft (Japan) and Melvin Brewing (U.S.A) and together they have developed and produced The Origin Workshop BR-808, a special collaboration beer that honours the enduring sounds and cultural legacy of the TR-808 and the seismic shift it created in music.

It’s a taste of the future, a brew defined by the legendary kick drum of the 808. Its been developed to recreate that deep sub-bass low end, delivering a solid Japanese kick that resonates through the American IPA flavours.

With tropical, citrus aromas, mikan orange peel and flavours from the generous rise of Citra and Amarillo hops the Origin Workshop BR-808 provides a refined taste. In the spirit of true collaboration, the brewers added no caramel malt with only light British pale malt and Cara pils, resulting in a refreshing brew coming in at 7% ABV.

That is a hipster marketing singularity if ever I heard one – London + 808 nostalgia + film agency + american IPA. I haven’t tasted this, though, so I can’t vouch yet.

That said, hmmm, 7%? I’m in Berlin, so I’ll stick to the lighter pilsner. 7% and I might not be able to properly operating STEP LOOP on the TR-8S.

More:
https://www.br-808.com/

Previously in 808-inspired merch:

You’ll be able to buy those Roland 808 sneakers soon, plus a new pair

Now… it seems to me a drum machine needs an energy drink, but for now, there’s still Club-Mate. (Oh… okay, that Red Bull thing. But no.)

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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.

Star Shepard is Legowelt’s insane hacked-together DIY synth

This is a serious Frankenstein’s monster: a DIY synth made of a 1981 Casio keyboard, an AM radio, stompboxes, and more – and held together with glue and tape.

Legowelt is somewhere between modding, circuit bending, and instrument design here, concocting a kind of wonky workstation of weirdness from the cannibalized bits of other stuff.

Essentially, it’s a Casio keyboard fed through a series of effects and circuit-bent circuitry, with a looper pedal thrown in and an AM radio as noise source. Maestro Legowelt explains:

Enter the STAR SHEPHERD a synth I Build/bent/hacked/modified from old guitar pedals FX and EQ boxes, a small AM radio and a 1981 Casio 403 keyboard. The oscillator section is made out of Pitchshifter/Harmonizers/Sub Octavers and a graphic EQ pedal to create complex harmonic tones – transmorphed from the simple keyboard sounds fed by the Casio. The sound then goes through a bunch of circuitbend Analog delays, reverbs, Tremolos & Vibratos (figuring as makeshift LFO sources) and Wahwah pedals as filters. The AM radio is figuring as a random noise source. There is also a very simple keyboard style ‘sequencer’ made from a looper pedal.

The case is made out of cheap plywood and everything is held together with screws, glue and tape. There are also some LED strips pulsating from the inside for some extra intense magic.

It is very noisey, crackly and sometimes starts doing its own thing like some sentient synthesizer being that is alive. This makes it quite an adventurous experience.

It has all the spirit of electronics pioneer Reed Ghazala’s original notion of circuit bending: it’s modification of equipment as a way to “evolve” it into some organic machine life. But that AM radio alone gives it some unique and scifi sounds. It sounds like a whole studio for some rich communist-era space epic. And the formants on the filters give you the impression it’s singing to you.

Listen/watch:

Oh yeah, and there’s a painting, entitled “The Star Shepherd guiding his flock through Palm Springs”. Of course:

Your store-bought synth is now way too new, too generic, and involves too little taped-together assembly.

More of this on the official site, which has an impressive 1996 Web design:

http://www.legowelt.org/

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The vaporwave Windows 98 startup sound remix no one asked for

Time-stretched remixes of Microsoft startup sounds: they just never get old. But maybe we need this vaporwave Windows 98 in our lives.

The source material in this case isn’t Brian Eno – that’s Windows 95. Instead, Microsoft’s own Ken Kato is credited with the composition.

Apart from the glitched-out thumbnail and wonderful sound, I’ll give extra points to this remix on a couple of counts. First, it leads to Indonesian artist Fahmi Mursyid, who has a Bandcamp full of sonic delights. Fahmi, if you were using this as a scheme to bait us into clicking on your music, well … why not? I did:

https://ideologikal.bandcamp.com

And second, it has this fantastic quote attached to it … for some reason:

“Global capitalism is nearly there. At the end of the world there will only be liquid advertisement and gaseous desire.

Sublimated from our bodies, our untethered senses will endlessly ride escalators through pristine artificial environments, more and less than human, drugged-up and drugged down, catalysed, consuming and consumed by a relentlessly rich economy of sensory information, valued by the pixel. The Virtual Plaza welcomes you, and you will welcome it too.”
— Adam Harper, in his initial Dummymag article

I miss those innocent days when the thing we were afraid of was too many computers using Windows.

Now we live in the fantastic world where totalitarian governments are watching us through our phones and we aren’t just paranoid … and that’s presuming a social network on our phone doesn’t make us so depressed we ourselves become a danger.

No, let’s loop this beautiful 90s sound and make the world … melt away.

You’re welcome.

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