You’ve heard Justin Bieber mangled into gorgeous ambient cascades of sound. Now, you can experience the magic of PaulStretch as a free plug-in.
It may give you that “A-ha” moment in ambient music. You know:
The developer has various warnings about using this plug-in, which for me make me want to use it even more. (Hey, no latency reporting to the DAW? Something weird in Cubase! No manual? Who cares! Let’s give it a go – first I’m going to run with scissors to grab a beer which I’ll drink at my laptop!)
The plugin is only suitable for radical transformation of sounds. It is not suitable at all for subtle time corrections and such. Ambient music and sound design are probably the most suitable use cases.
You had me at radical / not subtle.
Okay… yeah, this was probably meant for me:
You can use it two ways: either load an audio file, and just run PaulStretch in your DAW, or use it as a live processor on inputs. (That’s weird, given what it does – hey, there was some latency. Like… a whole lot of latency.)
It’s on Mac and Windows but code is available and Linux is “likely.”
The Nord Modular G2 is one of electronic music’s most beloved departed pieces of gear. Now it gets a second lease on life, for free – with Csound.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing this happened. The work was published as an academic paper in Finland last June, authored by three Russian engineers – one of whom works on nuclear physics research, no less. (It’s not the right image, but if you want to imagine something involving submarines, go for it. That’s where I want my next sound studio, inside a decommissioned nuclear sub from the USSR, sort of Thomas Dolby meets Hunt for Red October. But I digress.)
Anyway, Gleb Rogozinsky, Mihail Chesnokov, and Eugene Cherny, all of St. Petersburg, had a terrific idea. They chose to simulate the behavior of the Nord Modular G2 synth itself, and translate its patch files into use as Csound – the powerful, elegant free software that has a lineage to the first computer synth.
The upshot: patches (including those you found on the Web) now work on any computer, Mac, Windows, Linux, and Linux machines like Raspberry Pi – for free. And the graphical editor that lets you create Nord Modular patches just became a peculiar Nord-specific editor for Csound. (Okay, there are other visual editors for Csound, but that’s still cool, and the editor is still available for Mac and Windows free from the original manufacturer, Clavia.)
And best of all, if you have patches you created on the Nord Modular, now they’ll work for all eternity – or, rather, at least as long as human civilization lasts and keeps making computers, as I’m pretty sure Csound will remain with us for that. Let’s hope that’s… not a short period of time, of course.
Granulators, drones, mixing, synths, effects, control, and on and on – TX Modular is an insanely huge set of tools, and the cost is zero.
SuperCollider, the free and open source sound creation environment for Mac, Windows, and Linux, is vast and powerful. The problem is, actually getting into it is … a little arcane. Talk to many frequent SuperCollider users, and what you’ll find is that they’ve assembled personal libraries of code snippets to work with it. So it can feel a bit like trying to talk your way into a secret society, if you’ve come from another sound creation environment.
Paul Miller writes to share his TX Modular System, which gives you the keys to a huge treasure trove of modules, and some easier ways of combining them.
All of this also means you don’t have to touch SuperCollider code if you don’t want to – though you can add that, too, if you like. (And you can run some code without having to build everything else you need from scratch.)
And it’s all just kind of mind boggling. Just to give a small overview, you get – among other things:
Synths and drones. In addition to the more conventional stuff you’d expect, there are a range of unique morphing synths, wave terrain instruments, drone and noise makers – rare, creative stuff. And there are polyphonic synths with a special emphasis on physical modeling and filter-based sound.
Samples and granulators. Grains are part of the appeal of SuperCollider – these instruments have lots of variations to experiment with sound, plus more conventional players, loopers, and sample-based synths.
Effects. There’s an insane amount here: delays, amp simulation and distortion, waveshapers, bitcrushers, extensive dynamic processing, EQ and flter, resonators, reverbs, and then extra stuff like spectral delays, harmonizers, and vocoders. From studio-style processing to weirder realms, it’s the full gamut, and within a modular paradigm.
Mixing and processing. Need a Mid-Side encoder? Faders? It’s there, too.
Control. Arguably, the rise of Eurorack modular has renewed the interest in actually getting creative and musical with patching itself. So, here you get clock dividers and a rich variety of envelopes and the like, in addition to basic LFOs and such. And at the same time, you get modulation that’s only possible in the digital realm, like random walks and Perlin Noise (a particular digital algorithm with nice, organic results), plus physics models of balls and springs.
Hardware input. Here, too, you get some of the advantages of the computer: work with OpenSoundControl natively, add Wiimotes, plenty of MIDI processors, and more.
Sequencers. Most modular environments break down when it comes to the sort of sequencing in DAWs – but not here. There are scale, chord, note processing, and piano roll sequencers, not just some limited step sequencers. You can even work with multiple tracks or use sequencers for modulation and actions.
UI. For building interfaces, you get various widgets for knobs and sliders.
And of course, you still have SuperCollider for extending all of this, with convenient modules for adding your code to the modular environment.
A mature release is out now as of last month, with a powerful new multitrack sequencer and note processing, FM granulator, a new reverb, and module improvements. (In case you were already up and running with TX, you’ll find what’s new in this release, entitled 087, included in the release notes.)
It’s almost ridiculous that Paul has created this for free. But it’s a beautiful, completely open source solution:
One sixteen year-old, a couple of her friends, and their math teacher have taken on Oculus with an open SDK – and you can build the VR headset for $100.
France’s Maxime Coutté writes up the project, which features her coding alongside optics and code from her best friends and algorithmic assistance from their math teacher (really). And there are a few advantages of their open approach, even if the hardware doesn’t look quite as svelte as commercial options.
2. There’s an open API for communications between Unity and the VR headset – which also allows low-latency communication between the game engine and Arduino. https://github.com/relativty/wrmhl
3. There’s a headset that’ll run you somewhere around $100, instead of several times that for similar options. And of course you’ll get the fun of building it. And it’s open.
That WRHML creation could be a great option for anyone adding real-time interfaces for Unity, including musical and audiovisual applications. And wow, does this ever beat fighting over the cool table at the cafeteria – Maxime writes:
I started programming when I was 13, thanks to my math teacher. Every Monday and Tuesday, my friends and I used to go to his classroom to learn and practice instead of having a meal at the cafeteria.
You might even get parts for less. The basic ingredients: Arduino DUE, a display, an acceleromter/gyro, and a housing. Part of the cheapness is thanks to sourcing inexpensive displays from China directly (instead of buying a built product with its associated profit margin).
It’s all built using a classic free and open source software tool called Csound – a tool so rooted in digital music history, it has a direct lineage to the very first real computer music synthesis software created by Max Mathews back in 1957. That may seem archaic, but Csound remains simple, direct, and musical – which is how it has endured.
With Micah’s tool, you can set the software in motion and use your ears to choose what you like – going as deep (or not) as you want in the mechanics of those sounds. He writes:
Kickblast is a little tool I built for quickly generating electronic kick drums. It will create a variety of sounds from classic 909-esque sustained basses, to modular and even acoustic sounding kick drums. You can define the parameters and how many kicks you wish to generate. It also has offline rendering capabilities so you can instantly populate a folder full of 17 billion* kick drums if you like.
* if you attempt this quantity, please let me know how it works out
Here’s what you can expect as far as sounds:
How to get going:
Kickblast is a Csound program that populates a folder full of computer (Csound) generated bass drums.
Millions of children worldwide use Scratch to enter the world of programming. Now there’s a new way to connect to music, as Roland teams up with MIT.
There’s a long, amazing history of teaching programming and creativity to kids. A lot of this legacy traces back to Cambridge and Wally Feurzeig, Seymour Papert, and Cynthia Solomon, with their late 60s introduction of the Logo programming language and accompanying Turtle Graphics, alongside a physical turtle robot. (Cynthia Solomon by the way has had an ongoing career contributing to this work and was one of the people instrumental in seeing this tool introduced to Apple’s 80s computer initiatives, which is how I grew up with it.)
If you understand topics like programming, logic – and machine learning, artificial intelligence, and related fields – as an extensive of how we think, then this is more than simply vocational prep. It’s not just making sure we have a generation of cheap coders, in other words. Learning programming, creativity, and media in this way can help how we think – so it’s really important.
Scratch is one of the latest to follow in these footsteps. It’s a free visual programming environment available on all operating systems and in 70+ (human) languages, built in its latest iteration with Web technologies. You can use it in a browser, and it has some surprisingly sophisticated interactive sprite and behavior capabilities, merging some of the best of past tools like Smalltalk, HyperCard, Director/Lingo, ActionScript, and others.
You know – for kids.
The GO_KEYS keyboard from Roland. Its price is a bit above the entry level (around $300). The main thought here is to reach new musicians by offering different ways of playing with loops and discovering music.
So now, where Roland comes in – now there’s an extension that lets you plug in a Roland GO:KEYS keyboard and use the GO:KEYS both as controller and sound source. Roland tell us “the SCRATCH X Extension combined with new firmware on the Roland GO:Keys allows for bi-directional communication via USB.”
You can program the GO:KEYS – and its musical capabilities – from Scratch. And you can control Scratch interactively using the keyboard’s notes and velocity, without any manual setup. So you can trigger animations or interactions from the keyboard, and Scratch can rely on GO:KEYS unique looping and sound generation facilities to add musical elements. Roland explains: “The GO:Keys Extension for SCRATCH X includes “blocks” which can select Loop Sets, play back specific patterns, determine the musical key, and so on.”
The SCRATCH X extension is the work of Roland; Scratch itself comes from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.
Scratch programming interface with the new Roland module.
There’s some really cool potential here. HyperCard allowed kids (and adults) to create interactive storybooks and the like; with Scratch and GO:KEYS, you can imagine using keys to trigger story events, program logic creating musical events, and live control of music both from Scratch and the keyboard. Creative kids could turn this into a wild new instrument, complete with physical controls.
Now, of course, whether you specifically need the GO:KEYS for this or not is another matter. But it’s nice to see Roland even interested in this area. (And there’s an opportunity for the company to follow up with hardware loans and the like, and to work with other partners.) It’s also an excuse to look at this theme and where it could go.
Creative coding and teaching have long been a passion for me and this site, so I’ll be sure we follow up on this one!
Hart Instruments has released version 1.5.0 of the Hart Instruments Sampler Engine (HISE). The update to the open source framework for sample based instruments includes a new interface designer and improved iPhone support. Changes in HISE v1.5.0 New Interface Designer. Improved iPhone support. Jumped to JUCE 5. Support for Visual Studio 2017. Added Sample archiver […]
VCV Rack, the free Eurorack modular emulation software, is a perfect match for wireless sync. Here’s how to do it, step by step.
Why Link? Link has already made itself known as a godsend. Not only does it work in Ableton Live, but Traktor, Serato, Reaktor, and Reason, and others. It works with numerous iOS apps, too. Get those tools on the same network (probably via wifi router), and all of them can use the same tempo and transport. There’s no master, no slave – in the style of a jam session, everything follows a shared tempo – which also means you don’t lose timing if one drops out.
And Link is a logical choice for VCV Rack. Both have an open source base. And whereas you own physical analog gear and modulars, you’d use clock signal by connecting a cable, here in the software domain, wireless, networked clock is just as useful.
Think modular. Even with the latest copy of VCV Rack, you don’t see a big, friendly “Link” button in the corner. Remember that the whole metaphor of Rack is that you have a virtual rack of modules. You’re going to have a module doing the Link synchronization – and you’re going to be able to use Link in some more modular ways.
To add Link support, you install a free, virtual module. (It’s the on-screen equivalent of coming back from the synth shops with a new bit of kit and bolting it in with a screwdriver, only this will be faster and … won’t cost anything or take up space in your studio.)
You may want to review our more in-depth guide to getting up and running with Rack:
That article also includes instructions for building from source, though here we’ll use pre-built software for ease.
Installing Link on Rack
1. Grab a copy of the Stellare Link module. Link comes from Ableton, but it’s open and available to developers. So our friends Sander and Enzo (Stellare Modular) made their own virtual module for Rack. To get it, head to vcvrack.com and select the Plugin Manager. Type “Link” into the search box, then click “Free” to highlight it. This adds the Link module to your account, and will synchronize it to any Rack setup.
2. Synchronize your Rack. Now with Stellare’s module attached to your account, you need to install it to your machine. Launch VCV Rack (you need a current version), and click Update Plugins. You should see a progress bar appear, and you’ll be prompted to restart Rack.
3. On Windows, move one file. On Mac and Linux, you’re done with installation. Windows users need to add one additional step, because as of now, the Plugin Manager isn’t yet fully able to locate one needed file. (This feature is in development, so this may be addressed.)
After running ‘Update Plugins,’ locate the installed directory (using C: as an example):
Copy link-wrapper.dll from that directory to the directory where your Rack.exe executable is located:
— so that link-wrapper.dll is on the same level as Rack.exe.
Wire up Link
4. Add the Link module. If you’ve performed the above steps correctly, you can now add the Stellare Link module to any rack. Right click in a blank space, then choose Stellare, then Link. On Windows, you may be prompted to enable access for Rack on your network; make sure to check both boxes, and then choose Allow Access.
5. Get something to sync. Any iPad on the same network, running an app like Modstep or Elastic Drums, or any local desktop software (Ableton Live, obviously, but here for fun I chose Serato DJ instead) can now jam along with VCV Rack in perfect timing.
Make sure “Link” is enabled (highlighted) in the associated software.
6. Play with clock! We’re on to the fun part!
The “/4” output jack on the Link module represents quarter divisions of the current Link clock. Reset sends a pulse on each subsequent downbeat. You could obviously get fancier than this, but you don’t need the Link module to do much more – you can divide or multiple that beat with other modules.
Here are two free modules (both installable from plugin manager) you can try out as gateways from Link to other stuff.
Add Grayscale > Algorhythm. Try connecting from the “/4” output on Link to the “CLOCK” input on Algorhythm. Click the start/stop at the top left of the Algorhythm module, and you’ll see Link advance the clock.
Now add Fundamental > SEQ-3. (As the “Fundamental” name implies, you should almost certainly install this selection of modules.) Connect from “RESET” out on Link to “EXT CLK” on SEQ-3. Now, the bottom row will advance at the same rate.
What’s actually happening here, respective to the master tempo? Well, the “/4” in Rack represents quarter-subdivisions of the beat – so think sixteenth notes, since the Link beat is a quarter note. (You’ll get four subdivisions for each kick drum in four-on-the-floor techno, etc.!)
Try moving the patch cable on the SEQ-3. Drag on the end connected to “/4” – move it so it’s connected from ‘RESET’ on Link to ‘EXT CLK’ on the SEQ-3. Now, the sequencer advances on every downbeat.
7. Keep on ticking:
From here, you can experiment with other modules that take signal, clock dividers for transforming metrical divisions of the signal, and more.
A great place to start is by installing the Simple modular pack, then selecting Simple > Clock Divider. This will give you some different, musical divisions of that incoming clock.
Ted Pallas, who has been contributing our tutorials so far, uses that 1/16th signal to drive the VCV Pulse Matrix modules.
You can also make creative use of the useful ‘Offset’ knob – something missing in a lot of other Link implementations. Offset simply dials in a continuously controllable amount of time added or subtracted from outgoing clock signal. And that can be used as groove, as Ted explains:
A super cool feature I hope to see repeated next to every Link button I ever encounter is seen here for the first time: there’s an offset knob, and if you spin you’ll shove the link signal forwards and backwards in time. This knob allows you to really dial in the perfect sync between Rack and the larger system you’re trying to lock to. I’ve also used to Offset knob as something of a “swing designer,” placing my sequencer rhythm ever-just-so alongside a Tr-09.
Here’s a sample from Ted:
Oh, and another thing: there’s a lot of room for happy accidents and mistakes that wouldn’t make sense in another context. Because you’re just messing with signals, you may discover that something that isn’t theoretically what you intended is something you musically like. And since music is about making decisions based on taste, that opens up possibilities.
In Core, you’ll find a bunch of objects for routing MIDI signals – including clock – to modules. That may make a good future tutorial, and it’s where you’ll want to start if you have hardware or software sending MIDI clock in place of Ableton Link. (Hey, MIDI clock still has its place!)
The Link module isn’t a complete implementation of everything Link can do. There’s no way to transmit clock from VCV Rack using it, to adjust the tempo of other connected hardware and software on your Link session. And there could be additional rhythmic options built in.
But it’s free – so if you are already enjoying it or if you want to encourage such features, here’s a thought: donate to the developers!