Buchla’s pioneering Thunder touch controller is back, on Sensel Morph

Software and hardware are finally becoming more responsive to expression from more than one finger at a time, via MPE. But how do you get those sounds under your hands? Sensel Morph is one answer. And now it has an appealing layout from one of the people who shaped synthesis – Don Buchla.

Human hands are pretty incredibly sensitive, capable ways of interacting with the world. And your brain – even untrained – has enormous capacity to imagine sound. So why is it that we’re still limited to simple grids of buttons and organ keyboards? (Nothing against those things, of course, they’re fine – but is that all there is?)

The answer to this has always boiled down to some chicken and egg arguments. You don’t have the hardware to control sounds. You don’t have software capable of making sounds for which you’d want more control. There isn’t a standard way of connecting the two. Even if there were, there wouldn’t be enough adoption.

And so the argument continued, in circles. And it was actally true – for a while. But now, software instruments from Sculpture in Apple’s Logic to the Moog and PPG apps on iPad to Softube and Cherry Audio software modulars have MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) support, which allows for more control information between your controller and your sounds. Hardware like Black Corporation Deckard’s Dream and various Eurorack modules do, too, so you can really get your Vangelis fantasies on. And sounds like physical modeling or granular synthesis or even just rich polyphonic patches suddenly make sense when you can intuitively connect all that finger sensitivity to electronic instruments.

That just leaves the missing link – finding a hardware interface you like. ROLI are big advocates, yes, as are some smaller boutique makers. But what if you don’t like those options? (Musicians certainly don’t agree about … anything.)

Sensel’s Morph is a compelling new option now for several reasons. It’s an affordable computer accessory. And while the sensor is a flat rectangle – looking a lot like a mousepad – you can swap overlays to give it different functions. (Joué have taken essentially the same approach.) Sensel in particular have unparalleled support for different third party use cases. There are overlays for various apps – from music production to video editing – so you don’t have to buy this just for the novelty of doing weird things with synths. (Yeah, the fact that you just change overlays and get some edits done in Premiere makes this a lot easier to justify as a purchase and as another thing taking up space on your desk.)

Okay, that handles a lot of rational reasons to consider this device. But to really feel passionate about something as an instrument, you actually need one layout that you stick with, and it has to resonate emotionally.

So here’s the interesting development. Sensel have partnered with Buchla U.S.A. to recreate a classic instrumental interface that might have just been a bit ahead of its time.

Don Buchla conceived the Thunder in 1989. The layout makes loads of sense — diagonal strips give you continuous control, but with guides that match a resting hand position and put controls where your hands would go. It’s a layout that looks like something out of Star Trek – and, well, it also proved to be mostly speculative, because few were made and there wasn’t at the time as much for it to control.

Now times have changed – both hardware and software are far more powerful, meaning they’re capable of generating the sort of real-time nuance that demands this sort of control. And apart from that, whereas for years Buchla’s designs languished because they seemed foreign, now more and more people seem to be ready to make weird and complex sounds.

It seems like the Thunder is poised for a comeback, that is. The Thunder overlay, combined with the Morph sensor, gives you 27 different continuously-sensitive note areas. That’s already useful for conventional MIDI, but with MPE you get independent values for velocity (how hard you initially hit it), how hard you’re pressing down at any given moment, and how quickly you release. You can bend notes by subtly shifting your fingers sideways, or map timbral parameters to position.

Buchla’s 1989 hardware. There have also been touch version for modular.

A pre–production prototype of the new overlay – final production run looks better, Sensel tells us. Courtesy the manufacturer, for CDM.

It’s also encouraging that Sensel involved Buchla designer/engineer Joel Davel. Joel has unparalleled bona fides on both the engineering and artistic side, having made circuits for Don from 1995 onward, and working as a composer and instrumentalist with ongoing collaborations with Amy X Neuburg and Paul Dresher. The recent history of electronic music is defined by nothing if not the spread of once-esoteric ideas from limited elite contexts to wider groups of curious minds. So even though this may be a piece of rubber you slap on a rectangle on your desk, it also represents the potential of some of those ideas getting in the hands of new people.

And you can do all of this for US$269 – preorders now, shipping in April. (If you’ve already got Sensel, the overlay alone will cost you US$59 – so that overlay scheme is definitely less costly than buying new hardware every time you want to do something a little different.)

Anything that has a USB port will work with this – so computer software is the natural companion, though if you have a USB host device that outputs control voltage, you can also hook it up to a modular. If you want to see it in action and you’re in Anaheim, Sensel are demoing the hardware and overlay at NAMM this year.

So sure, this won’t be for everyone. And yeah, it still looks like you’ve invested in a Klingon gamepad. But for the cost of a plug-in, you can now use this – and add some productivity on the side as you mix or edit in other applications.

I should have one to test. I’ve worked with the Morph – the sensing and physical experience are great – so now I’m just waiting to see what it’s like using this as an instrument. And I look forward to doing some practicing.

Announcing the Buchla Thunder Overlay [Sensel Blog]

The post Buchla’s pioneering Thunder touch controller is back, on Sensel Morph appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Synth pioneer Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP, has died

One of the great names in synthesis, founder of a brand that helped define what electronic sound is today, was lost over the weekend. ARP Instruments founder Alan R. Pearlman died Sunday the 6th, and synthesists worldwide remember the legacy he leaves.

Pearlman started ARP and was a principle engineer, specifically of the ground-breaking 2500 and 2600 modular synthesizers.

It may be hard to conceive now, but there was a time when ARP and Moog were major rivals. And it’s worth noting that Pearlman was uniquely advanced in his vision. Even as an engineering student in 1948, he looked forward to a time not so far off “when the electronic instrument may take its place … as a versatile, powerful, and expressive instrument” – provided those engineers paid attention “to the needs of the musician.”

And so in 1977, when Close Encounters of the Third Kind imagined an instrument that was far enough advanced to communicate with aliens, they chose the ARP 2500 that was Pearlman’s first commercial instrument. And Close Encounters were far from alone, as even the Martian voices were ARP 2500 produced in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

Other notable 2500 instrumentalists: David Bowie, Jean Michel Jarre, The Who… and Eliane Radigue:

The 2600 was itself legendary enough to be fairly dubbed a holy grail.

And speaking of space aliens, the one Doctor Who variant that matches Delia Derbyshire’s haunting whoo-whoo sounds with some sparkles and badass bass is also made on an ARP (the Odyssey), by Peter Howell:

And while the Rhodes Chroma originated at ARP was hardly a huge success, it is in many ways a template for the computer-integrated workstation-style instruments to follow.

Remembering Alan:

Richard Boulanger notes the unique musicality of this engineer’s vision and the impact it had – and that leading right up to his illness, he kept dreaming up new instrumental ideas:

.Yes, even at 90 and beyond, Alan R Pearlman was still dreaming of new circuits, modules, and controllers!) Undeniably, Alan R Pearlman was an engineering genius. Everyone recognizes that his synthesizers were beyond brilliant. But I truly believe that the heart and soul in his machines drew their spirit and life from Alan’s musical virtuosity on the piano, his truly deep musical knowledge, his passion and enthusiasm for “all” music, and his nurturing and generous support for young composers and performers, regardless of whether they were into classical, avantgarde, film, fusion, rock or pop. He wanted to make something that we could play with, that we could play on, and maybe even learn about music as we played (check out his “Learning Music Through Synthesizers” book and his MSL boxes). Alan R Pearlman created truly playable electronic musical “instruments”. He made aesthetically and ergonomically beautiful instruments, and beautiful sounding instruments. His synthesizers opened our eyes and ears to new sonic worlds

NAMM has an oral history interview

He recalls first seeing the Buchla, and the impact of Moog’s controller approach. The company was named with his nickname (and initials ) – ARP. And arguably ARP’s approach to matrix switching (ARP 2500) and hard-wired control even with patch cord access (ARP 2600) is still valuable today.

Just how modern can the ARP designs be? That was proven when KORG revived the Odyssey recently, with some input from Pearlman, along with a collaboration with ARP co-founder David Friend.

And while we think of Moog and Buchla, ARP also significantly contributed to a lot of the technological innovations of the modern synth, as evidenced by this list of ARP patents (thanks to Synthtopia for spotting that):

http://www.till.com/articles/arp/patents.html

Various ARP owners have been posting tributes:

And have long sung the magic of these instruments – here’s Marc Doty, giving the instrument extrahuman autonomy:

Surviving daughter Dina Pearlman shared the news yesterday:

ARP employee Rick Parent shares his remembrances, along with ARP’s David A. Frederick:

David Mash remembers:

The post Synth pioneer Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP, has died appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Gallery: a new documentary digs into techno’s 80s Detroit roots

“God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines” is the story through the eyes of a documentary team that grew up in Detroit – and with time running out, they’re short of their funding goal. Happily, you have the power to change that.

God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines: The Story of Detroit Techno

Behind all the history and legend, there’s always a human story of how things happen. What’s appealing about this film above others is, it’s not just one icon or one machine, but the relationships between the artists that takes the spotlight. And, it’s at last a film about Detroit’s influence from Detroit’s perspective – not just the European scene where the genre eventually turned into a runaway financial success.

The requisite originators all star – Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter, and more – so this is definitely one I look forward to watching.

Of course, funding independent film is these days a major ordeal, particularly for American filmmakers. And so it’s disheartening to see that with days running out on crowd funding, the filmmakers haven’t made their very modest funding goals. There are some lovely benefits in there – just US$5 gets you an exclusive mixtape – so I hope you’ll get the chance to give this a nod.

Motor City natives Kristian Hill and Jennifer Washington are looking just for the finishing funds to put this out.

I asked Jennifer to walk us through some stills from the film, so here’s an exclusive gallery for CDM.

Young child at Movement Festival, Detroit.

Motor City, now.

Cover of Record Mirror, June 1988.

The Scene Dance Show, Detroit, circa 1983.

Cybotron’s vision of future cities, 1983.

Blake Baxter plays those drum machines.

Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Juan Atkins.

Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes.

Classic Transmat label, illustrated by Alan Oldham.

Mike Huckaby.

Kevin Saunderson.

God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines: The Story of Detroit Techno [Kickstarter]

Previously:

Detroit techno, the 90s comic book – and epic new DJ T-1000 techno

In a documentary film, a return to Detroit and speaker f***ing

The post Gallery: a new documentary digs into techno’s 80s Detroit roots appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Underwater electronic futurism, in the words of James Stinson (Drexciya)

At the turn of the 21st century, one Detroit duo was way ahead. Almost two decades later, the world is revisiting Drexciya and their imagined underwater future – the time is right, and the deepest insights come from James Stinson speaking in his own words.

Drexciyan Cruise Control Bubble 1 to Lardossan Cruiser 8 dash 203 X!

Drexciya, the underground electro duo of the 90s, is enjoying a new resurgence … wait, make that the underwater electro duo enjoying a new submergence? Anyway, cue the Tresor Records re-release, the Resident Advisor spot, the works.

And if you’re not already immersed in this duo’s work, now is a great time to discover or rediscover them. The electro tracks are raw, powerful, grimy, totally Detroit, and in these deadly-serious techno times, unafraid of their own irreverence. “Aquabahn” is sexy and totally, wonderfully, ridiculous:

(They’re not totally kidding, though; everyone I’ve talked to from Underground Resistance has talked about being genuine Kraftwerk fans.)

“Afrofuturism” as a term got applied after the fact (to Drexciya as to the likes of Sun Ra and Juan Atkins). When Drexciya’s 1997 release “The Quest” came out, this was just plain futurism in the words of its creators. But in the liner notes, their journey to imagine an underwater utopia spells out the connection to African-American diasporas and discrimination in overt terms.

From The Quest liner notes – diasporas to global techno to underwater worlds and African return.Source.

The Quest, 1997.

Drexciya were not prone to doing interviews. But apart from being a great musical voice, the late James Stinson, revealed in phone interviews from around the end of the project, had a great voice and articulate vision. And while an under-the-sea world of dreams might seem a preconceived conceit, Stinson says it all came naturally out of the vibes of the music. “We flow with the current,” he told Andrew Duke in 2001. And then he expands on how the concept and life flow out of that, and how water figures into the music.

Listen to him about trying the impossible, ignoring what is supposed to be in music – a perspective that seems in perpetual need in creative life. The whole half hour with journalist Andrew Duke is worth hearing. That’s appropriate, too, as Stinson encourages people to get beyond needle drops and listen to whole tracks and the whole world of Drexciya:

The guy talks about the feeling of music being like the sensation of sitting in a liquid chair made of water. And equally great questions. (“What’s it like to ride a manta ray?”)

Spirit of the underground? James Stinson sums it up perfectly: “Anywhere. Sewer. Underwater. Swimming pool. In the middle of a swamp. In a back alley somewhere … we’ll appear anywhere.”

(This is doubly interesting to me, as a friend from Tehran has recently staged an underwater concert with hydrophones, singing underwater – partly as a way to get around prohibitions on female performance in the country. Stinson was onto something with the radical possibilities of underwater music.)

Punk Collective fan art. From Twitter, via Drexciya Research Lab.

For still more words from the source: in 2002, shortly before his death, James Stinson talked to Liz Copeland, with tracks driving away in the background:

“Just give me the music; forget all the other stuff,” he says. “People need to … dig more into themselves and pull it out, and be more of who they are, and believe in what they do. Don’t worry about what other people are doing.”

Resident Advisor recently summed up all of this in a ten minute video, drawing heavily from those two interviews:

Another navigational chart to the music came in 2012 from the ever-reflective Philip Sherburne, who reviewed an anthology that year and also sums up the music as more than just “electro”:

Adapting the lurching rhythmic template of 1980s electro-funk acts like Man Parrish, Cybotron, and Jonzun Crew, Drexciya emphasized the depth-charge qualities of a booming 808 kick, and the electric-eel jolt of a zapping filter sweep. But it went deeper than that. The music was punctuated by cryptic interludes and scraps of code … Drexciya weren’t just trafficking in metaphor and affect; they were telling a story.

Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller I

It’s also worth reading this interview from 1994 in UK zine The Techno Connection, by Dave Mothersole, republished by fan page Drexciya Research Lab. Yeah, it’s 1994, but it’s easily just as relevant in 2018, though it seems now with the Detroit originators hot as ever on the international scene, it may be time to go back to the surviving Underground Resistance members to hear their current take on the landscape and the word “techno.” As for learning to mix better, even when there’s no 4/4 kick, uh — yeah, we can all listen to that one; that can’t be wrong!

More listening – even Spotify are into this now:

From Función Binaria, a full mix (tracklisting on SC:

It’s also great that Tresor are re-releasing seminal works, including Drexciya – ‘Neptune’s Lair’ – (Tresor.129)
is out November 30th, 2018 on 2LP vinyl. (In time for Hanukkah, even.)

It’s a gift, really, to get to go buy that vinyl and set it on a record player. I do also come back to what Stinson says about originality, though. So maybe the best way to honor the Detroit – Berlin connection is, perversely, to listen, take this in, listen end to end (record players are nice for that), let your mind get altered, and then forget all that and take that energy and vibe and go make your own thing.

And certainly everything’s better down where it’s wetter and all that jazz.

Fan art, Jim McCormack. Also via Drexciya Research Lab. Go check that.

For more Drexciya obsessions, follow Drexciya Research Lab on Blogger(!) and Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/drexciyaresearchlab/

http://drexciyaresearchlab.blogspot.com/

The post Underwater electronic futurism, in the words of James Stinson (Drexciya) appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Cues: Detroit innovator Alan Oldham talks to us about techno, creation

It’s easy to forget if we get too deep into hero worship and seriousness, but real creativity is fun and boundless. So nothing energizes like talking to people like Alan Oldham, the multidisciplinary Detroit techno artist.

Oldham, sometimes DJing as DJ T-1000, had a multifaceted series of roles in techno. So he’s served in Underground Resistance – including as “Minister of Information.” He did artwork for Derrik May’s legendary Transmat label. He’s a comic artist as well as a producer, savvy enough to interact with the art market and not only the music industry. A lot of us in the USA got our first introduction to techno and the full story behind it through his story “Fast Forward” on National Public Radio. But then, in this age of overabundant production, we need those kind of voices now more than ever – people who can narrate what’s happening in music, DJs in the club sense and DJs in the radio sense.

Meanwhile, as CDM finds its evolved voice this year, I got to invite Alan (now a Berlin transplant) to talk about his process, to jam a little, and to chat about music, aesthetics, and futurism.

Alan is a big Native Instruments Maschine fan, and it’s nice to see how the MPC and other hardware workflows have made the transition to the computer age. I think immediacy is important to tapping into that creativity.

Have a look:

Off camera, it was also great that Alan got to hang out with our other guests, HRTL and Oliver Torr and their live project Windowlickerz. Growing up in Detroit, meet growing up in Czech Republic.

Alan Oldham in the studio.

Making beats (MASCHINE MIKRO), making comics (paper and pen).

Since January, Alan has been busy, in the studio and in the club (as well as continuing his visual art work). Message Discipline is the EP dropping in October on Pure Sonik Records.. The timbres, the tech are decidedly future-looking, not nostalgic. But as a lot of techno gets cold and clinical, overthought, or overly … well, dreary (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that) — this is none of those things. It’s “up,” as Alan says. Maybe it’s hard to find words for that funky, groovy feeling because it’s better to describe it me moving my body around than it is just wiggling my fingers over the computer keyboard.

You know you’re in for something special when you’re dancing around to the damned excerpts on SoundCloud. Tell me I’m wrong:

Even that last cut swings, like a nice makeout slow dance. And the title track sounds ready to blast into orbit to some, uh, really sexy space lounge, I would imagine.

Message Discipline is all bangers, but for a more tripped-out experience, DetroitRocketScience is the ticket:

Alan and Ellen Allien can often be caught side by side, so expect more on Ellen’s BPitch Control, like this excellent remix:

He’s also got a great remix of Sky Deep’s “In This,” but looks like I can’t share that – take my word for it.

Now who wants to don an Andy Warhol wig and dance around a bit? Yeah? Have a great weekend, y’all.

Related – in summer 2011, Wax Poetics provided us with this article they ran exploring early Detroit techno history, and even talked to Alan. of course, now you meet the Detroit artists in Berlin.

Future Shock: The Emergence of Detroit Techno, Told by Wax Poetics

Photos courtesy Native Instruments.

The post Cues: Detroit innovator Alan Oldham talks to us about techno, creation appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

This may be the 808 Marvin Gaye used to make ‘Sexual Healing’

No moment cements the TR-808 as a sex symbol quite like its role in “Sexual Healing.” And we may have a producer who found the actual drum machine used in the song.

As “Sexual Healing” opens, it’s just a slow, dry groove on this futuristic Japanese electronic box with a whisper over top. Then, that silky smooth keyboard part and crisp, funky bassline weave in together with the vocals. It’s deceptively simple stuff – and totally potent, proof of what electronic sounds can do.

That makes the TR-808 used in the track a genuine part of music history – even if at the time, it was just an inexpensive box. But where is that TR-808 now? We may have an answer.

None other than famed pioneering Belgian producer Kris Vanderheyden (best known as Insider, among other aliases) tells Roland and CDM that he’s got this very machine in his studio. Drum machines can’t talk (no soul and all), but Kris relates the story:

When I started out as a musician in the late 80’s, I was looking for some analog gear. New equipment was expensive but you could get good deals second hand.

I initially got my Roland TR-909 which I swapped for 5 mix cassette tapes – incredible huh? But back in those days it wasn’t such a big deal to own one.

Later on, I came across a guy named Eric who played in a New Wave band and was recording at Studio Katy in Belgium. The studio was only 5 miles from where I grew up. Eric and his band used to book the studio at night for financial reasons and Marvin Gaye was booked there during the day while recording his album “Midnight Love.”

One day, Eric left the band’s (his) Roland TR-808 at the studio and Marvin came in and started to play around. The rest is (“sexual”) history.
I bought that machine for one hundred and twenty dollars ($120.00). It’s just priceless now…

The story checks out – Midnight Love, including this single, was recorded at Studio Katy, Ohain, Belgium. This would appear to be validated by references in interviews in the 808 Movie, as well.

Take a look at Kris’ shots of the machine:

Kris’ story is a familiar microcosm of the 808’s role in music. But it also says something lovely about creativity and the toys we use, generally. It’s not that the TR-808 is a priceless invention. It’s a readily accessible, affordable machine that gets you into a flow. That’s certainly how I feel messing about with the 808’s latest successor, the TR-8S – and I mean that. As I got to hear from Susan Rogers at SONAR in June, creativity is this special state of mind. These devices can get us there, and then become something more.

Sexual Healing at Wikipedia

Kris’ site: http://www.insider-music.com/

The post This may be the 808 Marvin Gaye used to make ‘Sexual Healing’ appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Mo’Wax, James Lavelle, DJ Shadow, and more in a new documentary

A new documentary is poised to take what looks like a personal, thrilling look at the UK turntablism revolution.

The film is “The Man from Mo’Wax,” a documentary set to premiere at the end of August, with a full digital release (disc and download) on September 10.

The film centers on James Lavelle and his label, the pioneering purveyor of trip hop, alternative hip hop, and other things involving vinyl. And because of Mo’Wax’s seminal role in the 90s UK music scene, you get Lavelle’s story, but a lot more. DJ Shadow, Joshua Homme, Badly Drawn Boy,
Robert Del Naja (3D), Ian Brown, Futura, Thom Yorke and Grandmaster Flash… you name them, they’re in this picture. And it’s a coming of age story about Lavelle, who launched his DJ career at 14 and the label at 18 – all the ups an downs.

And of course, a lot of what sampling and beat-driven music is today is connected to what happens in this film.

How you get to watch this – apart from the YouTube trailed we’ve embedded here – is also rather interesting. Via something dubbed ourscreen, you can actually order up a screening at a participating local cinema… erm, provided you’re in the UK. For the rest of us, of course, we can just wait some extra days and microwave some popcorn and make every crowd around our MacBook or something.

The real fun will be for Londoners on the premiere date:

On Thursday, 30 August at 20:30, London’s BFI Southbank will host a premiere launch screening alongside a live Q&A with James Lavelle and the filmmakers. The event will also feature a Pitchblack Playback of an exclusive mix from UNKLE’s new forthcoming album. Plus, join us for an after-party with a live DJ set from Lavelle. The Q&A with James Lavelle will also be broadcast via Facebook Live from the BFI.

Given the subject of the film, of course there’s also a lovely limited edition record to go with it:

http://www.themanfrommowax.com/pre-order/

If you can’t wait, though, here’s FACT’s two-parter on Lavelle from the label’s 21st birthday.

Images courtesy the filmmakers.

http://www.themanfrommowax.com

Thanks, Martin Backes!

The post Mo’Wax, James Lavelle, DJ Shadow, and more in a new documentary appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Watch Suzanne Ciani, thinkers on open music and future machines

Electronic pioneer Suzanne Ciani got interviewed by KORG guru Tatsuya Takahashi. Thinkers from MIT and the Open Music Initiative pondered the future. It’s all in the video lineup from this year’s SONAR+D. Here are a few of the best:

Keynotes

Red Bull Music Academy presents Suzanne Ciani:

A synth pioneer and adventurous electronic composer since the early ‘80s, Suzanne Ciani has defied assumptions about genre, sound design and technical knowledge ever since. Ciani’s ongoing romance with the synthesizer started with a Buchla, and her skills to create synthetic sounds made her one of the first sound designers, when the concept of sound design didn’t even exist. She is the creator of the sonic blueprint of brands like Atari, ABC and General Electric and she is proof that technology is not exclusively masculine.

Suzanne Ciani spoke at Sónar+D 2017 with Tatsuya Takahashi, one of the world’s foremost experts when it comes to analog electronics. After working as a chief engineer at Korg, developing series such as Monotron and Volca and the Minilogue, recently, synth pioneer Takahashi has taken on a new role hosting Red Bull Music Academy lectures.

From littleBits and the open source hardware movement, SONAR+D also invited Ayah Bdeir to talk open hardware, coding, and creativity:

Ayah Bdeir is an engineer, interaction artist, free hardware advocate and, most of all, a distinguished creative entrepreneur. Ever since Bdeir founded her company littleBits, her name has been making the top lists for most creative people in the world. Bdeir received her Master’s degree in Computing Culture from the MIT after graduating from the American University of Beirut with her BA in Computer Engineering and Sociology.

littleBits is a kit of open source electronic modules (engines, oscillators, batteries, even IoT modules) snapped together with magnets –forget your welder!– to easily create complex systems. littleBits is a platform focused on education used by hundreds of schools to teach electronics, and it is also one of the favourite tools of designers, makers and inventors. A must-have for prototyping.

And on other topics…

New models for learning, replicating machines

This one’s interesting – a peek inside fabrication in general, and the question of self replication:

Nadya Peek: Making Machines that Make

Nadya Peek from the MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms talks about the future of digital fabrication and the challenge to make the machines that make the machines that make the machines…

Amidst sometimes apocalyptic visions of machine learning and AI, here’s a product designer with a more optimistic view (though for our upcoming move into the subject at CTM Festival this year, we welcome futures dark and bright alike):

Carla Diana: How Our Robots Will Charm Us (and Why We Want Them to)

Something exciting has been happening to our everyday objects. Things that were once silent and static can now sing, glow, buzz and be tracked online. Some are constantly listening for sounds, sights and touches to translate them into meaningful inputs. Others have the ability to learn, refining their behaviours over time. They can be connected to one another as well as the Internet and will behave as robotic entities that accompany us through all aspects of everyday life.

In this talk, product designer and design futurist Carla Diana will explore the emergence of smart objects in the home, highlighting designers’ opportunities to pioneer new territory in rich interaction, while emphasizing the importance of creating products that are meaningful and responsible. Diana will share case studies from the front lines of design and creative technology, showcasing how art, science, and business are merging to enable new product experiences.

New economic models, openness

Here’s what happens when De La Soul meet Kickstarter:

Connecting Technology and Community: The new story of De La Soul

Brandon Hixon (artist manager, De La Soul) interviewed by Molly Neuman (head of music at Kickstarter). In this conversation, Kickstarter’s Head of Music Molly Neuman interviews Brandon about their approach and philosophy and how they continue to pursue innovation in their career.

When legendary hip-hop group launched their Kickstarter project to fund their first album in 11 years, it was a surprise for some. But not those who had been following the group and seen their celebration of their 25th anniversary in 2014 by making their entire back catalog available for free via BitTorrent. The group, along with their manager Brandon Hixon, have embraced new technologies and platforms with savvy and creativity.

A lot of the rest of the program this year covered new economic models for music distribution, centering on the Blockchain. That included a meetup of the Open Music Initiative, which is looking to put together those technologies and new currencies to change music distribution, and the likes of Resonate.

How to blockchain for artists, labels and fans

Peter Harris from Resonate streaming platform, copyrights specialist Cliff Fluet, visual artist and musician Blanca Rego and music strategist Bas Grasmayer talk about blockchain.

Open Music Initiative Meetup Panel

Open Music Initiative members and artist and technologist Richie Hawtin discuss the ideas and challenges that are changing the music industry’s landscape.

SONAR+D 2017 talks

The post Watch Suzanne Ciani, thinkers on open music and future machines appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Watch as music luminaries revisit the first Buchla 100 modular

You can’t watch the Orville Brothers and Amelia Earhart go to your local airport. But you can watch music pioneers revisit the first Buchla 100 modular.

In a new clip from the Subotnick documentary, Morton Subotnick joins fellow San Francisco Tape Center founder and multi-disciplinary creator Ramon Sender. (I’ve heard Subotnick credit Pauline Oliveros with the Tape Center’s creation, too – Ramon Sender must have wanted her to be represented, as she appears on a t-shirt.)

That location was birthplace of a lot of what would happen in 60s electronic experimentalism – the anachronistic “tape” name little clue to the radical sounds to come. And one of those lasting accomplishments was Don Buchla’s Buchla 100 modular – the modular system that gave us what now is commonly called the “west coast” sound.

Here, we get to see that very first Buchla 100 modular system as it lives at Mills College.

They get to talk to a third major figure in American experimental music, Maggi Payne. (Payne’s Wikipedia entry gives some indication of how much she does, calling her an “American composer, flutist, video artist, recording engineer/editor, and historical remastering engineer who creates electroacoustic, instrumental, vocal works, and works involving visuals (video, dance, film, slides).” Got all that?)

Payne and Mills are now inseparable, which makes her instrumental in producing ripples in electronic music from that vital institution. She runs the music program, teaches composition and sound engineering and electronic music, and is co-director of Mills’ Center for Contemporary Music. You could think of few better caretakers for the Buchla 100.

The creators of the I Dream of Wires documentary are now doing a new documentary focusing on Subotnick, presently on IndieGogo. This clip does suggest it could be fun to watch.

Subotnick: Portrait of an Electronic Music Pioneer

It also makes me hungry for more work on the experimental scene – and there’s probably a lot more to say about Mills. (Don’t ask me; I was out on the East Coast!)

The post Watch as music luminaries revisit the first Buchla 100 modular appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Unlocking unimaginable sounds with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop now has its own cover band.

Arturia have done a new documentary on England’s proudest home for electronic sound, the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Founded in 1958, the laboratory had the wildly ambitious mission of producing any sound any BBC program might ask for – foley to sci-fi. That of course took on especially unusual possibilities thanks to this trippy show for kids about an eccentric time traveler, Doctor Who – and the inventiveness of the likes of Delia Derbyshire made sounds with brute-force tape manipulations that seem futuristic even today.

Derbyshire and Daphne Oram may no longer be with us, but surviving Radiophonic veterans Mark Ayres, Peter Howell, Dick Mills, Roger Limb, and Paddy Kingsland join in this film. Apart from watching way too much Who, I feel especially inspired by the Workshop thanks to growing up with Kingsland’s score for the radio Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and getting to work with my composition teacher Thea Musgrave, who spoke fondly of her own adventure working in the facility.

What’s interesting now is, apart from Ayres’ efforts to archive the exhaustive products of the lab, the gang have formed a live band to play greatest hits and experiment with new compositions. That generation’s efforts seem nicely aligned with younger artists’ own fascination with DIY technology – now mixing analog, acoustic, mechanical, and digital – and the growing interest in live electronics.

The plucky playground spirit of the early BBC seems right at home with today’s post-digital experimentalism:

We’d crash, bang, hit, stretch, reverse, and everything with tape. Most things were done with tape, cutting with razor blades, and putting things together. It was highly skilled and took weeks to make things. Whatever’s available, that’s what you’ve got to use.

Everything was highly original, because the sounds were all ‘found sounds’ so it might be a cork coming out of a bottle if it was a sort of theme tune, anything that twanged or clanged, scraping stuff, highly manipulated to get the final sound.

Of course, now with your phone a recording device, finding sounds is easier than ever.

That may mean that revisiting media archeology will prove a respite for those bored with presets and predictable outcomes. So, take a lesson from Delia:

When Delia Derbyshire did the Doctor Who theme, the bassline is basically a plucked string, a single plucked string. She’d record the single plucked string onto tape, make a loop of it, then record that onto another machine and you’d have a whole line of these notes, but then you’d vari-speed the loop so to create all the pitches, then you’d record those loops all onto the other tape, so you’d have half an hour of D’s and half an hour of E’s and half an hour of F’s, and that’s the way you’d go through it, that’s how you’d make music, you’d cut your notes from a piece of tape.

If you’ve got an Arturia MatrixBrute (you lucky sound pioneer, you), you can download a free sound pack from Arturia made by these BBC pioneers – and everyone can learn more about their work:

https://www.arturia.com/radiophonic

The post Unlocking unimaginable sounds with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.