Sacha Baron Cohen’s EDM track reminds us of the joy of sampling

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America? continues its epic troll of US society. And since Spinal Tap predates laptop production, we instead get a Hudson Mohawke tribute to sampling.

Resident Advisor picks up the story.

Here’s the thing, though. Miami nightclub owner and manager Jake Inphamous – that’s his real name, not a parody – not only figured out the prank, but shares a story that makes it clear the reality is still odder than the parody.

Vulture has the story. Here’s my favorite bit, on the way Inphamous coddled the artist over his awful track:

It wasn’t necessary to be polite. You know, I manage an artist called Lil Toenail. He’s a gimmick rapper and a troll rapper. He dresses up like a big foot, and has millions and millions of views on the internet. So I figured, “Okay, I’ve dealt with Lil Toenail before, it’s something similar to that.” I figured that if I’m taking this guy under my wing, I got to get his confidence, because this guy’s freakin’ nuts. I gotta support him. Me calling his work a masterpiece? Although I did think it was clever that he was able to get production hardware in prison and capture the sounds of his sentence, I called the song a masterpiece the same way I tell my 2-year-old daughter, “Oh my God, you finished your lunch! You’re the best eater in the whole world!”

How Sacha Baron Cohen Wound Up DJing at a Florida Nightclub

Well, that pretty much sums up the whole music industry. Remember, if you’ve ever struggled for support in your music, there’s something good about obscurity: it aids in self reliance. Oh yeah – Germany helps; people tend to be … frank.

Synchronicity: as I’m writing this, there’s a small child outside my window making… basically the same track, screaming and banging on things. I’d record it for you, but… it’s Germany, there’s presumably a law against that, and you can easily imagine.

Not to let Mr. Sacha Baron Cohen down, but music produced in prison is actually really a thing – and not this joke. For instance:

Behind Bars: Meet The Georgian Techno Producer Making Music From Prison [Electronic Beats]

Photo: Showtime network.

Previously in EDM on CDM:

deadmau5 wants EDM DJS to actually play, produces Tumblr poetry in the process

The post Sacha Baron Cohen’s EDM track reminds us of the joy of sampling appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Watch The Black Madonna DJ live from … inside a video game

Algorithmic selection, soulless streaming music, DJ players that tell you what to play next and then do it for you… let’s give you an alternative, and much more fun and futuristic future. Let’s watch The Black Madonna DJ from inside a video game.

This is some reality-bending action here. The Black Madonna, an actual human, played an actual DJ set in an actual club, as that entire club set was transformed into a virtual rendition. That in turn was then streamed as a promotion via Resident Advisor. Eat your heart out, Boiler Room. Just pointing cameras at people? So last decade.

From Panorama Bar to afterhours in the uncanny valley:

This is less to do with CDM, but… I enjoy watching the trailer about the virtual club, just because I seriously never get tired of watching Marea punching a cop. (Create Digital Suckerpunches?)

Um… apologies to members of law enforcement for that. Just a game.

So, back to why this is significant.

First, I think actually The Black Madonna doesn’t get nearly the credit she deserves for how she’s been able to make her personality translate across the cutthroat-competitive electronic music industry of the moment. There’s something to learn from her approach – to the fact that she’s relatable, as she plays and in her outspoken public persona.

And somehow, seeing The Black Madonna go all Andy Serkis here puts that into relief. (See video at bottom.) I mean, what better metaphor is there for life in the 21st century? You have to put on a weird, uncomfortable, hot suit, then translate all the depth of your humanness into a virtual realm that tends to strip you of dimensions, all in front of a crowd of strangers online you can’t see. You have to be uncannily empathic inside the uncanny valley. A lot of people see the apparent narcissism on social media and assume they’re witnessing a solution to the formula, when in fact it may be simply signs of desperation.

Marea isn’t the only DJ to play Grand Theft Auto’s series, but she’s the one who seems to actually manage to establish herself as a character in the game.

To put it bluntly: whatever you think of The Black Madonna, take this as a license to ignore the people who try to stop you from being who you are. It’s not going to get you success, but it is going to allow you to be human in a dehumanizing world.

And then there’s the game itself, now a platform for music. Rockstar Games have long been incurable music nerds – yeah, our people. That’s why you hear well curated music playlists all over the place, as well as elaborate interactive audio and music systems for industry-leading immersion. They’re nerds enough that they’ve even made some side trips like trying to make a beat production tool for the Sony PSP with Timbaland. (Full disclosure: I consulted on an educational program around that.)

This is unquestionably a commercial, mass market platform, but it’s nonetheless a pretty experimental concept.

Yes, yes – lots of flashbacks to the days of Second Life and its fledgling attempts to work as a music venue.

The convergence of virtual reality tech, motion capture, and virtual venues on one hand with music, the music industry, and unique electronic personalities on the other I think is significant – even if only as a sign of what could be possible.

I’m talking now to Rockstar to find out more about how they pulled this off. Tune in next time as we hopefully get some behind-the-scenes look at what this meant for the developers and artists.

While we wait on that, let’s nerd out with Andy Serkis about motion capture performance technique:

The post Watch The Black Madonna DJ live from … inside a video game appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A simple, classic channel strip, Mr. Putnam’s mic collection, and more

Universal Audio have dropped another of their semi-annual releases of high-end digital sound toys. And this one is revealing of how studio production is becoming more accessible. Plus, you get to steal Bill Putnam’s mic collection. Well, virtually.

A handful of players in this space always stand out – the likes of Universal Audio, WAVES, Eventide, Softube, Soundtoys, and more recently Slate Digital are all competing to give you clever digital emulations of studio gear. These tools command premium prices, at least compared to the stuff bundled with your DAW, but they also deliver results that can match massively expensive studio access or used equipment. UA’s value proposition has always been tying its stuff to hardware. And on audio interfaces in particular, that has advantages, like real-time tracking (no latency!) and gain behaviors that act more like the real thing.

The thing is, while these things aren’t terribly cheap, they’re also not outside the budget of a lot of producers. So developers now find themselves appealing to both seasoned producers and engineers – even those with a fair number of hours on the original equipment, or maybe a Grammy or two in the closet – alongside musicians who have decided to pretend they know what the knobs do. (Trust me, I’ve been in that latter category – I feel you.)

This could go horribly wrong. You could get a giant knob that says “make more loud.” But oddly enough, if you maintain a commitment to sound and ease of use can make both groups happier. The absolute beginner still wants stuff that sounds like their favorite records. And the person who produced those favorite records is the least likely to have time to deal with unfriendly user interfaces. (We’re all getting older. Yeah, those producers even often use presets – of course, because they know what the presets actually do and how to adjust them to taste.)

So, all of that is to say, I have to notice the Century Tube Channel Strip looks a lot simpler than a lot of high-end channel strips.

Century Channel Strip – hardware-style controls and behavior, simple UI, classic sound, and works in real-time with UA’s audio interfaces.

One singular channel strip

It’s actually ridiculously simple. But funny enough, that simplicity comes from UA’s experience with modeling decades of vintage gear, which in the days of analog circuits and higher per-component prices (to say nothing of real knobs instead of computer screens), tended to economize.

So it just looks like one channel strip with a vintage-style tube microphone preamp, equalizationfor sound shaping, and dynamics control (a compressor/limiter). It’s skeuomorphic – sorry Jony Ives – but with the general effect that things are easier to see and relatable in a general sense to hardware you may have used before.

One plug-in just does the bulk of what you need, in one interface. This contrasts with Arturia’s (completely excellent, by the way) “Preamps You’ll Actually Use,” which have sprawling UIs – here, the model is still vintage gear, but the controls are far simpler.

UA wants to do more than say you can use this with their real-time tracking. They want to tell you why:

You’ll use real-time tracking so you’re more likely to get the sound you want on the first take, as you play/sing, and then keep that take without second-guessing it.

At EUR/USD 149, this looks like an instant hit for UA owners, and with the Apollo Arrow a lower-cost, more portable hardware entry, I think the combination could be grand.

Vintage mics, in the box

The other nice news in this update is the Bill Putnam microphone collection. That’s Bill Putnam, Sr., the legendary engineer without whose contributions modern recording is hard to imagine. And yes, apart from being the guy who founded UA, Mr. Putnam worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles.

So, here’s the cool part: now you can track through models of his actual mics, including the Telefunken Ela M 251E, AKG C12A, Neumann U47, RCA 44, and others, with all the controls over proximity and pattern, before or after the fact.

Again, UA have a case for making you spend more on their software and combined hardware, because the payoff is that you can get near-zero latencies and hear the effects as you work. Computers could pull that off, but until they do so reliably, you’ve got this.

The magic of this working is all the work of the Townsend Labs Sphere L22 microphone. Short, non-engineering explanation – that mic picks up everything, so that then software can model the unique frequency and spatial response of a particular mic.

Just get ready: the list price of the L22 is US$1,799. Hey, you want a bunch of classic mics, you’re going to have to pay for one good mic.

That UI means you can choose the behavior of the mics, virtually. Just don’t smoke, kids. Bill Putnam, Sr. (pictured at right) smoked, and he’s not alive any more.

https://www.uaudio.com/bill-putnam-mic-collection.html

And the rest

Also out in this release is a Suhr PT100 amplifier. That’s notable not only for the Suhr moniker, but also plug-in effects capabilities included – syncable lo-fi delay, noise gate, tight and smooth filters and power soak, plus a preamp. And yes, there’s a bypass switch – thank you. I’m… mostly eager to try this one on drums. I’ll get back to you on that! US$149.

https://www.uaudio.com/suhr-pt100-amplifier.html

Suhr amp emulation, also from Brainworx.

Plus, from Brainworx, there’s the rather nice all-in-one analog-style mastering chain bx_masterdesk, at $299. Also notable for Arrow users, the DSP usage on this will work on just one DSP chip. Brainworx makes some great stuff; there’s a ton of competition for mastering, but this still looks like a solid option.

https://www.uaudio.com/brainworx-bx-masterdesk.html

All of this is part of UAD Software 9.6 – download directly:
www.uaudio.com/uad/downloads

UAD Powered Plug-ins

Previously:

UAD for everybody: Arrow sound box is Thunderbolt, PC or Mac, $499

The post A simple, classic channel strip, Mr. Putnam’s mic collection, and more appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Tracktion 7: powerful, free audio production tool (Mac, Windows, Linux)

So you want to start recording, mixing, arranging, and your budget is … you don’t have one. Tracktion runs on every OS, and the latest update adds still more powerful features.

Free production tools are invaluable – not only are they a refuge for the cash-strapped, but they can be a useful common denominator when you want to exchange projects, or if you need to get up and running quickly on something other than your main machine. Tracktion isn’t the only option out there. Notably GarageBand is available to macOS and iOS users. The excellent Cakewalk (formerly called Cakewalk SONAR) is an optimal choice on Windows, now available free from BandLab. For cross-platform tools, there’s the completely free and open source Ardour, though it can be a bit hacky to install and use. And while it’s not free, Reaper has an unlimited demo, meaning you can use the full version for free and send the developer some money after you sell that first TV score.

Where Tracktion stands out: it’s a modern, friendly, single-window DAW that runs on any OS (Mac, Windows, Linux). And of all of these, it may be the friendliest option – with some power features not available from other options.

T7, released this week, sweetens the pot with some unique new additions – including a couple that might even sway you from the DAW you’ve already paid for.

The UI has been refreshed, with a new scheme called “Blue Steel.” (Okay, enough Zoolander references already. Or at least they missed the opportunity to say the new color scheme will help you “Relax.”)

Browsing is also easier, with a visual browser for plug-ins (the likes of which we’ve seen in Reason, but more rarely elsewhere), plus a multi-browser for auditioning and placing multiple audio files.

The real magic, though, is in the ability to get some power over automation and routing:

Modular racks let you create custom signal processing chains.

Clip Layer Effects let you stack on effects and plug-in processing on specific clips, not just on tracks. That makes for a different workflow – no more making a new track every time you want to change audio routing. Tracktion says they’re applying for a patent here.

Clip Layer Effects: no more duplicating tracks just because one section needs a different effects routing than another bit.

Automation patterns are modulation and envelopes that you can apply to any parameter repeatedly. And there’s optional tempo sync support for them. That sounds especially handy for keeping favorite gestures at the ready, and for remixes and dance music (or to go the opposite direction, hyperactive microediting). Speaking of which, you also get….

Automation patterns can now be stored an applied anywhere – including with tempo sync.

LFO Modifiers can be applied to any parameter in the channel strip or in any third-party plug-in. We’ve seen powerful modifiers in Bitwig Studio – and in Ableton Live, though limited to somewhat simple Max for Live add-ons – but here, combined with those Clip Layers and Automation Patterns, they make Tracktion into a powerful DAW for editing.

LFO Modifiers now work with plug-ins.

Okay, so since this is free, how do the developers make any money? They hope you’ll upgrade to Waveform, their next-generation DAW. It’s got all these features, but adds more extensive instrument support, a multi-sampler, Melodyne pitch correction, a fully modular mix environment, more detailed MIDI editing and pattern generation, and other additions.

Also significant: master mix DSP, chord track, track loops, track presets, quick render, Rack ‘stack’ editor,’ plug-in faceplates, plug-in macros, and free online support. And only Waveform has ready-to-play Raspberry Pi support.

That still means Tracktion is a good way to give this approach a try.

https://www.tracktion.com/products/t7-daw

The post Tracktion 7: powerful, free audio production tool (Mac, Windows, Linux) appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A soft synth that’s made to be played with futuristic, expressive control

We’ve seen lots of new controllers that are designed to be more responsive to gestures. But can they actually make new sounds, to match? ROLI and FXpansion have a new soft synth that’s designed for that.

It’s called Cypher2, and it builds on the past (award-winning, no less) software instruments from FXpansion, but now built from scratch so that you can access all those deep sound parameters just by moving your hands – not only by messing around with on-screen parameters.

And it sounds lovely:

ROLI have joined smaller makers like Madrona Labs, Roger Linn Instruments, and others in making new controllers that respond to more than just plucking keys or hitting drum pads. But the London-based company sets itself apart with something else – funding. So they’ve got Pharell Williams as a creative office, partnerships with the likes of Apple retail, and they bought up some of the unique, weird talent that makes music technology – including plug-in developer FXpansion, who also call London home. (That buyout took place in 2016.)

Now, when Apple go buy a plug-in maker, you can bet you’ll watch its products become exclusives for Logic and GarageBand. But when ROLI buy someone, you instead get interoperable software that takes advantage of ROLI’s forward-thinking instruments.

Translation: now when you prod and slide about the squishy keys of a ROLI Seaboard RISE or Seaboard Block, you can make fabulous sounds. Dig into your computer screen, and you can shape those sounds yourself.

And now that expressive control is part of MIDI (in the form of a protocol called MPE), this software sees both host support (Bitwig Studio, Cubase) and hardware support beyond just what ROLI make (like the Linnstrument, if you like).

ROLI and FXpansion call these sounds “5D,” but that is to say, many aspects of the sound are there underneath your hands. And that’s of course the way of things with acoustic instruments – even the acoustic piano responds with nuanced sound to the ways you press and release keys, even if this has been grossly simplified in the piano as represented in digital form.

This isn’t the first ROLI synth, but if you weren’t won over by Strobe2 and Equator, Cypher2 offers a bunch of new sound horizons and what ROLI say are the largest-ever bank of MPE-specific sounds. And you get a rich set of physically modeled and analog modeled sounds, producing lots of organic sounding instruments that are both familiar and futuristic.

I mean, it just sounds great. It’s been a while since I was this interested in a soft synth – and to me it’s the first new soft synth to really get excited about using MPE.

Promo video:

And if you want a cheaper / more portable solution, yes it works with the Blocks line, too:

Sounds:

Specs: VST, AAX, AU, Mac, Windows, 64-bit.

Cost: “$199 (£159, €179) on fxpansion.com. Existing owners of DCAM Synth Squad, Strobe2, a ROLI Seaboard or BLOCKS can purchase Cypher2 at a discounted price of $79 on fxpansion.com until 7th September 2018, or for $99 thereafter.”

https://www.fxpansion.com/products/cypher2/

What’s inside? Modeled analog circuitry and FM, deep modular-style synthesis capabilities, and loads and loads of modulation – again, normally stuff you’d find only on big modular rigs, but here with all the conveniences and powers of digital.

It’s kind of an in-the-box producer’s dream, only now made more accessible to actually playing that depth with controllers.

Modulation powers: audio-rate wave-modulation, sample & hold, ring-mod, variable-depth sync and tempo-synced beat-detune. Oh, yes.

Also:

Modulate the master sequencer with 3 mod sequencers and an expanded control matrix
Improved interface with real-time animated modulation, full signal flow visuals and preset descriptions
Default MIDI CC mappings for both 2D and 5D controller types
6 circuit-modelled filter types, each with a varied set of responses, including a comb filter model with 8 comb types
Scalable interface for 4K/retina screens with a variety of themes
LFOs are expanded with clock-divided sub-LFOs for synchronisation or free-running modulation
Updated envelope shapes for precise control
Feed your creativity with preset morphing and randomisation
Support for microtonal Scala .TUN files

Full hands-on coming soon, as well as a chat with FXpansion guru Angus Hewlett.

Previously:

Yep, you can go virtuoso with ROLI – DiViNCi, Alluxe show you how

The post A soft synth that’s made to be played with futuristic, expressive control appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Hands-on: Roland’s #808day upgrade for the TR-8S is a blast to play

It’s a little thing, but it adds a lot when you’re playing live: STEP LOOP lets you repeat steps in a sequence as they play, without losing time. Here’s how it works, along with other updates to Roland’s TR-8S drum machine.

Roland’s version 1.10 firmware is out today, and the big new feature is called STEP LOOP. The basic idea:

Hold down a step to make it repeat.

Hold down multiple steps, and they repeat in order.

Release that step or steps, and the sequence continues in time. (LED feedback shows you that the sequence position advances even as you have steps triggered.)

STEP LOOP impacts the whole sequence, not just one part. To activate it, hold down SHIFT and INST PLAY. To exit the mode, just trigger any other sequence mode. Here is in action. Notice the visual feedback as I enter the mode, and what happens when I trigger one or more steps.

It’s hugely useful, because it lets you make fills and variations out of the existing material of a sequence – and you don’t ever drop out of time. It’s not the first drum machine to do this (the ElecTribe ES2 from KORG springs to mind, among others), but it’s hugely useful in this context. The TR-8S is already a great live performance feature, thanks to its flexible routing and I/O, ample controls, faders for volume, and the ability to load custom samples. STEP LOOP is then a perfect addition for live jamming, because it’s intuitive and rhythmic.

The TR-8S has been getting a steady stream of updates – the other huge one in 1.10 is the ability to preview samples. Here’s a reverse-chronological timeline of some of the highlights.

1.10, August 2018
STEP LOOP
Preview sound samples when you import

1.03 April 2018
Improved performance

1.02 March 2018
Batch import kits
Import and export patterns and kits
Write direct to an SD card from the computer (“Storage Mode”)

All of this fits nicely together. It’s now really quick to chop up some samples and load them onto an SD card, then import them into custom kits. That makes the TR-8S’ own onboard hardware a useful way to build your own custom kits – even preferable in some way to working with software. And the combination of STEP LOOP with other features for making custom rhythms adds tons of variety. (Use LAST to make different length parts, add sub-step rhythms for more complex patterns, and use “auto fill” to mix things up even if your hands aren’t free.)

Oh, and you can sidechain external inputs. So I’ve used the TR-8S with my laptop and Native Instruments Maschine. I use MIDI out from Maschine to keep things in sync, and route audio from the computer into the TR-8S so I can sidechain that audio with the drum machine. I’ve also played with Roland’s own AIRA VT-3 vocal transformer, which also lends itself to sidechaining. But it’s an ideal live performance box.

For more resources on the TR-8S, check out Francis Preve’s blog – he’s done a great Master Class on the instrument for Electronic Musician, plus a custom kit for you to download:

Master Class: Roland TR-8S

Previously:

Roland TR-8S hands-on: a more playable, powerful drum machine

The post Hands-on: Roland’s #808day upgrade for the TR-8S is a blast to play 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.

Immerse yourself in Rotterdam’s sonic voltages, in the WORM laboratory

It’s dubbed a “Waveform Research Centre” – and Rotterdam’s gear-stuffed WORM laboratory is a science fiction playground for voltages, making music and visuals alike. Let’s go inside.

Dennis Verschoor is a mainstay of the Rotterdam experimental electronic scene, with some decades of artist experience to his name and the legendary Noodlebar performance series. Filmmaker Steve Guy Hellier joins Thonk’s Steve Grimley-Taylor to produce a short film about him and this amazing space: (thanks, Sonic State, hat tip)

From the description:

I first met Dennis whilst I was in the WORM studio on an artist residency in 2017. The WORM studio is like a geological trip through electronic music’s history but I was about to travel even further back. Strange ghostly tones emanated from the old vocal booth next door, it was this space that Dennis had filled with mid 20th century audio test equipment, going back to the roots of audio electronic experiments before commercially available instruments from Moog or Roland, before keyboards, back to Stockhausen, Else Marie Pade, Daphne Oram, Raymond Scott and the like. Why now? is this the logical conclusion of Mark Fisher’s cultural hauntology? do we end up back at the source? the sound of past futures? For Dennis it seemed more a way to dodge the hipsters, and invite collaboration.

Dennis and I had a friend in common Steve Grimley-Taylor, a lover of all things electronic and sound related (founder of Thonk.co.uk). When I expressed the idea of making a film about Dennis, Richard Foster from WORM kindly agreed to let us. This is a short film about Dennis, his journey and his room.

Steve Guy Hellier 2018

You know what time it is, kids? It’s gear pr0n, time. Some waveform pics to get your Friday night started right.

WORM Rotterdam is also a great all-encompassing event venue.

The WRC has its own Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/Waveform-Research-Centre-1157781711025359/

Information on the Sound Studio:

https://worm.org/spaces/sound-studio/

The post Immerse yourself in Rotterdam’s sonic voltages, in the WORM laboratory appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The retro-futuristic Apparatum draws from Polish electronic music history

It’s equal parts Polish Radio Experimental Studio and starship control panel. The Apparatum by Warsaw’s panGenerator proves that not only can everything old is new again – maybe it’s even newer.

Take a look:

The Apparatum is a new installation that reboots Communist-era work from the space age, bringing visual and optical and magnetic concepts into a playful synthesizer concept. It’s the latest work from interactive/media shop panGenerator from Warsaw.

In the early adventurous work in electronic music, there was nothing to take for granted. So it makes sense that Polish pioneer Bogusław Schaeffer would imagine an entirely new visual language to accompany the new sounds humans were hearing from their circuits. His Symphony – electronic music cued the engineer with those hieroglyph-like visuals, and inspires the sounds and visual language here.

But maybe that’s what modernity is now: now that we’re no longer wowed by digital, we’re sophisticated enough to see new potential for magnetic and optical techniques that had been discarded in the march to the new. Artists/researchers like Andrey Smirnov, who delve into the world of Soviet optical synthesis and Theremin, have regularly wondered what an alternate future would be like if radical optical and electro-magnetic techniques had continued to develop. Now, in works like this (and work by artists like Derek Holzer) make that alternate reality our own.

The work also draws from the design aesthetics and the engineering of the original, legendary Polish studio:

The physical form is inspired by the general aesthetics of the Studio’s famous “Black Room” designed by Oskar Hansen. The electroacoustic generators and filters were arranged in a modular fashion inside two steel frames – the construction element that we’ve referred to in our design.

Magnetic tape was the primary medium used in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio. We’re also using two types of “tape samplers” – two 2-track loops and three one-shot linear tape samplers. To obtain noise and basic tones we’re utilising purely analog optical generators based on spinning discs with graphical patterns.

This may just look like digital tech aping the original, but they’ve genuinely made a hybrid. DC motors spin discs made of plexiglass, covered in opaque black foil on one side, with an LED and photoresistor. That optical detector feeds an analog signal, fed directly to the mixer. They’re real, opto-analog oscillators.

The magnetic part is real, too. 2-3 second tape loops record samples, with variable-speed playback, on top of 3 one-shots that move the magnetic head along the tape (with in turn varies pitch). So you have digitally-controlled magnetic tape and opto-analog synthesis – a fusion of past and present tech. It takes the historical sound techniques, but produces a more accessible, dynamic interface with the computer – digital input, analog output.

And visitors to the exhibition get real recorded results, too – just as they would if they stepped into the historical electroacoustic studio. There’s a printout of the score, plus a digital record uploaded to a server.

The historical use of tape is reimagined with real, digitally-controlled magnetic tape sampling.

The historical gear that inspired the new invention, side by side with the results.

Visual scores accompany the sonic creations.

The Apparatum will make the trip this weekend to Karlsruhe, Germany, where it will accompany an exhibition on now through the start of next year on the historical Polish studio:

Through the Soundproof Curtain. The Polish Radio Experimental Studio

Apparatum is there from the 4th to the 12th:

https://zkm.de/en/exhibition/2018/08/apparatum

If this has picqued your interest, you can learn a lot more about the studio in this series of articles:

Polish Radio Experimental Studio: A Close Look

And the design aspect specifically:

Spatial Music: Design and the Polish Radio Experimental Studio

Now let’s check some more pr0n of the installation:

This work nicely echoes what curator Natalia Fuchs argued in our interview earlier this week – that media archaeology could lead artists to new innovations:

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

Previously, panGenerator on CDM:

FEEDBOXES are autonomous sound toys that play along with you

MICKEYPHON is a terrifying giant robot head that’s also a musical instrument

http://pangenerator.com/projects/apparatum/

The post The retro-futuristic Apparatum draws from Polish electronic music history appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Creative software can now configure itself for control, with OSC

Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of manually assigning every knob and parameter, software was smart enough to configure itself? Now, visual software and OSC are making that possible.

Creative tech has been moving forward lately thanks to a new attitude among developers: want something cool? Do it. Open source and/or publish it. Get other people to do it, too. We’ve seen seen that as Ableton Link transformed sync wirelessly across iOS and desktop. And we saw it again as software and hardware makers embraced more expression data with MIDI Polyphonic Expression. It’s a way around “chicken and egg” worries – make your own chickens.

Open Sound Control (OSC) has for years been a way of getting descriptive, high-resolution data around. It’s mostly been used in visual apps and DIY audiovisual creations, with some exceptions – Native Instruments’ Reaktor has a nice implementation on the audio side. But what it was missing was a way to query those descriptive messages.

What would that mean? Well, basically, the idea would be for you to connect a new visual app or audio tool or hardware instrument and interactively navigate and assign parameters and controls.

That can make tools smarter and auto-configuring. Or to put it another way – no more typing in the names of parameters you want to control. (MIDI is moving in a similar direction, if via a very different structure and implementation, with something called MIDI-CI or “Capability Inquiry.” It doesn’t really work the same way, but the basic goal – and, with some work, the end user experience – is more or less the same.)

OSC Queries are something I’ve heard people talk about for almost a decade now. But now we have something real you can use right away. Not only is there a detailed proposal for how to make the idea work, but visual tools VDMX, Mad Mapper, and Mitti all have support now, and there’s an open source implementation for others to follow.

Vidvox (makers of VDMX) have led the way, as they have with a number of open source ideas lately. (See also: a video codec called Hap, and an interoperable shader standard for hardware-accelerated graphics.)

Their implementation is already in a new build of VDMX, their live visuals / audiovisual media software:

https://docs.vidvox.net/vdmx_b8700.html

You can check out the proposal on their site:

https://github.com/vidvox/oscqueryproposal

Plus there’s a whole dump of open source code. Developers on the Mac get a Cocoa framework that’s ready to use, but you’ll find some code examples that could be very easily ported to a platform / language of your choice:

https://github.com/Vidvox/VVOSCQueryProtocol

There’s even an implementation that provides compatibility in apps that support MIDI but don’t support OSC (which is to say, a whole mess of apps). That could also be a choice for hardware and not just software.

They’ve even done this in-progress implementation in a browser (though they say they will make it prettier):

Here’s how it works in practice:

Let’s say you’ve got one application you want to control (like some software running generative visuals for a live show), and then another tool – or a computer with a browser open – connected on the same network. You want the controller tool to map to the visual tool.

Now, the moment you open the right address and port, all the parameters you want in the visual tool just show up automatically, complete with widgets to control them.

And it’s (optionally) bi-directional. If you change your visual patch, the controls update.

In VDMX, for instance, you can browse parameters you want to control in a tool elsewhere (whether that’s someone else’s VDMX rig or MadMapper or something altogether different):

And then you can take the parameters you’ve selected and control them via a client module:

All of this is stored as structured data – JSON files, if you’re curious. But this means you could also save and assign mappings from OSC to MIDI, for instance.

Another example: you could have an Ableton Live file with a bunch of MIDI mappings. Then you could, via experimental code in the archive above, read that ALS file, and have a utility assign all those arbitrary MIDI CC numbers to automatically-queried OSC controls.

Think about that for a second: then your animation software could automatically be assigned to trigger controls in your Live set, or your live music controls could automatically be assigned to generative visuals, or an iPad control surface could automatically map to the music set when you don’t have your hardware controller handy, or… well, a lot of things become possible.

We’ll be watching OSCquery. But this may be of enough interest to developers to facilitate some discussion here on CDM to move things forward.

Follow Vidvox:

https://vdmx.vidvox.net/blog

And previously, watching MIDI get smarter (smarter is better, we think):

MIDI evolves, adding more expressiveness and easier configuration

MIDI Polyphonic Expression is now a thing, with new gear and software

Plus an example of cool things done with VDMX, by artist Lucy Benson:

The post Creative software can now configure itself for control, with OSC appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.