Inside Cypher2, and what could be a more expressive future for synths

For all the great sounds they can make, software synths eventually fit a repetitive mold: lots of knobs onscreen, simplistic keyboard controls when you actually play. ROLI’s Cypher2 could change that. Lead developer Angus chats with us about why.

Angus Hewlett has been in the plug-in synth game a while, having founded his own FXpansion, maker of various wonderful software instruments and drums. That London company is now part of another London company, fast-paced ROLI, and thus has a unique charge to make instruments that can exploit the additional control potential of ROLI’s controllers. The old MIDI model – note on, note off, and wheels and aftertouch that impact all notes at once – gives way to something that maps more of the synth’s sounds to the gestures you make with your hands.

So let’s nerd out with Angus a bit about what they’ve done with Cypher2, the new instrument. Background:

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

Peter: Okay, Cypher2 is sounding terrific! Who made the demos and so on?

Angus: Demos – Rafael Szaban, Heen-Wah Wai, Rory Dow. Sound Design – Rory Dow, Mayur Maha, Lawrence King & Rafael Szaban

Can you tell us a little bit about what architecture lies under the hood here?

Sure – think of it as a multi-oscillator subtractive synth. Three oscillators with audio-rate intermodulation (FM, S&H, waveshape modulation and ring mod), each switchable between Saw and Sin cores. Then you’ve got two waveshapers (each with a selection of analogue circuit models and tone controls, and a couple of digital wavefolders), and two filters, each with a choice of five different analogue filter circuit models – two variations on the diode ladder type, OTA ladder, state variable, Sallen-Key – and a digital comb filter. Finally, you’ve got a polyphonic, twin stereo output amp stage which gives you a lot of control over how the signal hits the effects chain – for example, you can send just the attack of every note to the “A” chain and the sustain/release phase to the “B” chain, all manner of possibilities there.

Controlling all of that, you’ve got our most powerful TransMod yet. 16 assignable modulation slots, each with over a hundred possible sources to choose from, everything from basics like Velocity and LFO through to function processors, step sequencers, paraphonic mod sources and other exotics. Then there’s eight fixed-function mod slots to support the five dimensions of MPE control and the three performance macros. So 24 TransMods in total, three times as many as v1.

Okay, so Cypher2 is built around MPE, or MIDI Polyphonic Expression. For those readers just joining us, this is a development of the existing MIDI specification that standardizes additional control around polyphonic inputs – that is, instead of adding expression to the whole sound all at once, you can get control under each finger, which makes way more sense and is more fun to play. What does it mean to build a synth around MPE control? How did you think about that in designing it?

It’s all about giving the sound designers maximum possibility to create expressive sound, and to manage how their sound behaves across the instrument’s range. When you’re patching for a conventional synth, you really only need to think about pitch and velocity: does the sound play nicely across the keyboard. With 5D MPE sounds, sound designers start having to think more like a software engineer or a game world designer – there’s so many possibilities for how the player might interact with the sound, and they’ve got to have the tools to make it sound musical and believable across the whole range.

What this translates to in the specific case of Cypher2 is adapting our TransMod system (which is, at its heart, a sophisticated modulation matrix) to make it easy for sound designers to map the various MPE control inputs, via dynamically controllable transfer function curves, on to any and every parameter on the synth.

How does this relate to your past line of instruments?

Clearly, Cypher2 is a successor to the original Cypher which was one of the DCAM Synth Squad synths; it inherits many of the same functional upgrades that Strobe 2 gained over its predecessor a couple of years ago – the extended TransMod system, the effects engine, the Retina-friendly, scalable, skinnable GUI – but goes further, and builds on a lot of user and sound-designer feedback we had from Strobe2. So the modulation system is friendlier, the effects engine is more powerful, and it’s got a brand new and much more powerful step-sequencer and arpeggiator. In terms of its relationship to the original Cypher – the overall layout is similar, but the oscillator section has been upgraded with the sine cores and additional FM paths; the shaper section gains wavefolders and tone controls; the filters have six circuits to chose from, up from two in the original, so there’s a much wider range of tones available there; the envelopes give you more choice of curve responses; the LFOs each have a sub oscillator and quadrature outputs; and obviously there’s MPE as described above.

Of course, ROLI hope that folks will use this with their hardware, naturally. But since part of the beauty is that this is open on MPE, any interesting applications working with some other MPE hardware; have you tried it out on non-ROLI stuff (or with testers, etc.)?

Yes, we’ve tried it (with Linnstrument, mainly), and yes, it very much works – although with one caveat. Namely, MPE, as with MIDI, is a protocol which specifies how devices should talk to one another – but it doesn’t specify, at a higher level, what the interaction between the musician and their sound should feel like.

That’s a problem that I actually first encountered during the development of BFD2 in the mid-2000s: “MIDI Velocity 0-127” is adequate to specify the interaction between a basic keyboard and a sound module, and some of the more sophisticated stage controller boards (Kurzweil, etc.) have had velocity curves at least since the 90s. But as you increase the realism and resolution of the sounds – and BFD2 was the first time we really did so in software to the extent that it became a problem – it becomes apparent that MIDI doesn’t specify how velocity should map on to dB, or foot-pounds-per-second force equivalent, or any real-world units.

That’s tolerable for a keyboard, where a discerning user can set one range for the whole instrument, but when you’re dealing with a V-Drums kit with, potentially, ten or twelve pads, of different types, to set up, and little in the way of a standard curve to aim for, the process becomes cumbersome and off-putting for the end-user. What does “Velocity 72” actually mean from Manufacturer A’s snare drum controller, at a sensitivity setting B, via drum brain C triggering sample D?

Essentially, you run into something of an Uncanny Valley effect (a term from the world of movies / games where, as computer generated graphics moved from obviously artificial 8-bit pixel art to today’s motion-captured, super-sampled cinematic epics, paradoxically audiences would in some cases be less satisfied with the result). So it’s certainly a necessary step to get expressive hardware and software talking to one another – and MPE accomplishes that very nicely indeed – but it’s not sufficient to guarantee that a patch will result in a satisfactory, believable playing experience OOTB.

Some sound-synth-controller-player combinations will be fine, others may not quite live up to expectations, but right now I think it’s natural to expect that it may be a bit hit-and-miss. Feedback on this is something I’d like to actively encourage, we have a great dialogue with the other hardware vendors and are keen for to achieve a high standard of interoperation, but it’s a learning process for all involved.

Thanks, Angus! I’ll be playing with Cypher2 and seeing what I can do with it – but fascinating to hear this take on synths and control mapping. More food for thought.

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

http://roli.com/

The post Inside Cypher2, and what could be a more expressive future for synths appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Bible thumper: watch a circuit bent bible, made on a dare

This week in blasphemy: LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER has another weird nerdy superhit, this time modding and glitching out an electronic bible. Jesus, take the soldering iron!

LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER is inventor-musician-composer Sam Battl of London, whose projects have included synths on bikes, flamethrower organs, and Theremin lightsabres, among other concoctions. And he has a knack for creating weird and wonderful inventions that then go viral.

But speaking of viral millennial sensations (okay, very different millennium), maybe you’ve heard of a bestselling book called … The Bible? All about a thought leader / influencer who … okay, I’ll stop.

Long story short: electronic bible. Soldering iron. Circuit bends. Apparently, a dare from deadmau5. And then, this:

And before I tempt getting struck by lightning while blogging, don’t worry, bible lovers – Sam says “Nothing against the bible here. I showed it to a couple of christian friends before and they seemed to like it.” There, that’s good enough for me.

Okay, sure, it sounds a little demonic, but you know, it’s still the actual Bible. If Christian rock sounded like this, I’d be up for it. (Bach, I like.)

As it happens, this project is interesting from an engineering perspective, too. Recent products are way harder to bend, thanks to fewer exposed bend points and chips hidden beneath black blobs and the like. There’s a reason circuit bending often starts with a trip to eBay or a flea market.

Sam promises more info on his site soon on just how he pulled this off. We’ll be watching.

For more on circuit bending, start with the man who started it all – Reed Ghazala, whose approach to bending is like an ecologist assisting machines in evolving. (He even gives them eyes and the like, for a window into their soul.) It’s radical, wonderful stuff – from an engineering perspective as well as a human and philosophical one. His site:

http://www.anti-theory.com/

And if you liked this project, you’ll love Sam’s Furby Organ, among others:

The post Bible thumper: watch a circuit bent bible, made on a dare appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The 808 just got its own hipster IPA beer in London

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

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

The specs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously in 808-inspired merch:

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

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

The post The 808 just got its own hipster IPA beer in London appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Free download: amps and cellos under your fingertips in the new LABS

If you don’t have a studio, four cellists, amps and recording equipment plus an engineer handy, try this — it’s free.

“Amplified Cello” is the latest instrument in the ongoing LABS series from our friends at Spitfire Audio, a boutique sample house in the UK. They promised some more “experimental” content, after the soft piano and strings and drums, and here you go.

Not only do these cellos get routed through amps for extra edge, but Spitfire founder Christian Henson and engineer Harry Wilson actually did that processing live during recording – cellos in one room, tracking through the amps in another.

But what really makes this interesting to play around with is, they’ve put a bunch of different articulations and gestures in the library. My graduate level musicology education here wants to use words like glissandi and tremolo, but actually, their words “evil,” “wobbly,” and “tension” are both more descriptive of the music and, let’s be honest, truer to our lives sometimes.

And there’s quite a selection:

Now, LABS are really easy and fun to play with, but here we do run up against a limitation: there are a bunch of different samples for various articulations here, and you can only get at them one at a time. Do try out the minimalist controls, as they have more of an impact on the result. It might also be worth setting up a multi-instrument to play with these. (Might get back to you on that!)

These minimal controls may confuse long-time sample users, but – don’t think too much; have a play.

To install, as before you head to the LABS page, login or register, and then click “GET” for each library you want. You can then choose where your plug-ins go, where to store the sample content (as on an external drive), and then download from the Spitfire app:

https://www.spitfireaudio.com/labs/

That app also has updates for Spitfire’s other LABS instruments.

Spitfire’s audio app has also improved. You can finally set a default path for VST2 (essential on Windows) and choose default install paths and plug-in paths, plus log in automatically.

I’m still surprised at readers’ resistance to these sorts of apps, but I’m guessing that means you’ve had a bad experience with some developers. (That part, I understand.) This app for me is reducing frustration, not adding to it, and I’ve tried on both Mac and Windows machines.

Enjoy! Previously:

LABS is a free series of sound tools for everyone, and you’ll want it now

Pretend you can play and produce drums with this free plug-in

The post Free download: amps and cellos under your fingertips in the new LABS appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Tom Whitwell on Turing Machine and how to design your first module

How to design a module when you’ve never designed a module before? Tom Whitwell, the man behind legendary music tech blog Music Thing who now runs a modular company of the same name, explains.

This video is fresh out of the Brighton Modular Meet. So let’s all head to the UK, virtually speaking:

Tom walks through the design and engineering of the Turing Machine module kit, an open source project made with local electronics builder Thonk.

Also worth watching – Tom talked to a new podcast called WHY WE BLEEP back in January, about his whole history in modular and synths:

And for more on the module itself, here’s an in-depth demo of the MKII edition:

Plus what the equivalent in the free VCV Rack modular environment looks like:

And have at the kit:
https://www.thonk.co.uk/shop/turingmkii/

The post Tom Whitwell on Turing Machine and how to design your first module 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.

Modal goes from craft and boutique to sub-$300 SKULPT power synth

Modal Electronics have done ultra high-end boutique, and they’ve done cute, cheap craft synths. But now they’re gunning for a sub-$300 instrument that looks consumer-friendly – and packs some 32 oscillators and more.

If it’s successful, it looks like the first portable power polysynth that has an entry-level price tag – no exposed circuit boards, no cutesy features, no stripped-down sound sources. And it also has some parallels to IK Multimedia’s UNO, introduced at Superbooth Berlin in May. It even has a membrane keyboard like the IK piece. But whereas IK chose to go analog – and thus have just two VCOs – Modal have beefed up the architecture with by opting instead for virtual analog guts.

What you get, then, is a monosynth, paraphonic, or polyphonic instrument. You can route modulation into elaborate combinations. You get FM, PWM, tuning, and ring mod. And it has a built-in sequencer plus arpeggiator, which seems to be fast becoming a standard feature these days – but a lot of extras for each that definitely are anything but standard.

And with all that complexity, of course you’ll also be glad for the included patch storage and recall.

But it’s the pricing – projected under US$300 – that make this so aggressive. You can buy an iPad and load it with a powerful polysynth for that price, but there’s not anything I can think of that does this.

Full specs:

4 voice – 32 oscillator virtual analogue synthesiser
8 oscillators per voice with 2 selectable morphable waveforms
Mixer stage for osc levels along with FM, PWM, tuning and Ring Modulation options
Monophonic, Duophonic and Polyphonic modes available
Multi option Unison / spread to detune the 32 oscillators for a huge sound
8 slot modulation matrix with 8 sources and 37 destinations
3 x envelope generators for Filter, Amplitude and Modulation
2 x audio rate LFOs, one global and one polyphonic
Realtime sequencer that will record up to 128 notes and up to 4 parameters.
Fully featured arpeggiator with division, direction, octave, swing and sustain controls.
Resonant filter that can be morphed from low pass, through band pass, to high pass
Delay and distortion (wavehsaping overdrive, not bitcrushing) effects
Optional MIDI clock sync for LFOs and Delay
128 patch and 64 sequence storage locations
16 key touch MIDI keyboard
MIDI DIN In and Out – Analogue clock sync In and Out connections
Class compliant MIDI provided over USB connection to host computer or tablet
Headphone and line output
Power by USB or 6 x AA batteries
Optional software editor available for MacOS, Windows, IOS and Android
Portable and compact design

The design looks contemporary and stylish, too, if perhaps recalling 80s Frogdesign for Apple. And you might expect some compromises on I/O or something like that, but … there aren’t.

Sounds:

I’ll be curious to see how it’s received – while slick looking, the membrane keyboard and that diagonally oriented control panel may not be for everyone. But it’s hard to argue with the price and all that power underneath.

It certainly means Modal Electronics are game for any market segment. I can’t think of another maker that’s gone quite this quickly from “sell your compact car to buy our high-end synth” to “actually, maybe just fold it together yourself” to “let’s crowd-fund a slick, inexpensive design object.” (Okay, maybe Moog Music counts – but it took them some years to span from theremin kits to rockstar-priced modular reissues.)

The Kickstarter launches next week.

http://www.modalelectronics.com/skulpt/

The post Modal goes from craft and boutique to sub-$300 SKULPT power synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Meet the ultimate Scottish Eurorack module, from Expert Sleepers

The UK may be Brexiting, but Expert Sleepers is leaving England and moving to Scotland. And one special-edition module celebrates – and proves how just much one tiny spot in a rack can do.

Expert Sleepers began its life in 2004 (roughly around the same time as CDM, in fact), created by Andrew Ostler. They started in software, but entered Eurorack around 2008.

And now, they’re pairing up with Scottish music and equipment retailer/distributor Rubadub, who have a similar storied history and loyal fans, back to the store’s birth as a record shop in 1994. The distribution partnership was followed this year by the modular maker moving to Scotland. So what better way to celebrate than with a module faceplate emblazoned with a map of the Scottish highlands (as created by artist Andrew Beltran).

The module in question is the latest revision of Disting, a multifunctional module. In just a slim, single 4HP module, you get a ridiculous amount of features – a bit like having 80 modules in one. Here’s a really great walkthrough of the MK4 unit by synth vlogger loopop:

And I really do mean a lot of features. The Disting is an oscillator / envelope generator / modulation source, yes. But it can also be used with audio recording, sample playback, physical modeling, and effects. In short, it has a lot of the multitasking usefulness you associate with a computer, but you get to stay with something you can bolt into a rack and never have to boot and that isn’t constantly asking you for software updates. (Ahem. But yes, if you’re thinking “so this sort of is a computer,” then you’re right – albeit one that packs all this stuff onto a little CPU brain.)

All of that makes the price of £139 a steal… and the salvation of people with limited budgets or limited space in their flight case.

It makes me inspired on behalf of the fine Scottish people, so I’ve composed a poem to honor the occasion, starting with a stanza from their national anthem, yadda yadda beating the English in the 14th Century yadda yadda try to make that fit with current events even though I’m an American and don’t fully know the tune so it probably doesn’t fit:

“O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

O in mine studio,
Thy gleaming bolt
That once were bare,
It now is filled up,
With modules fair,
And from yer chip,
that beating heart,
Does modulation
Spew with art

O sleeping experts,
Be Scottish brave!
Give us machinery,
Us bonnie lass and lad do rave!
And what sonic tools
We may now lack
Our wallets and credit lines salute thee,
Ye Eurocrack!”

Sort of lost the rhyme scheme there, but my heart was in it.

Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 Eurorack Module Rubadub Special Edition [rubadub]

Documentation, firmware [Expert Sleepers]

The post Meet the ultimate Scottish Eurorack module, from Expert Sleepers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Brighton Modular Meet Coming June 30th-July 1st, 2018

The 2018 Brighton Modular Meet is scheduled for this coming weekend, June 30th – July 1st, 2018, at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.… Read More Brighton Modular Meet Coming June 30th-July 1st, 2018

A look at AI’s strange and dystopian future for art, music, and society

Machine learning and new technologies could unlock new frontiers of human creativity – or they could take humans out of the loop, ushering in a new nightmare of corporate control. Or both.

Machine learning, the field of applying neural networks to data analysis, unites a range of issues from technological to societal. And audio and music are very much at the center of the transformative effects of these technologies. Commonly dubbed (partly inaccurately) “artificial intelligence,” they suggest a relationship between humans and machines, individuals and larger state and corporate structures, far beyond what has existed traditionally. And that change has gone from far-off science fiction to a reality that’s very present in our homes, our lives, and of course the smartphones in our pockets.

I had the chance to co-curate with CTM Festival a day of inputs from a range of thinkers and artist/curators earlier this year. Working with my co-host, artist and researcher Ioann Maria, we packed a day full of ideas and futures both enticing and terrifying. We’ve got that full afternoon, even including audience discussion, online for you to soak in.

Me, with Moritz, pondering the future. Photo: CTM Festival / Isla Kriss.

And there are tons of surprises. There are various terrifying dystopias, with some well-reasoned arguments for why they might actually come to fruition (or evidence demonstrating these scenarios are already in progress). There are more hopeful visions of how to get ethics, and humans, back in the loop. There are surveys of artistic responses.

All of this kicked off our MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival, which set a group of invited artists on collaborative, improvisatory explorations of these same technologies as applied to performance.

These imaginative and speculative possibilities become not just idle thoughts, but entertaining and necessary explorations of what might be soon. This is the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come, if a whole lot more fun to watch, here not just to scare us, but to spur us into action and invention.

Let’s have a look at our four speakers.

Machine learning and neural networks

Moritz Simon Geist: speculative futures

Who he is: Moritz is an artist and researcher; he joined us for my first-ever event for CTM Festival with a giant robotic 808, but he’s just at adept in researching history and future.

Topics: Futurism, speculation, machine learning and its impact on music, body enhancement and drugs

Takeaways: Moritz gives a strong introduction to style transfer and other machine learning techniques, then jumps into speculating on where these could go in the future.

In this future, remixes and styles and timbres might all become separate from a more fluid creativity – but that might, in turn, dissolve artistic value.

“In the future … music will not be conceived as an art form any more. – Moritz Simon Geist”

Then, Moritz goes somewhere else entirely – dreaming up speculative drugs that could transform humans, rather than only machines. (The historical basis for this line of thought: Alexander Shulgin and his drug notebooks, which might even propose a drug that transforms perception of pitch.)

Moritz imagines an “UNSTYLE” plug-in that can extract vocals – then change genre.

What if self-transformation – or even fame – were in a pill?

Gene Cogan: future dystopias

Who he is: An artist/technologist who works with generative systems and its overlap with creativity and expression. Don’t miss Gene’s expansive open source resource for code and learning, machine learning for artists.

Topics: Instrument creation, machine learning – and eventually AI’s ability to generate its own music

Takeaways: Gene’s talk begin with “automation of songwriting, production, and curation” as a topic – but tilted enough toward dystopia that he changed the title.

“This is probably going to be the most depressing talk.”

In a more hopeful vision, he presented the latest work of Snyderphonics – instruments that train themselves as musicians play, rather than only the other way around.

He turned to his own work in generative models and artistic works like his Donald Trump “meat puppet,” but presented a scary image of what would happen if eventually analytic and generative machine learning models combined, producing music without human involvement:

“We’re nowhere near anything like this happening. But it’s worth asking now, if this technology comes to fruition, what does that mean about musicians? What is the future of musicians if algorithms can generate all the music we need?”

References: GRUV, a generative model for producing music

WaveNet, the DeepMind tech being used by Google for audio

Sander Dieleman’s content-based recommendations for music

Gene presents – the death of the human musician.

Wesley Goatley: machine capitalism, dark systems

Who he is: A sound artist and researcher in “critical data aesthetics,” plumbing the meaning of data from London in his own work and as a media theorist

Topics: Capitalism, machines, aesthetics, Amazon Echo … and what they may all be doing to our own agency and freedom

Takeaways: Wesley began with “capitalism at machine-to-machine speeds,” then led to ways this informed systems that, hidden away from criticism, can enforce bias and power. In particular, he pitted claims like “it’s not minority report – it’s science; it’s math!” against the realities of how these systems were built – by whom, for whom, and with what reason.

“You are not working them; they are working you.”

As companies like Amazon and Google extend control, under the banner of words like “smart” and “ecosystem,” Wesley argues, what they’re really building is “dark systems”:

“We can’t get access or critique; they’re made in places that resemble prisons.”

The issue then becomes signal-to-noise. Data isn’t really ever neutral, so the position of power lets a small group of people set an agenda:

“[It] isn’t a constant; it’s really about power and space.”

Wesley on dark connectionism, from economics to design. Photo: CTM Festival / Isla Kriss.

Deconstructing an Amazon Echo – and data and AI as echo chamber. Photo: CTM Festival / Isla Kriss.

What John Cage can teach us: silence is never neutral, and neither is data.

Estela Oliva: digital artists respond

Who she is: Estela is a creative director / curator / digital consultant, an anchor of London’s digital art scene, with work on Alpha-ville Festival, a residency at Somerset House, and her new Clon project.

Topics: Digital art responding to these topics, in hopeful and speculative and critical ways – and a conclusion to the dystopian warnings woven through the afternoon.

Takeaways: Estela grounded the conclusion of our afternoon in a set of examples from across digital arts disciplines and perspectives, showing how AI is seen by artists.

Works shown:

Terence Broad and his autoencoder

Sougwen Chung and Doug, her drawing mate

https://www.bell-labs.com/var/articles/discussion-sougwen-chung-about-human-robotic-collaborations/

Marija Bozinovska Jones and her artistic reimaginings of voice assistants and machine training:

Memo Akten’s work (also featured in the image at top), “you are what you see”

Archillect’s machine-curated feed of artwork

Superflux’s speculative project, “Our Friends Electric”:

OUR FRIENDS ELECTRIC

Estela also found dystopian possibilities – as bias, racism, and sexism are echoed in the automated machines. (Contrast, indeed, the machine-to-machine amplification of those worst characteristics with the more hopeful human-machine artistic collaborations here, perhaps contrasting algorithmic capitalism with individual humanism.)

But she also contrasted that with more emotionally intelligent futures, especially with the richness and dimensions of data sets:

“We need to build algorithms that represent our values better – but I’m just worried that unless we really talk about it more seriously, it’s not going to happen.”

Estela Oliva, framed by Memo Akten’s work. Photo: CTM Festival / Isla Kriss.

It was really a pleasure to put this together. There’s obviously a deep set of topics here, and ones I know we need to continue to cover. Let us know your thoughts – and we’re always glad to share in your research, artwork, and ideas.

Thanks to CTM Festival for hosting us.

https://www.ctm-festival.de/news/

The post A look at AI’s strange and dystopian future for art, music, and society appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.