“Play your KORG volcas with bits of metal instead of your fingers” isn’t one of the Oblique Strategies, but maybe it ought to be.
Sometimes all you need for some musical inspiration is a different approach. So My Panda Shall Fly took a different angle for a session for music video series Homework. Since the volca series use conductive touch for input, a set of metal objects (like coins) will trigger the inputs. Result: some unstable sounds.
I mean, maybe it’s just all part of an influencer campaign for Big Coin, but you never know.
My Panda Shall Fly is a London based producer covering a wide range of bases:
The Prodigy’s lead singer has exploded across social media and music press today, as fans pour their hearts out to an artist who defined a crossover between punk and rave, frontman persona and electronica.
It’s also been revealed by the band that Keith Flint took his own life, adding to the heartbreak many in our electronic music community feel. As one reader told The Guardian today, “people like Keith allowed a lot of people to crucify their own torment and demons.”
Music making is a beautiful and endlessly constructive outlet for so many of us channeling emotions. Yet we have to face a music industry that often does quite the opposite, and a society that amplifies illness rather than provides support and love. This applies to music technology, too, which often lets its own fortunes become intertwined with the entertainment business and all its dangers. I think that has to give us pause, again, for personal reflection about what we can do for ourselves and our friends, and the kind of music world we want to build.
At the same time, to create music and personas that can express feeling and joy – well, that’s something to be thankful for, even when we’re deeply saddened when someone leaves us like this.
Flint’s work for The Prodigy stands alone. But I’d also take issue with MusicRadar’s idea that he was the last frontman. Screw the major labels and the industry. Around the world, punk rock and electronics mix freely, and outlandish men and women find every kind of persona they can imagine as singers and out front of their machines. Certainly for some of them, The Prodigy gave them the feeling of that freedom to be those people, directly or indirectly. And more of these characters will arrive.
All that inspiration remains, and that love for music spreads.
seeing keith flint in the firestarter video when I was 10 years old was the single moment that turned me on to a lifetime of raving. thank you and rest in peace.
RIP Keith Flint. I damn near burned a hole through The Prodigy Experience in 92 when there wasn't a lot of accessible dance music in Kentucky. It was a huge deal for me. I can't overstate it. I'm very grateful to have had proof that this world I wanted so badly actually existed.
Keith Flint kept a swearbox above the fire in the pub he used to own (The Leather Bottle in Pleshey, Essex). Whenever he put the logs and kindling in and someone piped up with the obvious joke, he'd point to it and charge them a quid. RIP. pic.twitter.com/lEYZPXfrFj
Complex music conjures up radical, fluid architectures, vivid angles – why not experience those spatial and rhythmic structures together? Here’s insight into a music video this week in which experimental turntablism and 3D graphics collide.
And collide is the right word. Sound and image are all hard edges, primitive cuts, stimulating corners.
Shiva Feshareki is a London-born composer and turntablist; she’s also got a radio show on NTS. With a research specialization in Daphne Oram (there’s a whole story there, even), she’s made a name for herself as one of the world’s leading composers working with turntables as medium, playing to the likes of the Royaal Albert Hall with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Her sounds are themselves often spatial and architectural, too – not just taking over art spaces, but working with spatial organization in her compositions.
That makes a perfect fit with the equally frenetic jump cuts and spinning 3D architectures of visualist Daniel James Oliver Haddock. (He’s a man with so many dimensions they named him four times over.)
NEW FORMS, her album on Belfast’s Resist label, explores the fragmented world of “different social forms,” a cut-up analog to today’s sliced-up, broken society. The abstract formal architecture, then, has a mission. As she writes in the liner notes: “if I can demonstrate sonically how one form can be vastly transformed using nothing other than its own material, then I can demonstrate this complexity and vastness of perspective.”
You can watch her playing with turntables and things around and atop turntables on Against the Clock for FACT:
And grab the album from Bandcamp:
Shiva herself works with graphical scores, which are interpreted in the album art by artist Helena Hamilton. Have a gander at that edition:
But since FACT covered the sound side of this, I decided to snag Daniel James Oliver Haddock. Daniel also wins the award this week for “quickest to answer interview questions,” so hey kids, experimental turntablism will give you energy!
The conception formed out of conversations with Shiva about the nature of her work and the ways in which she approaches sound. She views sound as these unique 3D structures which can change and be manipulated. So I wanted to emulate that in the video. I also was interested in the drawings and diagrams that she makes to plan out different aspects of her performances, mapping out speakers and sound scapes, I thought they were really beautiful in a very clinical way so again I wanted to use them as a staging point for the 3D environments.
I made about 6 environments in cinema 4d which were all inspired by these drawings. Then animated these quite rudimentary irregular polyhedrons in the middle to kind of represent various sounds.
Her work usually has a lot of sound manipulation, so I wanted the shapes to change and have variables. I ended up rendering short scenes in different camera perspectives and movements and also changing the textures from monotone to colour.
After all the Cinema 4d stuff, it was just a case of editing it all together! Which was fairly labour intensive, the track is not only very long but all the sounds have a very unusual tempo to them, some growing over time and then shortening, sounds change and get re-manipulated so that was challenging getting everything cut well. I basically just went through second by second with the waveforms and matched sounds by eye. Once I got the technique down it moved quite quickly. I then got the idea to involve some found footage to kind of break apart the aesthetic a bit.
Of course, there’s a clear link here to Autechre’s Gantz Graf music video, ur-video of all 3D music videos after. But then, there’s something really delightful about seeing those rhythms visualized when they’re produced live on turntables. Just the VJ in me really wants to see the visuals as live performance. (Well, and to me, that’s easier to produce than the Cinema 4D edits!)
But it’s all a real good time with at the audio/visual synesthesia experimental disco.
You’ve seen the Stylophone as the mass-produced, toy-like original. And you’ve seen it as a relaunched digital emulation and as an analog instrument. Now get ready for the Stylophone as premium boutique instrument.
The Stylophone began its story back in 1967, and became one of the iconic electronic musical inventions of the 20th century – its appeal being largely to do with its simplicity and directness. The son of the original inventor, Ben Jarvis, went on to revive instrument under the original manufacturer name, Dubreq.
Now, the GEN R-8 is here with some advanced features and flowery description about British circuitry you might expect from the ad copy for a high-end mixing desk. There’s something a bit funny about associating that with the instrument so long known as a (very musical) toy, but – think of the GEN R-8 as a new desktop synth, the full-featured, grown-up monster child of the original.
Oh, and — it sounds like it’s going to be a total bass beast.
So you know in campy horror movies where someone gets hit with a growth ray or radiation or whatever, and turns into a city-smashing giant? Hopefully this is like that, in a good way.
Dual analog oscillators (VCOs) and full analog signal path.
Divide-down sub-oscillators (one octave lower) and subsub oscillators (two octaves lower) – switch them all on, and you get six oscillators at once.
12 dB state variable filter – low pass, high pass, band pass, wide notch – which they say is their own proprietary design.
ADSR envelope, now with a “punchy” shorter hold stage when you crank attack and decay peaks, they say.
There’s a delay, too – based on the Princeton pt2399 chip, and “grungy” in the creators’ description – which you can modulate via time CV input.
And some classic overdrive, plus an extra booster stage – this part does actually sound a bit like classic British console gear.
And there’s a step sequencer – 8 banks, 16 steps per sequence, both for the internal synth and external gear (CV/gate and MIDI output).
Plus the whole thing is patchable:
There’s an LFO with eight waveforms and dual outputs, which you can patch to all of the CV ins or to other gear.
The patch panel has 19 minijack CV/gate and audio patch points.
The keyboard is now touch-based – so you don’t need a stylus – and has a sort of absurd set of features (MIDI controller output with local on/off, glide and modulation keys, three octaves of keys).
And it’s made of steel.
Price: £299 / $349 / €329
Availability: Late February 2019 [limited edition]
So it’s really Stylophone on steroids – fully patchable, with delay and drive and filter, MIDI and CV, ready to use as a new synth or as a controller tool with other gear (other semi-modulars, Eurorack, MIDI instruments, whatever). It does appear one of the more interesting new instruments of the year – one to watch.
A great live set brews up new musical directions before your ears. It’s a burst of creativity and energy that’s distinct from what happens alone in a studio, with layers of process. From Liverpool (Madeline T Hall) and Moscow (Nikita Zabelin x Xandr.vasiliev), here are two fine examples to take you into the weekend.
Acid-tinged synths unfold over this brilliant half hour from M T Hall (pictured, top), at a party hosted earlier this year by HMT Liverpool x Cartier 4 Everyone:
I love that this set feels so organic and colors outside the lines, without ever losing forward drive or focus. It organically morphs from timbre to timbre, genre to genre. So just when it seems like it’s just going to be a straight-ahead acid set (that’s not actually a 303, by the way, it seems), it proceeds to perpetually surprise.
I think people are afraid to create contrast in live sets, but each shift here feels intentioned and confident, and so the result is – you won’t mistake this for someone else’s set.
Check out her artist site; she’s got a wildly diverse set of creative endeavors, including immersive drawing and sound performances, and work as an artist covering sculpture, sound, video and installation. (Madeleine, if you’re reading this, hope we can feature your work in more depth! I just can’t wait to release this particular set first!)
Darker (well, and redder, thanks to the lighting), but related in its free-flowing machine explorations, we’ve got another set from Moscow from this month:
It’s the project of Nikita Zabelin x Xandr.vasiliev, at Moscow’s Pluton club, a repurposed factory building giving a suitably raw industrial setting.
This is connected for me, though. Dark as it is, the duo isn’t overly serious – weird and whimsical sounds still bubble out of the shadows. And it shows that grooves and free-form sections can intermix successfully. I got to play after this duo in St. Petersburg and you really do get the sense of open improvisation.
Facing off at Moscow’s Pluton.
xandr aka Alexander has a bunch more here:
That inspires me for the coming days. Have a good weekend, everybody.
Synesthesia is a term that gets thrown around a lot, usually to describe the common associations of color, image, and music. But for some people, intermingling of senses can be far more extreme. Listen to LJ Rich talk about what happens when hearing and taste intersect.
LJ Rich is most widely known as presenter of the BBC program Click. She’s also got vast musical experience, from composition to engineering. But for someone so involved in music, her experience is out of the ordinary. Her sense of taste evokes music, and her sense of music evokes taste.
The thing about our senses is, each of us assumes our own experience is the same as everyone else’s – until we hear otherwise. And then, it’s almost impossible to describe; human experience is far more relativistic than any of us can ever hope to understand. But listening to LJ talk about this will both give you insight into her unique way of taking in sound, as well as giving some clues to why music is profound and often cross-sensory for so many of us. She can describe what Debussy tastes like.
This opens up some new interdisciplinary performances; at Music Tech Fest (MTF) in Umeå, Sweden, LJ performed onstage with a bartender, who mixed a cocktail onstage.
LJ’s talk is the content of the first episode of the new MTF podcast. Listen at their site:
It’s a great time to love synths, even on a budget. The latest entry is the DIY Brunswick kit from Future Sound Systems in the UK. It’s simple (one oscillator), but weird and dirty sounding – and you can patch this semi-modular instrument to your own delight. And the price is under £99.
So yeah, if you want to mess about with synths and patch things together, modular is hardly your only option. There are loads of ways to make noise.
Brunswick made its debut at Synthfest in Sheffield earlier this month:
One oscillator (pulse/saw) only, but that’s paired with a multimode analog filter and analog envelope, and FM inputs to spice up the sound (plus other modulation). Add 24 patch points, and you can patch together other sound design options. The patchabilityhas obviously made this a hit; the first batch sold out but another is arriving in November.
Oh, and it says “BEEF” on it, which is important.
£82.50 means that’s just over 110EUR with VAT, or around US$100 (before shipping costs).
It is a DIY kit, not assembled. I’d say it’s an intermediate beginner build – nothing especially difficult, but it’ll take some time and you might want a simple project under your belt before you use this to learn soldering.
What’s notable is that Future Sound Systems are giving you a semi-modular instrument that works perfectly well on its own as well as a voice in a modular environment. They make a lot of other lovely stuff but more in the Eurorack domain.
It’s trending now just based on a Reddit member pointing to the box arriving, so I guess people want it!
Full Synthesizer Voice
VCO PWM & FM
2-Pole VCF with FM
Internal Triangle & Square wave LFOs
Internal Envelope & VCA
PLL & Phase Comparator
24 point Patch bay
Power: 2x PP3 9V batteries (+35, -20mA current draw)
Batteries not included
Dimensions: 194 x 120 mm
Patch bay I/O:
VCO 1V/Octave pitch control input
VCO PulseWidth Modulation input (normalled to LFO Triangle output)
VCO FM 1 input (normalled to LFO Triangle output)
VCO FM 2 input (normalled to Envelope output)
VCO “Sawtooth” output
VCO Pulse output
Phase Comparator input
Phase Comparator output
Phase Locked Loop input
Phase Locked Loop output
LFO Triangle output
LFO Square output
Low-Pass Filter input (normalled to switched VCO output)
Band-Pass Filter input
High-Pass Filter input
VCF FM 1 input (normalled to LFO Triangle output)
VCF FM 2 input (normalled to Envelope output)
VCA AM 1 input (normalled to LFO Triangle output)
VCA AM 2 input (normalled to Envelope output)
Envelope Gate input (normalled to LFO Square output)
You know – for kids. Mini.mu is a musical glove that can get young people coding and crafting and making music and electronics work. And it’s off to a simple, elegant, and affordable start, courtesy artist Imogen Heap and designer Helen Leigh.
It’s one thing for music stars to try out bleeding edge technology and explore performance using gestural interfaces. It’s another thing for kids to tackle computing and electronics – and to make teaching tools that serve them. But a new musical glove design could reach a far wider audience.
MI.MU gloves have been a story we’ve followed since the beginning. With artist Imogen Heap, the effort was to expand on musical gloves past and make something that could expressively navigate a performance.
But MI.MU’s work has tended to be technically complex and pricey. Not so MINI.MU.
You make this glove from scratch, with everything kids need included in the kit. (Helen Leigh is not only a brilliant engineer, but also a children’s author and workshop instructor – so she gets how to teach and how kids get going quickly. The kit is rated for age 6+.)
The price: retailing at £39.95. (just about fifty bucks USD). For many in the UK, it’ll be even cheaper, as schools already have the micro:bit “brains” of the glove
Apart from a cute-looking glove to put on your hand, the MINI.MU has a speaker, an accelerometer, and buttons. You use those sensors to pick up the position of the hand and particular events (like tilt or shake). Then code running on an included chip translates those motions into sounds – which you hear right on the glove, without any additional hardware.
The UK-based project takes advantage of the BBC micro:bit, an initiative to get UK schoolchildren into coding and embedded computing. There are loads of micro:bits around, so the glove is designed to build on this platform, but you can also buy the glove with a bundled micro:bit if you don’t have one.
And this can be extended, too. Pins on the board let you connect additional sensors, like flex sensors.
Helen worked with the MI.MU team, Imogen, and kit maker Pimoroni to make this happen.
What’s promising about MINI.MU is that it makes computing and crafting personal – you’re coding something that’s expressive and literally in your hand. If the creators can keep kids (and adults) interested in doing stuff with a glove, and building code around music, there’s real potential.
It looks like the beginning of a platform that could be a lot more – and that realizes some longstanding dreams to bring new ways of interacting with music and learning about STEM through music technology. We’ll be watching.
Check out how kids would get coding with this:
Visual coding using musical examples. (Check these things out in your browser, free.)
What if music were made mechanically, with giant wheels and bellows and valves? The Mammoth Beat Organ makes that happen, using parts from toilets, a hearse, and a treadmill.
Yes, it has balloons connected by tubes and something called a “wind sequencer” with pegs and … it sounds like a calliope that’s gone a bit mental. And it comes with roll-on “modules” so you can add different layers of sound (like mechanically played drums). Watch:
It’s the Dunning Underwood Mammoth Beat Organ, the creation of two wild musical minds – Sam Underwood and Graham Dunning – in their first collaboration. It has the sonic thinking of the Giant Feedback Organ (Underwood) and the mechanical performance approach of Mechanical Techno (Dunning). And accordingly, it’s even meant to be a two-player contraction, involving both artists.
That performance spectacle is really part of the magic, as components are wheeled around and bits and bobs added and subtracted. Having seen Graham’s live show, that performance energy drives things in a way different than you’d get from just an installation – it has improvisation in it.
More on how this works – in particular, still more deep research into historical instruments and the alternative histories it suggests, and how they incorporated the back of a hearse and a treadmill into construction:
This project is just getting going, so it’ll be fun to watch it evolve – especially if we get to see it in person.
It’s worth noting that they talk about the need to have years and years to continue building and rehearsing with the invention. We of course value novelty in tech, but that’s telling, whatever your fantasies are (whether large and mechanical or compact and digital or anything else). So I do hope they’ll keep us posted as they continue developing, and as they use this instrument to spark new creative directions in their own imaginations.
The video at top is shot and explained by Michael Forrest of Michael & Ivanka’s Grand Podcast – well worth a listen: http://grandpodcast.com
I’m not a fan of YouTube and the next videos it plays, but following this with Sir Simon Rattle conducting Chariots of Fire with Mr. Bean sure as hell works. In case you need some motivation for today’s soldering / hammering DIY instruments, have at it.
Music, film/TV, games… yes. But another frontier is opening for sound design you might not expect: cars. That has led automaker Jaguar to sound designer Richard Devine, and that in turn means when this Jag accelerates, it sounds like it’s headed into hyperdrive, bound for the outer rim.
Sounds will be another differentiation point of the auto brand experience, a way to set luxury vehicles apart, it’s true. But when it comes to engine noise, there is actually a safety issue. Fully electric cars don’t make the noise that internal combustion engines do, which means you can’t hear them coming – which makes them dangerous.
The cool thing is, manufacturers are finally beginning to consider aesthetics in sound design. And in a world that’s flooded with repetitions of the Windows startup sound, that Nokia theme tune (only mostly driven away by the iPhone), horrible sirens, beeps, and whatnot, this couldn’t come a moment too soon.
Richard Devine has been doing sound design across various industries, from sounds used in films to strange presets you find lurking in your plug-ins (as well as making some great music himself). Now at last he can share publicly that he did sound for the mighty Jaguar, and its all-electric I‑PACE car.
The engine acceleration noise is cool, and with good reason – this car may be ecologically minded, but it also does 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds. (I’m not advertising for Jaguar, though… uh, hey Jag, I accept money. And automobiles. Be in touch.)
Iain Suffield, Acoustics Technical Specialist at Jaguar:
“We have taken a completely blank canvas and worked with electronic musician and sound designer Richard Devine to interpret the design language of the vehicle, to create building blocks of sound we can craft into the I-PACE.”
And they’ve worked on every aspect of the sound: “The Stop/Start noise of the motors, the audible vehicle alert system, the dynamic driving sounds all have been designed completely from scratch.”
From the outside, the car hums. Inside the cabin, you get different sound sets to reward you as you engage “dynamic” mode, and there is manual customization. (Yes, your car has sound sets. I’m waiting until I can drive a car that looks like a LADA on the outside but sounds like the Enterprise-D on the inside. I’ll keep dreaming.)
You can expect major car companies to enlist these sorts of sound departments more frequently, along with other manufacturers of various products keen to engage customers. And since these teams are developing internally, as well as hiring outside creative talent as with Richard Devine, that means more opportunities for music producers and audio engineers.
So the next time you’re obsessing over getting a sound right and layering instead of just dialing in a preset the easy way, think of it as a career investment. It worked for Richard.
Previously on CDM, German maker Audi following a similar path: