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Fantasy Mansion is an EP that’s also a generative, 8-bit circuit with sync

The golden age of the recorded album may be long past, but the golden age of the album-as-instrument may be just getting started.

Captain Credible is the latest artist to embrace the idea of releasing his music as circuit board and interactive musical instrument and not just a set of tracks you can hear (erm, stream). So, yes, Fantasy Mansion is a set of tracks if you want it to be. But it’s also an 8-bit instrument.

This isn’t the Norwegian artist’s first go at something like this. But Fantasy Mansion is notable not just because of its adorable vintage video game haunted house looks, but also for some surprisingly sophisticated features – including sync.

This also wins the prize (to my knowledge) of coolest thing to put a download code on.

fantasy-mansionback

There’s an eight-track (linear) EP, plus the circuit board, with 32 step sequencer and three-part 8-bit sounds.

The instruction copy is hilarious. The board promises to “harvest compositions from adjacent parallel universes using a Perlington demon gate.” In, uh, more pedestrian terms, what you get is a lead melody, bassline, and drum part you can edit. There are parameters for decay and octave, and effects for glitch, repitch, and shuffle, plus a “Theremin” continuous pitch mode. And you get lots of shift functions, organized cleverly around “matter” and “antimatter” modes. (Sometimes that means something as simple as adding or removing steps in the sequencer, sometimes something much weirder.)

The modification features are dubbed “A.I.,” though that’s a bit of a stretch. (Well, one feature is the ability to “fuck up” patterns. I’m for that.)

You can sync send/receive as desired with other gear, making this a nice complement to stuff like the KORG volca series or Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators.

Here’s the instruction manual (click for full size):

operation-manual

Video teaser:

And longer explanation:

Captain Credible isn’t just a one-trick pony making an 8-bit circuit board and calling it a day. No, he can also be found playing “home made blinking pyramids, motion sensing helmets, candles, lasers and magic crystals.” Yeah. He’s one of us.

Behold:
livea

There is so, so, so much going on at Captain Credible. There are crazy destructive VST plug-ins. There are live performances. There are workshops and weird inventions, and a section called “Art” where installations are controlled by interactive helmets and powered by candles. If you’re in Norway or nearby, book this guy. If not, move to Norway, find some remote farmland, and start a festival so he can headline.

http://captaincredible.com

I’m listening to the music now. It’s surprisingly dreamy (relative to the hyperactive nerdgasm above), shoegaze-to-video game theme-to quirky jams. It’s gorgeous, eccentric, and ingeniously inconsistent, the output of somewhat with a broken attention span and overflowing imagination – in a way to be genuinely thankful for. Maybe it’s not attention span: maybe different dimensions are actually converging, some of them flat video game worlds, some of them introspective Scandinavian emotional odysseys. So enjoy!

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What does it mean that NI bought a startup that monetizes remixes

Native Instruments announced an acquisition that suggests a new area of intended growth for the company. They’ve acquired MetaPop, a firm that clears and monetizes remixes – and with the company, they also get the former CEO of Beatport. To work out what that might mean, you need to first understand MetaPop.

It’s safe to say remix culture isn’t what some predicted it would be. Instead of ushering in a bold new age where music is re-imagined by fans and artists find new opportunities to share ideas and earn money to support their art, we get — uh, takedown notices. And a lot of non-starters.

Into that somewhat desolate landscape, enter MetaPop. The startup was born at the start of 2015 in Los Angeles, founded by former Beatport CEO Matthew Adell. (Adell sold Beatport to SFX, though … that turns out to be an unpleasant story. It appears meanwhile MetaPop has only undisclosed seed money behind it – though that could be actually a good sign, in that acquisition could help it grow.)

Basically, the idea of MetaPop is to actively support fans making remixes, and squeeze revenue out of unlicensed remixes that are floating around online. When you just play music – as in a DJ mix or an online streaming service – you are required to pay a compulsory license, or a fixed license fee that is supposed to pay money back to the artist. That’s another discussion, but suffice to say even the US Commerce Department thinks that that license structure doesn’t make sense for remixes. (I will refrain from using the word “mash-up,” as I think it’s dead, like “information superhighway.”)

So MetaPop does two things. First, it actively courts remixes. There’s a marketplace of pre-cleared stems, where you can go and download stems for free and make your own remixes. There are promoted contests, too, like a recent one with Carl Craig. They’ll even host a remix contest for you for free.

Second, MetaPop supports labels and artists by searching for unlicensed remixes and monetizing them.

You can read Adell’s thoughts on this as CEO, as he speaks to Bas Grasmayer:
Monetizing remix culture: Beatport’s former CEO about his new mission

Carl Craig stems, anyone?

Carl Craig stems, anyone?

Now, it’s pretty easy to follow why Native Instruments might be interested in such a company. We’ve already seen that part of the company’s vision for the future of DJing is live remixing content with STEMS. MetaPop is literally a source of stems, if you want to look narrowly at what that might mean. But apart from remixable content on MetaPop being potential STEMS fodder for Traktor users, more broadly it seems to align with Native Instruments management’s idea about where DJing and electronic music are going.

I wouldn’t look at this as “what NI plans to do with STEMS, though.” It seems to me that NI are primarily acquiring Matthew Adell – and they’re not being secretive about that.

Keep in mind that NI had a financial stake in Beatport, and worked on strategic partnerships. Now, they’re bringing Adell into Native Instruments, naming him Chief Digital Officer. In today’s press release, NI CEO Daniel Haver says point blank, “we’re very excited to take our online offering to the next level.”

He’ll stay on in NI’s LA office. That office is now up to 50 people.

Let me break from script here, though, and say, quite frankly, I have some real questions and reservations about this direction.

The principle potential here for electronic music as service and remixing as medium is all on the DJ side. And Native Instruments has got to get their DJ offerings in better shape to remain competitive.

TRAKTOR is complicated, and subject to instability depending on the computer hardware it runs on. Then, some of its differentiation points are starting to look more like vulnerabilities. Sure, you can use elaborate NI controller hardware – but you’ve got to compete with a competitor who can tell you to just “carry a USB stick.” Then there’s the concept of doing live remixing with STEMS. I still like STEMS as an idea – I’ve released my own content on the format, other artists’ content, and I’ve used it and found it to be musically useful. But Native Instruments rolled out STEMS as a “standard” and has since utterly failed to bring on any major developers or vendor partners, or even to integrate it in their own production products (like Maschine). To me, it’s a great idea – but one that’s had next to no follow through, internally or externally. I say all of this as a TRAKTOR user.

That’s assuming this will have some connection to the existing TRAKTOR DJ product silo, but it’s hard to think remixing and online services won’t have some connection. (Again, DJs are the ones really driving consumption – worth saying.)

And let’s get real. This market has gone back to selling, buying, and playing vinyl records. That’s how devoted it is to reliability, tradition, and physical hardware.

I don’t doubt for a second that there are real opportunities in online offerings, too. Indeed, Adell identified some of those problems with MetaPop. Just getting music out and getting it in the hands of DJs (and remixers, if you like) is already a huge challenge to producers. That impacts NI products outside of just DJing, too – if you can’t get music heard, then you’re less likely to want to buy production tools. Solving these problems could well be valuable.

But this is the challenge Native Instruments faces. Whatever they do with digital offerings, I think they’re going to live and die based on hardware, because hardware is what we’re investing in. (Ask that competitive Japanese company that makes giant MP3 players that cost about as much as a used car.)

Sure, that may be an odd thing to say to the company that made its fortune by going to software. But look at it the other way round: NI has grown at each stage of life based on correctly recognizing trends. That includes the value of software development, then the potential of digital DJing and digital vinyl, then the combination of controller hardware with software.

They may well have it right by identifying online offerings as part of the next trend. But I think the thing to watch is whether that can work in tandem with a more robust offering for DJs, up against increasingly dominant competition.

Of course, that’s what keeps working in this business fun – it’s neither easy nor simple, and it connects directly to people’s most passionate feelings about music at a time when how music is made and heard is changing. So, as always, we’ll be watching.

MetaPop

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One of the best premium audio interfaces now claims to be better

How much time do producers spend just handling one or two inputs and stereo output (plus monitoring)? My guess is — a lot. Once you’re out of the studio, that amount goes up. But generally speaking, premium interfaces have tended to assume you need more I/O – even though a lot of electronic production now occurs in the box.

So part of the reason the Universal Audio Apollo Twin has been important is that it changes the value equation. It doesn’t do a whole lot of I/O – this is really about recording one thing at a time, listening, and monitoring. But by focusing on that, UA lavished all the expense on that I/O and adding DSP power for its modeled plug-in line. And per jack this is a no-expense-spared proposition.

I thought it was a significant entry when it came out for this reason, and that suspicion has been born out by two things – one, I personally can’t live without it in my own productions and my colleagues, and more importantly, I see a heck of a lot of these things popping up.

4_apollo_twin_mkii_ortho_top_large

2_apollo-twin-mkii-back

Let’s be honest: UA most certainly hope this thing is a gateway drug to get you hooked on their plug-in line. And those plug-ins, while terrific, don’t come cheap – they’re at least in line with a handful of other high-end software makers. But I might even go as far as recommending the model with the low-end DSP, because I think the driver and hardware quality of this box is unparalleled.

Or, that is to say, it was already unparalleled, and UA now promise it’s gotten better. The MkII is a “ground up” hardware redesign that promises greater audio quality, much-needed monitoring additions, and the option of getting QUAD processing if you need the DSP horsepower.

UA already addressed one of my biggest complaints – one that had us occasionally shouting expletives at Universal Audio. There’s now a unified driver model, so that you can swap different UA interfaces. That was essential to me and a colleague of mine, as we wanted to use a multi-port interface in the studio and the Twin on the go. That’s sorted, so now swapping is easy.

Being operating system agnostic is also totally possible – whereas Windows users were initially left out entirely, and then Windows and Mac required different drivers and interfaces, now you can swap hardware and OS as you please. That’s also I think a big deal, as some of us have (cough) decided to take the plunge and add a PC to our arsenal.

The MkII looks basically like the earlier model, apart from a Space Gray-styled darker color. The big change are in the innards:

Better audio quality. Universal Audio says the A/D and D/A converters have been “completely” redesigned for better audio performance and dynamic range.

More monitoring, talkback. These offerings were a little basic on the first generation. Now, you get mute, DIM, mono, and ALT speaker switching. That’s clearly useful for studio and recording applications, but I think it has probably a too-often ignored utility in live situations.

Now there’s a quad option. If you don’t care much about DSP or just need an occasional UA plug-in, there’s still the US$699 SOLO model. If you use DSP, though, you really want the $899 DUO. I’ve found that was more than enough for my needs most of the time, personally, but I have spent some time bouncing out tracks as a result. If you’re really into the UA ecosystem, there’s now also the QUAD model with extra DSP.

Mac, Windows. This is now true of the whole Apollo range (with the exception of the Windows-only Apollo Twin USB), but worth mentioning again – you don’t have to choose different hardware just to use both operating systems. You need Thunderbolt, but that’s becoming standard on serious current-generation Windows machines.

QUAD version of the Apollo Twin - those things labeled SHARC are the chips doing the heavy DSP lifting.

QUAD version of the Apollo Twin – those things labeled SHARC are the chips doing the heavy DSP lifting.

Unless you really want the QUAD, I think this mostly sweetens the pot for would-be new adopters rather than makes a must-have upgrade for existing users. That also means you might keep an eye out for used first-gen units. (That said, though, you can chain units together with Thunderbolt.)

But as before, UA justify their use of DSP hardware with tight software/hardware integration and high performance. The includes their Unison technology, which coordinates the preamps and gain with software models, so that the modeled preamps, guitar amps, stompboxes and whatnot can behave like the original in terms of impedance, gain stage behavior, and sound. The big deal, though, is that you can use these software models with near-zero latency, giving you the feeling of having the actual hardware when you’re recording or playing live. And that for me is what justifies using DSP hardware and not just native plug-ins.

These also still come with a set of entry-level plug-ins in a bundle, including some nice Softube amps and distortion, an excellent tube preamp model, and then some still-pretty-darned-good “legacy” models from their back catalog.

Yeah, there are some other options in this price range, like the RME. But at the moment, I can’t quite top the UA, at least for macOS and Windows, if you want the best possible box with this I/O configuration.

The software bundle.

The software bundle.

The other good news this month for fans of the Universal Audio ecosystem is announcement of support from Softube on their Console 1 hardware. The Console 1’s price was also dropped to US$499, which is a lot more in the league of what we think of when we think control surface. And that really fills in a missing piece. It’s great to have this UAD software, but it’s slightly miserable to have to dig into software with the mouse just to turn a knob. It doesn’t matter how good the sound experience of the original hardware is if you can’t get control in your hands.

The Console 1 and Apollo Twin as a combination, though, make a pretty ideal studio and mobile setup. Not all the UAD stuff is covered – and this requires using Softube’s software host, not the UA Console. But most of the stuff you’d likely use is covered, and I suspect not having to go into the UA Console makes more sense for workflow, anyway.

Watch for more on these solutions – and we’ll see if I can defend my enthusiasm for them.

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Here’s how Bastl’s new $49 KLIK is syncing stuff up

Some tools are simple enough that they only really make sense in context. So we’ve gotten word that not only are Bastl Instruments introducing a new sync tool – they’ve also done some clever collaboration to show how it helps you play in time.

Klin is a tiny $49 sync box. It’s really simple — you take line level audio from a sound card, and Klik turns that into clock signals for your (CV-powered) hardware synths. So, when it’s time to sync stuff up, just enter a rhythm track in your DAW of choice, then output that to the Klik. Klik then makes clock/trigger/gate signal (low or high, 0 or 5V).

This works, because there’s an awful lot of gear with those inputs – not only modulars, but increasingly other hardware, too.

You can even just use a headphone out. (macOS’ aggregate device support here is handy). Or you can get creative and use something like an MP3 player.

Or forget that this is supposed to sync at all: “And as a bonus if you run any audio signal thru the KLIK to apply a harsh bitcrushing effect!”

Back to showing this work: our friend Jay Ahern of Denver/Berlin sound works IRRUPT collaborated with Bastl and Bitwig in California this week to demo all this. So we’ve got some images that show you how they’re rigging this up.

bitwig_namm-flyer_final-2-2

Jay tells us, “At NAMM the demo that my team and I put together shows the workflow using the unit with a Microsoft Surface Studio, so the touch screen makes it all fun with the clips and alongside the modular, CV and Gate from Bitwig and Knit Rider sequencer clocked using the Bastl Klik.”

“I’m a Mac user,” he says, “so my personal use for the Bastl unit is as an aggregate device alongside a Duet soundcard for live performance. My soundcard outputs don’t get eaten up with the clock and reset triggers and that is where the Bastl unit is a damn handy little tool.”

We’ve got some pics for you of those rigs – like being in Anaheim, without the pricey hotel room, sort of:

img_3856

image1

image3

http://www.bastl-instruments.com/instruments/klik/

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Bitwig Studio 2 lets you modulate and control like a bandit

Bitwig gets its first blockbuster upgrade since launch, in beta now. And the first look at this software suggests it’s continuing to deliver what an enthusiast audience wants – even if some of the revolutionary promise of the tool remains over the horizon.

So, first, what it isn’t: it isn’t a complete modular environment. Underneath all the goodies Bitwig offers is a set of modules that provide its functionality. Bitwig’s developers have said eventually they’ll open that up to users, not just for their own development. And that’s be exciting indeed.

But forget about big ambitions for a moment. The step that we get here looks really useful.

In fact, it might be friendlier to everyday users than the grand-modular-everything scheme.

modulator_zoo_6c

What’s cool about Bitwig is its consistency. I think Ableton has actually suffered as its included devices have fragmented. There are third-party tools that never get updated. There are truly native tools like Simpler – and those are great. Then there are features relegated to second-class citizens as Max for Live devices, which sometimes cause them to behave differently or load more slowly. There are different sets of tools for monitoring signal or looking at frequencies, and they aren’t available everywhere. Lots of functions aren’t modular. MIDI assignment is clunky. I could go on. Adding Max for Live seems to have become an excuse for not fundamentally improving any of this – at least through what’s now several years of updates. And, apologies, Ableton, but I think in this case you deserve the comparison.

Bitwig’s first versions laid a foundation for something more consistent and integrated. But we had to wait for them to deliver a product that built from that competition past the competition.

And modulators really look like they could be it. Every internal device, and every plug-in, now has an unlimited number of modulator slots.

So add an LFO if you want. Add some math or randomization. There are envelopes and step sequencers and keytrackers and nifty X/Y controllers. Plug those in, change whatever you want. Do it anywhere.

These are also all polyphonic. That combined with the cool control provided by devices like ROLI’s I think could open up a new approach to sound design.

I won’t mince words: you can stop reading here, because I think modulators are a reason to give Bitwig a go.

bitwig2

This semi-modular capability is much of the time probably more appealing for quickly coming up with ideas than a full-modular environment would be. On the other hand, if this works, it can and should increase appetite for more modular tools – if I could just change that step sequencer a little…

But I really think this illustrates the limitations of Max for Live, or running other environments as plug-ins. Being able to modulate in devices while you arrange, inside a DAW, natively, is a whole other experience. I can’t wait to try it, and I’ll be writing once I get some time with the beta.

Check them out here.

https://www.bitwig.com/en/bitwig-studio/bitwig-studio-2/modulators.html

Hardware integration is the other functionality I think is really important, and really in tune with how many people want to work now. Again, it’s nice to see Bitwig add these features natively.

For MIDI, you get devices for both hardware and plug-ins:
Control Change (CC)
Program Change

And hardware devices:
Clock Out
MIDI timecode (MTC)

Plus, there are Control Voltage devices, for gate, continuous control, and simple direct signals:
CV Instrument
CV Out

You also get a bunch of MIDI/pattern devices – nothing so radical to users of other DAWs, like Cubase, but I think doubly welcome in the context of the other hardware features and rich modulation:

Multi-note (think chords)
Note harmonizer
Note length
Note echo
Note latch
Note velocity

Add those together with modulation, and many of you probably don’t need a full modular tool.

Remote Controls for any device take the best feature of Live’s Racks – macro mapping – and appear to make it more coherent. Whereas those are device-specific and require setting up a rack, Bitwig’s feature can be saved with presets, too, and are available everywhere. They also go well with the hardware integration features above.

The other reason I’m going to give this a second go is, frankly, fades/crossfades – which look elegant and nicely work not only in the arrangement view but in clips and audio editor, too.

6c-fades-crossfades

Like any maturing DAW, the rest of this is a sort of grab bag of lots of improvements to workflow – the various refinements that occur in parallel to multiple elements of the tool.

So you get a spectrum analyzer, and spectral tools through the internal toolset. There’s an expanded Polysynth, with expanded timbral tools like oscillator mix and filter waveshaping modes – and it combines with those new modulators. There’s VST3 support – a rarity outside Cubase.

If that didn’t excite you, zoom in on this shot of the Polysynth. The new visual language, the friendliness of the UI, the richness of modulation – this looks like promising stuff for synth lovers.

polysynth

They’ve also significantly streamlined editing workflows and how tools, menus, and windows are integrated.

I expect some people will be disappointed that the revolution hasn’t arrived. And it means there’s a battle for Bitwig. The DAW market is crowded. Just being good – sometimes even being better – has never been enough.

But I think we may finally get a chance to really take advantage of the modular engine beneath Bitwig. And since a lot of us have tracks we want to make, the availability of modulators and the nice suite of arrangement and control tools here mean something you can use right now, today.

We’ll have more to say once we do our review. Happy modulating.

https://www.bitwig.com/en/bitwig-studio/bitwig-studio-2.html

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Akai’s standalone MPCs just leaked – and they could replace your laptop

Welcome to the post-PC drum machine age. After years of leaving fans of standalone MPCs in the cold, Akai have unveiled machines that promise the flexibility of computer software – minus the computer.

And somehow all the specs and photos are on the Sweetwater website (doh!), so let’s copy-paste here. (For once, I’m glad not to be under an NDA.)

The MPC Live is probably the one you want, in a compact form factor and with a not-insane US$1,199 street price. And it’s no slouch:

mpclive-large

7″ touch screen
16 pads (hopefully these are these build on the quality of those on the previous MPC Renaissance flagship)
Weight: 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs)
Rechargeable battery (clever, that!)
16 GB of internal storage, plus external hard drive support
MPC 2.0 software has upgraded time warp and audio track recording (also putting it ahead of Maschine for DAW-like tasks)
Audio inputs: 2x 1/4″ plus 1 stereo RCA (and GND for connecting a turntable)
Audio outputs: 2x 1/4″ master, an additional 4×1/4″, plus the minijack headphone
MIDI I/O – 2 in, 2 out (that’s surprising on a small unit)
SD card
USB: 2x type A (for storage, presumably), 1x type B (for computer)
2.5″ SATA drive connector

Even the mid-range MPC Live has a surprisingly generous complement of I/O.

Even the mid-range MPC Live has a surprisingly generous complement of I/O.

We’ve already seen reasonably clever MPC software in the computer-tethered products. Now, the touchscreens on previous Akai products haven’t been the best ever, in my experience – though the bar is set high when you’re used to things like Apple’s superb iPad screens. But it absolutely beats menu diving – compare, for instance, the experience of using Pioneer’s new sample hardware. And perhaps they’ve upgraded the touchscreen component; that’ll be interesting to see.

The audio track thing to me is huge, as it vastly increases the range of what you can do with just the MPC. I suspect for a lot of producers, that’s enough to finish tracks (even if they move back to the computer for mixing and mastering).

It seems that basically what you’re getting is the MPC Touch with the software running internally on an embedded system – and some significant upgrade to I/O and better software. But given the MPC Touch was already pretty darn good, this could move the MPC Live into must-buy territory.

Of course, if you want something bigger and more powerful / own a car to carry it around or want to leave something in the studio, there’s the US$$2,199 MPC X.

It’s got everything the MPC Live has, with a bigger form factor, a bigger screen, more dedicated controls, and more I/O.

The big'n.

The big’n.

So you get:
10.1″ multi-touch screen
CV/gate for analog connectivity – 8 of them! (seems it’s output only)
Audio inputs 3/4 are both jack and RCA a
8 outputs instead of 6
4 MIDI outputs instead of 2

Another sign that this is power over portability – there’s no mention of battery power.

A big, articulated screen, extra hands-on control, and loads of I/O are what you get on the MPC X, in exchange for being a bit less mobile and paying over two grand.

A big, articulated screen, extra hands-on control, and loads of I/O are what you get on the MPC X, in exchange for being a bit less mobile and paying over two grand.

The leaked specs don’t yet have weight, but then, you’re not really buying this one for portability.

That’s all very cool, and it should be big in the American market where larger equipment is more desirable. But worldwide, the MPC Live is already powerful enough that it seems it’ll be the winner.

Who should be a little nervous? All the competition, clearly.

It’s hard not to feel Native Instruments have missed a major opportunity here. I can’t imagine anyone buying the flagship Maschine Studio when it lacks so much connectivity, let alone the need for tethering to a computer, especially with a standalone MPC Live hitting this price point. And ironically, while NI have through their history pioneered the use of native software, they could have taken that same native software and made it run standalone. They certainly could have shipped a Maschine that looked like this – and I would have been one of the first to buy it. But even as a devoted Maschine fan, I’m going to wonder about whether I really want to play live with a laptop when I could ditch it for an MPC with similar capabilities. The same is true of the Traktor line – there really is some truth to the resistance to DJs showing up with computers.

(Of course, that said, it’s a shame the new MPCs don’t support Ableton Link – at least not that I can see.)

Pioneer have their own market niche because their Toraiz sampler has sync capabilities with the CDJ. But since DJ/producers often differentiate between live acts and DJ sets, I expect a lot will choose to do a live set with an MPC and just use CDJs when DJing. That’s already the case with the Elektron machines you see so often in live sets.

Elektron probably have the least concern. Their user base is pretty loyal, and the Analog line sounds absolutely terrific. But even some would-be Elektron customers may decide a sample-based workflow and more DAW-style flexibility is desirable – without all the menu diving.

Even Ableton ought to have a look at this and wonder if the Push is going to stay as desirable as a performance solution.

Don’t get me wrong – there are still advantages to computer software. When it comes to more complex arrangements, I’m all about a big screen. And past leaks suggest the new Akai hardware won’t support plug-ins. So these machines for many producers will be about live performance. Then again, there’s nothing stopping you from using the MPCs with a computer for those contexts. The category this will clearly damage is the computer-plus-machine area — meaning things like Push and Maschine look less desirable.

I’ll definitely be keen to test this. It’s still down to software – despite the embedded context, that’s what you’re testing. And I’m curious to see how you would integrate this with studio workflows on the computer.

But long before NAMM, it seems we have the big NAMM story for producers.

Just remember – drum machines have no soul. 😉

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Free jazz – how to use Ableton Link sync with Pure Data patches

Effortless wireless sync everywhere has arrived with free software, too, thanks to Ableton’s new open source SDK. And it’s incredibly easy – enough so that anyone with even rudimentary patching skills will probably want to try this out.

Pure Data, the free and open source cousin of Max/MSP, looks ugly but does great stuff. And it’s worth checking out even if you use Max, because Pd is lightweight and runs on any platform – including Linux, Raspberry Pi, iOS, Android, and inside other software (like game engines). Now that it supports Link, you can make patches that run anywhere and then jam together with them.

Let’s walk you through it step by step and get you jamming.

1. Grab the latest copy of Pure Data.

Leave that dusty ancient aversion of Pd aside. Because the “vanilla” version of Pure Data is now up to date and lets you instantly install any external or library, it’s the only one you likely need. (Pd extended is no longer supported.)

You’ll find it direct from Pd (and Max) creator Miller Puckette:

http://msp.ucsd.edu/software.html

2. Install the new Ableton Link external.

Here’s why you don’t need Pd extended any more – Deken is the awesome automatic external installer. (Think of it as a package manager for Pd.)

You’ll find the installer at Help > Find externals…

Type in abl_link~ in the search box.

Click the top choice (the one that isn’t grayed). A dialog box asks if you want to install to the Pd folder inside your library. Choose yes.

Now, you can use the abl_link~ external in any Pd patch. (It installed to a path Pd searches for the active user.)

screenshot_639

3. Get some help

Create a new Object. Type abl_link~ into the Object box. If you don’t make any typos, you’ll see the Object box get a solid rectangular outline and inlet and outlets. Right-click (ctrl-click) on the Object and choose Help to bring up the external’s help file.

Read and look around. You’ll already see tempo and beat information and the like – that’s what Pd is generating internally and sending to any other Link-enabled apps on your network.

Now, this help file will be most interesting if something else on the wifi network supporting Link – like Ableton Live, or an iPad app, or Reason – is running. So go ahead and do that. Tick the Connect box, and now if you change tempo in one of those other apps, you’ll see the tempo and beat information change here, too.

Notice that you’ve got all the same information you have in, say, Ableton Live. You can see how many other apps are connected via Link. You can see the current tempo in bpm. You can see beats. And you get more precise data you can use in your own patches.

screenshot_642

4. Use that tempo information

Now you’ll need something to do with this info. The “step” information out that first outlet is the easiest to use. So for instance, you could feed that into a step sequencer — connect the bang output so you send a bang every quarter note (in 4/4), for instance, or connect to a counter. That gives you beats, but for more precision you could do some maths on the “phase” information.

Here’s an incredibly stupid proof of concept, which creates a 4-step step sequencer synced to Link’s beats.

screenshot_641

You can paste this into a text editor, save as “peterhasastupidexample.pd” or something like that, and open it in Pd.

#N canvas 0 22 486 396 10;
#X obj 63 22 abl_link~;
#X obj 63 81 sel 0 1 2 3;
#X obj 61 115 vsl 15 128 0 127 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -9 0 10 -262144
-1 -1 4500 1;
#X obj 84 115 vsl 15 128 0 127 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -9 0 10 -262144
-1 -1 6800 1;
#X obj 108 115 vsl 15 128 0 127 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -9 0 10 -262144
-1 -1 9200 1;
#X obj 131 115 vsl 15 128 0 127 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -9 0 10 -262144
-1 -1 6400 1;
#X obj 77 51 nbx 5 14 -1e+37 1e+37 0 0 empty empty empty 0 -8 0 10
-262144 -1 -1 2 256;
#X obj 69 298 osc~;
#X obj 68 271 mtof;
#X obj 69 318 *~ 0.5;
#X obj 59 348 dac~;
#X connect 0 0 1 0;
#X connect 0 0 6 0;
#X connect 1 0 2 0;
#X connect 1 1 3 0;
#X connect 1 2 4 0;
#X connect 1 3 5 0;
#X connect 2 0 8 0;
#X connect 3 0 8 0;
#X connect 4 0 8 0;
#X connect 5 0 8 0;
#X connect 7 0 9 0;
#X connect 8 0 7 0;
#X connect 9 0 10 0;
#X connect 9 0 10 1;

But obviously the idea will be to start thinking about sequencing and time in your patches. Wherever that’s relevant, jamming just got more interesting.

Plus, because Pd patches run on other devices, you could make a little jam chorus of phones or tablets or whatever.

Note that this is all under a GPL license. If you want to use this in a commercial app, you can – but you’ll have to request a license from Ableton. (I’m doing some more research into the full implications of that.)

5. Thank Peter Brinkmann.

Peter is the principle author of libpd and the creator of this external. (I was lucky enough to get to contribute to the libpd effort with him and … hope to continue contributing, somehow.)

You’ll find the code inside the libpd repository:

https://github.com/libpd/abl_link

6. Reward yourself with a free reverb.

You read this whole article! You worked hard. Sit back, relax, and install a reverb external.

Type “freeverb” into that box, and you’ll find a lovely reverb you can use in your patches.

7. Let us know how you’re using this.

We’d love to know.

Now get jamming. You just need a nice, cozy set.

We got nothing to play. – I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do.

What? – Jazz Odyssey.

The post Free jazz – how to use Ableton Link sync with Pure Data patches appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Free pack connects Ableton to the physical world, Internet

You can already connect your music software to MIDI devices. But why not Internet data, video, the weather, or physical worlds of Arduino and LEGO Mindstorms, too? With a new pack released today, making connections is a matter of adding some building blocks.

Arduino connected to Ableton Live.

Arduino connected to Ableton Live. Photo courtesy Ableton.

The inclusion of Max inside Ableton Live means pretty much anything you can do in that open-ended patching environment you can do in Ableton Live. So in that sense, the free Max for Live Connection Kit actually doesn’t do anything you couldn’t do already. But what it does do is make a bunch of stuff ready to use out of the box. You can use these devices as-is, or take them as an example for your own patching if you choose.

The set looks like a boon for hackdays, education, or just trying something different in the studio. Even for experienced Max users, it’s nice having a set of idea-starters with that initial work done for you; it’s a huge motivator.

The biggest crowd pleaser is the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 brick module. Connect to the MINDSTORMS via Bluetooth, and you can receive sensor input and control motors, linking events to what’s happening in your Live set. Ableton were showing this functionality off in particular in preview days held at Berlin’s CTM Festival last month.

A Mindstorms play area, seen at CTM Festival last month (with some happy Abletons running motors and sensors)!

A Mindstorms play area, seen at CTM Festival last month (with some happy Abletons running motors and sensors)!

There are a number of devices dedicated to handling OSC (OpenSoundControl):

An OSC monitor
A device for receiving data from TouchOSC on the iPad (which also shows the active layout)
An example that sends MIDI data to OSC (with an accompanying Processing visualization example for receiving that data)
A Leap Motion example device for translating gestural data into Live

That’s pretty far from everything you’d want to do with OSC, but it’s a good starting point; because OSC is by definition open-ended, you might want to make your own device based on one of these.

There are two Arduino devices:

One device receives sensor data and sends parameters to LEDs or motors with an Arduino Uno
One is designed for use with the ins and outs of the Arduino module in littleBits

And you get three additional devices for data and video:

  • JSON Weather queries the weather over the Internet and then sonifies it – an example of how to fetch and parse data from the Web.
  • JSON Video is also an Internet example, but pulls #ableton-tagged videos from Vine.
  • Camera uses a webcam in Live and does some basic motion detection for webcam control of Live.
The Weather: now not just a reason to stay in and work on music, but also an Ableton Device!

The Weather: now not just a reason to stay in and work on music, but also an Ableton Device!

All of these devices are available on GitHub, which means Ableton can keep them up to date, but Max users can make their own modifications, too.

When you install the Connection Kit, you’ll find all of these devices grouped in Packs. There’s a brief help summary of what they all do, with full documentation on GitHub (also meaning it can be kept up to date).

Open up those patches, and you can learn a bit about how to do this stuff in Max - or modify them for your own purposes.

Open up those patches, and you can learn a bit about how to do this stuff in Max – or modify them for your own purposes.

I’m really curious to see what you’ll do with it. And this sort of functionality is a natural for Max for Live – there’s no logical way to build it natively into a host, but giving you some building blocks to play with your ideas fits perfectly. Let us know what you think – or if you have your own favorite Max creations for working with Ableton.

https://www.ableton.com/en/packs/connection-kit/

The post Free pack connects Ableton to the physical world, Internet appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

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