Ableton Live 10.1 is here, a free update to Live 10.1 with some new devices, streamlined automation and editing, and new sound features. So what should dig into after the download? Here’s a place to start.
There’s no surprise reveal here since 10.1 has been in public beta and was announced in the winter. Here’s the full run-down of what’s in the release from February (still accurate):
I’ve been working with the beta for some time, to the point of not wanting to go back even to 10.0 (or even getting a bit confused when switching to a friend’s machine that didn’t have 10.1).
So let’s skip ahead to stuff you should check out right away when you download:
Refresh a track in Arrangement View
I will shortly do a separate story just on getting around Arrangement View quickly, but — there’s a lot of fun to be had. (Yes, fun, not just screaming at the screen as you painstakingly move envelopes around.)
Ableton have accordingly updated their Arrangement View tutorials:
(Video is actually a terrible medium for shortcuts, but more on those soon.)
Here are some quick things to try:
Resize the Arrangement Overview (that’s the bit at the top of Arrangement View)
Draw some shapes! Right click, pick some shapes, and you can draw in envelopes. Try this actually two ways: first, select some time and draw in shapes. Next, deselect time, and try drawing with different grid values – you’ll get different corresponding quantization.
Get at fades directly. Press the F key.
Clean up envelopes. Right click on a time selection and choose Simplify Envelope.
Stretch and scale! Select some time in automation, and you’ll see handles so you can move both horizontally (amount/scale) and vertically (in time).
Enter some specific values. Right click, choose Edit value, type in a number, and hit enter.
There’s a lot more. But all of this is an opportunity to duplicate one of your projects and give it a refresh by going nuts with some modulation because – why not.
You know, conventional wisdom says, don’t mess with your existing tracks too much. The hell with that. If I were a painter, I would definitely be the kind constantly scraping away and painting over canvases. You can always save a backup. Sometimes it’s fun to mess around and take something somewhere else entirely.
Go ahead and freeze whatever you want! Track has a sidechain? It’ll freeze. It’ll even still be a source for other sidechains. (There are actually a bunch of things that had to happen for this to work – check Arrangement Editing in release notes if you’re curious. But the beauty is you don’t really have to think about it.)
Here’s a new explanation of how it works:
Try your own wavetables
User wavetables make the Live 10 Wavetable synth far more interesting.
Like arrangement, this probably deserves it’s own story, but here’s a place to get started:
And for extra help exploiting that feature, there are some useful utilities that will assist you in creating wavetables:
While you’re in there, Ableton quietly added a very powerful randomization feature inside Wavetable for glitching out still more:
Added a new “Rand” modulation source to Wavetable’s MIDI tab, which generates a random value when a note starts.
Pinch and zoom
Trackpads and touchscreens (most of them, anyway) now support pinch gestures in Arrangement View, so try that out. It works for me both on a Razer and (of course) Apple laptop; lots of other hardware will work, too. It’s a little thing, but zooming is a big part of getting around an arrangement.
Try Channel EQ as a creative tool or live
There are already a lot of EQs out there. The Channel EQ however has some draw as a potential equivalent for live PA / experimental sets of what the EQ Three has been for DJ sets.
Stop futzing around with sends when you export stems
Okay, see if this is familiar:
You output stems – say for a remix artist or to mix in a different tool – and suddenly everything sounds completely differently than you expected because you used sends and returns and/or master effects.
That’s no longer an issue in 10.1, as there’s now a new export option that addresses this.
So, time to go make some stems, right?
Make some new sounds with Delay
Okay, Delay at first glance may seem like a step backward from the excitement of Space Echo-ish Echo in Live 10. Isn’t it just a combination of Simple Delay and Ping Pong Delay into one Device?
Well, it is that, but it also has an LFO built in that can modulate both delay time and filter frequency.
These modes were there before, but you now surface Repitch, Fade, and Jump modes as buttons.
So put all of this together, and the combination of things that were there that you didn’t notice, with new things that are simple but very powerful, all together in one unit becomes very powerful indeed.
That is, if you’re modulating something like delay time, then changing between Repitch, Fade, and Jump actually gives you a lot of different sonic possibilities. And yes, this is the sort of thing people with modular rigs like to do with wires but… if you’re a Live 10 owner, it’ll cost you nothing to check out right now.
Specifically, maxforcats pointed us to some cool granular-ish sounds when you choose Fade mode and start modulating delay time.
And keep using Echo. The big challenge with an effect like Echo is balancing loudness. As it happens, there’s a little right-click option that solves this for you in Echo:
In the Echo device, the Dry/Wet knob now features a context menu to switch to “Equal-Loudness”. When enabled, a 50/50 mix will sound equally loud for most signals, instead of being attenuated. In the Delay device, the maximum delay time offset is now consistent with the Simple Delay and Ping Pong Delay devices.
Discover Simpler, again
Simpler is weirdly a lot of the time a reason to use Ableton Live for its absurd combination of directness and power – in contrast to mostly overcomplicated software (and harwdare, for that matter).
Now you can mess around with volume envelopes (even synced ones) and loop time, previously only in Sampler – for both powerful sound design and beat-synced ideas:
Added a Loop Mode chooser, Loop Time slider and Beat Sync/Rate slider to the Volume Envelope in Simpler’s Classic Playback Mode. Previously, these controls were exclusively available in Sampler.
Oh, and go map some macros
You’d probably easily miss this, too – it means that now mapping macros works the way you’d expect, in fewer steps:
When mapping a parameter to an empty macro, the macro assumes the full range of the target parameter, and will be set to the current value of the target parameter.
— and while using mice for everything is no fun, macros are also a great intermediary between what you’re doing onscreen and twisting knobs on controller hardware (Push, certainly, but lots of other gear, too).
Speaking of which, that nice compact NI keyboard controller works thanks to this update, too, making it an ideal thing to throw in your bag with a laptop for a mobile Ableton Live work rig.
Max 8 – and by extension the latest Max for Live – offers some serious powers to build your own sonic and visual stuff. So let’s tune in some videos to learn more.
The major revolution in Max 8 – and a reason to look again at Max even if you’ve lapsed for some years – is really MC. It’s “multichannel,” so it has significance in things like multichannel speaker arrays and spatial audio. But even that doesn’t do it justice. By transforming the architecture of how Max treats multiple, well, things, you get a freedom in sketching new sonic and instrumental ideas that’s unprecedented in almost any environment. (SuperCollider’s bus and instance system is capable of some feats, for example, but it isn’t as broad or intuitive as this.)
The best way to have a look at that is via a video from Ableton Loop, where the creators of the tech talk through how it works and why it’s significant.
In this presentation, Cycling ’74’s CEO and founder David Zicarelli and Content Specialist Tom Hall introduce us to MC – a new multi-channel audio programming system in Max 8.
MC unlocks immense sonic complexity with simple patching. David and Tom demonstrate techniques for generating rich and interesting soundscapes that they discovered during MC’s development. The video presentation touches on the psychoacoustics behind our recognition of multiple sources in an audio stream, and demonstrates how to use these insights in both musical and sound design work.
The patches aren’t all ready for download (hmm, some cleanup work being done?), but watch this space.
If that’s got you in the learning mood, there are now a number of great video tutorials up for Max 8 to get you started. (That said, I also recommend the newly expanded documentation in Max 8 for more at-your-own-pace learning, though this is nice for some feature highlights.)
dude837 has an aptly-titled “delicious” tutorial series covering both musical and visual techniques – and the dude abides, skipping directly to the coolest sound stuff and best eye candy.
Yes to all of these:
There’s a more step-by-step set of tutorials by dearjohnreed (including the basics of installation, so really hand-holding from step one):
Suffice to say that also could mean some interesting creations running inside Ableton Live.
It’s not a tutorial, but on the visual side, Vizzie is also a major breakthrough in the software:
That’s a lot of looking at screens, so let’s close out with some musical inspiration – and a reminder of why doing this learning can pay off later. Here’s Second Woman, favorite of mine, at LA’s excellent Bl__K Noise series:
“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:
You wouldn’t make music with just simple oscillators, so why only use basic, repetitive modulation? In the latest video in Bastl’s how-to series hosted by Patchení’s Nikol, waveshaping gets applied to control signals.
But when most people hear waveshapers, they think of them just as a fancy oscillator – as a sound source. But in the modular world, you can also imagine it as a way of adding harmonics (read: complexity) to simple control signals, which is what Nikol demonstrates here.
That is, instead of Waveshaper -> out, you’ll route [modulation/control signal/LFO] -> Waveshaper in, and mess with that signal. WahWahWahWah can turn into WahwrrEEEEkittyglrblMrcbb… ok, okay, video:
Keep watching, because this eventually gets into adding variation to a sequenced signal.
You can try this in any software or hardware environment, but you do need your waveshaper to work with your control input. What’s relatively special about Timber in the hardware domain at least is its ability to process slow circuits.
Sound is physical, but we don’t often get to see that physicality. In this gorgeous video for Thomas Vaquié, directed by Nico Neefs, those worlds of vibrations explode across your screen. It’s the latest release from ANTIVJ, and it’s spellbinding.
The sounds really do generate the visuals here, from generating terrain from an analysis from the waveform to revealing footage of metal powder animated by sonic vibrations. A self-made micro lens provides the optics.
Everything in this video was made using the sound waves of the track Ether.
Equipped with a home-made micro lens, a camera travels inside physical representations of the musical composition, from a concrete mountain built from the spectrogram of the music, to eruptions of metal powder caused by rhythmic impulsions.
(Impulsion is a word; look it up! I had to do so.)
Still from the video.
Nico Neefs is the director, working with images he created with Corentin Kopp. It’s set to music from Belgian producer Thomas Vaquié’s new album Ecume, on Antivj Recordings. That imprint has for over a decade been a label for audiovisual creations across media – release, installation, performance. Simon Geilfus developed the tool for visualization.
They’ve employed the same techniques to make a very attractive physical release. The image you see in the artwork is cast from a concrete mold. For a limited edition box set, they’re producing 33cm x 33cm plates cast from that mold in dark resin. And it’s ready to mount to a wall if you choose; hardware included. Or if you feel instead like you own enough things, there’s a digital edition.
Ultra-limited handmade physical release.
Concrete mold; detail.
The whole album is beautiful; I’m especially fond of the bell-like resonances in the opening piece. It’s a sumptuous, sonic environment, full of evocative sound designs that rustle and ring in easy, organic assemblies, part synthetic, part string. Those then break into broken, warped grooves that push forward. (Hey, more impulsion – like a horse.)
The music was repurposed from installations and art contexts:
These are all derivations of compositions for site-specific and installation projects, the original pieces having been created as a response to place and space, to light and architecture, to code and motion. Now separated and transformed from their original context, the music takes on an independent existence in these new realisations.
That does lend the whole release an environmental quality – spaces you can step in and out of – but is nonetheless present emotionally. There’s impact, listening top to bottom, enough so that you might not immediately assume the earlier context. And the release is fully consistent and coherent as a whole. (It is very possible you heard an installation here or there. Vaquié has produced compositions for Centre Pompidou Metz the Old Port of Montreal’s metallic conveyor tower, in Songdo South Korea, at Oaxaca’s ethnobotanical gardens, and at Hala Stulecia, Poland’s huge concrete dome.)
And there’s thoroughly fine string writing throughout – with a sense that strings and electronic media are always attuned to one another.
Poetic explanation accompanies the album:
Ether embodies the world that exists above the skies.
It is the air that the gods breathe.
It is that feeling of dizziness,
that asphyxiation that we feel when faced with immensity.
Full video credits:
Music by Thomas Vaquié
Video directed by Nico Neefs
Images by Nico Neefs & Corentin Kopp
Edit & Post-production by Nico Neefs
Video produced by Charles Kinoo for Less Is More Studio and Thomas Vaquié
Filmed at BFC Studio, Brussels 2018.
Just when you’re bored with digital media installations, something happens that gets you back to childlike wonder mode. And a magical staircase is a pretty good way to do that.
The team at Poland’s panGenerator have been on a tear lately. This time, they took a grand spiral staircase and imagined what would happen if you could make your voice a kinetic part of the architecture. It’s way better than just shouting your echo at a wall.
It’s also a great example of how spatial sound and architecture can interact, making the normally static structures of an environment more dynamic. This is the sort of interactive architecture we’re routinely promised, but now you see/hear it actually working. Each floor gets its own audio, so the sound seems to descend with the ball. Custom built gates with infrared sensors and radio modules complete the illusion by transforming the sound accordingly.
It’s neo-baroque sonic trompe l’oeil, made with digital technology. The digital transformations of the sound, mapped to the actual kinetic movement of the ball, mix virtual and real.
What we got most recently from the same Warszawa-based crew:
During MDF Festival we’ve changed the iconic spiral staircase of the Szczecin Philharmonic into 35m long / 15m high spatial voice-transforming instrument.
The audience has been invited to experiment with various spatialised sound effects applied to their vocalisations that were synchronised with the movement of the balls falling along 35m long track. The interaction starts with insertion of the ball into the microphone. Then recording starts and after the recorded sound stops the ball is released to slide down along the track.
Thanks to custom built gates with infrared sensors and radio modules the sound transformations applied to the recording were synchronised with the current speed and position of the ball. The light trail following the ball has also been created thanks to the sensors and microcontrollers measuring the speed of the ball passing the gates.
Since we were using five speakers – one per floor, we were also able to achieve spatialisation of the sound creating the illusion of the sound “falling” with the ball. As a finishing touch we’ve also used simple projection mapping synchronised with the motion of the ball to make the whole thing more visible for the people standing in the lobby of the Philharmonic.
In the end we’ve created a playful and engaging audience-driven audiovisual performance that exemplifies our vision for integrating new media art practice with architecture and breathing the life into static form thanks to digital technology.
DOP – Hola Hola Film – holaholafilm.pl
VIDEO EDITING & POSTPRODUCTION – Jakub Koźniewski
SOUND EDITING – Krzysztof Cybulski
VIDEO SOUNDTRACK – Maciek Dobrowolski – mdobrowolski.com
VOICE – Jona Ardyn – jonaardyn.pl
Barbara Kinga Majewska
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” says artist and composer Allee Willis. Yet her output ranges from Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” to the theme song of Friends. If you don’t know Willis, you should – and her story might inspire yours.
Behind all the cheery social media these days, most artists you talk to have struggled. They’ve struggled with creativity and sobriety, mental health and creative blocks, unfriendly industries and obscurity. And sometimes they’ve struggled just to get by – which is where Allee Willis was in 1978, living off food stamps and wondering what would happen next.
What happened next is a career that led to an insane number of hit songs – along with plenty of other fascinating side trips into kitsch and art. (There’s a kitsch-themed social network, an artist alterego named Bubbles, and a music video duet with a 91-year-old woman drummer on an oxygen tank, to name a few.) But what it hasn’t involved is a lot of widespread personal notoriety. Allee Willis is a celebrity’s celebrity, which is to say famous people know her but most people don’t know she’s famous.
At least it’s about that gap. The odds that you don’t know her? Decent. The odds that you don’t know her songs? Unlikely.
Let’s go: Earth, Wind & Fire “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield’s “What Have I Done To Deserve This.” The theme from Friends, recorded by The Rembrandts (if you knew that, which I suspect you didn’t)… all these and more add up to 60 million records. And she co-authored the Oprah Winfrey-produced, Tony and Grammy-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple. More songs you know in movies: Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid (“You’re the Best”), Howard the Duck.
The Detroit native is an impassioned use of Web tech and animation, networked together machines to design an orchestration workflow for The Color Purple musical, and now lives in LA with … Pro Tools, of course, alongside some cats.
But this isn’t about her resume so much as it is about what she says drives her – that itch to create stuff. And for anyone worried about how to get into the creative zone, maybe the first step is to stop worrying about getting into the creative zone. We value analysis and self-critique so much that sometimes we forget to just have fun making and stop worrying about even our own opinions (or maybe, especially those). In the end, it was that instinct that has driven her work, and presumably lots of stuff that didn’t do as well as that Friends theme song. (But there are her cats. Not the Broadway kind; that’s Andrew Lloyd Weber – the furry ones.)
There’s a great video out from CNN-produced Web video series Great Big Story:
And her site is a wild 1999-vintage-design wonderland of HTML, if you want to dive in:
In case you missed it, Moog’s re-release of an aging red-tinted, humming copy of the original 1976 Polymoog promo is a treat. And it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.
Yes, there’s no question that a lot of today’s synths seem lifted from the pages of the 1970s, from monosynth to modular. And yes, a lot of keyboard chops today are shameful, though – well, if you’re going up against Chick Corea, you really ought to practice, regardless.
But there’s something charming about watching some of the great musicians of the last century explain what it means to use more than one finger at a time to play a keyboard instrument. And they approach the Polymoog almost gingerly, more a Rhodes with effects than a new instrument. That mid-70s sound is itself something unique and nice, and if anyone stands out as sounding contemporary, it’s Herbie Hancock. But you begin to appreciate that it’s only recently that the avant-garde and keyboard tradition have merged together in the mainstream ear. If we all bumble a little to keep up both chops and sound design, maybe we can be forgiven as those universes continue to squish together. It makes me optimistic.
Ten fingers, man.
In any event, going back in time is a wonderful historical exercise, and it just might give you some fresh musical ideas – or at least a different perspective on what you’re doing now.
It’s Moscow’s quirkier, playful side that’s probably easiest for us foreigners to miss. But Kate Shilonosova (Kate NV) is earning an international audience for her introspective, surrealist whimsy, and one that’s well-deserved.
Kate NV’s music is beautifully minimal and reflective. The Japan tour makes perfect sense – there’s a distinctively Japanese-compatible electronic aesthetic here. (The poppier nods to minimalism and extensive use of percussion remind me a bit of Cornelius, as do the hand-drawn graphics everywhere.) But her approach to found sound and sampling is equally enjoyable when taken in live. Kate was another highlight for me of Synthposium, and emblematic of Moscow’s experimental, open-minded, live performance-oriented electronic scene. Her own background is in punk and guitars, and she brings that musicianship and improvisational spirit even to this very different sonic idiom.
Live, she works with mics and small percussion and sampling (on various Novation gear and Ableton Live), pulling in elements in a way that’s accessible and fluid. And yeah, she’s the kind of producer who keeps a glockenspiel by her computer in her home studio.
She’s been picked up by RVNG Intl, the Brooklyn-based label with a particularly sharp nose for musical inventiveness. And her LP is terrifically charming. It’s also accompanied by cheery, trippy films from Moscow director Sasha Kulak. Watch “дуб OAK” (each is titled in a combination of the Russian and English equivalent of a word):
— or the extended film “для FOR”:
These films are also available in a generative form, which you can watch on her website – click, and you get different variations:
This project is based on works of Moscow conceptualist Victor Pivovarov,
more specifically on his series called “project for the lonely man”, 1975.
This movie is telling a story about one lonely man’s day.
Every time the button is pressed, the new, slightly different day is generated from the common routine actions.
Thus, creating the sense that all regular days are the same, but in its own way very different.