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Nyrv Systems releases AGENTCM as a free plug-in on Computer Music Magazine 222

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Nyrv Systems in collaboration with Computer Music Magazine has released a free version of their subhost AGENT. This version, titled AGENTCM, can be found on the September issue of Computer Music [Read More]

Skip the Computer: BeatStep, Programmed with iPad, SysEx Hack

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015


Blessed be MIDI, again, for making us independent.

Frankfurt am Main-based untergeekDE decided he didn’t want to go to a Mac or Windows PC just to edit settings on his Arturia BeatStep. MIDI (System Exclusive messages)m to the rescue. Actually, even calling this a ‘hack’ isn’t really fair: this is exactly how this is supposed to work. Edit the settings you want on the hardware using anything you like, in this case taking advantage of TB MIDI Stuff. That handy app is practically reason enough to get an iPad, even a compatible used one. In the process, untergeek even changed things to work more in the way he desired.

It’s old news — the project is from last fall — but rather than just send it to Arturia, I thought I’d put it out to everyone for some feedback. Got other hardware you’ve hacked in this way? Also using the iPad for this purpose? Other ideas / tips? I’d love to hear them.

And check it out:

Taming Arturia’s Beatstep: Sysex codes for programming via iPad [blog post]

Arturia Beatstep Tool v0.1 — please help testing [TB MIDI Stuff download for iPad]


The post Skip the Computer: BeatStep, Programmed with iPad, SysEx Hack appeared first on Create Digital Music.


This Computer Singing 90s Love Ballads will Break Your Heart

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

What do machines sing of? from Martin Backes on Vimeo.

While Google has imagined how machines might dream, media artist and multi-disciplinary technologist Martin Backes has revealed how they sing.

And not just bad karaoke, either. Following in the footsteps of a legacy of machine vocals that originates with Max Mathews’ Daisy Bell, a computer rendition so ground-breaking it was featured in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, Mr. Backes has gone one step further. He wanted to produce an algorithm that would make a computer seem to emote. Grab a mic, and this is a sound art installation. A installation in my heart that is.

And… aw… I said I wouldn’t cry, damnit!

Okay, in case you’re wondering, the software behind the scenes is SuperCollider, the free and open-source multi-platform sound toolkit. And Backes cleverly hauls the machine out of the uncanny valley, but approximating the songs in an almost cartoonish, muffled machine voice. It’s the imperfections that make it work, in other words, steering clear of being too human. (See also Chipspeech, earlier this year, proving that sometimes the earlier, “flawed” synthesis algorithms are actually more desirable than more modern ones.)


„What do machines sing of?“ is a fully automated machine, which endlessly sings number-one ballads from the 1990s. As the computer program performs these emotionally loaded songs, it attempts to apply the appropriate human sentiments. This behavior of the device seems to reflect a desire, on the part of the machine, to become sophisticated enough to have its very own personality.

What do machines sing of? (90s Version)
Size: 170 x 55 x 45 cm
Material: metal stand, mic stand, mic, cable, 2 screens, computer, custom-made computer program

List of songs which are included and performed by the computer program:

Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You
R. Kelly – I Believe I Can Fly
Toni Braxton – Un-Break My Heart
Bryan Adams – Everything I Do, I Do It For You
Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On

Buy your special someone an SSD this year. Clean that display, tenderly. Order that AppleCare extended warranty. Because your computer will, truly, always love you.

More details/acknowledgments:

The post This Computer Singing 90s Love Ballads will Break Your Heart appeared first on Create Digital Music.


E-RM multiclock Syncs Everything Jitter-Free, Including Computer

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015


We’ve seen boxes that claim to sync everything you have to everything else you have. But the E-RM multiclock claims to do it with a computer as a source — without jittering.

Just announced, the multiclock is the follow-up to the midiclock+, the clever MIDI sync box introduced by Berlin’s boutique E-RM Erfindungsbüro back in 2012.

The most important thing to know about the multiclock is that it takes this obsession with getting sync right directly to your computer’s audio card. Whereas MIDI and MIDI over USB from a computer are inherently susceptible to jitter, E-RM claims that the audio synchronization gives them sample-to-sample accuracy.

Rewind. Plain explanation. Remember when you could use a phone to tell what time it was? A lady’s voice would intone from the other end, “the time is now… 7:45 and 33 seconds pm.” Think of a MIDI stream as giving you those time indications a little irregularly — not quite on the right tick — and an audio stream giving times that are always exactly correct, many times per second (44,100 times per second for a regular CD audio setting, for instance). That’s my explanation, not E-RM’s, so I hope they approve.

You still retain the versatility to use what you want. So you can use MIDI or DIN (from more reliable MIDI gear that isn’t a computer, that is). You can use clock signals from analog modular gear. If you really must use a USB MIDI connection, fine — that works.

This is all fine and well, but I think it’s the adjustment that makes this interesting. You can tweak timing on everything — each channel has two knobs for shifting and shuffling. That can allow you to fine-tune sync or even create your own grooves. I can really imagine dialing in something more life-like and human with this.

It isn’t just sync, either. A “MIDI Map & Merge Matrix” lets you route and merge MIDI notes and control messages over MIDI or USB to particular outputs.

E-RM is a neighbor of mine — in Berlin and this week at Messe — so I’m curious to give this a try. 449€ is a hefty price, but … it could be the last sync/clock device you ever buy. And it could change the way machines in your studio arrive in time. I can also tell you E-RM are obsessive about quality and sustainable production. So yes, it’ll be great to evaluate these claims in performance.



multiclock will be available from May 2015.
The MRSP is 449 e for the standard version, 519 e with USB.
A matching power supply is naturally included.
Colorful caps for all knobs are available on request.
Technical Information:
tempo range: 30-300 BPM
max. shift range: ± 250ms
1 x Audio-Sync input
1 x MIDI/DIN Sync/Modular Clock input
4 x MIDI/DIN Sync/Modular Clock output
1 x LFO output (0-5 V)
1 x power jack (9 V-15 V)
4 x USB MIDI input (optional)
1 x USB MIDI output (optional)


The post E-RM multiclock Syncs Everything Jitter-Free, Including Computer appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Chuck Surack Part 2: Sweetwater Builds Their Own Computer

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

What do horse racing and Computer Digital Audio Workstations have in common? The Surack family for one. The Creation Station If you already distribute computer software and peripherals, and [Read More]

Elektron announces Overbridge – Computer Integration for Analog (Mac and Win, VST and AU)

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Elektron has revealed the forthcoming Overbridge implementation for Analog Four, Analog Keys, and Analog Rytm. This technology erases the line between analog hardware and software plug-in instruments [Read More]

aleph, from monome: Programmable Sound Computer That Does Anything

Friday, September 27th, 2013


monome, the iconic grid controller that launched them all, has always been a device tethered to a computer. Without a USB connection to your machine, it is an attractive but functionless box. The latest monome project, the result of a collaboration between Brian Crabtree and musician Ezra Buchla (yes, there’s a relation) is different. It is a computer, with all the functions that entails, but in a box designed for sound.

It has:
A brain: Two of them, in fact — a DSP chip (BF533 blackfin, 533 mHz with 64 MB SDRAM) and an AVR32 for control.
Audio connections: 4 in, 4 out balanced 192k/24-bit. The first two inputs can be switched to instrument gain.
A grayscale display: OLED, “beautifully low-res” (and thus sidestepping the problems that can come from supporting GUIs on Linux).
Analog control voltage: 4 in, 4 out CV on 3.55mm 0-10V connections, compatible with eurorack.
USB, expansion: Connect to a computer via USB, or host other USB devices — like the monome, natch, or any other class-compliant device (for HID or MIDI). There’s also an SD memory card slot and 1/4″ foot jacks. Curiously, there isn’t MIDI DIN, which seems unfortunate, though you can host one via the USB port. There’s also custom support planned for the Madrona Labs soundplane.
Controls: “Very high resolution” optical encoders.

And with this, you can do whatever you like. You can assign the encoders. You can assign and program the CV controls. You can run software to turn the box into a synth, or a sequencer, or an effects box, or a generative sound machine.

aleph prototype looper and drum synth from tehn on Vimeo.

But you know that — you’ve used computers before. aleph is notable because it’s the latest glimpse of how a “computer” in the near future may not be the general purpose device. In that sense, Steve Jobs’ term “post-PC” is absolutely fitting. And while the concept is nothing new, accessibility of these sorts of devices has gone up substantially, performance has gone up substantially, as costs have plummeted. This isn’t the first device to put a music computer in a box, but we’re now in an age when you would most want to use the result.



aleph itself is US$ 1400. That’s pricey by embedded computer standards, and would seem to leave the door open to a lower-cost competitor. As a dedicated music machine, though, it seems about right, in line with drum machines and so on that have vastly more limited functions and no re-programmability. (Well, not unless you’re Elektron.) It also seems a better investment of your $ 1400 than one of the larger monome controllers for the same price, in that the return is a self-contained box that can make sound. I also expect the aleph to follow in the footsteps of other monome projects, in both uncompromising hardware quality (made in no small part in the USA), and growing value from user-contributed software.

If you are a developer, you can make your own software in C; monome promises extensive documentation and even a ready-made disk image of the Linux toolchain so you don’t have to set it up yourself.

But you don’t need to be a programmer. Out of the box, aleph will ship with “a complex layered looper, a peculiar monosynth, and a sharp-enveloped drum synth to start, and our highly-flexible patchable control environment called bees.” (Peculiar, eh?)

bees is perhaps the most interesting of these, a “modular control environment” that will let you map the controls on the aleph and create your own instrumental, sequencing, effect, and control patches using modules, as well as manage these presets in performance.

aleph apparently isn’t open source hardware, but the bees software and USB interface are. And custom support is planned, too, for the strange and wonderful shnth, a similar DSP-in-a-box sound creation.

I’ll be interested to see how the Bluefin DSP chip performs; there are, of course, many other possible embedded approaches that could do this. But the approach, in case it isn’t already clear, is to build a high-performance box to replace a computer. From the FAQ:

we wanted a device that could provide a focused and customized dynamic control system for a complex live audio set-up; a way to integrate and manipulate devices quickly and dynamically without the hazards of an overburdened laptop running many software applications often at the mercy of a greedy operating system.

Shipping by the end of the year. Santa…?


Got questions about this? I hope we’ll interview Brian and Ezra (we’ve talked to Brian before, most recently about the arc). So we can pass those questions along.

The post aleph, from monome: Programmable Sound Computer That Does Anything appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Samples, No Computer: $99 Akai MPX8 Combines Pads, SD Card, MIDI and USB Port

Monday, September 16th, 2013
As many samples as an SD card can hold, you can trigger via velocity-sensitive pads on this cute little box. Photos courtesy Akai.

As many samples as an SD card can hold, you can trigger via velocity-sensitive pads on this cute little box. Photos courtesy Akai.

Sometimes, there are designs that seem almost impossibly like an answer to a specific need. Let us illustrate.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a box that you could play, independent of a computer, that just let you mess about with samples directly from an SD card? And wouldn’t it be nice if it had MIDI jacks on it, too, and not only USB, so that you didn’t need the computer handy?

That’s the MPX8 from Akai Pro. It’s dead-simple, so you’ll do most of your sample manipulation away from the hardware. (There’s a free Mac and Windows sample editor for that.) The hardware itself only lets you adjust tuning and add reverb.

But what you do get is a heads-up LCD display, and the ability to trigger up to eight sounds at once with eight pads with eight voices, all with velocity sensitivity. And you can call up those eight sounds from the SD card, so you’re limited only by the size of your SD card in how many samples you can have handy.

There’s no arpeggiator or sequencer onboard — a “roll” function would certainly have been nice, and that’s even missing. But there is a MIDI in and out jack in addition to MIDI over USB, so you could use this alongside another sequencer. (MIDI DIN is provided via breakouts from 3.5mm / 1/8″ minijacks.)

And, again, it’s only a hundred bucks. Weighs half a kg (1 pound), powered via USB, headphone jack and balanced stereo 1/4″ jack plugs. (There’s no separate power jack, only the USB power adapter, but one is included.)

Seems like a box that’s definitely not for everyone, but could be a godsend addition to some rigs for the people who want precisely this.



The post Samples, No Computer: $ 99 Akai MPX8 Combines Pads, SD Card, MIDI and USB Port appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Happy Independence Day: The Legacy of the Computer is Not the Mouse

Thursday, July 4th, 2013
More than this: the Engelbart mouse is a perfect emblem of his ability to use design to connect human and machine. But the ideas behind that quest are even more powerful - and likely to be longer-lasting. Photo (CC-BY-ND) John Chuang.

More than this: the Engelbart mouse is a perfect emblem of his ability to use design to connect human and machine. But the ideas behind that quest are even more powerful — and likely to be longer-lasting. Photo (CC-BY-ND) John Chuang.

Oregon-born engineer, inventor, and thinker Douglas Engelbart has died. He’ll be listed in many outlets as, mundanely, the inventor of the computer mouse. Certainly, the demo of that technology in 1968 had a profound impact. But what’s stunning is that even at that demo, the mouse wasn’t the most impressive thing Engelbart showed. At the same talk, he demonstrated videoconferencing and textual hyperlinks. And the real legacy of Engelbart was his computer humanism, an idea that spread virally to motivate the world of computing as personally powerful, communicative and expressive.

What enabled Engelbart to look so far into the future, and what marks the significance of him and the computer today, is that he was part of the transformation of the computer as a tool for war into a tool that could extend human thought and imagination. And that’s not hyperbolic — he was literally trying to extend what the brain could do. He didn’t invent this notion, but would become perhaps its most vocal champion — and the first to demonstrate in design terms what concrete form that could take in technology.

As he wrote in 1962:

By “augmenting human intellect” we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by “complex situations” we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers–whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human “feel for a situation” usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.


And lots more of his legacy:

These issues are driven by the “urgency” of humanity’s challenges — an urgency that surely can still be felt in 2013, facing political strife and global warming.

The historic context that was the stage for this transformation was both sobering and radical. Engelbart worked for the US military, reporting on these ideas for branches of the Armed Forces. But he also helped build Arpanet, the predecessor of the Internet. He built on the tangled legacy of individuals like Vannevar Bush — the man who headed the office that ran the Manhattan Project and started Raytheon, but who also had the sense to realize even before the second World War was over that computers could be turned to the peacetime application of making humanity better, of accelerating thought itself.

Engelbart, too, turned to this task. This was not the computer as weapon, but computer as mind extender. It was that legacy that built the mouse, and the GUI, object-oriented programming and the Dynabook at XEROX PARC, the personal computer, Steve Jobs’ “bicycle for the mind.” It built, in other words, everything on which you’re reading this now, from the data infrastructure behind to the hyperlinks embedded in the article to the mouse or touchscreen or keyboard, the screen, the pixels.

It was more than any invention: it was the idea. And because it was an idea, this idea can be yours, too, to apply or reshape freely.

It’s an idea that comes out of a troubled and conflicted history — nuclear physics but also atomic bombs and radioactive fallout, creative computing and code but also conflict minerals and toxic waste. It’s partly the troubled history the country of which I’m a citizen, the one celebrating a holiday today, Engelbart’s country, that iconic symbol of freedom that has also had the world’s biggest industry in war.

This matters to musicians because they’re the community that can make all of that sing. The next time someone worries that a computer might make music making too easy or too fast, they might be reminded that computers are designed to accelerate your brain — with all that comes along with it.

Little wonder that artists like Onyx Ashanti imagine themselves as cyborgs, using music technology as a means to human augmentation, to transforming the reach of their ideas and sonic creations.

This isn’t blind optimism; on the contrary, it requires immense realism and pragmatism. Now we have to shape this question of whether technology becomes something that really gives us independence. And that’s an exciting question, one worth getting up every day and trying to solve.

The post Happy Independence Day: The Legacy of the Computer is Not the Mouse appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Cableguys release WaveShaper CM – Free with Computer Music magazine

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Cableguys has announced that WaveShaper CM, a new plug-in effect that lets you design your own distortion curves and analyse signals with a built-in multi-function oscilloscope, is now available for f [Read More]