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Moog Mother-32 wants to be your intro to modular synthesis

Thursday, October 1st, 2015


Moog Music was already there for you with modular products if you wanted to live out a Keith Emerson fantasy and had thousands of dollars burning a hole in your pocket. For some, that may read like learning the Leerjet company is happy to indulge your dream of flying — so long as you’ve got a few million dollars and time for pilot lessons.

Okay, so what about everyone else? Hot on the heels of the discontinuation of the Minimoog Voyager, the Mother-32 might just be Moog’s new answer to what synthesis lovers everywhere might crave. It’s a desktop (but also rack-able) semi-modular synth, and at just US$ 599.

The Moog Mother-32 isn’t massively expensive. It doesn’t need other modules to go with it. (This is Moog’s long-awaited entry into Eurorack, in case you were wondering — but it also stands happily on its own.) It doesn’t even insist that you connect a single patch cord: it’s a very sensible semi-modular design, with loads of patching options when you like them, but also the ability to start making sound right away.

So, if you have caught Eurorack fever, this will fit right in. But if you haven’t, it’s finally an instrument that brings back some of the appeal of semi-modular design.


In fact, while it’s semi-modular, it approximates a lot of starter modular rigs. What’s onboard:

  • 10-octave analog oscillator with variable pulse width
  • Analog white noise generator
  • Voltage-controlled mixer
  • Moog Ladder Filter (low/high-pass types) — of course, it’s a Moog (accept no substitutes and whatnot)
  • 32-step sequencer, with 64 pattern recall. (Weirdly, that looks a bit Elektron-like because of the buttons!)
  • External MIDI control

You combine that with a 32-point analog patchbay.

It also looks beautiful, with black, laser-etched extruded aluminum and (it’s a Moog!) wooden sidepieces.

Moog is also fully accessorizing this, with 2- or 3-tier rack kits and a nice soft carry case. If you do want to use this as the beginning of a slow descent into the wallet-draining, life-destroying power of Eurorack — uh, I mean the “joys of modular synthesis” — there’s a 60 HP Eurorack case — power supply not included.


Actually, if I had any kneejerk concern about this, it’s that I would look hard at what the Eurorack community can offer, since part of the appeal of modular is customizability. This is by contrast a very Moog-y offering, the vanilla stuff. If you fancy vanilla, this is, well, premium vanilla. If you fancy rum raisin, you might look at other builders. (Full disclosure: yes, I eat ice cream in the long Berlin winter. So sue me. It’s delicious. Love both those flavors. I… lost track of what I was writing about.)

But it’s tough for small builders to compete with Moog’s $ 599 price — and some will find the Moog character (in aesthetics, build, and sound) a big draw.

For a sense of the sound, Moog invited synthesists Erika, Max Ravitz, and Bana Haffer to contribute video. (Erika can absolutely kill it doing techno, too, by the way, with her Ectomorph all-hardware show at Panorama Bar last month — more on that on CDM soon.)


The post Moog Mother-32 wants to be your intro to modular synthesis appeared first on Create Digital Music.


A new ROLI instrument wants to make expressive control mainstream

Thursday, September 10th, 2015


We are all slaves to the piano. Two or three centuries after the instrument rose to dominance, and well over a half century after it became intertwined with the synthesizer (hello Minimoog!), it’s still something of a challenge to work out some alternative.

And I love the piano. One of my great frustrations with some advocates of expressive new interfaces is their disregard for my favorite instrument. But let’s look at it this way: we’ve got beef. Beef is fantastic. We still really ought to have some chicken, some duck, and some vegan options.

The formula for solving this in electronic instruments we’ve seen many times over before: rare, expensive, and … well, weird. UK maker ROLI was unique in the pitch of its rhetoric (and the apparent influx of funding), but its product proposition still seemed geared for those with deep pockets and long beards. Got two grand burning a hole in your pocket and an empty corner calling out from your studio? Have a love of Posturepedic mattresses and polyphonic pitch bend? Have I got the product for you!

But hold on a second. Today in London, ROLI is a step closer to a futuristic keyboard for the masses. The product still requires an appetite to go beyond existing interfaces (like keyboards), and it’s not yet an impulse buy. But it’s starting to look more accessible: not just smaller, not just cheaper, but also genuinely more useful to a range of musicians — and not just ones who want to play hyperactive solos on a waterbed.

And I’m here in hip Dalston to check it out. Time for some CDM gallery and hands-on.


The ROLI Seaboard RISE differs from past ROLI efforts — and rivals — in several important ways.

It’s cheaper. US$ 799 means this isn’t out of range of budget as a controller. It’s easy to drop that much on a keyboard (and a direct comparison of number of keys clearly isn’t relevant here).

It’s adaptable. A new array of faders on the front panel let you adjust (or disable) sensitivity across parameters like pitch. So, if you’re finding you can’t hold intonation on your solo, for instance, you can adjust the instrument based on context.

It gives you tangible control of sounds, with more expression. There are now several axes for expressive control. Applying more pressure can change the sound, as can wiggling your fingers around between pitches — as on the Seaboard before, as well as other controllers like the Continuum. But now you can also run your fingers on the vertical axes, perpendicular to the keyboard, and adjust controls that way. It’s nicely sensitive — enough so that you can flick your fingers along the keys for added expression, or gently shift your hands into a different color. And you can augment that with other assignable controls next to the keyboard.


It’s not quite as weird to play. The amount of pressure you need to push into the keyboard is reduced — less of that sponge-y, waterbed feeling. The keys are slightly flattened on the top, so you don’t feel like your piano was imported from some other planet (and you can find pitch more easily). The texture is different. It’s slippery in some sense, so you don’t get your fingers stuck while trying to use it as a continuous, ribbon controller or using this new vertical access. But it’s also a bit grippy in the right way, so you don’t feel like your fingers can’t get comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s still kind of weird. (Hey, I grew up with a piano.) And you might very well still decide you don’t like it — I haven’t made up my mind. But while I think it’ll still feel like a Seaboard to people who like Seaboards, I think it might interest people who would have dismissed the feeling right away. ROLI talks about this in terms of “accessibility,” but speaking as a non-average person, I think it might actually prove simply to be better than what they did before.

After all, weird is great. That’s why we’re musicians. And the entire history of instruments is a history of weird. It just has to be good weird.


It works with lots of stuff, thanks to MIDI. USB — check. But you’ve also got Bluetooth MIDI (for operating systems that support it, like OS X, iOS, or with some work, other tools). And a quick look at the ROLI Dashboard shows everything is assignable. For “Expressive MIDI” (MPE), tools like Cubase, Bitwig Studio, Apple Logic (hello, Sculpture), and other instruments will allow per-note expression — not just ROLI’s own synth. Most interesting: tools like Kompakt are being adapted via scripting, which could make complex sound libraries finally playable in ways that they weren’t with conventional MIDI assignments and controllers.

The “Dashboard” software affords a whole bunch of customization. To be honest, it excites me more than the bundled Equator synth — but that’s because I am (cough) already a synth manufacturer and (erm, not good, but passionate) software builder.


And yes, there’s a synth to get you started. ROLI’s own synth still works out of the box, even if the RISE doesn’t include internal sounds. But… hey, you own a computer, right? And that means you know if the custom assignment doesn’t work for you, you’ll still have something to


I’ve had a hands-on with the Seaboard RISE. I’ll be honest — I was surprised. The compact size and weight, and the added versatility of these additional controllers and the y-axis moves me, frankly, from completely disinterested to very interested. I’ve always felt computer instruments were capable of beautiful sounds that I could never quite get under my fingertips. For creative sound designers — working with things like physical modeling, unique Reaktor and Pd and Max patches — this has some potential. And I think the product is now at the point that it’s worth reviewing.

And the competition at this point is, well, really nothing. There’s nothing under $ 1000 that does this kind of expression. The Linnstrument and Madrona Labs devices are compelling, but they have a completely different paradigm (one grid, one undifferentiated X/Y plane) and they’re more expensive.


Seaboard RISE 25 Features
Seamless hardware-software integration
Beautifully crafted using premium materials
Sleek, intuitive design accessible to music-makers of all technical levels
Completely wireless with MIDI over Bluetooth
Bundled with Equator, the world’s first purpose-built, multi-dimensional software synthesiser

Seaboard RISE 25 Technical specifications
25 Keywaves
505 mm x 210 mm x 22.9 mm / 2.8 kg
(19.88 in x 8.27 in x 0.9 in / 6.17 lbs)
Continuous pedal input (1/4″ jack)
USB B port (MIDI out and power)
USB A port (for charging peripherals)
18 W
Internal battery with 12-hour playability
Full MIDI compatibility over USB and Bluetooth

System Requirements
OS X 10.8+ / Windows 7+ / iOS 7+
Intel Core i5 2.5GHz or faster recommended
4 GB RAM minimum / 8 GB RAM recommended
2 GB available disk space for Equator installation
USB 2.0+ port for USB compatibility








The post A new ROLI instrument wants to make expressive control mainstream appeared first on Create Digital Music.


This young Czech lady wants to teach you modular synthesis, and Bastl have a granular update

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Our friends at Bastl Instruments / Noise Kitchen are preparing a modular synth tutorial with their usual charm, friendliness, and directness.

And, if your native language happens to be Czech, this is absolutely the video tutorial you’ve been waiting for! If you don’t, though, there are English subtitles. (And, of course, the occasional recognition of a word or two by hearing.)

The name sounds cool in Czech, too: Patcheni!

And host Nikol already has an advantage over … well, almost every other tutorial on modular synthesis I’ve seen:
1. The tutorials are beginner-friendly.
2. They’re short.
3. They’re cheery.
4. They don’t ramble on and on and on… (hey, to be fair, making tutorials is hard!)

Teaser at top, and on to the first video — which is superb:

Now, modular is all well and good, but sometimes it’s fun to have an all-in-one box — and it can often fit the budget nicely.

So, don’t feel left out if you’re not taking the modular plunge. Bastl also have a terrific update to the firmware of their grungy, glitchy, good-time granular giant the MicroGranny:

More on this great box:


Lots of variants, and now you can buy them all direct:

East coast synthesis? West coast synthesis?

Czech synthesis.

Next week, we’ll have a photo journal of our trip to Brno, CZ, home of Bastl and their new Noise Kitchen store. And don’t miss this amazing drum machine organ thing, a Communist-era relic that can nonetheless amaze any synth builder today.

The post This young Czech lady wants to teach you modular synthesis, and Bastl have a granular update appeared first on Create Digital Music.


deadmau5 wants EDM DJS to actually play, produces Tumblr poetry in the process

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015


deadmau5 has a message for DJs: don’t just DJ.

here is what i dont get [Tumblr]

And we couldn’t agree more. For once, bless the mouse — and, give the man some credit, he has a sense of humor and self-deprecation. (That’s his image above, not ours.)

At the same time, Joel Zimmerman’s message has come a long way. Just back in 2012, he cynically suggested everyone on the scene was just “pushing play” and asked everyone to quit pretending already — fair, perhaps, but not entirely optimistic. And I gave him a hard time for it, because I though it was unfair to the people who were assembling live performances (deadmau5 walked back some of his original article and gave some credit to all y’all controllerists out there):
Deadmau5, Honest About His Own Press-Play Sets, Misses Out On “Scene”

Now, though, he’s saying something different: quit just playing CDs and actually jam live. Play a keyboard. Hook up some MIDI or OSC control. Do something. And sure enough, his own bio rejects the notion of CDs and emphasizes playing his own tracks (live PA style) and on-the-fly cutting and editing (though I’d have to research more what he’s actually doing).

It’s clearly a message the top of the EDM circuit needs to hear, and one the CDM readership would almost certainly endorse. I’d agree with every single word, except I do feel obligated to say I feel strongly that there’s a role for good mixing and selection, for DJs. And even if deadmau5 doesn’t want to be called a DJ, other people may be fine with it. On the other hand, people booked around a hit “banger” aren’t likely to surprise anyone with their subtle track selection, too much faking keyboard lines to the audience is obnoxious, and I frankly what deadmau5 is describing, absolutely, I agree — it’s horrific.

I agree — you and all your friends, probably, agree — so much so that under normal circumstances bringing all this would be boring. Except that this being deadmau5, eloquent troll for all electronic music everywhere on the Internet, it takes another turn. Okay, not only did deadmau5 run to the defense of the poor horses subjected to David Guetta’s nightmare-dystopian Pascha opening, but now this. (Yes, horses, the four-legged kind, though “objectification of women” or “Native American racism” could easily have been topics — that was a three-for-one Ibiza fail there.)

Here’s what I want: I want a t-shirt for each one of these phrases:

you show up to X shitfest, and play a CD.




are you or are you not a guy who can use a comupter to make music?

CDM has a new logo and redesign launching before summer is out. Now I have the phrase that will go on the back.

Alternatively, these:


youre beyond a CD player.

And the best:

So you cant pllay a keyboard? COOL! ME NEITHER! MIDI bro.

OSC is the latest fuckin craze.

get your script on bitch.



throw down some smpte on another track to sync some tailored visuals too…

I swear I’m going to get motion back up, too.

Actually, as I’m playing this weekend, I’ve composed my own little poem, in the style of deadmau5. People ask me about my own story, so here it is.

I’m setting an egg timer and briefly pretending I don’t know how to type in the hopes that it will come out like a deadmau5 Tumblr rant.

so, im actually like this composer whatever in new york but i turn into this cdm blogger man.

and im making music im like fuckin aroung with abledong live and that whatever looping stretching thing with all the grain settings long aso i can play a modern dance performance in brooklyn that winds up going for like an hour and i want it to be all ambient.

im making waves. i rinse it. i shave it. shave it all off.

and then im suddenly in berlin and making techno because i went to barghain a few 2 many times and now i dont know i might just dj this weekend just in case people get borded of me lining up claps on my korg volca meeblip rig because you know i listen to some tracks some time and likke to dance san dso they sometimse want me to play the whole damn thing

i show up to club x, i show up to club y, i show up to club xy i really need a booking manager

i never pirated nothing its all nfr nfr nfr

so i get the d2 the native instruments thing maybe i play with stems that’s the new shit like four tracks of whatever so im doing something creative but thats not ready yet i dont no if native instruments is reading this far but yeah im down for some stems

i totally forgot what this was supposed to be about im stopping now.

now everyone in canada knows mu name

i am totally a guy who can use a comupter to make music because create digtial fockin music yo craz cats.

i cant believe i sat through a whole film yestrday that told me computers are shit computers totally arent shit did you hear from deamdouse people areplaying like cds for 200k something? dollars? whoa. i should get into edm. then i could afford a modular i dream of wires right now i can kind of mainly only afford those nfrs and my meeblp which im obligated to tell you is available now from dotcom.

i can totally play a keyboard which is good because if i couldn’t im not sure how id’ fix it with MIDI or osc or the 80s bro.



That almost sort of worked. Not really.

I really do hope someone in EDM starts playing synth lines over top of their set or adds fireworks and singing ladies behind them or whatever the point of this rant actually was. Sounds good. I … probably won’t get to see it, assuming I do stay away from Electric Daisy Carnival.

But I think deadmau5 didn’t mean the whole IDM scene in general.

The post deadmau5 wants EDM DJS to actually play, produces Tumblr poetry in the process appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Jeff Mills Strips Bare Electronic Technique, Wants to Liberate DJs

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Exhibitionist2TrailerFR from AxisRecords on Vimeo.

For all the multi-camera Boiler Room rigs and debates over how vinyl records make music more visible than on a laptop, there’s an elephant in the room.

Most electronic music fans don’t have any clue what’s going on. And even if you do, most of the technique behind the records is invisible — doubly so when the prevalence of DJing emphasizes mixing over musical improvisation.

So, Jeff Mills’ “Exhibitionist 2″ project — a film and performance series following up on the video/music release of a decade ago — seems both compelling and aptly named.

It brings us back to some ingredients sorely needed in techno and electronic music.


Science fiction and futurism? Check. Scifi writer David Calvo will be on-hand, and don’t miss Mr. Mills waxing poetic on science and the future in a recent Fact interview.

The human body, gesture, and performance? Absolutely. Pianist Mikhaïl Rudy and choreographer Michel Abdoul are collaborating with Mills at Paris’ legendary Louvre, connecting modern art to old, machine performance to organic. Bassist Angie Taylor and keyboardist Gerald Mitchell will render materials from the release live, too.

And the goal is nothing more than the liberation of the DJ. The film will display “not only how a DJ uses the latest technology, but how he thinks in real time to create and work spontaneously like a musician playing an acoustic instrument or a soloist thinking of rhythms on-the-spot …. how the technology of today is allowing DJs to be more free and thus, more creative,” says Mills in the press for the project.

Most of the European scene will be in Barcelona on the 19th for SONAR, but if you’re in Paris you can catch him live in his residency.

It’s impressive just how much love Detroit artists continue to get on the other side of the Atlantic — behold, one of the world’s dustiest art museums makes Mills a resident. (To be fair, New York’s Museum of Modern Art has managed to reach out, too, from its PS 1 series to residencies like King Britt.) But the fandom in Europe for Detroit and the USA is nonetheless staggering.

And if none of this has you sold yet, well –

You also get Jeff Mills absolutely wailing on a 909 in what appears to be The Construct loading program from The Matrix. And that’s simply badass.

Jeff Mills details Exhibitionist 2 and Louvre performance [FACT] (h/t XLR8R)

This scene does kind of sum up festival EDM versus 90s techno for some of us:

The post Jeff Mills Strips Bare Electronic Technique, Wants to Liberate DJs appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Teenage Engineering Wants You to Make Your Own Pocket Case

Thursday, May 21st, 2015


First, they made dirt-cheap synths and drum machines. Then, they made housings that turn them into handheld calculators. Now, they want … you to rethink the case entirely.

Say what? So, the bad news is, Teenage Engineering’s cool calculator-style cases for their amazing-sounding, crazy-cheap synths and drum machine are backordered. And that is too bad. Because, damnit, even I can’t get one. And they’re really cool — I had a look at the cases at Musikmesse, and they recall nothing if not a Braun-style dress-up suit for these wonderful (and useful) sonic toys.

But this being Teenage Engineering, they’ve found a cooler-than-usual solution to being backordered. (Remember, this is the firm that made accessories 3D-printable when they had trouble making and shipping them overseas to everyone who wanted them.)

They’re letting you get in on the act. And with these creations already in the hands of a design-savvy crowd, I don’t doubt for a second that’ll inspire some ingenuity.

To make your job easier, they’re releasing precise measurements and CAD files. .PDF, .DXF, .SLDW, .STL, .STEP, all there. (Hint: if you have to ask, it’s probably not a format you need.)

Send designs, ideas, or videos, and you get an exclusive t-shirt. (As in: “Teenage Engineering couldn’t ship their cases, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt — okay, actually, kind of awesome exclusive t-shirt.”)

Deadline: 3 weeks.

Go win one for Team CDM.


Hey, one of you already had one idea:
Teenage Engineering Drum Machine, Hacked with Big Buttons

What? Still want to drool over the official cases (and want to wait to get them)? Or at least use them as inspiration? Here you go:




Oh, how I love these things. Seriously, if anyone else made a product with a bare board and then offered up a t-shirt for someone to work out how to house it, that normally wouldn’t be cool. And yet…

A Cheesy Pocket Techno Jam with Tiny Cheap Gear

How TE’s $ 59 Drum Machine Sounds – And How The Pocket Operators Work

Nintendo Game & Watch Inspires Tiny, $ 59 Synths from Teenage Engineering [CDM Hands-on]

The post Teenage Engineering Wants You to Make Your Own Pocket Case appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Envelop Wants to Make an Ambisonic 3D Venue and Tools

Monday, April 13th, 2015


3D, spatialized sound is some part of the future of listening — both privately and in public performances. But the question is, how? Right now, there are various competing formats, most of them proprietary. There are cinema formats (hello, Dolby), meant mainly for theaters. There are research installations, particularly in Germany. And then there are one-off environments like the 4DSOUND installation I performed on and on which CDM hosted an intensive weekend hacklab — beautiful, but only in one place in the world, and served up with a proprietary secret sauce.

Artist Christopher Willits has teamed up with two sound engineers / DSP scientists and someone researching the impact on the body to produce ENVELOP — basically, a venue/club for performances and research.

The speaker diffusion system is relatively straightforward for this kind of advanced spatial sound. You get a sphere of speakers to produce the immersive effect — 28 in total, plus 4 positioned subwoofers. (A common misconception is that bass sound isn’t spatialized; in fact, I’ve heard researchers demonstrate that you can hear low frequencies as well as high frequencies.) Like the 4DSOUND project (and, incidentally, less like some competing systems), the speaker install is built into a set of columns.

And while the crowd-funding project is largely to finish building the physical venue, the goal is wider. They want to not only create the system, but they say they want to host workshops, hackathons, and courses in immersive audio, as well.

You can watch the intro video:

Another key difference between ENVELOP and the 4DSOUND system is that ENVELOP is built around Ambisonics. The key with this approach, in theory, at least, is that sound designers and composers choose coordinates once and then can adapt a work to different speaker installations. An article on Ambisonics is probably a worthy topic for CDM (some time after I’ve recovered from Musikmesse, please), but here’s what the ENVELOP folks have to say:

With Ambisonics, artists determine a virtual location in space where they want to place a sound source, and the source is then rendered within a spherical array of speakers. Ambisonics is a coordinate based mapping system; rather than positioning sounds to different locations around the room based on speaker locations (as with conventional surround sound techniques), sounds are digitally mapped to different locations using x,y,z coordinates. All the speakers then work simultaneously to position and move sound around the listener from any direction — above, below, and even between speakers.



One of our hackers at the 4DSOUND day did try “porting” a multichannel ambisonic recording to 4DSOUND with some success, I might add. But 4DSOUND’s own spatialization system is separate.

The ENVELOP project is “open source” — but it’s based on proprietary tools. That includes some powerful-looking panners built in Max for Live which I would have loved to have whilst working on 4DSOUND. But it also means that the system isn’t really “open source” — I’d be interested to know how you’d interact, say, with genuinely open tools like Pure Data and SuperCollider. That’s not just a philosophical question; the workflow is different if you build tools that interface directly with a spatial system.

It seems open to other possibilities, at least — with CCRMA and Stanford nearby, as well as the headquarters of Cycling ’74 (no word from Dolby, who are also in the area), the brainpower is certainly in the neighborhood.

Of course, the scene around spatial audio is hardly centered exclusively on the Bay Area. So I’d be really interested to put together a virtual panel discussion with some competing players here — 4DSOUND being one obvious choice, alongside Fraunhofer Institute and some of the German research institutions, and… well, the list goes on. I imagine some of those folks are raising their hands and shouting objections, as there are strong opinions here about what works and what doesn’t.



If you’re interested, let us know. Believe me, I’m not a partisan of any one system — I’m keen to see different ideas play out.

ENVELOP — 3D Sound [Kickstarter]

For background, here’s a look at some of the “hacking” we did of spatial audio in Amsterdam at ADE in the fall. Part of our idea was really that hands-on experimentation with artists could lead to new ideas — and I was overwhelmed with the results.

4DSOUND Spatial Sound Hack Lab at ADE 2014 from FIBER on Vimeo.

The post Envelop Wants to Make an Ambisonic 3D Venue and Tools appeared first on Create Digital Music.


A New Book from Ableton Wants to Help You Make Music

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015


Imagine if the Eno/Schmidt Oblique Strategies, a music theory book, and an Ableton quick-start manual all got caught in a transporter accident with a bunch of different music producers.*

That seems to be what you get with Making Music: A Book of Creative Strategies. In one sense, the aim is to be none of these things. It’s not a manual. It’s not a template for music making. It doesn’t, apparently, rely much on musical theory in the traditional sense.

But, then, if you know the man behind it — Dennis DeSantis, a classical percussion virtuoso and composer turned documentation czar — this all makes sense.

The book is divided into the three places where you might become stuck creatively:

1. Beginning
2. Progressing
3. Finishing

And in each section, it includes both problems and solutions, plus hands-on reflections from artists, ranging from experimental to club. (I wish it had sections for “soups” and “desserts,” but this isn’t my book.) Sometimes, it’s talking about specific harmonies in house music. Sometimes, it’s reflecting on the very act of listening.


In fact, if anything, the whole thing seems a bit like Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum rewritten, Julia Child The Joy of Cooking style, for anyone frustrated with a blank or overcrowded Ableton Live session display.

But I’m delighted to see it. I can’t imagine myself trying to organize a book in this particular way — we’ll talk to Dennis shortly about how he went about it and offer an excerpt for you to read, if you’re curious. But it seems a marvelous challenge. And it represents the sort of discourse I hope we have more of — one that lies at the intersection of philosophy and creativity and the specific particularities both of musical craft and technological praxis.



A composer in the 18th century had to tackle, simultaneously, the deep meaning of poetry and whether that clarinet player could really easily finger that melody they just wrote. So it shouldn’t seem a conflict of interests when we have to wrangle with a particular detail of automating a plug-in and the grand sweep of the form of the track we’re finishing. The clash between the specific and the profound, and the desperate struggle to actually make something we like, is at the essence of creative process.

If you have specific things you’d like us to ask Dennis about this question, or documentation of music software in general, or cool things he knows about new music on the marimba, let us know.

More info, excerpts:

Note to wise people: has any music software company really done anything like this? I don’t think so. For that matter, I can only think of a handful of books that attempted this sort of scope (though a smattering of this way of thinking has been added in over the years). One advantage of Ableton as patron: you don’t have to convince a publisher this would work.

Obligatory nerd-out: *Okay, think of this as the reverse of the transport accident in Season 1, Episode 5 “The Enemy Within.” In this version, all those parts form some new composite that comes out neatly as a … book. Which is cool. Also, Space Dog. I may be a hopeless nerd, but the advantage of hopeless nerds is we always know where to find weird furry unicorn dogs for you.

The post A New Book from Ableton Wants to Help You Make Music appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Kyma 7 Wants You To Discover, And See, New Sounds

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Kyma 7 in Four Minutes from Symbolic Sound on Vimeo.

Somewhere apart from the general purpose computer, the standalone electronic instrument, the racks of modulars, there is Kyma. For nearly a quarter century, this boutique digital instrument has opened up sonic realms to a scattered illuminati of artists. And this week, it hit a new milestone, with functionality and resources intended to make sound exploration still broader and more accessible.

Three years in development, Kyma 7 is here.

The buzz around modular often comes back to the same refrain: modular is cool because it’s open ended. That rat’s nest of cables, modular advocates say, represent freedom. No argument from me, but Kyma can fairly make a similar claim, backed by a somewhat obscenely deep set of sound tools you can patch together. Kyma’s not cheap by computer standards, and not expensive by analog modular standards. A mid-range system runs about four grand US$ , with a “lab” system still just shy of three. That’s nothing to sneeze at, given that you can download Pure Data for nothing and load it onto a $ 300 laptop, and still get a deep graphical digital environment. But for its followers, Kyma represents an investment in possibility — and sound quality.

Kyma, like the mountain in the image for Kyma 7, is something I largely admire from afar. But admire, I do — and Kyma 7 has some nice things in it.


Look closely, and you see an environment that has no direct comparison. Whether or not you want to live there, getting a look at Kyma is like glimpsing a far-off tropical island: it’s a world unto itself.

To put us in the Kyma 7 mood, here’s the incomparable Richard Devine:


Crowd-funding Campaign Wants to Pay Back Amen Break Creator

Monday, February 23rd, 2015


It’s the best-known sample of all time. It might be the most-heard six seconds of sound in modern recording.

But before it became the “Amen break,” the signature riff was part of The Winstons’ song “Amen, Brother.”

And so, how much did the artists who actually produced the original sound earn from their “success”? Well, that’ll be … nothing, apart from the original revenues from the 1969 release. Nothing in royalties from its use … well, seemingly everywhere. (N.W.A.? Oasis? Futurama? Check.)

Zip. Zero. The drummer, Gregory Coleman, died homeless in 2006. Richard L. Spencer, the vocalist and sax player you hear on the classic cut, owned the copyright but never got a cent from its reuse. Forget Searching for Sugarman. BBC tracking down Richard L. Spencer (picture, top) may be the even bigger story of a lost and unsung musical hero, all but disappearing after 1971.

So now, one crowd funding project wants to right the wrong, doing through donations what the international intellectual property system couldn’t do for an independent musician.

The project is the brainchild of Martyn Webster, a 42-year old DJ from the UK. Webster fits the MO of the whole Amen break-sampling scene, making electro, hiphop, and rap in the 80s and 90s. So, he’s just a DJ who loved this musical gesture and wanted to give back. The plan: raise money, then give it to Richard L. Spencer to make up for years and years of success given to other artists.

Mr. Webster writes, simply:

If you have ever written or sold any music with the amen break, or even just enjoyed one of the countless hundreds and hundreds of tunes that contain it over various genres and styles of music, please donate towards the good cause of the worldwide music community giving something back to the man behind the legendary breakbeat.

That message seems to have resonated. In just five days, the project has blasted past its original £1,000 target to net a whopping £10,529 in funds — not bad for what amounts to little more than “passing the hat.” It’s a perfect case in which small funds add up: 940 people contributed to that big number. And it’s getting attention; I saw it via Facebook on a German blog, but the mighty Rolling Stone has also taken notice.

There’s even one bloke who has a tattoo of the sample on his arm (as posted to the project’s Facebook group, in solidarity — I wonder if anyone ever recognizes it):


Here’s the immortal original song, worth hearing in its entirety:

And the sample, as you’ve likely heard it:

And a 20-minute documentary on the whole affair:

Really, someone should take a 6-second sample from the narration of that film. Just sayin’.

“Can I get an Amen, brother?” indeed. No more fitting headline for crowd-funding.

Now, next question — how are we going to go beyond the grave and give back to Jester Hairston, composer of “Amen”?

Donate, too, if you like:

The Winstons Amen Breakbeat Gesture [gofundme]

And join the project on Facebook (actually, surprised the Facebook page hasn’t gotten more attention yet — will watch that count after this story):


The post Crowd-funding Campaign Wants to Pay Back Amen Break Creator appeared first on Create Digital Music.