There’s the music player, the device in your home or your pocket on which you listen to the album. And there’s the concert experience, where you have a couple of longnecks and get sweaty and dance with your friends to live musicians.

But wait a minute – now the musicians are using computers and music players to perform. What if that music player became part of the interaction at a live gig?

Richie Hawtin is going live with a new show via his Plastikman persona – great news to those of us who love his original work. Part of the new tour is an experiment with an iPhone app called SYNK, developed under Richie’s watchful eye with Minus’ Bryan McDade and TouchOSC developer RJ Fischer ( I tried to get more details on how the app will work, but apparently they’re trying to keep some of it under wraps until the first show in Mannheim this weekend. (If you are making the Mannheim show, I’d love to get your coverage – it looks like the East Coast of the US didn’t make the cut.)

We do know a little, though, and that already raises questions – and likely some skepticism, too, I imagine – about how mobile devices could be integrated with performance. There’s a very jumpy “teaser” video, below, too:

Watching closely, I see

  • Numbers running behind the stage and on the iPhone, some pattern of rects on the iPhone
  • Visualist collective Derivative’s modular, visual-making software TouchDesigner
  • An Ableton Live set with an obscene number of effects (12!) sends, for reasons that are unclear to me
  • A Max for Live patch that uses the Live API (and is sending OSC via IP address, presumably to interface with the iPhone)

The application itself includes modules that allow the audience to reorganize word samples (a bit like playing with magnetic poetry), a live video stream of the performance from the inside out, visuals that appear on your iPhone/iPod touch that are synchronized with the onstage LED wall and music, and real-time performance information (apparently synchronous with handheld software that’s used for the performance itself).

The most interesting part of all of this is that it’s location-based: it’s designed only to work when you’re live at the show. Between shows, however, there is a mode that includes a self-contained audiovisual experience.

While part of the appeal to me of live performance is getting away from all my own technology and listening, it is encouraging to see creative experimentation, and mobile software that’s about more than just the artists promoting themselves.

More on the modules (including some special information passed along to CDM from the Plastikman crew):

The official description:

Based upon earlier “Lodgikal Nonsense” and “Vokx” voice tracks, this state invites the audience to re-organize the word samples using a user interface of 20 touch buttons. In this state the centre of performance control is moved from the stage and into the audience.

This state is accessible throughout the show and gives users a live video stream of an internal perspective of the performance.

This state explores the synkronicity of realtime-generated percussion patterns and their visual counterparts, integrating the stage LED wall and the built in displays on each SYNK activated iPhone/iPod Touch.

This state is active during the entire show with realtime performance information. At specific moments an extended Konsole state becomes activated, allowing further insight into the realtime programming of the performance’s drum and percussive elements, while also providing visual feedback of musical and effect parameters. A simplified remote Konsole is available to all SYNK users worldwide and will be activated during all Plastikman Live performances.

Participants should connect to the Plastikman Wi-Fi network at each performance and will be notified of the activation of the different states by their iPhone/iPod Touch at specific moments during the show.

The SYNK experience will not be limited to viewers of the live show. In between the performances the SYNK application will be in sleeper mode and function as a Plastikman atmospheric location shifter. By using visualizations inspired by Derivative, combined with the iPhone’s built-in microphone and accelerometer, users are immersed in a Plastikman environment. For best results, please use headphones.

The “sleeper mode” confused a number of people, so I inquired further. Minus helped us out a bit.

Bryan McDade tells CDM:

“[Sleeper mode] is the visualization which takes place as the default interface into the app when there is not a functioning show. The app uses some visuals inspired by design from the people at Derivative and the microphone picks up audio and plays it back through the speaker while warping the audio with the use of the accelerometer. The audio function has been compared to RJDJ by others in the online community.”

Richie Hawtin adds:

The idea of the sleeper mode is to give users the feeling of bring immersed in their own personal Consumed type environment modulated by their movements and the ambient sounds around them.

Sounds great to me; I’d love to see apps beyond just RjDj that run with this idea. It’s such a great idea, in fact, that I wonder how performances could cater to multiple phone platforms, not just iPhone.

I’m excited to hear more about the tour and about the development of Synk, and I have to hope they add more dates or I find some way to cross paths. Stay tuned for more details.

The tour:

27.03. Time Warp – Mannheim, Germany
18.04. Coachella – Indio, USA
08.05. WeLoveArt – Paris, France
21.05. Dissonanze – Rome, Italy
29.05. Movement – Detroit, USA
18.06. Sonar – Barcelona, Spain
11.07. T in the Park – Balado, Scotland
06.08. Sonne, Mond & Sterne – Saalburg, Germany
07.08. AudioRiver – Plock, Poland
21.08. Lowlands – Biddinghuizen, Netherlands
10.09. Sunday Best presents Bestival – Isle of Wight, UK

SYNK @ iTunes

SYNK @ hexler

  • Looks pretty awesome. I've debated the possibilities of "crowd control" (let's repurpose that term!) for a while, but I've always figured there was some way to allow creative input while maintaining musical integrity.

    It's just too bad this is proprietary, although I'm not surprised. Maybe some intrepid developers (myself included) can see what works from this little experiment and make a more open version. Even just the idea of a live feed from the stage would be enough to get started. That's a pretty cool bonus for audience members.

  • PatSPLIT

    Is it possible the IP address is sending to his Lemur?

  • eff dee

    It's about Hawtin, so i'll start with my usual Public Enemy: DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE. There is nothing more to say.

  • slaphead scammer

    Is this guy shaving his head again?

    What a joke.



  • 303 lovers

    Rich's new stuff is lame, your right!!!!!!!
    His old acid and, FUSE and plastikman stuff rocks

    Minimal is just boring, predictable and seriously out dated.

    10 years from now you will be lucky to remember ANY minimal track or even artist.

    There is no such thing as a 'classic' minimal track.

    Minimal i talk about is the modern day click clack, dripping tap BS that goes nowhere excites no one and is generic crap.


  • rick

    You guys are really f***ing stupid. What "hype" ? People talking about his crazy ideas? Why do you mention hype every time he decides to do something new? Do you know what hype is?

    Furthermore, have you been to any of his real shows?

    "minimal stuff sucks, its dated boring and weak" – the genre name has no meaning anymore (minimal), but there is plenty out there that some would group into that heading that actually has some balls.

    It's not the genre that's dated, boring and weak, it's every stupid ass bedroom producer who thinks they have a license to mimick every record since the 90s. There are talented people out there making really awesome stuff that isn't quite techno, and isn't quite minimal.

  • PPthaK!

    Hawtin is the most overhyped and overrated techno producer ever. Its true, and the detroit guys like May, Saunderson and Atkins were right when they said its cos he is white that he blew up all over the world before they got a chance, Those cats were making awesome tunes compared to Hawtin and that lame Aquaviva.
    Decks FX 909 was nothing special and minus is boring, original plastikman even is fuck all.
    Sorry, not feeling it.

  • Seadweller

    Some people seem to deny some credits to Mr Hawtin

    Can we deny that some of the characteristics of the evolution of Electronic Music the last years are owed to Richie Hawtin??

    Someone said "deck fx & 909 sucks"…Funny… Look at the evolution this album brought. Remember DE9-Closer to the Edit. He was the 1st one to extensively use live as a DJ set with the characteristics of a Live Performance.

  • Gomen

    Fair enough for a Coldplay gig or something, but most of the audience will be far too pilled out of it to be fiddling with their iPhones

  • eff dee

    @ rick: or maybe you are – who knows? 🙂

    "Why do you mention hype every time he decides to do something new?" What "new" has he done? Letting the audience play a little with the background lighting – omg wow. How "new". Still there will be plenty of people saying "richie is sooo hip and cool and creative" while staring into their iPhones on a Techno party, i would more likely look at the girls then stare at an effing display?! But everyone as they like.

  • it doesn't really matter what bleeding-edge technology is being used if the a/v content is dull. richie does seem overly hung up on the delivery medium, of late, at the expense of the music, imo. the visuals at last year's kontakt show were very dull indeed (various quartz composer objects and m-nus logos floating around the admittedly impressive lcd wall). the clips of visuals from the his mutek show also looked very dull indeed.

    it's quite funny to see that huge bank of computers and operators (in another kontakt teaser video) for what will very likely be variations on 'a load of balls bouncing in time with the music' ;P

    i can see this iphone app type thing being the centre of some other kind of live plastikman experience/event (web/studio based?), but why go to a concert to wear headphones and stare at an iphone? it seems to miss the point of getting together in a big room, in front of big speakers to (dare i say it) dance!?

  • Haters…

    The dumb look the finger, not the moon. Don't look/listen the guy, listen his music.

    If you don't understand "Closer to the Edit" or "Transitions", then you have to stop, come back later, and try again.

    Maybe one day you will understand the deepness of minimal, and how big Hawtin is.

  • deeco

    "While part of the appeal to me of live performance is getting away from all my own technology and listening"

    Totally agree…wtf. So I'm going to pay a bunch of money to stand in a crowd of dancing people zoning out to my iphone when I paid $$$ to see a show? Kinda defeats the purpose IMO. I like the idea of interacting with the visuals and the artists but this is too distracting for me as a spectator.

  • I'm going to write a script for these posts that mention "Hawtin" so it can fill in the comments and you don't have to:
    "Hawtin is the bee's knees!"
    "Hawtin's music is made by dung beetles!"
    "Hawtin is a delicious chocolate with a nougat center!"
    "Hawtin is an international crisis. Hide your children!"
    "You are a mongoloid, sir! Behold Hawtin's Godlike power!"
    "No, you sir are a foul stench in my nose! Perhaps you could wallpaper your tastelessly-decorated bathroom with used Hawtin CDs and never listen again!"

    Uh, serious questions, though —

    I'm also skeptical about looking at my iPhone during a concert; I'm sort of interested in making people stop doing that. But I'm curious to hear what experience concertgoers have in some of these tour stops, or even a sense of how many people actually do this (or just keep using their iPhone to text people incessantly during shows)

    And has anyone heard the music he's playing on the new tour? Before I jump into the fray, anyway…

  • Robert Paladji

    Oh my god how many stupid guys here who hate Richie:S But Hawtin is the king!

  • Very amusing Mr. Kirn yet with with some good points too. I am also not completely convinced, yet still mildly curious as to what the experience will be like.
    I wouldn't mind seeing him at Sonar as have only great experiences from that event (well apart from my phone getting nicked anyway!)

  • as a show design contact really amazing –

    i dont doubt plastikman either :

    i dont want to go on my iphone every gig I attend, but at the same time every gig i attend i dont want to just stand / watch.

    each concept has its own purpose. join the journey if your interested.

    As for techno _ hawtin & under plastikman – so much industry defining music – maybe a little more mature now . but some bombs in the past cant forget that.

    on with the show !

  • Sketch3r

    Lame asses, Hawtin rocks. Listening to minimal beats and soundscapes is interesting enough, although I can see what some are trying to say, however minimal sounds allows a much more creative layering within the mix of tracks to create a live music performance, rather than the traditional back 2 back dj experience. As a true techno / music pioneer Mr Hawtin excels, how many other producers can claim to have affected digital music porduction and performance in such a way? Flaming a concept you haven't seen or experienced really shows an extremely closed and unevevoloving mindset(Ludite) of what can be achieved, rather than being excited and positive about pushing boundaries of the digital medium. As for referncing his colour as to his populartity wtf, more people in the UK know Derrick May, Jeff Mills than Richie Hawtin, so your attempt to play a race card is not only insulting to an intelligent person, but also inaccurate.

    Peace and Techno. X

  • JimmyJon

    Richie Hawtin constantly pushes the boundaries of techno. He is techno personified.

    If you don't like his M_nus/Contakt style minimal work – it's because it's too sophisticated for you.

    He constantly reinvents and evolves. Not many of the old skool techno scene are still attracting massive followings and filling huge venues. He must be doing something very right.

    The guy is a legend.

  • slaphead scammer

    ^"pushes the boundaries" – of marketing and product sponsorship.
    ^"too sophisticated" – try some Steve Bug or Metro Area instead
    ^"doing somethingright" – business partnerships

    legend – emperor's clothes

    iphones? really – snooze

    Peter, I know you need content but your openness and enthusiasm is overly generous. Hawtin seems like such a likeable person (when DJing) but he consistently relies on gimmicks and freshman level media releases.

    The "music" always takes a back seat whereas with many other artists the music is what its all about.

  • mark

    saw him play plastikman 1.5 at brixton this weekend – boring as fuck
    magda was shit too
    should have saved my money and waited for beltram or cj bolland to hit the uk

  • mark

    or chris liebing……………
    richie hawtin – minimal music – maximum ego…………..