There’s a beautiful river of information for electronic musicians out there, if you can only navigate its currents. In our new series, we pick out some of the best selections, since we can’t always squeeze in a full article of every terrific gem out there. It’s like a window into our inbox. And for the first edition, we’ve got a lot – resources for Ableton and wireless MIDI and Logic, deep thoughts on production and folk music and indeterminism and robots learning to play in a band. Queue it up for your reading pleasure. (We’re big fans of Pocket for long-form and delayed reading, for instance.) And for some reason I’m quoting Britney and Lana lyrics; don’t ask why. -Ed.
Listen to Wikipedia. Speaking of information rivers, here’s a sense of just how much knowledge work is taking place in a given moment. In an ambient landscape clearly influenced by Brian Eno (and particularly his collaboration with Peter Chilvers on the app Bloom), “Listen to Wikipedia” composes a calming soundtrack from edits to the crowd-sourced information repository. I’ve always thought sonification, more than visualization, is effective in cases when the information is temporal in nature. Listening to these chimes, you get a sense in human terms of what’s happening on Wikipedia. Douglas Adams was onto something.
A step sequencer for the APC40. Sure, Push is all the rage these days, but there are a lot of APCs out there. (Just saw one powering a live set by Shed at Berghain early this morning, in fact.) And whatever the grid controller, custom rigs often yield more power.
The work of Toxic from Cambridge UK, this step sequencer is rigged for live performance and improvisation, complete with reverb, delay, and loop buffers in an all-in-one solution. Impressive stuff. Read more about it and download the Max for Live patch on Cycling ’74’s site:
Wireless MIDI on iPad, for Mac and Windows. Synthtopia points to how-to videos walking you through wireless setup with MIDI on both OS X and Windows. Many of you are there already, but it’s nice to see the walkthrough if you’re trying this for the first time. The videos are the work of Music App Blog which includes a rich selection of features and reviews – well worth reading.
The sounds of the Elgam Carousel, a vintage groovebox from 1976, are simply magical. Utterly gorgeous stuff, and betcha wire to the ear beats us to one on eBay – thanks for the nod to this enchanting hardware, Oliver.
Reflections on folk music, determinism, and “schematic as score.” Derek Holzer, with whom I collaborated on the first edition of the MusicMakers hacklab at CTM Festival, points to an issue he curated of the journal Vague Terrain. It’s worth revisiting that whole issue, but here are two thought-provoking quotes just from his opening notes.
On indeterminism and accident:
I consider it axiomatic that, for any art work to be considered experimental, the possibility of failure must be built into its process. I am not referring to the aestheticized, satisfying glitches and crackles valorized by Kim Cascone, but to the lack of satisfaction produced by a misguided or misstepped procedure in the experiment, whether colossal or banal. These are not errors to be sought out, sampled and celebrated, but the flat-on-your-ass gaffs and embarrassments that would trouble the sleep of all but the most Zen of musicians or composers.
And on “folk” electronic music and presets (though I have my own thoughts of this, and might question the phrase “nothing more than”):
The resulting compositions from the most “easy” and “simple” software tools are often nothing more than “digital folk” art – the endless and endlessly similar permutations which are possible merely from the tweaking of a few basic presets. Perhaps the artistic tragedy of the digital age lies in the social and economic pressure to immediately release “results” which barely get beyond this initiatory phase.
Thanks to Derek for raising these issues via his Facebook page. Time for some thoughtful reading on all of these links.
This is my idea of fun / playing video games… Speaking of musical systems and indeterminism … Kill Screen Daily takes a well-researched look at the question of improvisation and games in a terrific article on the new Rocksmith 2014. It’s worth reading not only for anyone with an interest in gaming, but those who follow machine intelligence and algorithmic music, too:
Logic Pro X MIDI plug-ins. They’re certainly my favorite addition to Logic Pro X. In a video for Dubspot, the incomparable Matt Shadetek walks through what they do. Yes, Steinberg, Ableton and the like have MIDI plug-ins of their own, but Apple’s new additions are nicely powerful. Via TRASH_AUDIO.
Erin Barra on Ableton. Ableton has been doing lots of great stories and artist profiles lately, but I think it’s a nice change of pace to see the songwriting angle mixed with the solo producer, with the prolific Erin Barra:
Coaxial monitors shipping. At the end of last week, PreSonus began shipping their “CoActual” monitors – coaxial speakers “for the rest of us” (well, at $649.95 per monitor, each, so I’d say mid-range). Resident Advisor picks up the story.
The iOS DJ app market continues to heat up, not surprisingly – sometimes it’s actually tough to keep pace. The Verge has a nice preview of Djay 2 from Algoriddim; hope to cover this more soon.
And in other news, Max Dax of Electronic Beats here in Berlin takes on Traktor DJ on the iPhone. He doesn’t shy away from courting some controversy in talking frankly about his DJing experiences, now with the app (supporting Tricky at Berghain) and over the years:
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Traktor DJ app spawns a legion of new DJs whose lack of skill will no longer prevent them from performing in public. And while you’re wondering whether this will be a blessing or a curse, consider the potential for individual music libraries to not only surface but also intertwine more than ever before—thanks in part to an algorithm that suggests tracks on basis of their BPM as opposed to genre. My recent experiments mixing Daphni’s “Ye Ye” with The Monks’ “Monk Time” worked surprisingly well.
Let us know what you think of this new feature. And otherwise, we’ll see you again in about a week.