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It looks like a spaceship control panel, and has the futuristic sound to match. Borderlands Granular already set a high water mark for how touch could open up new possibilities in sound creation. With a new version adding live input and more control, though, its latest release may be even more significant than its first.

Granular synthesis, which treats recorded sound as a fluid construction of tiny grains, needs an interface to realize its power. It’s not something that can be understood by turning a single knob. It’s defined by the sounds you put into it, by the way you warp them through time.

And there are few techniques in sound as well-suited to touch interfaces than this one. A tablet provides a window onto what you’re doing, as well as a means of getting a variety of parameters under your fingertips.

Chris Carlson’s Borderlands Granular already demonstrated how gestures could navigate the potentials of granular sound design on the iPad. Arranging your sounds onto a visual canvas, you can use gestures both to find your way through the sounds and to control playback parameters. It’s a musical instrument, yes, though in a way that can only be possible digitally. Your hands are a mechanism for manipulating a sample.

Borderlands Granular was already a triumph, but version 2.0 adds major new dimensions by opening up input, workflow integration with other apps, and new parameter and scene control functionality.

Borderlands Granular V2 New Features Overview from Christopher Carlson on Vimeo.

So much is new, in fact, the developer has barely gotten a full change list together. But here are the highlights:

  • Audio inputs can be used for recording and live granulation.
  • Audiobus Sender, Filter, and Receiver support means you can use Borderlands as a source, as an effect in a larger chain, or to record other apps.
  • Duplicate clouds with a tap.
  • Record gestures, automating parameters, with looping.
  • Scene saving/loading.
  • “Hardware-accelerated” grains, better memory handling.
  • External audio interface support, with the ability to set sample rates and latencies.
  • Interface rotation.
  • Export audio using Audioshare, file sharing.

(A note on the hardware acceleration: Chris explains, “I rewrote the sound accumulation code for each grain using the Accelerate framework so the grain computation is vectorized, which gives a performance boost.”)

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The Audiobus and live input options are huge, but perhaps the most significant change to how the app actually sounds is the addition of resonant filters. You can optionally randomize filter frequency per grain, adding the ability to color playback in the granular context.

Borderlands Granular is defined by its ability to use touch and gestures – this is what sets it above any other granular instrument. The addition of gesture recording means that you can more easily manage all the parameters in your control. There’s a clever interface, too -parameters being recorded are highlighted red, and you can touch to clear automation. You can use these mappings on individual parameters or your overall performance.

There’s also a new I/O menu allows you to manage sounds from recording to export, and import options have been improved.

The other aspect of what makes Borderlands unique among granular instruments is its layering capabilities. Apart from working with one sound at a time, you can add additional sounds and play them graphically, laying them out one atop another and shifting them around. This version makes it easier to deal with all those sounds. You can manage them from recording to export via a new I/O menu, and easily add and subtract them from a performance.

And then there are scenes, which group together sounds, parameters, and the like. The blank canvas, improvisatory aspect I find nice when working with pre-recorded audio. But because a scene can also take live inputs, you can, as Chris suggests in his demo video, use them to create custom effects-processing presets for use with any live audio source.

Here’s a visual tour:

Real-time recording makes Borderlands Granular a true sampler and effect as well as a playback instrument. And that can mean external input (now via audio interfaces) as well as, via Audiobus, other apps.

Real-time recording makes Borderlands Granular a true sampler and effect as well as a playback instrument. And that can mean external input (now via audio interfaces) as well as, via Audiobus, other apps.

Parameters highlight red as you record automation via gestures. You can queue and disable automation, as well.

Parameters highlight red as you record automation via gestures. You can queue and disable automation, as well.

Layering automation can create more complex soundscapes, if you so desire.

Layering automation can create more complex soundscapes, if you so desire.

By managing scenes, you can save presets for playback or favored input/effect configurations.

By managing scenes, you can save presets for playback or favored input/effect configurations.

And yes, you can go crazy with lots of sounds and grains - now made more accessible thanks to better hardware from Apple and new hardware acceleration from the app.

And yes, you can go crazy with lots of sounds and grains – now made more accessible thanks to better hardware from Apple and new hardware acceleration from the app.

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And yes, all of this can make music. Here’s Chris’ performance from Ars Electronica a couple of years ago using his own app, on Bandcamp:

The app requires iOS 7 / iOS 8, though already hearing it works well on even an iPad 2. (Newer hardware will allow you to do more, of course, particularly as regards combining apps!)

US$9.99 is absurdly affordable. If you bought an iPad just to run this app and nothing else, you might be perfectly happy.

For more:
Twitter: @BorderlandsiPad
Instagram: borderlands_granular
Facebook: BorderlandsGranular

www.borderlands-granular.com

  • Tom D

    Thanks for reminding me about this app – I had honestly forgotten all about it and assumed it was no longer being updated. Great news, it’s a fantastic example of how touch can enable completely new user experiences – can’t wait to have a play with v2.

  • Tom D

    Thanks for reminding me about this app – I had honestly forgotten all about it and assumed it was no longer being updated. Great news, it’s a fantastic example of how touch can enable completely new user experiences – can’t wait to have a play with v2.

  • digi

    It’s a fantastic app, that just got more fantasticy. So intuitive, so beautifully designed, and now so integrated with the rest of the iPad sound world. Makes me want to buy a faster iPad, to be honest.

  • digi

    It’s a fantastic app, that just got more fantasticy. So intuitive, so beautifully designed, and now so integrated with the rest of the iPad sound world. Makes me want to buy a faster iPad, to be honest.

  • Tommy

    Anyone come up against any limitations on an iPad 2 yet? I’ve used it a bit this morning with no issues. I think Chris even said he developed v2 on an iPad 2. Fantastic app. For me, the importing .wavs from an iTunes playlist was a crippling limitation of a very impressive app in v1. This has now all been resolved.

  • Tommy

    Anyone come up against any limitations on an iPad 2 yet? I’ve used it a bit this morning with no issues. I think Chris even said he developed v2 on an iPad 2. Fantastic app. For me, the importing .wavs from an iTunes playlist was a crippling limitation of a very impressive app in v1. This has now all been resolved.

  • Mark

    Hey – a quick question – i’ve heard rumors that audio files could be imported directly to this version, but all i could find after fiddling a bit with it was the ‘audioshare’ app import feature. Is this the only way to go about things?

    • I went with AudioShare as the primary input mechanism after feedback from a number of folks. AudioShare is a swiss army knife for iPad audio – it handles iTunes library browsing, dropbox i/o, soundcloud exports, file sharing, etc. I decided not to reinvent the wheel and implemented AudioShare support as it is proven + well respected in the iOS music community. The downside is that you have to buy the app…

      That being said, there are a couple other ways to import sounds. Probably the easiest for getting lots of sounds in is to drop all of your sounds into the documents directory via itunes file sharing. They will show up under the “imported sounds” list in the recordings browser.

      Then of course, there is the original (much disliked 😛 ) playlist method (i.e. make a playlist called Borderlands on the ipad, open the app). This still works, but isn’t called out specifically in the app. It loads all of the sounds into the app’s canvas, so you’ll be limited to a handful of sounds.

      Some people have requested a navigation view to search through the ipad’s itunes library. I avoided adding this because I wanted to limit the amount of hierarchy in the UI and keep the interface “shallow.”

      • Hey Chris – sorry to resurrect such an old thread, and I hope you see this. I read the following quotes from Peter in this article:

        “Filter, and Receiver support means you can use Borderlands as a source, as an effect in a larger chain, or to record other apps.”

        “But because a scene can also take live inputs, you can, as Chris suggests in his demo video, use them to create custom effects-processing presets for use with any live audio source.”

        … And immediately bought borderlands, audio bus, and audiomux so I could use borderlands as an external effects device for sources in logic. After lots of effort, however, I’m not even close to getting this to work. Did I read this wrong, does borderlands not work in this manner? Thanks so much!

  • Mark

    Hey – a quick question – i’ve heard rumors that audio files could be imported directly to this version, but all i could find after fiddling a bit with it was the ‘audioshare’ app import feature. Is this the only way to go about things?

    • I went with AudioShare as the primary input mechanism after feedback from a number of folks. AudioShare is a swiss army knife for iPad audio – it handles iTunes library browsing, dropbox i/o, soundcloud exports, file sharing, etc. I decided not to reinvent the wheel and implemented AudioShare support as it is proven + well respected in the iOS music community. The downside is that you have to buy the app…

      That being said, there are a couple other ways to import sounds. Probably the easiest for getting lots of sounds in is to drop all of your sounds into the documents directory via itunes file sharing. They will show up under the “imported sounds” list in the recordings browser.

      Then of course, there is the original (much disliked 😛 ) playlist method (i.e. make a playlist called Borderlands on the ipad, open the app). This still works, but isn’t called out specifically in the app. It loads all of the sounds into the app’s canvas, so you’ll be limited to a handful of sounds.

      Some people have requested a navigation view to search through the ipad’s itunes library. I avoided adding this because I wanted to limit the amount of hierarchy in the UI and keep the interface “shallow.”

      • Hey Chris – sorry to resurrect such an old thread, and I hope you see this. I read the following quotes from Peter in this article:

        “Filter, and Receiver support means you can use Borderlands as a source, as an effect in a larger chain, or to record other apps.”

        “But because a scene can also take live inputs, you can, as Chris suggests in his demo video, use them to create custom effects-processing presets for use with any live audio source.”

        … And immediately bought borderlands, audio bus, and audiomux so I could use borderlands as an external effects device for sources in logic. After lots of effort, however, I’m not even close to getting this to work. Did I read this wrong, does borderlands not work in this manner? Thanks so much!

  • jjbbllkk

    welp… guess I’m buying an ipad. that video demo was f.cking amazing.

  • jblk

    welp… guess I’m buying an ipad. that video demo was f.cking amazing.

  • antiguoautomata

    New version is amazing ! I’ve just designed some stuff in Jasuto and then route to Borderlands thru Audiobus and blissssssss !!!

  • antiguoautomata

    New version is amazing ! I’ve just designed some stuff in Jasuto and then route to Borderlands thru Audiobus and blissssssss !!!

  • Martin Wheeler

    Borderlands v1 was simply wonderful, probably my favorite of all the iPad music apps out there – now this version advances it really significantly and what’s more is a free update from the first version. incredible app. now I really need a larger screened iPad Pro more than ever. what are Apple waiting for ?

    • Grzegorz Bojanek

      YES. The free update is a great idea. I am waiting for the evening, to start playing with it!

    • Yeah, fantastic. Though I suspect what Apple was waiting for was not Borderlands 2.0. 😉 (well, we can dream!)

      • Martin Wheeler

        ;-). probably not, but, in all seriousness, given Apple’s current advertisement style, Borderline 2 could potentially be ( after we’ve seen what a larger screen can do for Maps for example) one of several ( quirky, niche .., but yo check that Minority Report shit out) examples of the advantage of a larger touch screen … it is certainly one of, if not the most, touch specific creative apps i’ve ever seen. plus, come on, it really is a seriously wicked instrument.

  • Martin Wheeler

    Borderlands v1 was simply wonderful, probably my favorite of all the iPad music apps out there – now this version advances it really significantly and what’s more is a free update from the first version. incredible app. now I really need a larger screened iPad Pro more than ever. what are Apple waiting for ?

    • Grzegorz Bojanek

      YES. The free update is a great idea. I am waiting for the evening, to start playing with it!

    • Yeah, fantastic. Though I suspect what Apple was waiting for was not Borderlands 2.0. 😉 (well, we can dream!)

      • Martin Wheeler

        ;-). probably not, but, in all seriousness, given Apple’s current advertisement style, Borderline 2 could potentially be ( after we’ve seen what a larger screen can do for Maps for example) one of several ( quirky, niche .., but yo check that Minority Report shit out) examples of the advantage of a larger touch screen … it is certainly one of, if not the most, touch specific creative apps i’ve ever seen. plus, come on, it really is a seriously wicked instrument.

  • sphexish

    It’s very fluid on an iPad2, even with Audiobus, other apps in the background, etc. A lovely reminder that obsolescence isn’t determined by the hardware companies, but by the users themselves. Congratulations to Chris for such elegant coding, and for creating one of the first truly new instruments of the 21st century!

    And speaking of which, Peter, another of the very best iPad apps got a major overhaul last week as well – TC-11. The 2.0 is filled with tons of majorly useful improvements a la Borderlands, particularly in terms of scale quantization, making it more immediately usable for folks stuck on Western tonality. It also looks nicer AND still runs well on older iPads as well. Had to mention it.

    These two apps, with Samplr for the triumvirate, put the iPad so ahead of the line in terms of softsynth innovation it’s not even funny. VSTs, what’s that?

  • sphexish

    It’s very fluid on an iPad2, even with Audiobus, other apps in the background, etc. A lovely reminder that obsolescence isn’t determined by the hardware companies, but by the users themselves. Congratulations to Chris for such elegant coding, and for creating one of the first truly new instruments of the 21st century!

    And speaking of which, Peter, another of the very best iPad apps got a major overhaul last week as well – TC-11. The 2.0 is filled with tons of majorly useful improvements a la Borderlands, particularly in terms of scale quantization, making it more immediately usable for folks stuck on Western tonality. Still runs well on older iPads as well. Had to mention it.

    These two apps, with Samplr for the triumvirate, put the iPad so ahead of the line in terms of softsynth innovation it’s not even funny. VSTs, what’s that?

  • IRS4

    Yay for a relatable granular interface, boo for a plethora of unlabeled inscrutable buttons

    • Martin Wheeler

      I’ll admit that I thought the same thing for about 30 seconds, but there really aren’t that many of them and five minutes into using it, I think most people will have their heads around it pretty comprehensively. If you really can’t be bothered spending those five minutes then OK, that’s your call and maybe isn’t for you.

  • IRS4

    Yay for a relatable granular interface, boo for a plethora of unlabeled inscrutable buttons

    • Martin Wheeler

      I’ll admit that I thought the same thing for about 30 seconds, but there really aren’t that many of them and five minutes into using it, I think most people will have their heads around it pretty comprehensively. If you really can’t be bothered spending those five minutes then OK, that’s your call and maybe isn’t for you.

  • anr

    For those that don’t own Borderlands yet, we’re running a giveaway on ANR, feel free to enter and good luck! 🙂 http://goo.gl/w3eYYL

  • anr

    For those that don’t own Borderlands yet, we’re running a giveaway on ANR, feel free to enter and good luck! 🙂 http://goo.gl/w3eYYL

  • John Pazdan

    As Peter said..this and an ipad..as I don’t have an ipad, but hearing this and samplr, it might be time to change that..i have been researching all morning..and the toss up is between the air and air2. In Peter’s article Chris mentioned that some of the new improvements take advantage of the new hardware. My question- if it were up to you, would it make more sense to get an Air 2 with the faster cpu and 2x Ram?

  • John Pazdan

    As Peter said..this and an ipad..as I don’t have an ipad, but hearing this and samplr, it might be time to change that..i have been researching all morning..and the toss up is between the air and air2. In Peter’s article Chris mentioned that some of the new improvements take advantage of the new hardware. My question- if it were up to you, would it make more sense to get an Air 2 with the faster cpu and 2x Ram?

  • Hey Chris – sorry to resurrect such an old thread, and I hope you see this. I read the following quotes from Peter in this article:

    “Filter, and Receiver support means you can use Borderlands as a source, as an effect in a larger chain, or to record other apps.”

    “But because a scene can also take live inputs, you can, as Chris suggests in his demo video, use them to create custom effects-processing presets for use with any live audio source.”

    … And immediately bought borderlands, audio bus, and audiomux so I could use borderlands as an external effects device for sources in logic. After lots of effort, however, I’m not even close to getting this to work. Did I read this wrong, does borderlands not work in this manner? Thanks so much!

    • Hey Mike –

      Apologies for the long delay. I’ve been in the midst of planning and doing a cross country move for the past two months. Finally getting settled and back to Borderlands related stuff.

      The app should indeed function as Peter described in the article – it is possible to use it in the Sender / Filter / Receiver slots of Audiobus – by extension, it should work within Audiomux to receive and send audio over USB from a DAW since Audiomux only requires Audiobus support.

      However, I know that Audiomux has been updated at least once since I last tested, and it is possible that something broke in the process (could be that Borderlands needs to support a newer version of Audiobus, for example).

      All that said – I should be getting back to development in the next couple weeks (still unpacking and getting my bearings on the east coast). I will be sure to grab the latest version of Audiomux and Audiobus to test. I am more than happy to help you troubleshoot the issue if you want to shoot me an email. My address is available here: modulationindex.com

      Sorry for the trouble + thanks for your patience!

      Best,
      Chris

  • Hey Chris – sorry to resurrect such an old thread, and I hope you see this. I read the following quotes from Peter in this article:

    “Filter, and Receiver support means you can use Borderlands as a source, as an effect in a larger chain, or to record other apps.”

    “But because a scene can also take live inputs, you can, as Chris suggests in his demo video, use them to create custom effects-processing presets for use with any live audio source.”

    … And immediately bought borderlands, audio bus, and audiomux so I could use borderlands as an external effects device for sources in logic. After lots of effort, however, I’m not even close to getting this to work. Did I read this wrong, does borderlands not work in this manner? Thanks so much!

    • Hey Mike –

      Apologies for the long delay. I’ve been in the midst of planning and doing a cross country move for the past two months. Finally getting settled and back to Borderlands related stuff.

      The app should indeed function as Peter described in the article – it is possible to use it in the Sender / Filter / Receiver slots of Audiobus – by extension, it should work within Audiomux to receive and send audio over USB from a DAW since Audiomux only requires Audiobus support.

      However, I know that Audiomux has been updated at least once since I last tested, and it is possible that something broke in the process (could be that Borderlands needs to support a newer version of Audiobus, for example).

      All that said – I should be getting back to development in the next couple weeks (still unpacking and getting my bearings on the east coast). I will be sure to grab the latest version of Audiomux and Audiobus to test. I am more than happy to help you troubleshoot the issue if you want to shoot me an email. My address is available here: modulationindex.com

      Sorry for the trouble + thanks for your patience!

      Best,
      Chris