floppies

Watch an orchestra of floppy and hard drives play Star Wars

The Internet has seen obsolete disk drives play tunes from Star Wars before – but not like this. Hacker Paweł Zadrożniak of Poland has outdone himself with a maximalist rendition of John Williams’ iconic music. Just how big is it?

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202quartet

TM404 turns Roland boxes into beautiful instruments, jams

You know a classic Roland 202, 303, 404, 606, 707, 808, 909, and whatnot can make techno. But in the hands of Andreas Tilliander, these vintage Roland boxes are like classical instrumentation. They can form delicate ambient ensembles, or dark, pounding rhythms. And far from being only a grid to switch on and off, they become improvisational tools that spawn live performances and organic sessions. It’s little wonder that Andreas goes by the moniker TM404 – the Swedish-born producer seems like he might have been raised by a family of Roland boxes rather than humans. So, we took the opportunity …

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skinnerbox

Hear the epic live set Skinnerbox played at Fusion Festival

We have the technology. We have the capability to play live sets on mainstages. And for a brilliant example of that, look no further than the frenetic, exquisitely hyperactive acid performances of Skinnerbox. Their set at Fusion Festival from this weekend demonstrates that you can command massive mobs of dance lovers outdoors with live sets, too. And maybe you thought such things were confined to chin-scratching handfuls of nerds.

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functionofmusic

Watch a beautiful meditation on the function of music

As co-host of the American public radio show Radiolab, Jad Nicholas Abumrad is usually in the business of giving you sounds on their own. You provide the mental images. But in a stimulating new film from director Mac Premo, thoughts become images as well as sounds. It’s a fitting conversation. Abumrad (a Lebanese-American, as I am) comes from a background in music composition. Premo, apart from being a filmmaker and commercial director, is an artist. Both live in New York. So what we get is a counterpoint of two imaginations running at once: sonic and visual, musical and optical. And …

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cheetahflyer

Aphex Twin uses an obscure British synth to sell new EP

If you’re looking for the nerdiest way possible to market a music album, you’re going to have a tough time one-upping Aphex Twin. The Warp Records artist has used a rare British synth as the cornerstone of the record – one with a reputation for being impossible to use – alongside a speech synth for the ZX Spectrum computer. He and his label have been teasing the resulting EP with marketing that looks like a vintage synth flyer. But that’s not even the biggest measure of how serious he is about this. Aphex Twin went so far as to rent …

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IMG_4055

A report from the futuristic Continuum Fingerboard’s first Con

The 19th Century was the century of the piano. The 20th Century, for all its innovation, still saw the piano keyboard as the dominant interface for all those new sounds. But the 21st Century finally looks to offer some choice. And so it’s high time for the Continuum Fingerboard to get its day. The instrument allows you to find pitch as you can on a piano keyboard, but with expressive continuous control both in pressure and position – letting you bend pitch and shape sound more fluidly. Now having inspired instruments like the ROLI Seaboard (and with ROLI raking in …

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Forte-36

Berlin warms up for techno and visuals in a Portuguese castle

Techno lineups don’t have to be scraped off of the top of DJ charts and Google searches. And visuals don’t have to look like a screensaver that got drunk. Festival Forte, set for the end of August at the castle of Montemor-o-Velho, between Porto and Lisbon on the Portuguese coast, is a glimpse of something different. Already last year, it ran against the grain of dumbed down summer festivals with some of the bleeding edge of concert visuals, set to an exceptional lineup. And it appears to be set to do that again. So, let’s check in on what’s happening …

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1-Tim-Murray-Browne---Anamorphic-Composition-No-1-UI-2

A composition you can only hear by moving your head

“It’s almost like there’s an echo of the original music in the space.” After years of music being centered on stereo space and fixed timelines, sound seems ripe for reimagination as open and relative. Tim Murray-Browne sends us a fascinating idea for how to do that, in a composition in sound that transforms as you change your point of view.

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Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

Listen to John Chowning tell how he invented FM synthesis

To this day, it’s a synthesis method capable of producing wonderfully otherworldly sounds. And now as its applications on cell phones and cheap PC audio fade into distant memory, FM synthesis is left as one of the great achievements of musical invention, full stop – let alone being a key milestone of 20th century technology. So perhaps it’s time to revisit its significance.

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reaktor

Reaktor Blocks works with modulars, Maschine, adds drums

Native Instruments keeps adding to Reaktor Blocks, the patch-and-play toolkit they’ve built atop Reaktor. And… it’s turning into kind of an awesome product in its own right. Reaktor Blocks 1.2 adds a bunch of the sort of stuff I think you or I would add to it were we in charge of the product. It’s suddenly got drums. It’s got a new sequencer that you can power with Maschine. It’s connecting via MIDI and CV to outboard gear and analog modular. In short, it’s something you actually want to play with.

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