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Nadia Boulanger has a message for you on music and inspiration

Forget genius – musical devotion is about love. “Can you live without music?” is the question from Nadia Boulanger, the legendary music teacher. When she talks about the fear of encouraging too many people, this is the teacher who taught Daniel Barenboim, Aaron Copland, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass, Astor Piazzolla — and the list goes on. And this isn’t “those who can’t, teach” — on the contrary, Boulanger broke ground for women at the conductor’s podium, taking the baton in front of a number of the world’s best orchestras and premiering the likes of Stavinsky and Copland. But, for all …

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monolith

The Monolith is a huge synth powered by Teensy, shown at Maker Faire

The Monolith is a “ginormous” music making machine, powered by a tiny chip and tiny code – the Teensy and one single Arduino sketch. And what you get is a completely non-portable synthesizer with flashing lights, controls for sequencing and synthesis, and the ability to make beats and melodies. It won accolades at this year’s Maker Faire in California, and creators Darcy Neal (aka Lady Brain Studios) and Paul Stroffregen (the Teensy’s inventor) joined Tested to show it off. (That’s the YouTube show by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage.) They’ve packed a lot of clever features: Arcade button controls 8-step sequencer with …

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Berghain, by the numbers: data on the relentless Berlin techno club

In the era of fake news and big data for corporations, there’s an obvious antidote: getting actual data for yourself. So, it’s a given that too many words have been spilt over Berlin’s Berghain. But in trying to portray the club’s hype or mystique, I notice that there’s not often much discussion of its consistency. And to understand how techno and in a broader sense electronic music and the various fashions about it are projected into the world, understanding that consistency is key. If a club is repeatedly pushing out long queues every Saturday and Sunday night (yes, Sunday), and …

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Watch Octave One demonstrate their elaborate, hands-on live rig

We value the new and the young a lot in electronic music. But developing musicianship requires time, patience, and practice. So to see where electronic musicianship might be able to go, it helps to look to the people who have invested years. And that’s why it’s worth repeated visits to Lenny and Lawrence Burden, aka Octave One (also aka Random Noise Generation). Not only are they brothers who have grown up together, and can literally complete each other’s sentences, but they’ve been building the technique of how they play since their first 1989 release. Before we get to that live …

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Bastl’s Dude is a €75 mixer in the space of four AA batteries

One of the many clever ideas packed into Bastl Instruments’ show-stealing Superbooth stand last month was a tiny, cheap line mixer. Imagine starting with a battery compartment that holds four AA batteries, and building around that, and you start to get an idea of Dude. It’s tiny. It’s just €75 (slightly more for Europe with VAT). And it’s something a lot of you will likely want. Watch: Dude isn’t without compromises. The big one is, it’s a mono mixer only – not stereo. So you get five inputs, but they’re all mono inputs. Now, a lot of the stuff you …

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In the 80s, Keyboard Mag released sounds on flexi vinyl

Before the Web and SoundCloud, publications wanting to share sound examples – whether that was from artists, tutorials, or whatever – had to get creative. And so it was that Keyboard Magazine included flexible discs in the magazine, some time in the 80s. Based on a discussion from various Keyboard editor and contributor veterans, it seems there have been a number of attempts to digitize these over the years, along with lots of other useful content like those Brian Eno DX7 presets I shared yesterday. But the sheer content volume of a monthly magazine published starting around 1975, plus the …

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Get original DX7 patches made by Brian Eno in 1987

You can’t get much more 80s synth power than this: Eno. DX7. Keyboard Magazine. Yes, it seems there’s a magical synth site called Encyclotronic, full of patches and hardware specs and other goodies. And it seems that site has noted that back in 1987, Keyboard Magazine managed to extract some of his favorite patches for the Yamaha DX7 and shared them with readers. Sadly, Keyboard lacks any kind of exhaustive archive. (Believe me, having edited a book from their archives, I know – thar be dragons.) And because this was a paper publication, Mr. Eno didn’t share everything. So somewhere, …

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Summertime means less synth, more Synth Bike

Electronic musician – mad scientist – inventor LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER is taking his synth bike on tour, finally answering the question “how can I have more synth, but get exercise and a tan?” And for all of you stuck in a windowless basement studio, that means he can do his jam in places like the landmark Tempelhofer Feld airport in Berlin. It’s busking, with wheels. Synth shop Schneidersladen is another obvious destination: And the invention itself is just mental – a bunch of electronics strapped to a bike, with the advantage of mobile sound and even backpack recording, now …

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Sonic Robots' Glitch Robot.

Here’s how Mouse on Mars are using robots to expand their band

Analog and digital? That’s just a small slice of the pie. The post-digital / post-analog world uses those two ingredients but adds others, like biological, photochemical, optical, and perhaps most importantly, kinetic. Instead of electrifying screens and circuits, then, you can also make stuff move. Mouse on Mars, in collaboration with the Sonic Robots project of Moritz Simon Geist, are making just such a collective – human meets robot. And it makes some sense not just in technological terms, but aesthetic ones. The German collaborative get as playful with robotic use of objects and percussion as they do in their …

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viktoria

Watch this crew go transhuman in the absorption chamber

“Well, it’s not really anything new” (or some variant) is a phrase heard at music and media shows perhaps as often as “I’m going for a smoke” or “where’s the toilet?” But this raises a question. Forget for a second what an audience thinks is new – sound or look or technology or whatever. What would get you to do something different? What would get you out of your comfort zone? What would get you to push yourself – even just a few steps? That’s been the idea behind all the collaborative labs I’ve gotten to organize, but for last …

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