Bitwig gets its first blockbuster upgrade since launch, in beta now. And the first look at this software suggests it’s continuing to deliver what an enthusiast audience wants – even if some of the revolutionary promise of the tool remains over the horizon. So, first, what it isn’t: it isn’t a complete modular environment. Underneath all the goodies Bitwig offers is a set of modules that provide its functionality. Bitwig’s developers have said eventually they’ll open that up to users, not just for their own development. And that’s be exciting indeed. But forget about big ambitions for a moment. The …
It’s a marvelous time to be a musician. You can imagine a musical instrument, a compositional invention, and then realize that idea in short order. So I was glad to get the chance to emcee an evening of discussion with Reaktor experts, including the folks who built the tool, last month in the software’s hometown Berlin. That discussion ultimately was partly about Reaktor, but partly about the act of instrument building itself – meaning there were insights for anyone interested in working with electronics or software to dream up new musical tools.
We have seen the future. And it’s strange – in a good way. Bizarre Sound Creatures was an exhibition late last month held in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, accompanied by workshops and performances. The theme wasn’t just new instrument design and music making, but imagining a future world with peculiar evolutionary twists. These are musical objects with odd appendages and surprising interfaces. Let’s take a look.
iMaschine, the iOS drum machine, is back in a new version. Now in mini, pocket-able form, you get arrangement and live play features from the desktop edition. For iPhone 6s/6s Plus owners, it also responds to 3D touch. I always keep sketchpads around – literal sketchpads, of the pencil and paper variety. So when software is described as a “sketchpad,” I take that seriously.
For me, it goes back to Lil’ Kim. Let me back up. Much as we take it for granted in 2015, once upon a time in a far-gone decade called the 80s, sampling was a new technology. Groundbreaking (and expensive) instruments such as the Fairlight CMI and Synclavier brought new possibilities for playing with recorded audio. Suddenly, sounds and sequences which used to take days of work from skilled tape manipulators became keyboard-mapped.
We covered Andy Grobengieser’s lovely Minimoog LEGO kit proposal. But perhaps the iconic synth keyboard just isn’t open-ended enough in terms of sound design. You want kids to play with the wide sonic palette of the legendary Moog Model 55. Now, they can.
Okay, OK Go fans – now there’s synth hardware as quirky and charming as the band’s Internet-viral synth-pop. We got our hands on a very limited edition KORG volca sample made especially for OK Go. This is the battery-powered sample unit with grungy digital sound playback and loads of knobs for manipulating sound, plus the usual touch strip step sequencer for making patterns. It’s fun to play, a unique collectors’ item even if you just want an extra sample playback instrument around. And the built-in samples can be terrific, as you can hear in our playlist.
Whatever identity crisis and legal wrangling may be going on at SoundCloud at the moment, the site’s DNA is all about creation. That’s where the site came from – initially, with labels and producers as a way of sending around tracks – and it remains the strong point. SoundCloud is the operating system for music sharing and discovery for creators much in the way Facebook is the OS for social interaction and YouTube for video. Of course, lately, SoundCloud has largely been in the headlines for “hey, my account was taken down for posting mixes” or “PRS wants royalty payments.” …
Yesterday’s Push 2 review covered what Ableton is bringing to users via new hardware. But what does that mean if you have the original Push – or no Push at all?
For many of us, there’s a special pleasure to seeing someone play live – and dancing to someone playing live. And by “live,” I don’t mean “a bunch of your tracks cued up as scenes in Ableton Live or on an Elektron.” I mean genuinely improvised. Electronic dance music naturally lends itself to on-the-spot creation. A rigid grid, easily-understood conventions around instrumentation and form, and the fact that styles like techno are built around machines all add up to natural experimentation.