Remember 1995? Computers onstage were still a comparatively risky proposition – often relegated to MIDI, more prone than today to instabilities, and absent today’s DJ and live performance apps. Monolake, which is now just Robert Henke, was both Robert Henke and Gerhard Behles. (Gerhard is now plenty busy being CEO of Ableton.) And then there was Monolake’s PX18 sequencer, a step sequencer – cum – timeline with loads of interesting tracker-style and mathematical-musical features.
The funny thing about Ableton Link is that it doesn’t require Ableton Live. It isn’t even an app. It’s a sync technology, one that allows software to jam together, wirelessly, without any one clock having to be the source or “master.” But as of today, if you do use Ableton Live, that wireless magic is built-in – and requires almost no configuration.
We live in a world dominated by the mythos of the solo artist. And people can easily get down when they discover they can’t compete. But here’s one solution: cooperate, instead. That’s the story of LA’s TeamSupreme, documented in an extensive short put out over the weekend. And it might be better news than any new gear, especially if you yourself has been frustrated by the scene.
Link is a marvel – even if you never touch Ableton Live. Grab some iOS gadgets, put them on the same wireless network, and you get rock-solid sync that responds dynamically to any tempo change on any device. But, come on. Love you iPad as you may, you don’t want to play only with apps. Maybe you want a Elektron box or an AIRA TR-8 or an ElecTribe syncing along. A new app, LINK TO MIDI, does just that one thing, easily. You still get dynamic peer-to-peer sync with all your other apps. But by adding LINK TO MIDI, you …
Technology has done a strange thing to musicians: it’s turned us all into, well, loners. It didn’t used to be this way. Musicians on instruments ranging from folk ensembles to symphony orchestras are able to join up and keep time with one another. So why not do the same with tech? Ableton’s new Link technology promises to allow musicians to jam easily. But it isn’t just for Ableton Live. Today, iOS support is officially launching, allowing you to jam with supported apps even without a desktop/laptop computer involved.
IRCAM is Paris’ legendary research center. It’s the place where the original Max was born, and it’s still a hub for some of the brightest minds in sound in the world. IRCAMAX 2 is a new set of effects and instruments for Max for Live. And it does some amazing stuff – though maybe the best way to demonstrate that is not to explain, but to let you listen. They’ve made not just demos but some beautiful music, via artist Najo:
There may be an Ableton logo splashed on it and integration designed specifically for Live. But one of the nice things about Ableton’s Push and Push 2 hardware are that, at their core, they’re open. Everything sends and receives standard MIDI messages. As we’ve seen, even the display is hackable. And that is admirable not only from an engineering standpoint, but because it means the hardware you invest in has a life beyond just specific drivers and software updates. Now, that extends even to rival software Bitwig Studio – which means you can even use a Push 2 on Linux.
Ableton’s Push 2 has a big, beautiful, color display. But what goes on that display is limited to what Ableton has built in – or, rather, it was, until now. London-based producer/hacker sigabort has already built a Max object that lets you access the display directly as a high-res, color texture. Max boffins, this means you can even use Jitter objects directly. And for those who have no idea what the previous sentence just meant, think of it this way: Max patches will now be able to create their own full-color visual outputs, for practical or entertainment purposes. (Max for …
You’re probably so used to sync being broken that the first time you see Link, you might not believe what’s happening. Link began its life as a research project and has turned into a full-fledged product from Ableton. But unlike Push or Live, Link itself isn’t something you buy. Instead, it’ll be built into software you use, and unlock seemingly magical wireless (or wired) sync. The upshot: the electronic jam session is about to get a whole lot easier. And with a beta out today, that’s not some unknown future. It’s right now.
It’s clear right away that Kiran Gandhi is an “always-on artist.” We’re sitting down with the drummer/singer/electronic musician/businesswoman at Ableton’s Loop conference, and as she reflects on the acoustics of the outdoor tent where we’re recording, she sings an impromptu recording into her phone. There’s even a lyric reminding her to write about tents. The tone is set for our whole conversation: as Kiran longs for a higher-fidelity phone microphone, technology alone can’t keep pace with her spontaneity.