The Arcane Arts of Experimental Instrument Design: 3DMIN [Videos, Gallery]

From the dawn of civilization, musicians could always be counted on as the ones inventing the truly weird technologies to make noise. Here – bang on this. Blow into this. It’ll make some sound; it’ll be noisy; it’ll get everyone’s attention. And so, the art of such designs continues. New instrument design explorations have gone hand in hand with electronic music research from the moment electronics (and, eventually, digital technology) were capable of real-time performance. But if 3DMIN follows in the footsteps of those programs, it also seeks to intertwine questions about other fields and disciplines. And tonight in Berlin, …


Techno as Science: Nicolas Bougaïeff Explains Max for Live, Meta-Music, Steve Reich [Video, Theory]

Got a doctorate? Got a doctorate in techno? Got a techno track with a 12-tone row? Artist and researcher Nicolas Bougaïeff (also of developer Liine) shares his latest work with CDM. It’s about the track, yes, about the music video, about techno and dancefloors in some sense. But it’s also about process: Nicolas shares some of the way the machinery of his track was built, in its realization in software, in musical composition, and underlying research. And we also get a terrific music video that helps render some of this geometric theoretical thinking, courtesy Berlin-based motion graphics artist Vicetto. (See …


Bleeding-Edge Musical Innovation, Live from CCRMA; Full Report, Monolake + Tarik Barri Live

Ivory tower, let down your hair. Make no mistake. The slightly-impossible-to-pronounce acronym CCRMA (“karma”), standing for the not-terribly-sexy “Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics,” is one of the world’s hotbeds for innovation in electronic music. From the lowest-level DSP code to the craziest live performances, this northern California research center nesting at Stanford is where a lot is going on. So, when they put on a concert, this isn’t just another dry exposition of “tape” pieces, academics scratching their chins and trying not to nod off. (Trust me: I’ve … on occasion darned nearly rubbed my chin raw …


What Does it Mean to Be an Electronic Instrument?

The electronic music analog to visual media’s question “is it art?” is clear. “Is it really a musical instrument?” Ableton will this week officially launch its Push hardware with Live 9; we’ll have an online exclusive review alongside that release. I know that the company is fond of calling it an “instrument.” For a profile by the German-language magazine De:Bug, Ableton CEO Gerhard Behles even posed with a double bass, the Push set up alongside. The message was clear: Ableton wants you to think of Push as an instrument. We’ll revisit that question regarding Push, but this isn’t only important …


What Really Makes Rhythms Human? New Research Investigates Perception, Preference, Tech

Machine rhythm: the steps on a Roland TR-808. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Brandon Daniel. What makes rhythm human? Music technology has introduced machine rhythms, perfectly-calibrated to electronically-perfected grids, yet we know that natural playing is more organic. Or, that is, we know we have certain intuitive preferences. How do those preferences and rhythms really work? And what does that mean for music technology? Fascinating new research investigates more deeply, using – you know, science! Here’s the summary of the research itself: Although human musical performances represent one of the most valuable achievements of mankind, the best musicians perform imperfectly. Musical rhythms are …


From the Trenches of the Loudness Wars, A Broad Survey of Research

This goes to ele—augh, no, aside from over-compressing, we need to stop overusing that joke. Photo (CC-BY) Orin Zebest. You’ve heard the gripes, and heard and seen the somewhat unscientific demos. Now it’s time to examine the over-compression of music with – science! Earl Vickers of STMicroelectronics examines the Loudness Wars in an academic paper, as noted to us by reader photohounds. The Loudness War: Background, Speculation and Recommendations [PDF Link,] The paper comes from last November, but it’s as relevant as ever. It’s not just the usual take, either. Its history begins with Phil Spector and vinyl, considering …


Art + Computational Aesthetics Call, and a Delicious Panoramic Projection Nerd-Out

As the level of knowledge and expertise in visual expression and science continues to explode, so, too, do gatherings on these topics grow in importance. Allen Bevans writes to bring readers’ attention to a call for works for a seriously sophisticated conference in Vancouver: I’m a long-time reader of both CDMs, and I also happen to be co-chairing the Art track of the Computational Aesthetics 2011 conference, which takes places August 5-7 in Vancouver this year (just before SIGGRAPH). The conference goal is to build bridges between the Arts and Technology communities, with a special focus on visual art and …


Magical, 3D-Warping Techniques Steadies Your Videos

Technology still has the power to appear like magic. And one place we may desperately need magic: straightening out our horribly shaky, handheld video shots. Software makers like Apple have already offered up some techniques for doing this – in the case of Apple’s Final Cut Studio, optical flow analysis attempts to track the image as it shakes around the screen and compensates by adjusting the orientation of the frame. But a research team at the University of Wisconsin, partnering with Adobe, will present a new approach at the legendary graphics-geeky SIGGRAPH conference in August. They go one step further, …


Nodal: Generative Music Software for Mac (Free for Non-Commercial Use)

If you’re interested in generative and algorithmic music – music that evolves organically rather than being pre-composed in start-to-finish linear fashion – you won’t want to miss this site. Nodal is a free (for non-commercial use) app for developing generative musical systems and transmitting MIDI. You’ll need a Mac (PowerPC/Intel) to run the software, but even if you’re on Windows or Linux, you’ll find a number of interesting research papers on the site. vinayk writes: The program is called Nodal – osx only, BEAUTIFUL interface, and FREE, it does a bit more sophisticated things but I basically plugged the output …


Pioneering Composer Paul Lansky Quits Electronic Music

Paul Lansky, a titanic name in classical computer music, Princeton professor, and real-time algorithmic pioneer, has gone acoustic. He’s also known in more popular circles for having been musically quoted on Radiohead’s Kid A. The New York Times reports: After 35 years immersed in the world of computer music, the composer Paul Lansky talks with wonder about the enormous capacities of primitive objects carved from trees or stamped from metal sheets: violins, cellos, trumpets, pianos. "To create the sound of a violin – wow!" he said in a recent interview. "I can’t do that on a computer." Paul Lansky: An …