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PushPull is a crazy futuristic squeezebox instrument you can make

PushPull will blow apart your idea of what a typical controller – or an accordion – might be. It’s a bit like a squeezebox that fell from outer space, coupling bellows with colored lights, sensors, mics, and extra controls. And you can now make one yourself, thanks to copious documentation. You may have seen the instrument in action in the last couple of years ago – gasping in the dark. PushPull Balgerei 2014 from 3DMIN on Vimeo. But with more complete documentation, you get greater insight into how the thing was made – and you could even follow the instructions …

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The expressive LinnStrument grid is now $999, and a step sequencer

Whether or not drum machines have soul, you can bet the LinnStrument does. The creation of Roger Linn couples a grid layout – one that keeps pitch relations consistent for easy playing – with expressive touch sensing. Until now, you could get a US$1499 version with 200 pads. A new version drops the price to $999, and uses a 16 * 8 = 128-pad layout, so it’s both cheaper and more portable. And all the LinnStruments now get step sequencing. But let’s back up. There are two things that make the LinnStrument unique. One is its onboard expressive touch control. …

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Joué is a modular touch sensitive controller that changes into anything

Like pressure-sensitive control – but don’t want to commit to one layout? Joué is a fascinating new controller concept that has touch sensitivity but lets you change layouts on the fly – with tactile control. The concept: add physical, modular overlays to the top to change the function of the controller. At its heart, the Joué is a USB-connected controller – much like the ROLI Seaboard, roughly speaking. It transmits data over MIDI. The difference is the physical overlays. Combined with configurable settings in a software editor, they let you add piano-style keys, drum pads, guitar-like frets, or other 3D …

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Call for participants: a Hacklab to change perspectives, in Belgium

In the past weeks, I’ve had the good fortune to talk to astronauts and aeronautical engineers, to artists in residence in space centers (with ESA) and aboard “vomet comet” airplane microgravity experiments (in Russia). A common theme has emerged. Just as images from space once transformed our perception, the next frontier is sound. From spatial sound to works responding to spaceflight, drones, and aeronautics, there’s a chance to change the way we hear and imagine. And so, after we start February at Berlin’s CTM Festival imagining future rituals, we’ll move later in the month to Leuven, Belgium to explore the heard place. You’re …

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Building instruments, making future rituals in Berlin (open call)

Culture can be a different construction in our inter-connected age. We can draw on traditions from a distant past – or imagine a distant future. We can more easily connect with the people around us, or the people on the other corner of the world. So, as I host CDM’s fourth Hacklab with CTM Festival in Berlin, we’re pairing our participants with radical instrument builders to invent new musical rituals. Ewa Justka (born Poland, based in London) co-hosts and guest artists like Indonesian avant-garde Wukir Suryadi are along for another installment of this open, collaborative lab – and there’s still …

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Silk is a giant string instrument that makes Bitcoin into music

::vtol:: silk from ::vtol:: on Vimeo. Welcome to the Internet of Sounds. The latest from our friend vtol, aka prolific Moscow-based sound artist Dmitry Morozov, is an installation of tall, spindly metal towers strung with wire. Standing at two meters, motorized fingers pull on diagonal strings – five of them, for the dollar, Yuan, Euro, Canadian dollar, and Ruble. The tune, though, is all about data. As Bitcoin and Litecoin cryptocurrencies fluctuate in value against the more traditional currencies, the imagined monetary values generate new melodies and rhythms. Recalling both the controversial recent silk road and its historical analog, these …

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A new ROLI instrument wants to make expressive control mainstream

We are all slaves to the piano. Two or three centuries after the instrument rose to dominance, and well over a half century after it became intertwined with the synthesizer (hello Minimoog!), it’s still something of a challenge to work out some alternative. And I love the piano. One of my great frustrations with some advocates of expressive new interfaces is their disregard for my favorite instrument. But let’s look at it this way: we’ve got beef. Beef is fantastic. We still really ought to have some chicken, some duck, and some vegan options. The formula for solving this in …

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Watch a Hacklab Merge Science and Live Music Technology: MusicMakers

Documentary MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival 2015 from CDM on Vimeo. With computers and electricity or without it, musical performance has the potential to be expressive, powerful, immediate. Making music live in front of an audience demands spontaneous commitment. What technology can allow us to is to wire up that potential to other fields in new ways. And that was the feeling that began 2015 for us, working in the collaborative MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival in Berlin. Neuroscientists met specialists in breathing met instrumentalists. Think the lightning bolt in the laboratory: it’s alive.

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MIDI Makes an Augmented Harp Performance Like None You’ve Heard

The harp: it’s big. It’s temperamental. It’s pretty much associated with an established set of music. And when you hear “MIDI harp,” you’re typically in store for something kind of cheesy involving laser beams. Not this time, though: this is an actual harp, augmented with MIDI into a pretty wacky one-off one-person instrument. Time for Throwback Thursday, because I hadn’t seen this before even though it’s rather old. But, maybe unearthing it in this fashion will inspire Arnaud Roy to make something new (or share what he’s been up to lately). The project is the “HarpJamX” – a conventional acoustic …

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Angry Bees! Swarms and Flocks of Sound in a New iPad Synth

Now, your iPad can go from sweet-sounding pads to hordes of angry bees and back again, all by modeling physical behaviors of flocking. It’s called the Photophore, and it’s a “flock synthesis” instrument. You may have seen synths that produce lush sounds by combining oscillators – the eight-oscillator Swarmatron springs to mind. Well, this synth puts the “swarm” in “Swarmatron.” With up to one hundred oscillators per patch, it uses physical modeling to transform sound by simulating flocking behaviors. I’ve seen experiments that have done things like this with flocking algorithms and particle systems, but this must be the first …

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