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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, …

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ROLI, Makers of Seaboard Instrument, Just Bought The Leading C++ Audio Framework

Here’s some important news that might impact you – even though you may never have heard of either the instrument maker or know anything about code libraries. Bear with us. But an experimental instrument builder and design shop just acquired the most popular framework used by audio developers, a set of free and open source gems. The film explaining the announcement: First, there’s ROLI. Now, to most of us in the music world, ROLI are the Dalston, London firm that make an alternative keyboard called the Seaboard – a sort of newer cousin to the Haken Continuum Fingerboard that uses …

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Beyond Traditional Instruments, a Status Report from the SoundLab

There’s nothing more personal than creative expression. And so experimenting with how you make music is more than just novelty: it’s a way to understand the fundamentals of how we relate to machines. And thinking outside the normal avenues means the ability to reach new people, as SoundLab is doing with audiences with learning disabilities. Ashley Elsdon joins us to give us the latest of how the project is going. A little while ago, CDM kindly posted a piece on our SoundLab project, which aims to help people with learning disabilities make music and collaborate in music creation. That was …

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Watch Adriano Make Surprising Objects, Laser Beams into Triggers for Wild Music

Now that anything can become an instrument, musicianship can become the practice of finding the spirit in the unexpected. It’s what Matt Moldover championed in the notion of controllerism, what years of DIYers have made evident. It’s not just a matter of finding a novelty or two. It’s really taking those novelties and making them a creative force. Adriano Clemente, the Italian-born, Brooklyn-based artist (aka Capcom), is a shining light of just that sort of imagination. Regular CDM readers will see some familiar techniques. There’s a laser harp, a circuit-bent toy, mic transducers making objects into triggers, a Numark Orbit …

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Spinning Optical Drum Buddy and the Wild DIY Punk World of Quintron and Miss Pussycat

Deep in the Ninth Word of New Orleans lies the workbench and studio of one Mr. Quintron, the inventor-organist who has applied his DIY mad-scientist sonic production to a unique flavor of insistent punk. Mr. Quintron was this week in my home neighborhood in Berlin, accompanied by his wife Miss Pussycat – maraca player (maracaist?), vocalist, and puppeteer behind Flossie and the Unicorns. There was a puppet show. It was about cake – demon cake. There was the debut of a new inflatable puppet. Shirts came off. Sounds were made. It was hot. It was loud. Just as these puppets …

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A New Lab Opens Music Making to People with Learning Disabilities

Let’s face it: the initial audience for the first version of music tech is often the developers. That impulse to build something for yourself is a perfectly reasonable one. But music technology is constantly producing new ways of creating music, and that means it has to learn quickly. Unlike, say, a guitar, it can’t build on centuries of experience. And if the industry and music technology community are to consider how to reach more people, why not go beyond just average markets? Why not open up music making to people who have been left out? If music making is an …

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Watch a Short Film on the Play Between Musicians and Instruments, Design and Technology

From Rush to the classical clarinet to rethinking the keyboard interface, a lovely new film by Michael Shane explores the relationship between music and technology, and the philosophy behind new musical inventions. Two New York-based characters figure prominently in that investigation. There’s Martin Yee, the drum tech, who talks about humans and drums. (Sadly, we don’t get into the question of acoustic technology – that’s something I hope to cover in upcoming reports, both in transforming and augmenting the drum kit, and re-designing the acoustic piano.) Then, there’s the ubiquitous keyboardist Jordan Rudess, whom I think puts on one of …

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Play a Russian Folk Instrument with Your Mind, Or Turn Seashell Patterns, Likes Into Generative Art

::vtol:: “turbo-gusli” demo performance from ::vtol:: on Vimeo. Musical instruments: make a move, get a sound. Or, musical instruments: apply an algorithm, get a sound. Read the tattoos on your arm as a score, turn the black-and-white patterning of a seashell into generated audiovisual artwork, apply brainwaves to a folk instrument and let a robot play it… Such are the mental excursions of one ::vtol::, aka Moscow’s Dmitry Morozov. He’s been busy over the past year or so, wearing robots that interface with tattoos to make music and constructing surround sound umbrellas. And we still have more crazy-science goodness to …

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Watch a Haken Continuum Rival String Instruments for Expression

Enough of cheesy MIDI keyboards faking instruments. Yes, it looks embarrassing. Here’s something entirely different. On the subject of the Haken Continuum, a single, touch-sensitive, continuous-pitch instrumental controller, we can see in a video just how expressive it can be. The Continuum Fingerboard consists of a large, soft playing surface. Press in with your fingers, and three-dimensional sensing responds in pitch and timbre. The range is even greater than an 88-key keyboard in the full-sized model; an optional stand holds it steady (and would look at home on the deck of a Klingon warbird). The instrument, full of carefully-crafted custom …

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Roger Linn’s Linnstrument Could Finally Make Grids Expressive for Music [Hands On]

Roger Linn is largely to blame for the fact that so many instruments have grids of pads on them. He was the first to use custom touch-sensitive drum pads on drum machines as we now know them, and the rectangular arrays of pads – first on the Linn9000, but particularly on Akai’s break-out hit, the 4×4 MPC60 – became an iconic and popular interface. But now, he has a design that might change the way you think about grids. The problem is, input methods for digital instruments are still famously limited. Our computers themselves can produce astounding ranges of sound, …

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