TouchDown Houston at Day For Night Festival; photo Roger Ho.

A bunch of tricks and tools for generative visual tool TouchDesigner

TouchDesigner, the visual development environment for interactive media, is a not-so-secret weapon for the artists creating some of the best eye candy today. And it’s likely to earn more attention now that it’s available for both macOS and Windows. (It was previously Windows-only.) But it’s not just the power of the tool itself that makes it stand out. It’s just as much a community behind it, sharing resources with one another. That says something, really. People working on interactive and event visuals often pull in some pretty hefty fees, and they justify those fees by making sure their tech tricks …

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When a record label gets into making cool, weird instruments

Streaming revenue may be hit or miss, but record labels can always make their own boutique sound hardware. Ghostly International have long pioneered new ideas in the category of “selling stuff that isn’t vinyl.” There was the Matthew Dear Totem, for instance – though that served zero practical function and didn’t make sound. Their store feels as much a trendy boutique for design fetishists as a record outlet. But I think it’s their musical instrument collaborations that are most interesting. Yeah, okay, you could say this is getting a bit hipster-y. But remember that it’s really musical instruments that have …

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These circuit-bent instruments and sounds are simply gorgeous

Mention “circuit bending” and you may think of someone making unlistenable noise on a Speak & Spell they … broke. But in the grand tradition of Reed Ghazala, circuit bending can mean instruments that have exquisitely mutated from vintage devices, resplendent in new paint and making bizarre but wonderful new sounds. I guess you can think of it as the difference between a conservatory-trained woodwind quintet and … the sound of your first-grade music class playing those plastic recorders. Ivo Ivanov is squarely in the master builder category. We can drool over his visually beautiful creations, in this gallery here. …

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Teenage Engineering’s drum synth UI was drawn by a 9-year-old girl

In place of drab text menus or something like that, the new Teenage Engineering PO-32 Tonic is … a little different. There are adorable characters with wide eyes and huge noses, quaffing cocktails. There’s a ringing telephone … with a mouse perhaps gnawing away at its end. There are spiders – various spiders. No, I don’t mean the UI on the PO-32 display seems like it was drawn by a 9-year-old girl. It actually was. Her name is Ivana, she really is nine years old, and she’s the daughter of Teenage Engineering CEO and founder (and whiz designer himself) Jesper …

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Inside Zeno van den Broek’s raw immersive AV architectures

Strap on headphones, and the sixteen minutes of Shift Symm is a brain-tickling assault. Even just within the stereo field, raw textures rumble and dance until you feel the sound’s structures inside your head. I was attracted to Zeno van den Broek’s work partly because that sense of patterning in sound and visual formed a work I thought deserved special integrity as a release. This is to me an encouraging sign that there are new frontiers for archaic, exposed AV minimalism in the post raster-noton age. Shift Symm by Zeno van den Broek Shift Symm therefore saw a digital release …

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Photo: Aoki Takamasa. Courtesy the artist.

raster-noton’s elusive Grischa Lichtenberger on creative sound

Grischa Lichtenberger is working with felt and stencils as well as sound. He’s speaking in hyperlinks, and misusing gear and feeding computers into other computers to form feedback loops. In short, he’s finding a unique and creative materialism in everything he does – and that means we really have to talk to him. So we sent Zuzana Friday to join in a delightfully esoteric conversation with the raster-noton artist. -Ed. Grischa Lichtenberger is a German musician and sound and installation artist, known for his releases on raster-noton. His immersive live performances oscillate between abrasive, aggressive compositions and intricate structures of …

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From "Grid Index," Carsten Nicolai catalog, raster-noton.

raster-noton founders on how they found visual inspiration

Few electronic labels or acts have an identity as well defined as raster-noton, and its co-founders Bytone (Olaf Bender) and alva noto (Carsten Nicolai). And I don’t just mean single cycle waveforms or quick bursts of noise, hard-edged projected high contrast geometries or digital aesthetics, though those associations will certainly spring to mind. Even as the label has expanded in its musical scope in recent years, it has retained a sense that aesthetics themselves matter, that its artist roster are capable of painting with sound and exposing the process of using technology. Understanding where that comes from visually is key …

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Zont is a futuristic pocket synth that takes snap-in cartridges

Time to start singing about how we’re the operator with our pocket calculator again. The ZONT Synthesizer is an upcoming handheld instrument. And it’s what one designer imagines for the synths of the future. Apart from being tiny, you can change its function by snapping cartridges in and out – Game Boy style. And whereas we think of synths now as big, clunky boxes with wires coming out of them, the ZONT can either plug into a desktop dock for connectivity or connect wirelessly. We’ve had a chat with its designer to see what’s in store.

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Watch a beautiful meditation on the function of music

As co-host of the American public radio show Radiolab, Jad Nicholas Abumrad is usually in the business of giving you sounds on their own. You provide the mental images. But in a stimulating new film from director Mac Premo, thoughts become images as well as sounds. It’s a fitting conversation. Abumrad (a Lebanese-American, as I am) comes from a background in music composition. Premo, apart from being a filmmaker and commercial director, is an artist. Both live in New York. So what we get is a counterpoint of two imaginations running at once: sonic and visual, musical and optical. And …

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A report from the futuristic Continuum Fingerboard’s first Con

The 19th Century was the century of the piano. The 20th Century, for all its innovation, still saw the piano keyboard as the dominant interface for all those new sounds. But the 21st Century finally looks to offer some choice. And so it’s high time for the Continuum Fingerboard to get its day. The instrument allows you to find pitch as you can on a piano keyboard, but with expressive continuous control both in pressure and position – letting you bend pitch and shape sound more fluidly. Now having inspired instruments like the ROLI Seaboard (and with ROLI raking in …

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