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 …


Punched-Hole Tunes: Ritornell’s Musicbox Business Cards, as Delicate and Magical as the Music

Experimenting with twinkling timbres made both by acoustic and electronic means, the music of Ritornell (the duo of composer Dr. Richard Eigner and pianist Roman Gerold, Austria) is effortlessly expressive and spontaneous. Little wonder that that spirit could translate even to a small object. Designer Katharina H√∂lzl made business cards into both a signature identity for Ritornell and a physical manifestation of how they play their music. They’re not just a physical gimmick, though: audiences get to participate with music making in the production of live, performative loops. (Sadly, no site for Katharina – you just have to get hold …


SunVox, Production Tool That Runs Almost Everywhere, Gets Updates; Watch Videos

God Bless Russian engineering. As of this summer, it’s the only ticket to and from our space station, via a capsule that Just Works. It gaves us the very first electronic instrument (thanks, Professor Theremin). And it gives us an insane music tracker slash production tool slash soft synth selection slash modular hosting environment that runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, Palm, Windows Mobile (yes, you’re reading this list right), and now iOS and iPad. Well, don’t just thank Russian engineering. Thank Alex Zolotov, who sends along his latest work. Highlights: Waveform drawing A drum synth Sample recording Side chain compression …


A MIDI Robot Percussionist and a New Album, from the Duo Electrocado

Sydney-based duo Electrocado (Bill Day + Ryan Whare) have been busy making machines to make music – and banging things. In the video above, their inventive robotic percussionist, triggered via MIDI, plays tunes and rhythms. The CP1 (Creative Project 1) uses servos to control drum sticks (chopsticks, in fact) pivoting on rods, which can then strike metal, plastic, and drum skin surfaces. Playing a G# Minor scale on a xylophone along with drums, the robot responds here to MIDI patterns sent to it by Ableton Live. You can read loads of commentary on the process of making it in a …


Drum Machine Legacy: Linn LM-1, as Marketed in 1982

Amidst renewed conversation about what drum machines should be – see heated comments – it’s enlightening to revisit the drum machine as marketed in 1982. This vintage Linn Electronics LM-1 “Drum Computer” ad captures a moment in the birth of the modern drum machine. Some of what’s desirable then remains desirable today. Others – “Real Drum Sounds” – are amusingly far less novel, looking back from far deeper into the digital age. Real time programming, mixing functions, and friendly design, though, remain important – and you can thank designer Roger Linn and his LM-1 for the profound influence they’ve had …


Mobile Korg Fun: Monotribe Adds Patterns and Sync, Wavedrum Mini is On-the-go Drum; Impressions

Want to win over electronic sound geeks? Korg’s found a simple formula: give them a steady diet of compact, affordable, fun toys that can also be serious sound tools. And so, Korg actually manages to upstage some “bigger” tech announcements this week with some good, clean gear candy. Aside from the expected Monotribe, there’s the unexpected Wavedrum Mini. You’ve probably already seen the Korg Monotribe, the follow-up to the stocking stuffer analog handheld, the Monotron. It’s been leaked and teased as the words “under strict embargo” have come to mean in the music tech blogosphere “publish as quickly as possible.” …


SoundToys’ Distorting Compressor Free for Two More Days, Plus Some Great Production Reading

Through Thursday, March 31 at midnight, you can grab SoundToys’ Devil-Loc plug-in for free, concluding a giveaway that began at the TapeOp party at South by Southwest. Devil-Loc is a nice-sounding emulation of the Shure M62. Chris Conover, in thanks for a Record beta I sent his way, points to the offer, a code (which I’ll share with readers), and mentions some ways he likes to use it – particularly, he says, on drum room mics: It is inspired by the Shure M62 Level-Loc, which was designed to be a leveling amplifier for microphones to avoid spikes and fades. Users …


Useful Music Tools for Your Android Phone, and a New Sketchpad Joins Groovebox

Despite being a musical technology enthusiast, I really do think of my Android phone first and foremost as a communications device. I imagine I’m not alone, just as I’d guess that people who want a mobile music maker may look first at the iPhone. But that raises the question, are there tools you’d install on an Android phone purely because they’re genuinely useful? What tools would you use in your music, or even refuse to be without? There are actually a surprising number of tools out there on Android for music-making, though quality can be quite variable. So here, I’ll …


Euclidean Rhythms in Ableton MIDI Clips for Polyrhythmic Good Times; Microtonal Operator

Ready to make your Ableton Live pattern programming a bit more polyrhythmic with the power of math? In Monday’s reflections and round-up of cycles and circles, I mentioned Euclidean evenness and Godfried Toussaint’s research. The basic idea is that a mathematical algorithm for spacing pulses has a lot in common with traditional preferences for polyrhythms spanning everything from rock hits to conga patterns and musical cultures around the world. Reader Tony Wheeler has turned those patterns into MIDI clips so you can drop patterns into Ableton Live. Drum patterns and dance music are obvious applications, but this could be an …


Octatrack Hands-on Videos Begin to Appear, Featuring New Elektron Super-Sampler in Action

Elektron’s Octatrack sampler is shipping to producer’s hands, bringing this multitrack, time-stretching, step-sequenced, modulation-packing digital sampling hardware to real-world music-making. The results make comparisons like “Ableton in a box” seem pretty fair – and give you more an idea of what the thing does than Elektron’s bizarre (and wonderful) short science fiction film, which seemed to suggest the box would incite revolutions and make you grow tentacles and change into a tortured alien. (See below) Two of the people I’d most want to see work the device are featured in the videos above – at top, Richard Devine, and at …