Sneak-Thief’s Sneaquencer is a DIY Monster, Dream Hardware for Performance [Open Source Music]

You can dream of something, you can complain about it on forums, or you can do it. Sneak-Thief, aka Michel Morin, is a doer. And what’s great about him is that he doesn’t just produce geeky, obsessive hardware – he has the musical chops to match. He can wrangle his own hardware, coding in C, but he can also make people dance. Designing hardware isn’t just an exercise in doing something because he can – it’s part of his musical expression, the line between his ideas and reality. Talking to Michel about what he’s done, he really focuses on his …


The Awesome New KORG Not From KORG: Raspberry-Pi Plus MS-20 Controller, Making Dreams Reality

There’s a drool-worthy new keyboard synth this week bearing the name KORG. The surprise: it comes one day after a widely-anticipated product announcement, and it comes from a single hacker, not KORG. One $25 embedded computer plus one controller equals one hackable, lovely instrument – with knobs and patch cords, no less. So, it’s hard not to compare this to the announcement yesterday. KORG makes some wonderful products, and it’s safe to say that a lot of electronic musicians view them as a company that uniquely “gets” it. From the monotron line to releasing analog filter circuit designs, the ongoing …


Raspberry Pi, Your Next $25 Computer Synth? First Hacks Appearing

Apple may have started the conversation about the “post-PC” age. But part of what this means is that a “computer” doesn’t necessarily have to be something costing hundreds of dollars, in a conventional desktop or laptop form factor. It could look more like the Raspberry Pi, at US$25 and squeezed into a tin of mints. Suddenly, all those years of music software development are liberated from the big, pricey boxes on which we’ve run them all these years. The Raspberry Pi Synthesizer blog documents a project dedicated to this particular device, with a clever UI and yes, even polyphony. There’s …


Music, to Go: The Mobile Music Computer Revolution, BeagleBoard Workshop and Software

Something like this could be the guts of your next digital musical instrument – and it might even mean leaving your laptop at home for the next gig. Photo (CC-BY) Koen Kooi. Mobile computing has already had an enormous impact on music making. A modern phone or tablet (and yes, most often, these come from Apple) is capable of out-performing a lot of dedicated hardware and easily runs the synths and workstations that required state-of-the-art desktops just a decade or so ago. But what if this same computing power – low-energy, low-cost chips – could be in other music gear, …


OTO Biscuit Update: Lovely Boutique 8-bit + Analog Effect Gets New Features

I covered the OTO Machines Biscuit early this year, in particular noting the design process of creating new hardware. Hardware today is back with a vengeance, but with the flexibility of software: the gear is contained in a single object and interface, but can be upgraded just as computer code on a desktop can. Sure enough, OTO are back this week with a series of updates, which are easier to watch and hear than to talk about. See the video above for four new effects and various other improvements, available as a free firmware update and delivered (oh, the retro …


Milkymist One, All-in-One Open Source VJ Workstation

Milkymist One is an all-in-one visualist workstation with a permissive open (Creative Commons) license. (The license note says, “Commercial use within the terms of the license is encouraged” — emphasis theirs.) The design is still in-progress and not available for sale, but it looks promising, with complete MIDI and DMX support, plus integrated video input and output, all onboard. Given the rapid progress of these kind of architectures, we could be looking at the future of visual performance, all in dedicated gear with computer-style flexibility. Specs: – XC6SLX45 Spartan-6 FPGA – 128MB 32-bit DDR400 SDRAM – 32MB parallel flash – …


The End of Laptop Hegemony in Live Computer Music

Jan Schacher at Sonic Circuits. Is the object to his left the best form factor for the situation – or not? (CC) IntangibleArts / Hawkins. The sight has become ubiquitous: if you’re hearing an electronic live act or computer DJ, there will be a laptop hovering nearby. The glowing logo of one fruit-themed computer brand in particular has appeared all over shots of artists, and the phrase “computer music” has come to be interchangeable with “laptop music” or “laptop performer.” You can hide the laptop, of course. But, while that’s a valid choice, you do have to wonder why it …


Tonium Pacemaker Mobile DJ Device Now on Amazon, US$499

The pocketable DJ tool Pacemaker is now available here in the US at $499. That price is considerably more realistic than expected pricing earlier on, though it still fits in a funny sort of slot: it’s not quite the equivalent of pro DJ gear, which costs much more, but it’s still pricier than your run-of-the-mill DJ player. For those with the pocket change (cough), I could imagine it’ll be fun. And you do have to admire the Pacemaker for being a really unique hardware gadget idea. It’s a glimpse of what music technology could be like in the very near …


Sequencing with Smart Interactive Blocks: Siftables at TED

David Merrill, working with Jeevan Kalanithi and (for the audio engine) Josh Kopin, wowed audiences at the TED conference with his Siftables interactive blocks. These strike me as what the Audiocubes have tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to be — physical objects that react to the proximity of other objects, allowing you to manipulate music and media by moving around tangible blocks. Siftables are gifted with multiple expressive controls (tilt helping them break the plane of the surface), and intelligent screens that make them more adaptable and provide more visual feedback. The music sequencer is very cool, though I think it’s actually …