Wheels were never as big as grids. Well – in this context, anyway. The arc was the spiritual successor to the monome from designer Brian Crabtree – ultra-high resolution encoders for turning, with lights, as continuous as the monome grid was binary. But despite some poetic, meditative videos the monome project produced, the arc was always mostly quiet on the scene. And then it disappeared, supplanted by other projects (like an entry into Eurorack). Now it’s back, on preorder.
We revere the modular synthesizers of the past, but that ignores important innovations both in how modules are designed and how people play. Apart from the fact that Eurorack is quite a lot slimmer, lighter, and cheaper than its predecessors, we have vastly expanded the range of what modules do in ways that lend themselves to live performances. That’s not to say it’s for everyone – a modular performance still involves a lot of pre-patching for people, and there’s clearly something to be said for computers and standalone gear. But that’s perhaps partly the point: the modular solution can stand …
There’s a Eurorack craze on. Synth fever continues to spread. Instrument and software makers keep innovating. And there was reason to time all of this new gear madness to the beginning of this month – with not one but two massive trade shows, each a short Bahn ride away from one another in Germany. It’s almost too much. So, we’ve put our favorites all together, to keep it all straight.
It hits you at some point. It could be that you find yourself wandering rows upon rows of accordion exhibitors. Or maybe it’s weaving to avoid parades of the 100,000-odd German schoolchildren who come to look at the exhibits. Or maybe it’s seeing a room the size of an airport full of nothing but strange laser and light products for clubs. But Musikmesse remains something exceptional.
The mighty NAMM show, a mind-bogglingly crowded gathering of basically anyone with anything to do with the sale of musical instruments, brought with it its usual slew of new music tech. Now, you could wade through all the videos from that show, until your brain is numbed by trying to make out rushed, rehearsed product spiels. And you’ll find that some are … well, less important than others. We’ve instead separated the wheat from the chaff to bring you our favorite videos of our favorite new stuff. Grab the popcorn.
This could be the NAMM of modular synths in the Eurorack format. The question is, with vendors big and small crowding into this niche market, what will stand apart? Waldorf’s answer is to draw on the company’s history (hello, wavetables!), and in an announcement this week, to offer up a range of modules that fit into a keyboard. The upshot: an all-in-one solution.
It’s a marvelous time to be a musician. You can imagine a musical instrument, a compositional invention, and then realize that idea in short order. So I was glad to get the chance to emcee an evening of discussion with Reaktor experts, including the folks who built the tool, last month in the software’s hometown Berlin. That discussion ultimately was partly about Reaktor, but partly about the act of instrument building itself – meaning there were insights for anyone interested in working with electronics or software to dream up new musical tools.
Digital, analog – whatever. Let’s see what happens when Ableton’s latest digital hardware, the new Push, meets Eurorack, for a sort of convergence of the stuff electronic musicians are talking about right now. (Don’t worry; we aren’t going to a round-the-clock all-Ableton format – the Berlin developer is notoriously conservative about spreading out releases, so let’s give them this week as a special occasion. And, anyway, there are some tips here relevant to Eurorack users with or without any Ableton products. Plus, you might just like the music.) We stopped by the studio of Berlin-based musician Kaan Bulak. He’s an …
For many of us, there’s a special pleasure to seeing someone play live – and dancing to someone playing live. And by “live,” I don’t mean “a bunch of your tracks cued up as scenes in Ableton Live or on an Elektron.” I mean genuinely improvised. Electronic dance music naturally lends itself to on-the-spot creation. A rigid grid, easily-understood conventions around instrumentation and form, and the fact that styles like techno are built around machines all add up to natural experimentation.
Reaktor 6 is a powerful blank canvas that can turn into almost any music tool imaginable. But that much power can be, well, overwhelming. So today, we’re fortunate to have some guides into what that means. Today in Berlin, I’m fortunate to emcee an evening in Berlin featuring both the people who built Reaktor and some top artists finding ways to make music with it. Updated: this event is over but an edited video is coming soon – plus more content/tutorials around Reaktor.