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A call for emotion in musical inventions, at Berlin hacklab

Moving beyond stale means of framing questions about musical interface or technological invention, we’ve got a serious case of the feels. For this year’s installment of the MusicMakers Hacklab we host with CTM Festival in Berlin, we look to the role of emotion in music and performance. And that means we’re calling on not just coders or engineers, not just musicians, and performers, but psychologists and neuroscientists and more, too. The MusicMakers Hacklab I was lucky enough to found has now been running with multiple hosts and multiple countries, bringing together artists and makers of all stripes to experiment with …

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Isadora 2.5, new chapter for creativity server, 3D shaders

In the landscape of live visual tools, Isadora is something special. Despite being known mostly in certain circles – its name itself is a nod to the world of dance (Isadora Duncan) – it’s uniquely adept in those worlds. When it comes to mixing live visuals and interactivity with modern dance and theater, for instance, Isadora (now on both Mac and Windows) is essential. Why Isadora I always had special admiration for Isadora, and its creator, Mark Coniglio. In fact, his was one of the first computer performance tools I ever saw – his original project, called Interactor. I was …

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Graham Dunning; photo by Julien Kerduff.

This month, a far-reaching convergence of ideas in music

What will the next wave of invention in music technology look like? Will it follow a narrow course of iteration – a new interface, a new synthesis technique? Or will the next leaps come from networks of ideas, from what happens when different disciplines and cultures collide, when music technology turns to the broader matters of how music is made and how it impacts people? I rather believe in the latter. And that could be why Berlin is the place where so often people gather to work out the next big thing. There’s no single music research center, no formal …

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Here’s all the coolest new gear from Messe and Superbooth, in one place

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.

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In photos, the synth nerd extravaganza Superbooth

It’s genuinely hard to describe the Superbooth in words. The synthesizer lovefest dreamt up by Andreas Schneider and team in Berlin was a collision between a festival and a trade show, scattered in impromptu fashion through the chambers of the former East Germany radio facility. Visitors wandered from knob-twiddling displays into quadraphonic concerts, from combined performance-demos by modular makers and artists to encounters with legendary synth pioneers over a queue for beer. And the whole week was an exercise in overabundance. Far from the linear experience of a convention floor, the maze of studios and halls at the Funkhaus venue …

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Ex-DDR radio facility turns into an alternative synth show

Forget sterile, corporate convention halls. Instead, this week the Communist-chic East German radio facility Funkhaus will be transformed into the sort of synthesizer summit only Andreas Schneider and his crew could imagine. It’s called, somewhat confusingly, the “Superbooth” – a reference to what had been a jam-packed exhibition stand at Frankfurt’s Musikmesse. Now, instead of squeezing into some tables and shouting over the din of a trade show, the happening that was in Frankfurt has a sprawling space. Just how big? Well, let’s let Andreas take us on a tour of the wonderful rooms of the wonderful building where all …

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Minguet Quartett, The Long Now 2015, Kraftwerk. Photo: Camille Blake.

A festival to ponder the nature of time

Now, following a century of recording and broadcast, where does musical performance go next? That challenges not just space or culture, but reimagining the place of time itself in the performance. Berlin is a fitting place to contemplate time. Once home to Albert Einstein, it helped incubate modern general relativity. At its southwest is Mendelsohn’s Einsteinturm; it has the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in its DNA. Adlershof, a short S-Bahn ride away, is home to the enormous BESSY II synchotron photon radiation source (particle accelerator.)

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Call for participants: a Hacklab to change perspectives, in Belgium

In the past weeks, I’ve had the good fortune to talk to astronauts and aeronautical engineers, to artists in residence in space centers (with ESA) and aboard “vomet comet” airplane microgravity experiments (in Russia). A common theme has emerged. Just as images from space once transformed our perception, the next frontier is sound. From spatial sound to works responding to spaceflight, drones, and aeronautics, there’s a chance to change the way we hear and imagine. And so, after we start February at Berlin’s CTM Festival imagining future rituals, we’ll move later in the month to Leuven, Belgium to explore the heard place. You’re …

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Dark, unexpected sounds of Triple Sun, Jonáš Gruska (Berlin Wednesday)

Triple Sun – Sprint from Martin Blažíček on Vimeo. From Bratislava, the duo Triple Sun are making spontaneous, ethereal music with a combination of modular and computational tools. Against a flickering black-and-white film, this video last year is one of my favorites. We’re inviting Triple Sun this week to Berlin along with Jonáš Gruska as part of a live program, so I want to take a second chance to explore what they’re doing.

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Learn about Reaktor from experts in this two hour video

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.

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