aleph Soundcomputer: Interview with monome creator Brian Crabtree and Ezra Buchla

aleph is something of a curiosity: it’s a dedicated box uniquely designed for sonic exploration that isn’t a conventional computer. It comes from the creator of the monome, but while dynamic mapping is part of the notion, it is the first monome creation capable of making sound on its own. The monome is a controller that uses a grid for whatever you want; aleph is a self-contained instrument that makes any sound you want. In review: aleph, from monome: Programmable Sound Computer That Does Anything But this isn’t only a story about some specialist, boutique device. It’s a chance to …

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Stirring Solo Vocal + Ableton Push: Thomas Piper, Live at Webster Hall

If the computer can do one thing, it is to vastly expand what a single musician can do live. Whether you rise to that challenge has everything to do with who you are as an individual musician. It’s about the person as much as the machine. Thomas Piper, Jr. is at his absolute best in a soulful, no-holds-barred, energetic performance New York’s famed Webster Hall. (His son Zion, by the way, is also terrifically talented.) Here, his vocal is front and center far more than the computer, but the digital instrument also supports what he’s doing. At the Kompakt pop-up …

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Interview: Sheffield’s The Black Dog Branch into Controllers, With Crowd-Funded Gear

The Black Dog are titans of experimental techno and house, with a long record to match. (We reviewed – and praised – their latest album, Tranklements.) But you may not associate them with manufacturing hardware. As the landscape of crowd-funded music hardware grows, though, that’s exactly the venture they’re now willing to take, as the members of that group co-found a new, England-based manufacturing company dubbed Machinewerks. And the results so far already give insights into what they value in controller design and how they use those controllers in their music. They’re now well on their way to funding a …

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Bubbles and Light, in an Interactive Costume, Integrated with Music

Coded Environments from Jekka on Vimeo. Big EDM stage shows aside, in the realm of more intimate electronic performance, there seems tremendous untapped potential in combining wearable technology with performance. There, the immersion speaks to the player – essential, as in computer music much of what the performance artist does and imagines is invisible. Jekka, aka Moscow’s Jenny Nedosekina – a curator as well as a solo performer – has assembled a team to build a project. This is marked “teaser,” but it’s already compelling enough to share. (And I hope you send in other similar work, as then we …

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Live 9.1 Preview: Dual Monitors, More Push Sequencing, High-Quality Sample Rate Conversion

In the midst of a pop-up week of events held with Köln’s Kompakt Records, Ableton has offered a surprise peek into what’s coming soon to Live. 9.1 is a free update for all users, adding some widely-requested features. There’s no release date yet – we’re awaiting a more formal announcement with details soon – but we have gotten a look at what’s in store. Ableton’s Dennis DeSantis gave attendees a demo of three upcoming features: 1. Dual-monitor support, finally allowing you to see Arrangement and Session Views side by side 2. More functionality in Push, including step sequencing of melodies …

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Bitwig Watch: Endless, Open Modulation; Grid Control; Sounds from Thavius Beck

Yes, you have our attention. LF-Ogling this one could raise an eyebrow or two. We’ve been waiting for Bitwig betas to start to look like something that’s ready to use, and for Bitwig Studio to start to set itself apart from a certain, popular live performance / clip-launching DAW that’s made a few blocks away in Berlin. (Cough.) But at last, it looks like that wait is over. Bitwig is performing tricks we haven’t really seen in this sort of tool before – and the complaints we’re hearing most from the ever-ornery Internet crowd has changed from “been there, done …

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Grid Tricks: Japan and Jeremy Ellis Show Us How Maschine, MPC Can Be An Instrument

They’re two alternative universes with musical wonders in them, places we wish we could live. They both begin with the letter ‘J.’ One is Japan; one is … Jeremy Ellis. Each might as well be their own wonderful planet. In this case, each is also promoting Native Instruments’ Maschine hardware/software combo, but they’re doing it in a way that’s musically meaningful. First, let’s talk about Japan. The problem with many artist promos for music products is that they tend to trade on celebrity, bringing all the depth of sports stars endorsing a brand of sneakers. But I was glad to …

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Grid Tricks: How Launchpad S Differs, Emulate Push with Launchpad, 11 Launchpad Display, More

Life on the grid gets better and better. Yes, these blinky, lighty arrays of squares do continue to proliferate. But musicians are also hacking away to make them more useful. And they do that with perhaps nothing as much as the Novation Launchpad, a kind of workhorse of the grid world. While one of the simpler grid controllers available, Novation’s hardware is also uniquely affordable – and uniquely rugged, standing up to plenty of abuse. Here, we get to see how the Launchpad S differs from the original, how both Launchpads can emulate Ableton’s flashy-new Push, and what happens when …

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Grid Tricks: Mega-Bass 2020, Delicious Live Performance Groovebox [Launchpad + Reaktor]

Mega-Bass 2020 – Teaser Performance from Icebreaker Audio on Vimeo. Look through that VHS fuzz, and listen as a Casio VL-Tone and synth go ultra-retro – they even play a cover of Jan Hammer. But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about using more simple grid techniques to create something that lets you improvise using your hands, to play music freely without looking at the screen. And Mega-Bass 2020, while still building on the grid ideas of monome et al, is a very sharp user-created marriage of software and hardware. With electric-pink and grape-on-gray retro graphics, …

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Grid Tricks: Make Ableton Push Display Meters, Pulsing Heart – Without Max for Live

Ableton’s Push, like other colored, light-up grids, may sometimes seem like just a big, flashy Lite-Brite. So – heck, why not use it that way and have a good time? Tama Rhodes writes us to let us know about a project that exploits the shiny colors to visualize live sound data. The results are screaming for a live performance in which the Push is tilted toward the audience as you play, a technique Daedelus has long used with the monome. What’s doubly impressive – and why you should download this to learn from it even if you don’t want to …

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