Music and math unite, from Chowning to Rhythmicon

You have to love German. In English, I can string together whole paragraphs that try and fail to capture the potential of electronic sound. In German, we get to call an event Technosphärenklänge – a word whose utterance is a timbral adventure in itself. And in an event with that name promising to be a landmark for the electronic music sphere, CTM Festival is bringing together pioneering machines and pioneering humans. It’s a convergence of the worlds of mathematics and music that has never happened in this combination on one stage before – and we’ll take you there.

Steinway Model D. Photo courtesy Steinway & Sons.

These piano breakthroughs changed music forever

Yesterday was Piano Day – a day recently christened by composer/pianist Nils Frahm in order to celebrate that ubiquitous keyboard instrument. (It’s held on the eighty-eighth day of the year.) There are concerts, marathons, project, releases – and unlike Record Store Day, this event won’t clog the ability to produce piano music. With that day as inspiration, I thought it was a good moment to look at some of the technology of and around the piano, to understand what has made this instrument special. That includes both strictly acoustic innovations as well as design features and breakthroughs that either inspired …


On women’s day, imagining a new future in sound

Let’s be clear: there should be no excuse for the press in our sphere, including this outlet, to treat International Women’s Day as a chance simply to talk about women in music. That obligation is year-round and daily, or we simply aren’t doing our jobs. But that’s not the origin of Women’s Day, anyway. The history, rather, is one rooted in organizing for change. (Like so much modern grassroots advocacy, indeed, it comes from the labor movement just after the turn of the last century.) It’s about people working finding fair opportunities for their work. Focusing energies around an annual …


A major breakthrough in physics is heard, not seen

When you imagine inquiring in the universe, your first idea is probably someone looking at something – an image. But there are other ways of sensing and studying the world, too. Last week’s detection of gravitational waves, confirming the presence of what had been predicted by Einstein, is special in that it heralds a new significance to sound in physics.


The Moog Modular Model 55 is immortalized in LEGO

We covered Andy Grobengieser’s lovely Minimoog LEGO kit proposal. But perhaps the iconic synth keyboard just isn’t open-ended enough in terms of sound design. You want kids to play with the wide sonic palette of the legendary Moog Model 55. Now, they can.


The next prank call you get could come from this crazy synth

::vtol:: prankophone from ::vtol:: on Vimeo. If you pick up the phone and instead of a robocall or someone pocket dialing you, you get what sounds like a synthesizer that’s lost its mind, blame the Prankophone. Since we’re going to cover the latest from Ableton and Korg and so on in detail, we practically need a column for the quirky, prolific inventions of one vtol, aka Dmitry Morozov. Call it the Internet of Insane Things. (IoIT?)

Bob playing theremin '52_1

Watch Bob Moog play and talk about the Theremin

It’s the instrument that was the first real electronic music product. And it’s the reason we even know the name Bob Moog – as it inspired Moog to go into electronics and the sale of electronic musical instruments. So, when the Theremin is the subject of a video by Bob Moog himself, it’s a big deal. You’ll have to settle for early-90s video quality, but you’ll be treated to the dulcet tones of Dr. Moog’s New York baritone narration of Theremin history, followed by an enchanting and pretty-darn-technically-good performance on the Russian electronic invention. Thanks to Chris Stack and experimentalsynth …


Learn electronics with the vintage Side Man drum machine

ENG_SIDEMAN_PREVIEW from Darsha Hewitt on Vimeo. Darsha’s sound electronics class is in session – and it’s a little different to what you’d normally expect. Rather than a bunch of animations of electrons moving about, sound artist and educator Darsha Hewitt has created a long-form video tutorial around the world’s first commercial drum machine.


Read the article Bob Moog wrote when he met Leon Theremin

It’s hard to imagine what the evolution of the synthesizer would have been without Leon Theremin. For one, it was Theremin’s invention that first captivated Robert Moog. Theremin kits were Dr. Moog’s first product and many would say, his first electronic instrumental love. That impact was significant, too, on a whole generation – actually, even my own father made building a kit Theremin one of his early experiences with electronics. The fall of the Soviet Union still has ripples felt in the electronic music world today. And surely there’s no more poignant moment in the intertwining of post-Cold War history …


Watch a 1986 TV story on house music, plus too many documentaries

In our last episode of “watching things on the Internet instead of doing real work,” we were enjoying a full-length 90s electronic music documentary and a bunch of music videos. Well, here we are at yet another weekend. And hopefully we can give you some video watching pleasure yet again, in those moments when you aren’t, well, hopefully, making music. Leading the pack is a 1986 story from Chicago TV news back when house music was in its early days, as spotted by Dancing Astronauts. And it’s an astounding document, featuring Danny “Sweet-D” Wilson, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Steve “Silk” Hurley, …