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The demise of Keyboard Magazine, after 41 years

Keyboard Magazine will cease to exist as a publication, after having been continuously published since 1975. And this isn’t just another “print is dead” footnote. Keyboard was the publication that defined commercial writing about electronic musical instruments. And whatever the logic behind the decision, the demise of Keyboard says something about the state of both publishing and electronic music production – and its absence will be felt. Keyboard will be rolled into Electronic Musician, with only the EM name surviving. Gino Robair will continue as editor-in-chief of EM. This is truly the end of an era – an era Keyboard …

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Delia Derbyshire gets her own road

Here’s a sure new pilgrimage site for electronic music fans. Late great composer Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop will have a street named after her in her hometown of Coventry, as reported by the BBC. And because Delia is more than a composer, but a state of mind: Pete Chambers BEM, director of The Coventry Music Museum, was among those to campaign for the recognition. He said: “Originally it was to be named Derbyshire Road, but I suggested “Way” instead, so it gave a double meaning, as Delia was a genius and strong personality and really did do …

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Pauline Oliveros, who transformed how we listen and think

This year continues a stunning series of losses of some of the most important pioneers in electronic music. But of all those, Pauline Oliveros is without peer – an innovator in the art of listening itself. And we’ve learned she’s died at the age of 84. No one else in music has a resume like hers. She was capable of turning the accordion into an avant garde electronic instrument. She had a black belt in karate. She was one of the original members of the San Francisco Tape Center, a defining figure in the entire west coast electronic scene. She …

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Photo: Randy Yau, via Barry Threw on Flickr.

In memory of Jean-Jacques Perrey

Soon after the loss of Don Buchla, another legend of synthesis has passed away. Jean-Jacques Perrey died last week. Perrey was a master of whimsy and invention. He’s of course best known for his collaboration with Gershon Kingsley, “Baroque Hoedown,” featured in Disney’s Electric Light Parade. But that’s emblematic of a broader contribution: he’s one of the leading pioneers of the 20th Century in introducing the sounds of electronic synthesis to a mass audience, with noises heard from Sesame Street to TV ads. Here’s the master composer playing his own best-known tune: It’s also notable that, like Bob Moog, Perrey …

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Here’s the story of how the Mac and Atari found their voice

There’s something magical about the moments in history when computers were able to speak (and sing) like a human. That’s certainly true of Bell’s famous “Daisy Bell” performance (the real-life moment echoed in 2001). But it’s also true of the Mac, which first spoke to uproarious applause.

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Electronic music pioneer Don Buchla has died

We all have a short time on this planet, and some of us are lucky enough to get to work on tools that people use to make music. You can count on your fingers the number of people who had the kind of influence that Don Buchla had on electronic music in the last century. And this week, at age 79, he’s left us.

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Funklet teaches you your favorite grooves in your browser

You can learn a lot from a drummer. The best grooves of all time are meticulously constructed – and understanding them means understanding a lot about rhythm and form. So these are objects worth study. What your Web browser can do is make that study easier – even if you’ve never touched a drum kit. That comes at the right time, too. Thanks to the power of the computer and electronic music hardware, we’ve all of us become composers or expanded our compositional horizons. We may not imagine that we’re composing drum parts when we mess about with drum machines …

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Sail to Samos with vintage BBC to find Pythagorean tunings

Speaking of tuning, before there was Cosmos and Carl Sagan, there was BBC’s Ascent of Man. (Make that “humankind” now, of course.) And there’s something charming about its breathless reminder of the mystical magic of Pythagorean tuning, and its mythical discovery in folklore. Fact check – as the film sort of suggests, we don’t really know how this discovery took place since our knowledge is fragmentary. It may not have involved any individual named Pythagoras, or indeed taken place on Samos. But the power associated with the harmony of mathematics, sound, and perception does have historical basis – in the …

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A report from the futuristic Continuum Fingerboard’s first Con

The 19th Century was the century of the piano. The 20th Century, for all its innovation, still saw the piano keyboard as the dominant interface for all those new sounds. But the 21st Century finally looks to offer some choice. And so it’s high time for the Continuum Fingerboard to get its day. The instrument allows you to find pitch as you can on a piano keyboard, but with expressive continuous control both in pressure and position – letting you bend pitch and shape sound more fluidly. Now having inspired instruments like the ROLI Seaboard (and with ROLI raking in …

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Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

Listen to John Chowning tell how he invented FM synthesis

To this day, it’s a synthesis method capable of producing wonderfully otherworldly sounds. And now as its applications on cell phones and cheap PC audio fade into distant memory, FM synthesis is left as one of the great achievements of musical invention, full stop – let alone being a key milestone of 20th century technology. So perhaps it’s time to revisit its significance.

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