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.


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.


7 Ways SONAR+D is Asking Bigger Questions About Music Tech

Lineup Sónar+D 2015 from Sónar on Vimeo. There’s nothing inherently wrong with asking the same questions repeatedly. Cyclical inquiries are necessary in any practice. And over time, you refine answers. But this year’s SONAR+D program promises something different. SONAR+D is the younger, digital discourse alongside Barcelona’s massive electronic music festival. SONAR itself deserves a lot of credit for helping create the template a lot of digital music and media festivals follow today. And as that has since blurred into a parade of headliners, SONAR+D added a lot of dimension. There were good talks, hacklabs, workshops, and a showcase of makers. …


Listen to an All-Female Chorus of Electronic Music Experimentation, from Akkamiau

The first antidote to any element of today’s music scene we don’t like is to begin sharing the music we love. And here’s a case in point. It’s a must-listen mix of all-female artists (via the female:pressure network), assembled by Akkamiau Kočičí aka hiT͟Hərˈto͞o. This list for me is significant not because these are female artists. This could just as easily be a list of artists who move me personally, who inspire my own music. Akkamiau shared some sentiments on making this mix with me that would seem to echo that. These artists are not only female but members of …


Listen to Holly Herndon’s ‘Platform’ and the Emotional Content of the Laptop

I’m remiss in not posting this last week when it debuted, and I suspect many CDM readers have heard already, but if not – drop everything, and have a listen (in full) to ‘Platform,’ the new LP from composer/producer Holly Herndon. The full LP is now on Spotify, etc., or NPR First Listen. There’s a lot to discuss here. “Platform,” as the name implies, is intended as a first step toward other interactions. There’s the process and technique behind the music itself. A fearless champion of the laptop’s instrumental and compositional potential, Holly has made the album itself and the …


Holly Herndon, Ethereal and Heavy-Hitting, Creates Video World as Deliciously Surreal as Auditory One

Holly Herndon – Chorus [Official Video] from RVNG Intl. on Vimeo. Electronic music has, since the beginning, been at the razor’s edge of science and artistry, somewhere between radical noise and classically-derived engineering. But few artists have managed to meld the dark thump of techno with the intricate constructions of post-minimalist new music quite like Holly Herndon. Her rapid-punctuated, ethereal vocals are float above complex, dance music-inspired machinery, producing an effect that is arrestingly gorgeous and frightening all at once. In short, it’s damned good stuff. Indeed, Herndon was for me and many others one of the highlights of CTM …


Bleeding-Edge Musical Innovation, Live from CCRMA; Full Report, Monolake + Tarik Barri Live

Ivory tower, let down your hair. Make no mistake. The slightly-impossible-to-pronounce acronym CCRMA (“karma”), standing for the not-terribly-sexy “Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics,” is one of the world’s hotbeds for innovation in electronic music. From the lowest-level DSP code to the craziest live performances, this northern California research center nesting at Stanford is where a lot is going on. So, when they put on a concert, this isn’t just another dry exposition of “tape” pieces, academics scratching their chins and trying not to nod off. (Trust me: I’ve … on occasion darned nearly rubbed my chin raw …