nycskyline

New tools for free sound powerhouse Pd make it worth a new look

Pure Data, the free and open source cousin of Max, can still learn some new tricks. And that’s important – because there’s nothing that does quite what it does, with a free, visual desktop interface, permissive license, and embeddable and mobile versions integrated with other software, free and commercial alike. A community of some of its most dedicated developers and artists met late last year in the NYC area. What transpired offers a glimpse of how this twenty-year-old program might enter a new chapter – and some nice tools you can use right now. To walk us through, attendee Max …

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0-coast

Two videos show why the Make Noise 0-COAST modular is cool

2016 was the year when people said, hey, I want to get in on some of that modular goodness, but … maybe I don’t want to buy a rack and spend thousands of dollars to do that. So it’s great to finally see desktop semi-modular becoming a thing – and an affordable thing at that. There’s the best note entrant, Moog’s excellent Mother 32. But I also like the much odder, but still affordable Make Noise 0-COAST (that’s a zero, not the letter o). It’s got a far more idiosyncratic front panel, but that shouldn’t put you off: it’s still …

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circuit

A bit of what you should know about event power and electrical safety

Ted Pallas contacted us and wanted to create a short primer on power, in response to the terrible fire at Ghost Ship in Oakland, CA. Any fire anywhere is a reminder that knowledge of electricity, how it works and how it impacts safety, is essential to any of us organizing or playing electronic music live. This won’t provide everything you need to know, by a longshot, but it’s a good step toward knowing a bit more, and I hope we continue taking those steps together in future. The rub of electronic music and visual media is that both performance and …

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skinnerboxcurve

Skinnerbox’s free M4L Device is the MIDI curve Ableton forgot

Ableton Loop in its second year was a vastly expanded event, with more people, more interactions, and a greater sense of community. And it was more hands-on. The workshop with Skinnerbox, the duo that makes such robust use of Live, well, live, was overflowing. But now there’s a gift for everybody, not just those lucky enough to pack into the Berlin session. It’s simple, but that makes it handy to learn from. And it’s quite useful. (I like stuff like that for learning patching for the first time. Sometimes you need a screwdriver, not a CNC machine.) Curve does what …

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iphonecable

Here’s how to make the iPhone or iPad a live camera for VJing

Having a live video source for visuals can be as valuable as having a microphone in audio. But now you can add iOS devices to the realm of possible input devices. On the Mac, you’ve got several means to do this. Wired: With a recent version of iOS / macOS, just connect your Lightning cable, and you can use the iPhone like any other input. (You’ll need a Mac app that supports AVFoundation.) Wireless: AirBeam is a combination of mobile iPad/iPhone and desktop Mac app. The iOS app is US$3.99, and then apps for Apple TV and Mac are free. …

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screenshot_642

Free jazz – how to use Ableton Link sync with Pure Data patches

Effortless wireless sync everywhere has arrived with free software, too, thanks to Ableton’s new open source SDK. And it’s incredibly easy – enough so that anyone with even rudimentary patching skills will probably want to try this out. Pure Data, the free and open source cousin of Max/MSP, looks ugly but does great stuff. And it’s worth checking out even if you use Max, because Pd is lightweight and runs on any platform – including Linux, Raspberry Pi, iOS, Android, and inside other software (like game engines). Now that it supports Link, you can make patches that run anywhere and …

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iph_reso

How to make vocal drones with PPG’s iPad synth, more

PPG’s Phonem vocal synth for iPad is one of the nicest synths to come out this summer. So, let’s get straight to using it. Our friend Jakob is here with a great tutorial: It’s a nice introduction to the architecture, by way of a drone sound design. Also, I can’t say enough good things about Jakob’s YouTube channel – it’s one of the best tutorial sources out there, with a particular focus on affordable hardware and mobile apps and gear. His Haq Attack series has now climbed well into triple figures in episode count and more keep coming. It’s hard …

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karplusstrong

Watch a perfect explanation of modular physical modeling

Eventually, even the most impassioned synth lover gets bored of mixing oscillators together. You need a little spice in your sound life. You need Karplus-Strong synthesis. Commonly associated with physical modeling strings, Karplus-Strong can also be thought of as a flexible feedback system of delayed, filtered noise. Okay, that’s a lot more abstract than imagining fake strings, but I say that for a reason – because it’s a system with lots of component parts, you can use it to create a wide palette of sounds. Some might sound like strings. Some might sound more artificial. Some might sound like percussion. …

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devine

A Richard Devine soundscape from a crazy modular nest

Richard Devine’s Vimeo account is something special. It’s certainly partly theater – there’s something entirely alien about seeing a nest of gear, tangled in cables and blinking, as if modules have achieved sentience and starting interconnecting themselves. But behind that facade of nerdy chaos is some real thought about how to make sounds by creating unexpected combinations of signal processors. It’s something I’ve been discussing with a lot of people lately – this interplay between stability and instability, automaton and entropy.

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"New MacBook." Photo (CC-BY Maurizio Pesce.

Feel the beat on a Magic Trackpad or MacBook with free tool

Don’t like clicks or beeps or other sounds when using a metronome? Try some haptic feedback instead, with this free utility.

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