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Nadia Boulanger has a message for you on music and inspiration

Forget genius – musical devotion is about love. “Can you live without music?” is the question from Nadia Boulanger, the legendary music teacher. When she talks about the fear of encouraging too many people, this is the teacher who taught Daniel Barenboim, Aaron Copland, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass, Astor Piazzolla — and the list goes on. And this isn’t “those who can’t, teach” — on the contrary, Boulanger broke ground for women at the conductor’s podium, taking the baton in front of a number of the world’s best orchestras and premiering the likes of Stavinsky and Copland. But, for all …

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Here’s how Mouse on Mars are using robots to expand their band

Analog and digital? That’s just a small slice of the pie. The post-digital / post-analog world uses those two ingredients but adds others, like biological, photochemical, optical, and perhaps most importantly, kinetic. Instead of electrifying screens and circuits, then, you can also make stuff move. Mouse on Mars, in collaboration with the Sonic Robots project of Moritz Simon Geist, are making just such a collective – human meets robot. And it makes some sense not just in technological terms, but aesthetic ones. The German collaborative get as playful with robotic use of objects and percussion as they do in their …

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This cybernetic synth contains a brain grown from the inventor’s cells

Digital? Ha. Analog? Oh, please. Biological? Now you’re talking. The core of this synthesizer was grown in a lab from actual living cells sliced right out of its creator. Skin cells are transformed into stem cells which then form a neural network – one that exists not in code, but in actual living tissue. Now, in comparison to your brain (billions of neurons and a highly sophisticated interactive structure), this handful of petri dish neurons wired into some analog circuits is impossibly crude. It signifies your brain sort of in the way one antenna on an ant signifies the solar …

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This music video generates landscapes from a wild alien duo’s music

If you haven’t seen it already, Meier & Erdmann absolutely nailed it with their video for the tune “Howler Monkey.” First, it doesn’t hurt that this is a crisp, funky, uncluttered earworm gem. Second, the video is dazzling. Here’s the thing: there’s absolutely no reason why sound visualization needs to be so boring and familiar. There’s a lot to learn here. Even just change the colors goes a long way. Here, the familiar spectral view over time is carefully tuned to form fantastical landscapes, the camera panning around lazily. I keep re-watching the video partly because so much was carefully …

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ArduTouch is an all-in-one Arduino synthesizer learning kit for $30

This looks like a near-perfect platform for learning synthesis with Arduino – and it’s just US$30 (with an even-lower $25 target price). It’s called ArduTouch, a new Arduino-compatible music synth kit. It’s fully open source – everything you need to put this together is available on GitHub. And it’s the work of Mitch Altman, something of a celebrity in DIY/maker circles. Mitch is the clever inventor of the TV B-Gone – an IR blaster that lets you terminate TV power in places like airport lounges – plus brainwave-tickling gear like the Neurodreamer and Trip Glasses. (See his Cornfield Electronics manufacturer.) …

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Remembering experimental idol and Pan Sonic founder Mika Vainio

Finnish musician Mika Vainio is likely an inspiration to anyone who loves the sensation of electrified sound in its raw form – bare, exposed, vibrating, voltaic. Mika Vainio is a thread running through so much of experimentalism in the past three decades of electronic music – noise to industrial to techno. News reaches us today that he died at the age of 53. If now electronic music’s dark underground vein has become popular, then his fingerprints are all over that transformation. I can see just how many people he’s touched and how deeply moved they’ve been by his work just …

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Moog talked to The Haxan Cloak about the visceral quality of sound in air

Isn’t it weird how oddly superficial and fashion oriented talking about music can get? Let’s remember what we’re doing: we’re moving sound particles in air and then seeing what happens to our physical body and mood when they disrupt tiny bits inside our ear. To quote Keanu Reaves: whoa. So it’s refreshing that a recent video Moog shot with The Haxan Cloak isn’t really about Moog synthesizers and isn’t really about The Haxan Cloak. It’s about what happens when you hear really low frequencies. It’s about the feeling of motion you get when you arrange melodies into repeating patterns. It’s …

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In Czech, instruments and music releases are all about extended family

It’s a wonderful thing to find kindred spirits. It doesn’t matter if they look like you, if you share a gender or an age, or if they come from down the street or around the globe. And that’s the experience a lot of people have had when coming in contact with Bastl Instruments and the underground music and instrument enclave of Brno, Czech. Bastl are known for their cute compact desktop synth hardware and quirky modular line. And small builders are themselves tight-knit, but there’s more to it than just what Bastl Instruments as a maker provides. There’s a sense …

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Explore a huge, free archive of the history of Japanese animation

We live in a marvelous age, not just because it gives us access to what’s new, but access to what’s old, too. And artists feel free to draw from the past for their visual and musical imagination. Media archaeology and invention go hand in hand. And if you want to appreciate just how much is possible, there’s something about watching an animated movie from 1917 – one that looks like it could be at home on Adult Swim in 2017. The National Film Center of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo has put up an enormous, free archive in …

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Watch this to learn how to create hip-hop 808 bass lines easily

You either already know what this is about – or you don’t know that you already know what this is about. That is, you’ve heard bass lines made with 808s all over the place. That’s likely to continue, too – thanks to the dominance of PAs with heavy bass, and the corresponding use of bass in all kinds of tracks, this has become a big part of musical language. And it’s a versatile approach to making bass lines. Because of its construction, you could take this same technique and apply it to any kind of music. But yeah, it is …

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