It's all acoustic technology. But, at last, it's 21st century acoustic technology. Photo: CDM.

Watch Una Corda, a software piano with a difference

The piano has been living with a beautiful legacy, but that legacy can double as tyranny. The Steinway Model D, favorite instrument of mine that it is, has also frozen the technological development of the keyboard instrument. And that’s why the Una Corda is different. Built custom by David Klavins, and associated with that builder’s collaboration with pianist Nils Frahm, this lightweight piano is unlike any you’ve seen or heard before. And now, you can get a taste of playing the real thing with a software instrument.


Call for participants: a Hacklab to change perspectives, in Belgium

In the past weeks, I’ve had the good fortune to talk to astronauts and aeronautical engineers, to artists in residence in space centers (with ESA) and aboard “vomet comet” airplane microgravity experiments (in Russia). A common theme has emerged. Just as images from space once transformed our perception, the next frontier is sound. From spatial sound to works responding to spaceflight, drones, and aeronautics, there’s a chance to change the way we hear and imagine. And so, after we start February at Berlin’s CTM Festival imagining future rituals, we’ll move later in the month to Leuven, Belgium to explore the heard place. You’re …

A kid and parent playing with a Benjolin

At this exhibition, the future of music is weird

We have seen the future. And it’s strange – in a good way. Bizarre Sound Creatures was an exhibition late last month held in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, accompanied by workshops and performances. The theme wasn’t just new instrument design and music making, but imagining a future world with peculiar evolutionary twists. These are musical objects with odd appendages and surprising interfaces. Let’s take a look.


A new ROLI instrument wants to make expressive control mainstream

We are all slaves to the piano. Two or three centuries after the instrument rose to dominance, and well over a half century after it became intertwined with the synthesizer (hello Minimoog!), it’s still something of a challenge to work out some alternative. And I love the piano. One of my great frustrations with some advocates of expressive new interfaces is their disregard for my favorite instrument. But let’s look at it this way: we’ve got beef. Beef is fantastic. We still really ought to have some chicken, some duck, and some vegan options. The formula for solving this in …


Bach Played on Tubes Will Remind You That Acoustic is Fun

I must admit to knowing neither the term tubes musicaux, nor “boomwhackers.” We’re on the eve of the Musikmesse trade show, which for music technology sites means time spent largely in Hall 5.1 – the bit dedicated to electronic stuff and “DJs.” But that’s no reason to ignore the possibilities afforded by acoustic sound. So long as people are being inventive with materials, that end of the spectrum (so to speak) will remain compelling. And the “Boomwhacker” is a great example. As Wikipedia kindly fills me in, “Boomwhackers Tuned Percussion Tubes are lightweight, hollow, color-coded, plastic tubes, tuned to musical …


As My Guitar Gently Weeps with a Japanese Politician

While my elected representative gently weeps? Yes, don’t miss this video, going social today, from Japan, in which a guitarist perfectly times playing to a politician’s sob story. You might assume this isn’t relevant to CDM. But let’s say it hits the whammy bar — on your MIND. Earlier this month, I attended the NIME2014 conference – New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Year after year, groups like these discuss the merits of instrumental interfaces for expression. Generally, instruments like the guitar – good. Instruments like the piano – bad. No ability to add nuance after you hit a note, no …


Acoustic Revelation: Inside the Una Corda, the 100kg, 21st Century Piano Built for Nils Frahm

Now this is a revolutionary etude. There’s no question the acoustic grand is an engineering wonder, a musical instrument with literal tons of string tension producing unparalleled sound. But it’s a 19th Century technological marvel. Innovations, apart from subtle variations, have been largely frozen since the likes of the Steinway & Sons Model D-274. The Model D is a beauty; the question is, what have builders been doing with the 155 years since it was introduced? Builder David Klavins is a master instrument maker re-imagining the piano for our century. And he isn’t afraid to go to extremes to do …


How Music Can Predict the Human/Machine Future [re:publica Talk, Video]

This week, at Germany’s re:publica conference – an event linking offline and online worlds – I addressed the question of how musical inventions can help predict the way we use tools. I started all the way back tens of thousands of years ago with the first known (likely) musical instrument. From there, I looked at how the requirements of musical interfaces – in time and usability – can inform all kinds of design problems. And I also suggested that musicians don’t lag in innovation as much as people might expect. I thought about whether I wanted to post this as …


How an “Acoustic Synth” Wants to Change The Way You Think About Guitars [Videos]

It’s been a long time since we had a new hit like the electric guitar. Amidst the wonderful explosion of innovations in electronic instruments – digital and analog – the sound possibilities of acoustic and electro-acoustic instruments seem to have gone largely dormant. This is the guitar that hopes to change that. In fact, its creators don’t even call it a guitar, preferring instead “Acoustic Synthesizer.” Asheville, North Carolina’s Paul Vo, he of the Moog Guitar and Moog Lap Steel, wants to give guitarists unprecedented control over the timbres they play, both experimental and traditional, vastly expanding the range of …


Melodies in Triangles: Christopher Willits on Playing Grids of Push [Tutorial Video]

You can think about melodies and harmonies in geometric shapes. In fact, instrumentalists playing piano keys or guitar frets have already been doing that for some time. What’s happening with grid controllers like Push – among other alternatives – is that it’s now easy to rearrange melodic setups to see and play these relationships in new ways. Musician Christopher Willits has started a series of videos called CREATE (hmmm… like that name somehow), through the creative community platform Overlap. Willits tells CDM, “I really love this instrument. I’m excited to work with it more and become really comfortable. Like any …