buchla1960s

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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DSC_0622

Percussa want you to make modular music with cubes, blank knobs

Modular synthesis is everywhere – but there aren’t a lot of new ideas apart from using patch cables to connect them, a concept that dates from the early 1960s and telephone switchboards. Percussa are an outlier – an odd one, to be sure. Their blank, RGB light-up cubes (“AudioCubes”) connect wirelessly, and control associated software. To their credit, while plenty of “tangible” interfaces made the rounds as experiments and research projects, they went as far as commercializing the product. And that’s no mean feat. Anyone with some basic engineering knowledge can snap something into a Eurorack case and be part …

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screenshot_569

BlokDust is an amazing graphical sound tool in your browser

Just when you think you’ve tired of browser toys, of novel graphical modular sound thing-a-ma-jigs, then — this comes along. It’s called Blokdust. It’s beautiful. And … it’s surprisingly deep. Not only might you get sucked into playing with it, but thanks to some simply but powerful blocks and custom sample loading, you might even make a track with it. And for nerds, this is all fully free and open source and hipster-JavaScript-coder compliant if you want to toy with the stuff under the hood.

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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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detundeuro

This Eurorack module was coded wrong – and you’ll like it

It’s called the Circuit-Bent Digital Waveguide™ 扰动数字波导. Or the DU™ DU-KRPLS. And straight out of the “that’s not a bug, it’s a feature” files, it’s got intentionally wrong code in it. But that’s a good thing.

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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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rockmen-devices

This amp and FX pack shows what you can do with Reason

In music software, you have things that are modular, and things that aren’t. Modular environments like Reaktor and Max/MSP let you build things from scratch with essentially unlimited flexibility. DAWs tend to lock you into fairly rigid options for how you combine different instruments, effects, and other tools. Well, Reason sits somewhere in between. Every virtual synth, effect, and signal tool can be patched into another in a single, integrated environment – even as it still remains a production tool with a timeline and mixer (or mixers). In a great example of why that’s cool, hard-core Reason expert Marco Raaphorst …

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turingmachine

Music thing’s Turing Machine gets a free Blocks version

We already saw some new reasons this week to check out Reaktor 6 and Blocks, the software modular environment. Here’s just one Blocks module that might get you hooked – and it’s free. “Music thinking Machines,” out of Berlin, have built a software rendition of Music Thing’s awesome Turing Machine Eurorack module (created by Tom Whitwell). As that hardware is open source, and because what you can do in wiring you can also do in software, it was possible to build software creations from the Eurorack schematics. The beauty of this is, you get the Turing Machine module in a …

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reaktor

Reaktor Blocks works with modulars, Maschine, adds drums

Native Instruments keeps adding to Reaktor Blocks, the patch-and-play toolkit they’ve built atop Reaktor. And… it’s turning into kind of an awesome product in its own right. Reaktor Blocks 1.2 adds a bunch of the sort of stuff I think you or I would add to it were we in charge of the product. It’s suddenly got drums. It’s got a new sequencer that you can power with Maschine. It’s connecting via MIDI and CV to outboard gear and analog modular. In short, it’s something you actually want to play with.

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joey

Here are 3 epic performances on modular that aren’t noodling

We revere the modular synthesizers of the past, but that ignores important innovations both in how modules are designed and how people play. Apart from the fact that Eurorack is quite a lot slimmer, lighter, and cheaper than its predecessors, we have vastly expanded the range of what modules do in ways that lend themselves to live performances. That’s not to say it’s for everyone – a modular performance still involves a lot of pre-patching for people, and there’s clearly something to be said for computers and standalone gear. But that’s perhaps partly the point: the modular solution can stand …

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