Steve Reich played on Game Boys is mesmerizing

Steve Reich’s exploration of rhythm and phase take on special meaning in the age of ubiquitous electronic instruments. What started with clapping, with pianos and marimbas, and tape loops doubles now as a way of thinking about machine rhythm, too. Hearing Reich on Game Boys here isn’t just a novelty. It feels like a real re-instrumentation – Wendy Carlos’ Switched on Bach approach for the Mario Bros. generation. Listen & watch (it’s all live):

Minguet Quartett, The Long Now 2015, Kraftwerk. Photo: Camille Blake.

A festival to ponder the nature of time

Now, following a century of recording and broadcast, where does musical performance go next? That challenges not just space or culture, but reimagining the place of time itself in the performance. Berlin is a fitting place to contemplate time. Once home to Albert Einstein, it helped incubate modern general relativity. At its southwest is Mendelsohn’s Einsteinturm; it has the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in its DNA. Adlershof, a short S-Bahn ride away, is home to the enormous BESSY II synchotron photon radiation source (particle accelerator.)


Non-Oblique Strategies: Author on the Discipline of Making Music

The blank screen. The half-finished project. The project that wants to be done. We talk a lot about machines and plug-ins, dials and patch cords, tools and techniques. But the reality is, the most essential moments of the process go beyond that. They’re the moments when we switch on that central technology of our brain and creativity. And, very often, they crash and require a restart. So it’s about time to start talking about the process of how we make music – even more so when that process is in some sense inseparable from the technology we use, whether the …


This Is What Happens When Vintage Robot Voices Make an Album

We hope that music will always have tribes of people keeping esoteric traditions alive – your Renaissance musical ensemble, your Slovenian folk instrumentalists. It just happens that electronic technologies have attracted their own followings, cultivating knowledge of Texas Instruments chips found in specific arcade games the way some people might maintain a balalaika. Chip singers have never gotten the kind of attention synthesizers have. But if Moog – and the synth itself – can look to Keith Emerson’s “Lucky Man,” fans of robotic sung vocals will always have Humanoid. The seminal acid track “Stakker Humanoid” was the work of artists …


Learn How Pantha Du Prince Combines Acoustic Instruments with Ableton Live, In C

Before triggering clips and samples on the computer, Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory “trigger” the musicians. Yes, before there were machine clips, there were human patterns, and in performing Terry Riley’s legendary classical new music composition “In C,” the ensemble has to do just that. In a beautiful chorus of chiming tones, that orchestra is augmented with digital embellishment. The result makes for a live performance that expands the role of the computer into a large-scale instrumental ensemble, venturing into territory perhaps not as often associated with Ableton Live as genres like dance music are. But Ableton has …


In Living Rooms, Homes, Beautiful Music as a Ritual: Olafur Arnalds; Matthew Flook; Free

For centuries, music was something made in a living room, made at home. It was a brief fluke of the 20th Century that music came out of a heroic process in a hidden-away studio. But if the gold-plated, magical record is threatened, some artists are trying to bring the daily ritual of home music making back. Ólafur Arnalds and Matthew Flook are each making gorgeous, cinematic-ambient tracks, and each have made projects that involve doing so on a regular basis in their homes. Let’s listen. Arnalds has been making some of the finest scores anywhere, and now has earned the …


Cristian Vogel, Still Dazzling Ears, Two Decades On [Listen]

There are few artists as thoroughly credentialed across dance music and Classical new music as Cristian Vogel. But what’s astounding about Vogel is, having ventured out on the precipice of those bleeding edges of both worlds, he still stands on tiptoe there now. Chilean-born, UK-raised and academically-trained in the 80s, and now a leading voice in Berlin’s scene for the past 20 years, he’s no less prolific today than in the past. But let’s not just wax poetic – let’s have a listen to the latest. We can love the fact that Jamie Lidell, Vogel’s former mate in Super Collider …

Nonstop from Iceland, the perfect soundtracks to your winter. Photo (CC-BY) James Cridland.

Cool Yule: Iceland’s Bedroom Community Spins Wintry, Eclectic Releases [Listen]

It’s easy to be bleak about new music releases, the vast quantities of new work spreading before you in their sameness like a blizzard – plenty of particles, but all a white wash. When feelings like that hit you – or the depressed mood that might strike during midwinter in the far reaches of the Northern Hemisphere – there’s a solution. You can warm yourself with good friends in intimate surroundings. And that’s what Iceland’s Bedroom Community collective and label are all about. This group has literally assembled a group of close friends for “intimate” musical connections. Getting in on …


A Concerto for iPad and Orchestra, as a Composer Takes on Tablet as Instrument

For all the ubiquity of electronic instruments and computers in the past half century, it’s still comparatively rare for composers to add these sounds to the largely-unchanging makeup of an orchestra. Therefore, as composer Ned McGowan writes a concerto that claims to be the first for iPad, he’s forced to admit the addition of a computer remains somewhat novel. A composer himself, Frank Oteri has compiled a list of works for orchestra and technology. The scores typically call, however, for the integrated instrument of a “synthesizer”; computers are often relegated to making appearances on tape even in relatively recent works. …


Kinect-Controlled, 4-Story Pipe Organ, a Phantom of the Organist

When we last caught up with the touch-less, gestural music-making of composer Chris Vik, the Australian musician was sharing his own Kinectar software and playing both dubstep and ambient scores for modern dance. Now, Vik is back playing a very substantial physical instrument: Melbourne’s four story-tall, MIDI-retrofitted Town Hall Organ. Here, the Max-powered software takes on some very big sound from some very big pipes. He writes: I’ve created my own software Kinectar, which allows the use of the Kinect to control MIDI devices, ie. playing notes through simple gestures and motion. The Melbourne Town Hall Organ got a referb …