saxforlive

The best music tech April Fools – and some of them are real

April Fools may have become a wasteland of bad jokes and actually-misleading news items, but our ever-inventive music tech community has come up with some stuff that’s rather clever. And then some of that, in turn, is actually real. Here are our favorites from this year: Ableton Sax for Live easily wins April Fools 2017 – on the quality of its demo video alone. (Those are some well-known Ableton figures delivering these stellar performances, too.) But the best part of Sax for Live is, it is actually a real, free download. And the instrument, designed by Ableton’s ace sound designer …

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sunvox

The music software that’s everywhere is now in the browser too: SunVox Web

Oh, sure, some developers think it’s a big deal if their software runs on Mac and Windows. (Whoo!) SunVox has a different idea of cross-platform – a slightly more complete one. Alexander Zolotov is a mad genius. His SunVox has all the patchable sound design of a modular synth. But it also has all the obsessive-compulsive pattern editing of a tracker. So on any single platform, it’s already two tools in one. And it doesn’t run on just one single platform. It’s on Windows (pretty much any version). It’s on macOS – all the way back to 10.6. (Kudos, Alexander …

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Try not to say anything sensitive while heating up that Hot Pocket. ()CC-BY) 
Ewen Roberts.

Could you spy on someone using a microwave oven as a mic?

While too much of our information streams have become infected with endless discussion of the current White House, this week there’s a direct connection to Leon Theremin. So – let’s dive in, shall we? In case you’ve managed to avoid US news, you might not know that the Counselor to the President of the United States recently speculated to an interviewer that a microwave oven could be used as a spying device, and specifically, as a camera. And that led to stories like this one: No, Microwave Ovens Cannot Spy on You—for Lots of Reasons [Wired] The problem is, what …

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Meet the guy you can blame for all those air horn sounds everywhere

The air horn is one of the weirder cultural tropes around today. It’s loud, it’s obnoxious – and it’s also ubiquitous, from radio ads to pop songs. It’s clearly out of its original context, but what was it’s original context, anyway? The answer to that is more clear-cut than you might imagine. But it also points a finger squarely at us cultural consumers and producers – that too much copy-paste could become a literal, repeated warning bell. Author Jeff Weiss actually wrote a beautiful essay for Red Bull Music Academy back in 2013″ In Search of the Air Horn In …

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landscape2

STEREO FIELD is a beautiful touchplate instrument and controller

This might just be a real spiritual successor to the Cracklebox. (That’s the classic – and very nicely unpredictable – creation of Michel Waisvisz, one associated with the research program at STEIM and many of the ideas about expression and nonlinear sound ever since.) STEREO FIELD is a sound box / controller centered around touch plates, marked with concentric overlapping circles that represent the interconnection of two analog stereo circuits. It’s a sound generator: you can make some (raw sounding) analog, atonal sounds by patching its circuitry to an output. It’s also a sound processor: use incoming signal to combine …

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Alien and unicorn music and a free picture-to-MIDI tool to download now

The Internet: it’s still doing crazy things with MIDI. Just in the last few days, we’ve seen MIDI musical inventions go freshly viral. And keep reading even if you’ve seen some of that, as we’ve got a little bonus for you to get in on the fun. It started with producer Aleksander Vinter, aka Savant – whose work extends to popular game scores. He created patterns like this one that double both as recognizable picture (a bird, reminiscent of vintage text art), and as compelling musical figuration. Behold: See / hear more: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SavantOfficial/about/?ref=page_internal https://www.youtube.com/user/winterpiss/featured That led YouTube star Andrew Huang …

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colin

This nearly 12 hour modular synth marathon is actually entertaining

You might think that rigging a giant rack of modular synths and burying them in a tangle of synth cords and then live streaming a performance jam on them for nearly twelve hours straight is self-indulgent and overkill. And you’d be right. But if you also thought it would be no fun to watch, that it’d be joyless and involve lots of noodling, you’d be very wrong. Very wrong. Like – maybe you should get about twelve hours free. That’s because the guy behind this insanity is talented synthesist Colin Benders. And not only is he an amazing musical performance, …

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PushPull is a crazy futuristic squeezebox instrument you can make

PushPull will blow apart your idea of what a typical controller – or an accordion – might be. It’s a bit like a squeezebox that fell from outer space, coupling bellows with colored lights, sensors, mics, and extra controls. And you can now make one yourself, thanks to copious documentation. You may have seen the instrument in action in the last couple of years ago – gasping in the dark. PushPull Balgerei 2014 from 3DMIN on Vimeo. But with more complete documentation, you get greater insight into how the thing was made – and you could even follow the instructions …

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blanktape

Look inside the world of cassette tape culture in this short film

The 21st Century is bringing a yearning for physical objects and low fidelity – two threads that perfectly combine in the anachronistic cassette tape. Now, I find talking about cassettes tends to get some chortles, perhaps people mumbling under their breath about hipsters. But as production times and costs rise for producing vinyl, cassettes are a way of producing consumable goods on the cheap, quickly. And that makes them a likely antidote to the ephemeral digital file, in a way that the bland office equipment of a USB stick is unlikely to accomplish. Burn to tape, then, and you’ve got …

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araucann

Only a randomize button can save this synth with way too many knobs

araucann looks like what would happen if someone’s plug-in SDK … exploded on the floor. It’s a six-oscillator synth – okay, so far, so good – but then it also has 33 envelopes and 32 LFOs and things sort of get out of hand from there. This ocean of parameters is then encapsulated into a set of simple, musical controls that let you easily — ha, no, only joking. They made a knob for everything and called it a day. Each individual oscillator has its own bank of controls, and then even one of those banks is already slightly overwhelming. …

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