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Exclusive: Ableton acquires Max maker Cycling ’74; what you need to know

Ableton is announcing today they have fully acquired Cycling ’74, the California-based company best known for producing Max and Max for Live. It’s perhaps an auspicious moment for Cycling ’74 as the company reaches its 20th anniversary – and 20 years of availability of the MSP tools for synthesis and sound processing. But if acquisitions would normally make you nervous, the close existing relationship of the two companies, and the plans as they’re describing them, should put those concerns to ease. Gerhard Behles and David Zicarelli, founders and CEOs of Ableton and Cycling ’74, respectively, tell CDM that the deal …

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Founders David Zicarelli (left) and Gerhard Behles (right).

A conversation with David Zicarelli and Gerhard Behles

Today’s Ableton have announced they’re acquiring Cycling ’74. There’s no two better people to talk to about what that means than the founders and CEOs of the two companies, Ableton’s Gerhard Behles and David Zicarelli of Cycling ’74. That’s big news. But it’s also a long time coming, based on a relationship that has evolved over three decades. And the history of these two companies is deeply intertwined – not just because of Max for Live. Without Max, it’s almost certain there would be no Ableton. Behles says Max was the first music software to really inspire him. Max was …

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Watch this crew go transhuman in the absorption chamber

“Well, it’s not really anything new” (or some variant) is a phrase heard at music and media shows perhaps as often as “I’m going for a smoke” or “where’s the toilet?” But this raises a question. Forget for a second what an audience thinks is new – sound or look or technology or whatever. What would get you to do something different? What would get you out of your comfort zone? What would get you to push yourself – even just a few steps? That’s been the idea behind all the collaborative labs I’ve gotten to organize, but for last …

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Inside Skinnerbox’s live sets, including a song they play backwards

“xobrenniks era ew olleh.” Skinnerbox, the duo of Olaf Hilgenfeld and Iftah Gabbai, are now so comfortable in their roles of playing live that they’re playing backwards to spice things up. (It seems there was some effort involved here – like, learning a song backwards in order that they had composed it the way they desired when reversed. I just find it oddly enchanting watching things defy gravity and roll across cymbals.) Playing with other people can feel like a mind meld. There’s a special discipline to working things out alone, to be sure. But it’s when you play with …

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How Dutch archives turned into a Lakker AV show about water

Wade in the water, indeed. Set the Irish duo Lakker loose in a Dutch film archive, and what you get is a dense, heavy experimental techno album and a live show exploring the Netherlands’ ongoing battle with the sea. It’s a 2016 album, but even if you caught it before, now we get some insight into its evolution into a live audiovisual show. Even before you get the sense of the historical narrative behind it, the music itself is evocative, dark, and rich. I actually like that we’re calling all this music “techno” now – this isn’t in the four-in-the-floor …

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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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TouchDown Houston at Day For Night Festival; photo Roger Ho.

A bunch of tricks and tools for generative visual tool TouchDesigner

TouchDesigner, the visual development environment for interactive media, is a not-so-secret weapon for the artists creating some of the best eye candy today. And it’s likely to earn more attention now that it’s available for both macOS and Windows. (It was previously Windows-only.) But it’s not just the power of the tool itself that makes it stand out. It’s just as much a community behind it, sharing resources with one another. That says something, really. People working on interactive and event visuals often pull in some pretty hefty fees, and they justify those fees by making sure their tech tricks …

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Now you can put a Buchla-style modular inside Reaktor, free

There’s nothing quite like a Buchla. The “West Coast” modular that inspired the likes of Morton Subotnick and Suzanne Ciani has an approach to signal and expression that is both uniquely experimental and uniquely musical. It’s its own animal. So it’s about time we see that philosophy applied to the open patching of Reaktor. The Cloudlab 200t isn’t a Buchla clone – its creators are quick to issue a disclaimer there, and say this is all just for fun. But fun it is, with a lovely approach to patch design. Trevor Gavilan produced the design, with contributions and components from …

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Sloo is the maddest, most swarming soft synth you’ve ever heard

When was the last time you just got lost in a synthesizer? Like, when you forgot everything else you were doing and just turned knobs and forgot what hour it was? Well, if it’s been a while, you might want to try Sloo. If you want, you don’t actually need to read any more. Just know that Sloo is a thing for Reaktor from Tim Exile, and it involves a gazillion oscillators, and it will make totally mental noises. It feels like someone has just heated up a giant, hot, steaming Jacuzzi of oscillators and you’ve jumped in and dunked …

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Image: Licht Pfad.

TouchDesigner 099 does everything with live visuals – now on Mac, too

It makes things look prettier, with something called “physically based rendering.” It has crazy compositing and capture powers. It’s networked with Web support, talks to DMX gear, and intelligently handles all your MIDI gadgets and capture cards and everything else. It handles VR with HTC Vive. And that’s just a few examples of what is new or improved in version 099. TouchDesigner is a name you’ll see coming up regularly mentioned in projects. It’s an all-encompassing visual development environment, using a patching (or “dataflow”) metaphor, like Pd, Max/MSP/Jitter, vvvv, and others. That interface is one of the best looking zoomable …

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