Remixing a Playground in Ableton Live

Sonic and musical inspiration are never far away, especially with a microphone in hand. For the latest example, Ableton Live meets a local playground. Jason Richard, aka “bassling,” used field recordings in the park to compose a track. He writes: I’ve been recording playgrounds and remixing the sounds in Ableton Live to create tracks. To help people understand what they’re hearing, I’ve been making short videos showing some of the process. It’s an idea I’ve had in mind for a while and the centenary is deadline to work towards. I’m inspired by the Italian Futurists and Alan Lamb, who mentored …

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808steps

What Really Makes Rhythms Human? New Research Investigates Perception, Preference, Tech

Machine rhythm: the steps on a Roland TR-808. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Brandon Daniel. What makes rhythm human? Music technology has introduced machine rhythms, perfectly-calibrated to electronically-perfected grids, yet we know that natural playing is more organic. Or, that is, we know we have certain intuitive preferences. How do those preferences and rhythms really work? And what does that mean for music technology? Fascinating new research investigates more deeply, using – you know, science! Here’s the summary of the research itself: Although human musical performances represent one of the most valuable achievements of mankind, the best musicians perform imperfectly. Musical rhythms are …

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Two Visions of Instruments from Björk: An App with MIDI, a Gamelan-Celeste with MIDI

Sometimes, images and video can say far more than words, and it’s best to stand back rather than ramble on. (Cough, ahem.) From Björk this year has come two visions of how to make new instruments. The Biophilia software for iOS is an interactive rendition of the album. As apps, you have the curious separation of tracks into individual application icons, available as separate purchases or a bundle. But the effect is one we’ve traced for a while: the music becomes non-linear and interactive, blurring the line between recording as reproduction and dynamic instruments that can transform what you hear. …

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A MIDI Robot Percussionist and a New Album, from the Duo Electrocado

Sydney-based duo Electrocado (Bill Day + Ryan Whare) have been busy making machines to make music – and banging things. In the video above, their inventive robotic percussionist, triggered via MIDI, plays tunes and rhythms. The CP1 (Creative Project 1) uses servos to control drum sticks (chopsticks, in fact) pivoting on rods, which can then strike metal, plastic, and drum skin surfaces. Playing a G# Minor scale on a xylophone along with drums, the robot responds here to MIDI patterns sent to it by Ableton Live. You can read loads of commentary on the process of making it in a …

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Brazilian Rhythms Meet Wireless, Wearable Drums in an Artist-Engineer Collaboration

Music made by machines need not turn its back on traditional musical skill – least of all when you literally strap the machines on the back of a master musician. In a fusion of Brazilian tradition and modern wireless, wearable sensor technology, Kyle McDonald shares with us a project that makes drums into an interactive suit. Kyle has plenty to say, including all the details on how to do this in case it inspires a project of your own, so I’ll let him take it away: The project is a wireless drum suit that I built with Lucas Werthein for …

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Wintry Samples: Recording Snow, Free Snow and Ice Drum Samples, Gnomish Choirs

Photo: Frank Bry, courtesy his blog The Recordist. It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere. For some of us, there’s little need to remind us of snow and ice. But if you fancy adding some frozen sounds to your music, we have both free samples and expert recording tips to help get your cold on. Frank Bry, a master sound designer, apparently has plenty of access to snow in his home of Idaho, but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for the white, fluffy stuff. He’s devoted an entire library to Ultimate Snow with some 300 locations. You can read an interview …

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Ready-to-Play, Tuned Beer Bottles, and Other Design Experiments with Sound

From label to physical shape to the boxes they come in, these beer bottles have been reimagined for musical aims. Cheers! All images courtesy the artist, Matt Braun. What if blowing tunes on beer bottles was raised to the level of musical science? Through even the mundane medium of packaging, design can transform the everyday. DJ and designer Matt Braun of Philadelphia, collaborating with Chris Mufalli, use labels to tune the level of beer remaining in the bottle for musical results. Pitches are printed on the labels, allowing you to exactly match the liquid inside to a pitch you want, …

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Jazari: Utterly Brilliant Robotic Percussion

No comment on this one just yet; I’ll have to pick my jaw up off the floor. Amidst a sea of new robotic percussion, this Wii-remote-controlled, Max/MSP-based mini-ensemble of wooden African percussion is musical, expressive, and downright stunning. I love the mechanical (literally and musically) grooves, and with a single human controlling it live, it’s true to the one-man-band history of these sorts of instruments. “One human, three machines, rhythm,” says the video description. I hope to do some research and share more soon, but I can’t resist sharing the results now. Thanks to Patrick Flanagan for the tip on …

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NAMM Picks: Roland’s Octapad Updates a Classic Percussion Controller

A lot of the music tech industry involves incremental improvements and fairly routine hardware. Amidst the crowd, certain devices are special. They might not even appear so to a general audience, but they have a special place in someone’s music making. For whatever reason, some Roland percussion controllers fit in that category. As electronic musicians ponder how to make live performance work, the handful with adept percussion skills can pick up one of these boxes and play hard. So, while it was overlooked by most folks, I think one of the stars of the new gear announced this week at …

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Preview: Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion, Robotic Ensemble from Upcoming Album

Legendary artist Pat Metheny has gone to robotics for his next album, and you can finally see a first glimpse at what the results look like. The Orchestrion is a project by the musical robotic specialists LEMUR (League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots). That’s all I’ll say for now, but I definitely will be working to cover this story in more detail.

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