Sail to Samos with vintage BBC to find Pythagorean tunings

Speaking of tuning, before there was Cosmos and Carl Sagan, there was BBC’s Ascent of Man. (Make that “humankind” now, of course.) And there’s something charming about its breathless reminder of the mystical magic of Pythagorean tuning, and its mythical discovery in folklore. Fact check – as the film sort of suggests, we don’t really know how this discovery took place since our knowledge is fragmentary. It may not have involved any individual named Pythagoras, or indeed taken place on Samos. But the power associated with the harmony of mathematics, sound, and perception does have historical basis – in the …


Your unconscious meat body plays this online drum machine

I am a damp rag of exposed flesh, my limbs ill-defined blobs drifting in some undetermined direction as I float through space – wet steak in a wormhole. But then there’s a parade of translucent boxes against this surrealist-nightmare distorted planet, and a triumphant series of chime rings out. A clear pattern is articulated from the murk, a rhythm emerging from the disarray. No, no – hold on, don’t stop reading, I’m fine. I am actually describing to the best of my ability the experience of using one #$(&*ing insane browser music toy created by our friend Sam Rolfes. It’s …


A major breakthrough in physics is heard, not seen

When you imagine inquiring in the universe, your first idea is probably someone looking at something – an image. But there are other ways of sensing and studying the world, too. Last week’s detection of gravitational waves, confirming the presence of what had been predicted by Einstein, is special in that it heralds a new significance to sound in physics.


These Students Put Out Fires with The Power of Bass

The next time you’re facing a life-threatening fire in, say, your kitchen, you may simply shout, “where’s the drop?” George Mason University engineering seniors Seth Robertson and Viet Tran have made a fire extinguisher that works entirely using sound. If you haven’t seen it making the social media rounds yet, of course, it’s worth posting here. Not only is it absurdly cool to watch, but it’s the latest reminder that music, sound engineering, and science can go hand in hand. That is, music is made of sound, and the study of sound overlaps with engineering and physics. In fact, this …


Angry Bees! Swarms and Flocks of Sound in a New iPad Synth

Now, your iPad can go from sweet-sounding pads to hordes of angry bees and back again, all by modeling physical behaviors of flocking. It’s called the Photophore, and it’s a “flock synthesis” instrument. You may have seen synths that produce lush sounds by combining oscillators – the eight-oscillator Swarmatron springs to mind. Well, this synth puts the “swarm” in “Swarmatron.” With up to one hundred oscillators per patch, it uses physical modeling to transform sound by simulating flocking behaviors. I’ve seen experiments that have done things like this with flocking algorithms and particle systems, but this must be the first …


A Singing Comet: Hear and Remix a Comet’s Magnetic Oscillations, Lander Thump

The cosmos still offers up mysteries and surprises. And sometimes they sing to us – quite literally. Scientists were dazzled to discover that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was producing strange subsonic music, captured by a magnometer aboard the Rosetta orbiter. (That’s the orbiter that famously deposited the Philae lander; magnetic instruments also track the lander’s descent.) This is sound, just not sound we can hear – some unexpected interaction of the comet with the magnetic field around it at inaudibly low levels. So, who you gonna call to allow people to easily hear patterns in the data? Why, a composer, of course. …


Watch as a Live LHC Remix Makes Scientists Start Raving [Tim Exile at TEDx]

Watch the power of science meet the power of improvisation. You know how TED talks – or even DJing – normally goes. Some omnipotent person stands on stage and everyone watches. Well, this one went a bit differently. At at a TEDx event mounted by CERN (TEDx are independent of TED, though borrowing the format), Tim Exile took the stage with a live remix. But keep watching: the beats make the crowd go wild and start dancing, first raving around the floor, then storming the stage. It’s like the nerdiest Boiler Room ever. Tim Exile has been using this Reaktor …


Watch Flappy Bird Make Ambient Music, Billiard Balls Bounce, in Lemur Hacks

If Brian Eno were scoring the dreams of a gaming addiction, it might go something like this. Yes, we already told you previously that Lemur 5 adding a canvas object would mean anything could be a controller. It makes the iPad controller app as much a blank, well, canvas, as your Web browser window, more or less. But with relatively scant documentation, Lemur 5 assumed a lot of its users. I mean, it seems like you’d almost need some ingenious coder/hacker to turn this into something completely ridiculous, right? Okay, that didn’t take long. Someone going by the name “saveas909” …


Musical Physics, Baby! A 3D AV Sequencer Box, Physics Resources for Max

The Box from Mike Todd on Vimeo. Knobs and faders, we love you on hardware. But when it comes to the unlimited possibilities of the computer, we know how to get the party on: “Add some physics bodies.” (See below; that’s really a quote.) Mike Todd, whose work we’ve seen before on CDMotion, sends us a physics-based sequencer/synth built in Max/MSP and Jitter. It’s a quivering, humming three-dimensional world of sound, in which visuals and noise are entangled in a single design. (Ableton Live acts as a sound engine.) As Todd says, he’s “not sure which CDM site this would …

In-app editing, at last. Without switching to your Mac or PC, you can now edit or create layouts right on Lemur. Images courtesy Liine.

Make Controller Layouts Right on an iPad: New Lemur Arrives, LiveControl 2.0 Soon [iOS; Gallery]

Once the layout is done, using an iPad as an interactive, do-anything-you-want, Star Trek-style music and visual controller is a unique pleasure. But as your fingers surf through virtual knobs and faders, the idea has surely occurred to you: why can’t I actually do my editing and layout on the iPad? Lemur is perhaps the most powerful controller app anywhere, a terrific demonstration of why a tablet controller can be useful. And its editor – directly descended from the editor that went with the original, pre-iPad Lemur hardware – is powerful, unquestionably. But switching between an editor on the desktop …