Bleeding-Edge Musical Innovation, Live from CCRMA; Full Report, Monolake + Tarik Barri Live

Ivory tower, let down your hair. Make no mistake. The slightly-impossible-to-pronounce acronym CCRMA (“karma”), standing for the not-terribly-sexy “Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics,” is one of the world’s hotbeds for innovation in electronic music. From the lowest-level DSP code to the craziest live performances, this northern California research center nesting at Stanford is where a lot is going on. So, when they put on a concert, this isn’t just another dry exposition of “tape” pieces, academics scratching their chins and trying not to nod off. (Trust me: I’ve … on occasion darned nearly rubbed my chin raw …

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How Music Can Predict the Human/Machine Future [re:publica Talk, Video]

This week, at Germany’s re:publica conference – an event linking offline and online worlds – I addressed the question of how musical inventions can help predict the way we use tools. I started all the way back tens of thousands of years ago with the first known (likely) musical instrument. From there, I looked at how the requirements of musical interfaces – in time and usability – can inform all kinds of design problems. And I also suggested that musicians don’t lag in innovation as much as people might expect. I thought about whether I wanted to post this as …

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Lightbender, an Audiovisual Color Organ Orb, and Other Painterly-Color Interface Resources

Blast from the past: this color organ is from 2007. But it’s a beautiful demonstration of light and sound, fused into a single interface, and thus worth mentioning as I pull together notes for a talk at Mapping Festival tomorrow here in Genève. Compare the 60s-vintage Lumigraph of Oskar Fischinger, which I write about today on Create Digital Music. In gooey pinks and purples, traced with imaginary sparks, the game controller-manipulated system resembles looking into the heart of a great jellyfish made of plasma. Lightbender v2 – audiovisual instrument from Sixth Sensor on Vimeo. From the notes, as well, are …

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Do It With Lasers: R&D Experiment Makes Drum Microphones, Triggers More Accurate

Sennheiser Element – Laser Drum Microphone System from Andy Greenwood on Vimeo. We cover a lot of experiments that make an interesting proof of concept, or that make performance, frankly, more difficult but in interesting ways. Here’s an idea that might just work. You know, like might actually make an existing technology better. The idea is this: rather than clumsily using gates to isolate individual drum mics, use lasers (“lazorrrs”) to measure vibration. And if the demo video is to be believed, it works damned well. You can use this to get better recordings, or use it to transform a …

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When Plants Jam with Synths: Leslie Garcia’s Open Project Lets Plants Talk with Sound

Pulsu(m) Plantae _ project presentation from LessNullVoid on Vimeo. You may have seen a plant used as a musical instrument before, by measuring capacitance across the leafy life form and turning it into a touch sensor. This is something different: it’s letting the plant itself express communication through sound, using biofeedback to turn the living systems on the plant into something audible. It is a synth jam, made by a plant, that tells you something about what the plant is sensing about the world around it. From Tijuana, México, media artist and musician Leslie Garcia shares the latest iteration of …

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Century of Sound: 100 Years After Russolo’s “The Art of Noises”

Today, the 11th of March, is the one hundredth anniversary of “The Art of Noises,” the seminal letter written by Italian Futurist painter Luigi Russolo. That letter became a manifesto for what was then a radical document, suggesting a new approach to sound and music. In it, Russolo cautioned that “the art of noises must not be limited to a mere imitative reproduction.” The Futurists’ efforts were tragically followed by not one but two world wars, making some of their lust for violence take on a different meaning. For instance, from the 1913 letter: 1 2 3 4 5 seconds …

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Stop Motion Animation, Without the Effort: Magical New Algorithm Lets You Just Use Your Hands

Stop-motion animation, made stunningly simple … through science! Our video-based interface enables easy creation of stop motion animations with direct manipulation by hands, which are semiautomatically removed through a novel two-phase keyframe-based capturing and processing workflow. Our tool is complementary to, and can be used together with traditional stop motion production (e.g., for the rotation of individual faces here). Translation: you can hold stuff with your hands, move it around normally, and then make it look as if you spent countless hours doing actual stop motion animation. Insane. The team in Hong Kong who worked this magic: Xiaoguang Han and …

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What Does it Mean to Be an Electronic Instrument?

The electronic music analog to visual media’s question “is it art?” is clear. “Is it really a musical instrument?” Ableton will this week officially launch its Push hardware with Live 9; we’ll have an online exclusive review alongside that release. I know that the company is fond of calling it an “instrument.” For a profile by the German-language magazine De:Bug, Ableton CEO Gerhard Behles even posed with a double bass, the Push set up alongside. The message was clear: Ableton wants you to think of Push as an instrument. We’ll revisit that question regarding Push, but this isn’t only important …

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How-To: 3D Camera Tracking Tutorials, No Pricey Software Needed [Voodoo + vvvv, Blender]

Matching a 3D scene to video footage with a moving camera — it used to be that performing tasks like this required expensive commercial tools. Now, you can use vvvv – free for non-commercial use – and a free research project called Voodoo Camera Tracker. Or, on the open-source side of the coin (including commercial use), you can use Blender. vvvv we’ll talk about more this week, as the visual programming language just celebrated its 10th anniversary with an arty party in Berlin. Voodoo Camera Tracker is worth mentioning, too – the work of the Laboratorium für Informationstechnologie, University of …

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Mudit is an Inexpensive, Open Source Gestural Loop Performer [Pd + Arduino]

Knowledge on how to build dazzling new interfaces for music is spreading. And because musical performance depends on sharing knowledge and practice, that could have a transformative effect. Literally as I’m walking out the door to leave for a showcase of gestural performance in Berlin, I get a chance to look at this team from Argentina. They’re purposely giving away the plans for their open source live performance instrument, built in turn with open source hardware (Arduino) and software (free graphical development environment Pd).

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