Vocalists, track on your computer as if it were outboard gear

Maybe you’re tracking in a studio full of everything you want. But otherwise, it’s tough to argue with the appeal of being able to add tools freely, connecting just the cable from your mic to your computer. And so, for anyone recording vocals, this week’s news from Universal Audio is welcome indeed. It means that you can use a simulation of a powerful channel strip full of gear in software form – but track in real-time, as if you owned the actual hardware. And you can do it for a price that’s pretty humane.


Lesley Flanigan’s ethereal music mixes singing and vibrations

There’s no oscillator quite like your voice. And sometimes the simplest techniques can yield elaborate textures. Lesley Flanigan has built a body of work out of an elemental approach to electronics, and her new release Hedera is to me the most beautiful yet, transporting us somewhere truly sublime. The source, in addition to singing, includes feedback, a broken cassette player – but evolves into mists of sound and space, shifting from the delicate to the raw.


iPhone app for making cover songs, a sign of a changing music world

The music industry is fantastic at hindsight. We’ve obsessed over the spread of online piracy, the death of the CD, then the impact of streams. But every measure of the business model is somehow framed around acquiring records. And it’s about passive consumption. We have to remember, though, that passive consumption is itself really the outlier. Until the dawn of recording, music only existed when you played it. Our current copyright and licensing system was first structured around sheet music. And that world never went away. Precise recordings can give you the experience of listening, but no technology can give …


Duet for Singer and Jet Plane: A Soviet Airliner as Instrument

Watch as a Yakovlev Yak-42 jetliner* was transformed last month into a giant percussion instrument, allowing a unique duet between vocalist (our friend Jekka) and machines. As part of last month’s Polytech Festival in Moscow, the performance is one of a number of international collaborations taking place around the museum’s art programs. A small army of teenagers got to participate in getting the whole thing working – learning about sound, sensing, and physical computing in the process. The last time we caught up with the Playtronica collective, they were engaging kids in science and electronics through the power of vegetables. …


Romance Again: Intimate, Personal Music for the First Warmth of Spring

Who’s ready for some springtime romance? Show of hands? Thought so. Here in northern Europe, at least, we’re at that inflection point as spring first crawls its way out of winter, tiny buds on the trees and ice/rain mixes giving way to faintly warm sunbeams. This is music that matches that mood. And it’s music that finds a voice, that can sing – not just in beautiful vocals (and the likes of Brolin certainly suffices in his latest work), but in music that is crafted from some intimate place. These are productions that are immediate and intensely personal in the …


Video: A Heart-Breaking Solo with Autoharp and iPad, by Jekka

The iPad as folk instrument – alongside an earlier iteration, the Autoharp. In a heartbreakingly lovely video, Jekka of Moscow goes acoustic with Samplr.

Been there. The artist Dillon, working magic on the studio and stage - but finding her muse in bed and beta waves, half-asleep with no one else around.

Writing Music When You’re Vulnerable: Dillon on Finding Creativity in the Middle of the Night

Electronic music has become associated with over-the-top lyrics, the plastic veneer of party-time superficiality. But in any medium, some people are writing from the heart, and that can obscure a simple reality: writing from your most vulnerable places can be hard. Whatever your music-making medium of choice, you may resonate with artist Dominique Dillon de Byington – born in Brazil, raised in Germany, now goes by the simpler Dillon. Berlin-based, English-language Electronic Beats has taken their superb video series Slices from a hard-to-locate DVD to the mass audience of YouTube, and shorts like this demonstrate why that’s good news. Dillon …


As a Musician Loses Her Sight, A Rush for Music Apps for the Blind [Hack + Listen]

Take a good, long look at your computer screen. Now imagine you can’t see it. That’s the reality Mandy Matz is facing. At age 36, she’s losing her vision to glaucoma. The musician and multimedia artist makes some beautiful, ethereal music, having cut her teeth on Buzz. Listen to the haunting “Alpha Waves,” her first song. EP by Theory Anesthetic And now, because sight is so deeply connected to the way in which music developers map your brain to software, losing her vision could mean losing her ability to work with digital tools. It shouldn’t be this way. As Paul …


How St. Vincent Plays Live, ‘Through the Looking Glass’ [Video Behind-the-Scenes]

At the end of the day, what motivates extra technical preparation is the same thing that drives musicians to practice scales or work long hours in the studio: that extra discipline can pay off in real freedom of expression. So, it’s moving to hear St. Vincent talk about musicality as the end point for onstage computer-based coordination. In the behind-the-scenes video, you can see how the band combines Ableton Live, a loaded rack of instruments in Propellerhead Reason (presumably running via ReWire into Live), and a whole big mess of pedals. Interestingly, MIDI triggers for those pedals helped focus on …


For Singers, Effects and Looping All in One Box

Singers often get left out, at least when compared to the toys heaped on guitarists and keyboardists. But vocalists looking to add effects and loop their vocalizations can now do so in one box, all attachable to a mic stand. TC-Helicon has an intriguing-looking gadget they’ve unveiled for vocalists, just in time for the summer NAMM trade show in Nashville, Tennessee. Called the VoiceLive Touch, it’s an all-in-one processing and looping box. TC are no stranger to vocal effects, with the recent, compact (and akwardly-named) VoiceTone Create XT and the hefty, stompbox-style VoiceLive. What’s different here is that the resulting …