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 …


Enjoy the sweet sound of guitar just intonation on this album

Sorry. I’m terrible at writing headlines, actually. I’m also mostly terrible at writing reviews. So let me just say that if you haven’t heard Horse Lords, the Baltimore-based indie band, since their 2010 founding, you deserve to. And they make a great argument for why alternative tunings really do matter in music.


Hands on with the Ableton Live 9.2 Tuner [Video]

Hey, sometimes it’s the simple things. I was going to write something, but – well, it’s a tuner. Watch the film, from Ableton Liveschool. And I have to say, Ableton has found a way to make this Device more interesting than previous Max for Live efforts. It even has a histogram. Perhaps the most newsworthy element here – a sign of the times – is that the resurgence of analog synthesizers has meant that tuning outboard hardware is now again an application for tuners. You’ll see in the video here an example with the classic MOOG Minimoog, but see the …

Orphion is an instrument, merging ideas from percussion and strings into something you can play on the iPad. And now you can create your own layouts and tunings. Images courtesy the developer.

Freehand Playable Circles, in Any Tuning, on iPad: New Orphion Editor

Design is the art of compromise. And so, as the touch tablet asks you to sacrifice some things – velocity sensitivity, physical separation, tactile feedback – it gives back the ability to produce freeform interfaces. The iPad’s downside is that it is a piece of undifferentiated glass; its upside is that that glass can transform into anything you like. That makes it a bit puzzling when it is reduced to a set of fake knobs and faders, which has the advantages of neither physical hardware nor the iPad’s open-ended possibilities. When it was first produced, I praised Orphion as an …


Vio for iOS: Transform, Tune, Harmonize Vocals in a Cloud of Particles [Preview]

Vocal modification is a natural app for iOS, yet a lot of the offerings out there are complicated to use. (At least one that springs to mind has options for add-on purchases that can muddle the user experience.) Audiofile Engineering (via a new brand, Square B) has just released an app that looks like loads of fun. Turning the interface into a swirling vortex of particles might not seem to be a step forward for ease of use, but here, the reduction in interface clutter lets you focus on singing. I’m retreating into the studio in a quiet moment to …


Touch iOS Music in a New Way: Hands-on with Cantor for Users, Inside Details for Developers

Don’t fret. An iPad can open up new ways of touching musical ideas. What if you could touch sound more directly, using sophisticated sensing to play between most common notes – even with hundreds of levels of microtonal pitch? Cantor lets you do just that – and it’s here now, proving that Apple will indeed allow the use of a little-known API for sensing finger area. (Hey, Apple: please, please keep this around, as it’s essential to making the iPad more expressive.) It’s an important development, and it’s real and something you can use right now, today. So, we provide …


Flickr Find: Harmonic Patterns on a Playground

Photo (CC-BY) Jan Tik. We celebrate 3.14, PI day, with some selections of mathematics, music, and visualization… Sometimes the results resemble scores, sometimes toys, and sometimes – more rarely – real musical instruments. But part of why I love computing as a window into music is its ability to visualize music’s mathematical beauty. I happened across this image from Flickr. It’s a chalk pattern on pavement for a children’s game (I’m not actually sure what game). But the math-compelled photographer found in it musical, harmonic intervals. I’ll have to sketch a little Processing and Pd design that plays with this …


Pythagoras, Upcoming iPad App, Recasts Frets to Make them More Harmonic

To celebrate what in the US we call 3.14 or PI day, today I’m offering stories that deal with mathematics and circles. First up, an app named for the great philosopher who is credited – even if perhaps ahistorically so – with finding that ratio and ratios in harmonies. Technology has long introduced innovations that make playing easier for specialists and non-specialists alike. Just ask anyone who plays an instrument like the guitar – frets, and the simplified notation that went with it, go back centuries as a means of allowing more people to make music. Developer Rob Fielding wants …


Free Utility Makes Endless Oscillators for Ableton Live Simpler, Sampler

slicedbread, on behalf of The Covert Operators, has released a free Windows utility that generates “endless harmonic oscillators” for Ableton Live’s Simpler and Sampler instruments. (Since this was a released, a Mac build has been made available, as well; see link below.) Even if you don’t intend to use the utility directly, pay attention – The Covert Ops already have a sample pack up full of oscillators, and you can bet the presence of this utility means more will come. (Even Robert Henke was impressed on the forums.) Live 6 introduced the file format for “Ableton Meta Sounds.” Bjorn Vayner …


Gibson to Launch Self-Tuning “Robot” Guitar

Don’t get too excited. Gibson Guitar is not, in fact, introducing a fully robotic guitar. Or a creepy robot doll that plays a guitar. Nor are they shipping you a handsome (male/female/your choice) robot assistant who will follow you around and tune your guitar for you. Too bad. But they are launching a robotic, self-tuning guitar on December 7. And most importantly, it comes in a limited-edition frost blue paint retro-robotic job, which even as a non-guitarist, I have to admit is super hot. So, what’s robotic about it? Its tuning system: In addition to its automated tuning and alternate/open …