Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ooh! Me want! Moldover's new custom controller, the Mojo now for sale


Electronic music performer Moldover has long been a pioneer in unusual ways to DJ and perform music.  His modus operandi has been to hack apart off-the-shelf MIDI USB controllers (like those from M-Audio and Novation), add his own bits, remove the ones in the way, and hook up the Frankensteinian result to a laptop running music software such as Ableton Live and Reaktor. 

Moldover calls this increasingly common practice of making and using new DJ interfaces "controllerism."  Like many DIY and Open Source creators, he has been very open about his techniques, offering many youtube demonstration videos and giving regular talks at music technology user groups.

Well now Moldover has a new toy to play with, and you can play it too!  (For a mere $1800)  This one he had custom-built with rugged, ergonomically-aligned arcade buttons, and an industrial-grade metal and wood case. 

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posted by Brian at 2:55 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kutiman + Youtube Amateur Music clips = The Future of Media?

Man, we are almost at Beatles-level in the world of mashup artists. DJ Earworm continues to weave top 40 hits together. Now, Israeli artist Kutiman has taken unrelated bits of amateur music performance clips on Youtube, blending them together magically to make new creations, like this one:



My advice to the RIAA and media conglomerate executives? It's time to learn to love the world without excessive copyright, because this IS the future, like it or not. No amount of litigation, government crack-downs, or lobbying will end these "violations." Not even a doomsday lock-down on electronic communications itself, China-style. Time to evolve new business models, not cryogenically preserve archaic ones.

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posted by Brian at 1:30 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reactable: Multi-touch Tabletop Synthesizer Now Available



Oooh boy, me want!

This is the final product version of the Reactable, previously a thesis project by grad students at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain.

What is it? It's a tangible multi-touch projection surface hooked up to an interactive modular synthesizer. In other words, take the Evil Supreme Being's water surveillance screen from Time Bandits:



and combine it with a virtual version of Robert Moog's modular synthesizers:



What I like about this multi-touch screen is that it can "see" special barcode-like glyph patterns on the sides of objects. These glyphs can generate specific controls on the screen, or represent modes (like say "octave" or "turn on delay"). The screen detects their position and rotation. In contrast, something like the iPhone tracks fingers, but once you remove the finger, the tracking and control (as well as the visual representation of the control) are gone unless something tells the software to make that control "stick". This is not as intuitive as a tangible control. (After all, we know what to do with blocks as soon as we're old enough to grasp things.) The blocks on this surface are the signal to the screen to make a control. Removing them makes the control disappear. No extra interface to learn. It's also a nice way to partition the work of many users. Each player can control something (or many things) with his/her own block and participate with the overall result of everyone else's control blocks.

Looks like this incarnation of the Reactable is meant for museum and art installations, rather than personal use. And of course, it's running a specific application, namely a synthesizer. Wonder how much it costs!

As mentioned before on this blog, the last couple of years have been great for multi-touch interfaces. Jeff Hahn's interface, Jonny Lee's Nintendo Wiimote hack for a multi-touch whiteboard, the Reactable, Microsoft's Surface and the iPhone. Keep 'em coming!

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posted by Brian at 10:50 AM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Attending TEDx tomorrow...

Whohoo! I have always wanted to attend the TED conference (the videos of which are often blogged about here).

There's a talented electronica mash-up performer (and self-proclaimed controllerist) named Moldover whom I've seen perform at a NAMM after party and at an Ableton Live user's group. Anyway, he sent out a mailing list announcement that he'll be showcasing his multiple user musical instrument (the Octamasher) at TEDx, a smaller version of TED over at USC tomorrow, and mentioned that he might be able to invite people to the otherwise invite-only event. I emailed him back and luckily they had space for one.

So you'll be getting full coverage tomorrow on this blog. The guest list and range of topics look intriguing:
This year's TEDx USC speakers and performers include the street artist who created the Obama "HOPE" poster, a worldwide rock star who has sold more than 30 million albums, one of the creators of the most complex scientific instrument in history, and an inventor who is restoring sight to the blind. Also on hand will be several USC innovators who are changing the world in gaming, immersive environments, bioengineering, animation and music.

Stay tuned!

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posted by Brian at 5:10 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, January 05, 2009

Iphone and Nintendo DS making music together

Nifty video of electronic music made with a pair of Nintendo DS portable game systems, a pair of iPhones, and a Korg FX box.

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posted by Brian at 1:23 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Turntable + Analog Drum Machine + Step Sequencer motif = Drum Buddy

Speaking of the step sequencer design motif, here's a video of the Drum Buddy, a hand-made, fantasmic analog drum / filter instrument thing, only 10 of which exist, and all of which are sold out (at $5000 a piece!). Note the rotating spool with marks, which are read by optical sensors hooked up to analog oscillators and filters. But unlike piano rolls or music boxes, this guy can be spun in a manner any DJ turntablist would appreciate.

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posted by Brian at 7:12 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Orb, Little Fluffy Clouds, and now Little Grey Clouds


The first ambient techno electronica CD I ever listened to was back at PENN (circa 1990), at the new CD store in Houston Hall at its listening bar. The title of the album intrigued me "The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Underworld" and right away I was hooked by the first track called "Little Fluffy Clouds." It has a processed sample of Levar Burton (Reading Rainbow, Star Trek TNG) interviewing Ricky Lee Jones, asking her about the skies in her childhood.

Last night on KCRW I heard an hysterical parody version called "Little Grey Clouds":

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posted by Brian at 10:31 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Irwin Music: Drummer Brings Performance back to Electronic Music


Ableton Live and Irwin at SAE Institute of Music Los Angeles

I really enjoy live music and computer music, but a large portion of the "concerts" I've been to with both involve a bunch of people sitting down, not facing the audience, appearing to twiddle a few knobs. Yeah, the idea is probably to get lost in the sound (and/or the effects of drugs, if you're into that), and geek out at all the cool toys. And sure, there might be a cool projected screensaver going on in the background (possibly being performed by a VJ) but come on, don't you enjoy seeing people playing instruments?

A few months ago I went to an Ableton Live User's Group meeting in Hollywood, and was excitedly surprised to see the above performance. Of course a video can't really capture the energy of the room, but it gives you a good idea. (If you look very closely you can see fuzzy me in the audience).

Irwin is using some Roland V-Drums (professional versions of the electronic drums I blogged about earlier), a drum trigger pad, a theremin, a special box that converts the theremin's continuous tone into discrete MIDI events, and an Apple Black Macbook running Ableton Live. Things get very hectic on his second set -- he's playing high speed drum n' bass music LIVE. Nice!

There's just something about banging physical objects that beats knob-twiddling or fader-sliding any day.

If you're in Los Angeles and interested in making electronic music, check out the next Ableton Live User Group meeting on January 31st, 8 PM @ SAE on 6565 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood.

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posted by Brian at 12:39 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, May 14, 2007

Learn to play the Theremin!


If you're in Los Angeles in June, why not sign up for a 2-hour workshop on how to play the theremin? (Well okay, it says it's a Master class -- does that mean you gotta be pretty good at "music from the air" already? Or, is it that you're being taught by a Master...) Either way, check out Ms. Eyck playing here or here:

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posted by Brian at 9:48 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, February 12, 2007

DJ Super-genius? DJ Stokesta?

Am I crazy or what? Just signed up for a 6 week course on How to be a DJ.

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posted by Brian at 10:17 AM 0 comments links to this post