and ) : C

Friday, September 29, 2006

Booooooom! The 60 inch subwoofer

Peter wrote to tell me about the Eminent Technology Model 17 fan-powered subwoofer. It's all well and good, but I'd personally go for this one-off 60 inch subwoofer: "The cone moves 6 inches peak to peak under full-tilt output... Unfortunately, Tim and his crew didn't realize just how much acoustical power the sub could generate, and didn't build the vehicle to contain it appropriately. Even at less than 1/2 output, the doors were blown off the tracks, and the entire vehicle ballooned in and out several inches."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

John Frusciante, lover of gear

I've never really felt strongly enough about the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to develop an opinion about them, but I enjoyed this piece in Guitar Player. After a lot of blah ("the force and the drive of Mars, the warrior, which is the planet of manifestation of what you feel is right from inside"), it gets into extreme geek detail about how he played guitar throug a Doepfer modular synth all over the last album. He's using all the good stuff: Numerous Moogerfoogers, reel-to-reel tape phasing, EMT digital reverbs, the new-ish Electro-Harmonix POG, Deltalab delays. Towards the end is the wonderful line: "When we started rehearsing the songs for live performance it was a real bummer, because everything sounded so empty without the modular synth." (Yes, that's his live setup in the picture. Yes, he's got three Moogerfooger low pass filters.)

Ben's 3D webcam-to-MIDI converter

Here is the Sourceforge page for a useful-if-you-like-that-kind-of-thing program for turning a webcam image into MIDI data. At the moment it's Alpha, but I'm sure you won't let that put you off...

Seq24: Free MIDI sequencer for playing live

Seq24 is a great-looking minimal MIDI sequencer, specifically designed for playing live. Until recently it was Linux only, but developer Rob has just released a Windows version here.

Splice: Free online audio sequencer

Splice is an online audio sequencer, a bit like Cubase in your browser. You can import sounds, or browse a bunch of CC licensed samples. It seems to work OK, could be useful if you're stuck in a boring office. It was developed by Sean Mulroney, a Chicago lawyer, musician, promoter and brother of Dermot.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

"Creating musical magic from thin air and solid state electronics"

Here is a really wonderful clip of Giorgio Moroder, uploaded from an old Casablanca Records promo tape by Josh. It opens with Giorgio playing with a Roland MC-8 - the £4,500 digital CV/Gate sequencer introduced in 1977 and used on records like 'Dare' by the Human League (all you ever wanted to know about the MC-8 is here). At the end of the clip is a shot of Keith Forsey, who drummed on Giorgio's finest moments before going on to produce Billy Idol's big '80s albums. (More Giorgio here, of course)

Peter builds analog synth controller from PS2 handset

Peter is rightly proud of his hacked Playstation controller, which he uses to control his MS20. It was built for him by Dave Krooshof (who also built this) Peter explains it in this video, with more here on his blog and here (in Dutch). Presumably, this would work on any modular synth, with a little modification?

Finger stretching for pianists and guitarists

The Kircher Society report here about this alarming Victorian device, designed to stretch the hands of aspiring pianists: "According to one source, Robert Schumann permanently wrecked his right hand and ended his career using an early version of one of these contraptions. (Other sources blame a botched surgical procedure aimed at slicing the tendon between the third and fourth fingers)" It's good to know that finger stretching is still practised today, according to eBay item #7424167048. The principle is the same, even if the design (a kit of rubber balls) and the marketing has changed: "NOT FOR USE DURING PLAY! CHOOSE FROM 3 STYLES ENVY GREEN, PUPLE PASSION AND SUNBURST"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

MPC-500: Now official, with unexpected price

So, the MPC-500 is now up on the Akai site with full specs, and Harmony Central, which drops the small bombshell of the price: $1,299 (see updates below). Yes, that's $300 more than the street price for a new MPC1000 (and just $200 less than the list price). If that price sticks (and HC aren't just wrong), you'll need to be either a) Really, really keen to carry your MPC about or b) Insane to buy one of these. And damn, that screen looks awful. In a world where you can buy mp3 players with full colour OLED screens for £25 on eBay, it's just embarrassing. (Thanks, Roger from Viper Fantastic)
UPDATE: Real world prices: Digital Village have £549, and Akai are saying that the US street price will be $799.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Creamware Klangbox: Old synths in 1U racks

Once again, Moogulator gets the scoop on Creamware's new Klangbox range, which are the essentially the ASB range of little hardware emulations of vintage synths (Pro 5, Arp 2600, MiniMoog, Hammond B3), in 1U boxes without any knobs. I'm not sure that doesn't completely defeat the object of these things (why not just use a VST?) but there's something imposing about those blank rack panels. Shame the typography on the front can't match up to the wonderful product name. Price should be €444.

MPC-500 First Shots - Looks real to me!

So here it is. The first shots of the MPC-500 pocket-sized sampler/drum machine have leaked to the MPC Forums. It has twelve pads. Runs off 6xAA batteries. Stereo ins and outs on 1/4" jacks. Nice MPC-2500 style cursors, which are missing from the MPC1000. No word yet on sample time, or storage, although a CF card seems likely. I can't see a USB port, but it seems very likely.
The tiny LCD display (with switchable backlight) means the wonderful screen/soft-button interface (in place since the MPC3000) is lost, partially replaced by new single function buttons (the ubiquitous 'window' button is also gone). I'm not sure about the three-in-a-row pad arrangement. One of the most fun things to do on an MPC is playing slices of loop samples across the pads. The 4x4 grid works very well for 4/4 time signatures. Perhaps Akai are expecting a waltz revival? Price seems to be settling at $749, although that, like everything is TBC. Fans of conspiracy theories will note that this leak comes just 48 hours before version 1.0 of the hacked MPC1000 OS is released by JJ...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Blind man living in Iran makes music like everyone else

Amin wrote to me about his friend Aboozar. Aboozar lives in Mashhad, Iran's second city, close to the borders with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. It's a pilgrimage centre, built around an enormous shrine. Aboozar is a traditional musician, who is almost completely blind, but he's found ways to use his computer to make dance music. You can hear his tracks here at his UK-hosted website. Amir says "he has problem with religious atmosphere in his hometown, Mashhad, which depicts music as an unholy thing." What's interesting about Aboozar isn't that his music is great (it's rather generic Euro-trance), or that he's doing it in a clever way (he uses the not-so-great Dance eJay 3 software). It's that Aboozar is pretty much exactly like you or me, which you don't alway hear about Iranians...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

This is not the MPC-500 (but one is on the way)

Rumour mills are turning, and it looks pretty likely that Akai will be launching an MPC-500 in the not-to-distant future. It's not a new rumour - GearJunkies reckoned it would be announced at MusicMesse 2005, back before the MPC2500 was launched. The message board concensus seems to be that it will be smaller, cheaper, and less powerful than the MPC1000. There are certainly corners to be cut - the 1000 has six outputs, digital ins and outs, hard drive support, a chunky metal case with a built-in PSU - so it might be possible to produce a cheaper, maybe plastic, maybe DJ oriented unit. In March 2006, Numark/Akai registered, and last week Matrix reported that NovaMusic now have a product page saying: "BREAKING NEWS!!New ultra portable MPC available late October" and taking pre-orders, quoting a price of $1099, reduced to $799. This seems steep, considering used MPC1000s go for $600 on eBay US. If you know any more, please get in touch. And if you created this splendid MPC/PSP mashup, thank you!
UPDATE: This from the MPC Forums, from someone who spoke to NovaMusic: "The MPC500 can be run on batteries, making it totally portable! There will be 12 pads total. This gives you a good idea on the size of the unit. Picture a mini 1000.It looks like it will cost $749"

Incredible home-brew MIDI and USB guitars

Doug writes: "I liked the Kaoss Pad Guitar very much. I like complete control over my digital music and I have built two guitars that do just that. One controls midi parameters, the other uses a usb interface into max/msp." Doug's page is here, with some noise-tastic sound samples here. The Steinberger style guitar on the right is "equipped with two cds cells (light sensors), two pressure sensors, internal feedback loop and four sliders rescued from a salvage yard. It uses MIDI to control parameters to virtually any electronic device.", while the one on the left "Has all electronics built inside of it. It has one infrared sensor, one internal kill switch, 8 external switches and 12 potentiometers to control external electronics via USB interface". Amazing work, Doug!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Alphatrack fader/knob/ribbon controller

This is the new thing from Frontier (the people behind the popular Tranzport wireless controller, who also designed Tascam's nicer recent interfaces). Alphatrack is a USB controller with a single motorised fader, 3 touch sensitive knobs, transport and other controls, and a ribbon controller for scrubbing back and forwards through the track ("Use one finger on it to move the scrub through your project's timeline, and two fingers to jump in and out of shuttle mode."). It's obviously not a totally new idea, but looks good. Expect a $199 street price. (Thanks Jerry, more on his blog)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Software makes sound from diseases, minerals and solar systems

Remember when Dr Ben discovered Radionics Machines - pseudoscience gizmos that looked like vintage syntns? Now Amos has found the software equivalent. Voice Sync is a $35 bundle of Radionics programs, which can do things like taking star patterns from Kitt Peak National Observatory and turning them into "ancient drum rhythms of different types". Or "Generates resonant three octave compound tones from a list of more than 3000 minerals", or "Talk and see animated concentric color rings following your voice, colors and number of rings are calculated from frequency and number of voice formants.".

What else I've been up to

This, mainly. (Try here if you don't want to register)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Art of Noise and the most expensive live gear ever

This clip of The Art Of Noise playing live on The Tube is fantastic - their kit includes three Fairlights, a PPG Wave 2, a MemoryMoog and racks of AMS RMX16 and Lexicon 224 reverbs. Unlike this TV gearfest, it's filmed with a gear pornographer's lustful eye - lots of slow pans across the synths, even a long close up of the racks. And the band are dressed as Pierrot. And Paul Morley is sipping a glass of wine. And the audience are completely baffled. I saw Art of Noise playing live a few years ago and it was pitiful, compared to this. Be sure to also watch this introduction, with Jools Holland talking through the gear and being sampled himself.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Nice looking Lemur software clone - just $34

If you're lusting after a JazzMutant Lemur controller, but don't have €2,000, here is a cheap alternative. Mono Touch Live runs on any PC with any touchscreen monitor, and it's set up to control Ableton Live. It's not the first, but it's (nearly) a real commercial product, and it certainly has the look. It was developed by Argentinian DJ Pablo Martin (DJ Grobe), and should be available in October. Obviously it's single touch only (one of the many magic things about the real lemur is that you can control as many parameters as you have fingers, simultaneously). It's not user-programmable, and it doesn't come in a super-cute all-in-one controller, but until Behringer release the Marmoset MS1000 multi-touch controller for £99, it's the best we have.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

eBay of the day: Amazing 60s Mosrite/Von Dutch guitars

This kind of thing doesn't come along too often: These three guitars were made for the 60s psychedelic one-hit-wonders Strawberry Alam Clock by Semie Moseley of Mosrite (much more about him here) . As if that wasn't cool enough, Semie sent the surfboard-shaped guitars to Von Dutch to be painted. After the band played them in a film (possibly 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls'), Semie got the guitars back. After his death, they were bought by food-supplement millionaire and ultimate guitar collector Scott Chinery (who also owned the Batmobile). Scott died aged 40 in 2000, and his family sold the entire collection to Michael Indelicato of E Guitars, who are now selling them on eBay, item #120026471951 (thanks, Joe) These guitars are strangely reminiscent of this classic from the archives...

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

£5,000 grants for one-off electronic music live shows

British readers have until October 16th to come up with a fantastic way to spend (up to) £5,000 on "Proposals that demonstrate innovation in the live presentation of the music, for instance in the use of unusual venues, a strong visual presentation or new methods of performing live." The grants come from the PRS Foundation's 'Live Connections' scheme. They've funded some very cool projects in the past, including the Mighty Jungulator and the Score for a hole in the ground. Full details and the application form from here. (Thanks, Basil)

Monday, September 4, 2006

How to... build a Kaoss Pad into a guitar

Inspired by this post about the guy from Muse's Kaoss Pad guitar, Phil broke out the soldering iron and router and made one himself from a KP2 and an Epiphone Les Paul, with a DB9 serial connector linking the touchpad with the electronics. His full instructions are here, and a demo video of the finished guitar is here. Good work, Phil!

Sunday, September 3, 2006

eBay of the day: The $720 tambourine

Certainly, as tambourines go, this is pretty hot: Nice wood, hard case, painted bits, some spare heads. But because eBay item #140023575491, is a Riq (Egyptian Tambourine) made by top Lebanese percussion instrument maker Kevork, it's currently $720 with a day to go. To put it in context, the most expensive tambourine sold on eBay in the last few months was item #120021911708, a blood-spattered tambourine played by the Brian Jonestown Massacre, which went for $255... (thanks, Kaden)