Saturday, March 31, 2007
... or the colour. On the left, a Line6 Echo Park pedal. On the right, the new Behringer Echo Machine pedal. Then again, I suppose Line6 didn't get the green from nowhere. Previously, Behringer were sued by Boss. They changed the cosmetic design of the pedals and the lawsuit went away.
If you are building a gnarly Behringer-based modular synth, you might want to add a few of MFB's new range of modules - a drum sequencer for €169, a triple DCO oscillator for €159, a couple of cheap drum modules (€89/€99). By far the most entertaining is the €159 VD-01, which takes any synth sources and outputs a standard RCA video - turning your TV in to an oscilloscope.
I feel slightly mucky to admit that one of the few things that really caught my eye in all the Messe coverage was Behringer's fast growing range of tiny, cheap, nasty plastic stompbox range. At Messe the announced an analog-style filter which I'm guessing won't sound much like a Moogerfooger, but will cost about 1/15th of the price, a phenomenally complicated-looking harmoniser/pitch shifter, which looks sure to be £25 worth of plastic fun, and a knobtacular Bass Synthesizer Pedal if you're too cheap to buy the Boss version. I'd love to see someone breaking up these pedals and turning them into a big, gnarly, gruesome-sounding modular synth...
So, yes, Messe is all over. Last year I was there, this year I was so busy and so generally uninspired with what I saw, that I'm only posting now. This is the Roland RE-20 Space Echo Pedal. I love the look (reminiscent of the Fender vs Boss mashups from Namm), although it's a shame they couldn't squeeze a VU meter in there (unlike this monster which my friend Neil just bought). Somehow, if Roland wants to pillage their past, this feels like the right way to do it. (UPDATE: They're now on sale)
Otherwise at Messe:
The Nord Wave - a new, likely-to-be-expensive keyboard synth, which - unlike any other Clavia product - uses samples.
John Bowen's Solaris: OK, it's going to be a big, mindbogglingly expensive hardware digital synth. Sure, it's pretty looking, but I'll be amazed if this ever makes it into shops.
Tiefenrausch: Seriously knobby and tiny synth module - there's a good shot here.
Did you see anything cool? Am I just jaded? Let me know...
Thursday, March 22, 2007
I was never blown away by the Trinity DAW - a weird looking $1,000 self-contained Linux-powered portable recording studio - when it was announced last August. But I have to admit, this picture of it in action at the Linux Audio Conference yesterday is pretty nice...
Marek Michalowski is a Ph.D. student in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His latest project is Beatbots - cute little robots with microphone noses and video camera eyes which can dance to music. In the video on his site, the 'drum' clip is OK, but the clip of the robot dancing to Spoon's 'I turn my camera on' is fantastic. It's all done with Max/MSP, obviously. (Thanks, J-Chot)
eBay item #130091982608 is a wonder: A mid '60s Eastern European bass keytar, built around a kind of Rhodes/Clavinet electro-mechanical reed piano mechanism, wrapped in nasty marbled blue plastic. It's $54 with three days to go. It probably actually sounds great. There's a nice long review of a Claviset (the daddy instrument this thing is based on) here.
(Via Matrix Synth)
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Thanks to the anonymous poster who has transcribed and translated the amazing Goodiepal interview from this video. He talks about doing music therapy in a psychiatric hospital, teaching the history of electronic music, and giving it up for mechanical music.
Mikael: Countless viewers have asked us "Who has composed the title score of this show?". Now I can welcome Goodiepal, and you have composed the music we play.
Goodiepal: Yeah, I would say so, yeah.
M: I would like to thank you for that.
G: You are welcome.
M: You have come here in order to play a completely different piece of music.
G: Well, I have come here because you asked me to come and play some more music, and I would like to do that. Thus I have have brought this thing with me.
M: So this is a piece of music here on the table now?
G: No, it is an object of music. It is an object that gives me the opportunity to play music, but it is also a tableau.
M: It is a transport box that you travel with a lot?
G: Yeah, I do.
M: Where has it been in the world?
G: The box has been to, eh .. Faroe Islands, Russia, USA, it's been to Austria, eh, Japan, it has been around.
M: When you travel with this box, what do you do? You perform as a musician?
G: Eh.. yeah, performing artist of harmony, you could call it.
M: Besides that, you also teach?
G: Yes, well I am a teacher at the Music Conservatory of Jutland in Aarhus, and then I have been teaching as stand in at different foreign universities.
M: Some of which are labeled Ivy League Universities with a fancy word?
G: I can't answer that question, because I dont know what that means.
M: Among others Princeton in New York...
G: Nah, New Jersey... Brown University, CalArts - Californian Institute of the Arts, and .... eh, yeah
M: Which subject do you teach?
G: I teach what with a ugly notion is called "History and aesthetics of Electronic Music". And that notion leads to the question: "What is electronic music?" and I will claim that it is a watered-down notion. Everything is electronic music today, everything that uses elctricity, amplified in one way or the other is electronic music. So it is a nonsense notion that universities and conservatories etc. still use. I prefer to call it "predetermined music" but I accept talking of electronic music as a modern notion.
M: But there are no cables connected to this box?
G: No, I have an idea of a basic structure of mechanical music, electronic music and computer music as three building blocks on top of each other, i.e. there are mechanical parts in electronics and electronical parts in computers. And I have chosen for a while to dive deeper into mechanical music instead of electronical music.
M: Mechanical music. So this box contains something that can play mechnical music. Should we try to open the box?
G: Yes, let us do that.
M: So I will get us a microphone.
G: OK, there we go.
M: What is that?
G: That is a mechanical bird. Actually there are two mechanical birds. That is a piece of work that I have build.
M: You have build it yourself?
G: Everything I do I build myself - generally speaking.
M: What have you used for building it?
G: Eh, equal amounts of clockwork, and stuff.. wood ...
M: So the gears and the mechanical parts we can see in the bottom of the glass case is from a clockwork?
G: That is correct. The idea has been to make an world separated from the mechanical parts. So we have kind of a illusion up here. I am very intereseted in isolated worlds, confined realities. I have met a lot of people describing this box as a work of art, but I disagree completly with that. It is piece of mechanics. It does not ask any questions. It is not a piece of art, it is a concluded mechanical process that can be used to perform musical riuals or musical sequences. Rituals is too big a word.
M: So the lower part is the mechanical part?
G: Yes, and then there is the black line here, and then the birds on top.
M: If we look closely on the birds we can see skulls and bones, and that is made by paper?
G: Most of it is made of paper and things I have carved out of wood and plastic. But all of this is paper. And then there are two planets here in the top that can move forth and back.
M: Two planets?
G: Yes, there are two planets. There and there. Well, that is what it can do.
M: So when you have been to - say - Moscow with this one, how do you perform then?
G: I have always been very interested in the idea of the borders between human and machines. It is a classical phenomenon in modern litterature and electronic music as such.
M: Science fiction?
G: Well, like in science fiction. What started me was once when I saw Sony's Ibo-dog. It is very advanced. But I have never felt...
M: That is a little white dog that can move to music?
G: No, but you can program it and it can return to you etc. But you don't feel that it is alive for just one second. I wanted a piece of mechanics or complex piece of activity that is so complex that it can give the illusion of being alive. So i built this one. And when you enter the world of physics, it is easy to get a feeling af complexity playing a part. Once I carried this machine outside and the machine suddently misted up on the inside inside and started to whistle.
M: So the difference in temperature made it play?
G: Yes, it started the bellows and the bird started whistling. For a while I had the feeling that I had created a something living. And that is enough for me.
M: When you were in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, what did you do there?
G: I was on a Psycriatic Hospital doing musical therapy for the patients.
M: Should we try to do that here?
G: I don't want to do musical therapy here since there are no patients here.
M: Ah, (laughs and point to the camera) then you ought to see some of the mails we get from our viewers.
G: OK, I would prefer to perform a little ritual showing how to blow spirit into the machine and then ...
M: See what happens ...
G: And then returning to zero. So at first I start to blow. (Whistles and plays on the mechanincal bird) And then it more or less takes care of itself.
M: Fantastic. I have never seen anything like that.
M: Over here we have some more stuff of yours.
G: Over there we have a planetary scenario that normally is a musical game platform that I use in my music. I have made a planetary game where I move the planets around.
M: So these are planets?
G: Yes, they are all planets, there is one missing. There. Erh, it is a set of planets that i play with and they each have a tonal value. It takes very long time so I prefer to illustrate how it works instead of playing a whole game. I whistle the planets and then these ones strike the planets out of play. (starts to whistle, ring bells etc.) And that would continue untill there has been an astral scenario.
M: What did we hear in this piece? Is this planet Earth?
G: It could be. It could also by a mirroring of planet Earth. It is close to be planet Earth, yeah. It is a parallel universe. I have for a long time been interested in the way we as humans understand the solar system rather than how it is. It is like we still don't understand true spaciousness with time. We want to squeeze it flat. I collect computer programs that simulate the stars and none of them gives me the feeling of an opportunity to dissappear in the sky of stars. So I was interested in creating a flat planetary scenario with a negative universe on the other side where the planets can fall through. Like this.
G: I don't know if you know that old classic Flatland where the universe is two-dimensional. These are the same rules in this game. So no planet is taller than the others. They all move around in a flat universe and we as humans can then observe it in the same way we see it when we are poetic not scientific.
M: Goodiepal, I know that you are on your way to the airpot. You are leaving Denmark very soon. Thank you very much for coming and playing two other pieces of music than the title score. Please come back again.
G: I would like to. Erh, it depends on the circumstances.
M: Of course.
... [CONTINUE READING ]
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Sadly the auction has just finished, but eBay item #320091605269 is amazing - a bass speaker from King Tubby's legendary late '60s Hometown Hi-Fi sound system. The history of dub has more about Hometown Hi-Fi: "He took it to a dance and played the vocal, which everybody knew, then played the dub plate of this rhythm track and people couldn't believe it." According to the auction, it was "Recently found at a yard in Water House, (Near to Tubby's studio [at 38 St Lucia Road]), by one of our record hunters" The speaker box sold for $617, apparently to a dub 7" collector from my home town of Bristol, who's now going to have to pay $400+ to ship it over. (Thanks, Jim)
UPDATE: The buyer was indeed Jeremy Collingwood, a reggae historian from Bristol (England), who runs a vintage soundsystem hire business.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Not a lot to add to Synth Boy, which seems to be an alarming '80s cable access clip. If you're out there, Synth Boy, do get in touch...
UPDATE: It's actually Dan Deacon. This version of the same clip is much clearer. Dan's MySpace page has all the music and links and tour dates and stuff...
Inspired by Phil's efforts, Adam wanted to build a Kaoss Pad into a guitar. He already had a cheap old Les Paul copy and a KP1, but otherwise, he had a few restrictions:
1) I'm 19. Lack any previous experience of either guitar modifications or electronics.
2) I'm on a budget. A real budget £15. I'm sure many people share this position.
3) I don't really have any specialist equiptment, all soldering stuff and extras (except the KP and my guitar) came off eBay for about £15 in total, including stuff for the LED's.
He's blogging the process as he goes along: "I couldn't find a chisel so I hacked my softbody Tanglewood Starfire LP Copy with a flatbladed screwdriver and a now blistered hand. IT CAN BE DONE!" If only he'd asked, I'd have lent him the Music Thing Router... (Thanks Phil)
Pictured are two new offerings from Death By Audio, who make beatiful, hardcore boutique pedals. The Evil Filter is a... multimode modular synth style filter. Even cooler is Robot, which "uses the same pitch-shifting chip as those children's toys that emulate Godzilla and Robots etc. We mix that with some wicked distortion and get the insane sound of the Robot. It has a light sensor, vibrato. It's very cool and Lo-Fi sounding synth effects" Prices will be high - their other pedals range from $150-$320. They'll be available from Analog Haven soon.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Friday, March 9, 2007
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
I wouldn't normally link to this.
It's 30 minutes long. It's streaming. It's windows media. It's all in Danish. But it's the craziest thing I've seen for ages. You have to skip through 12 minutes of a report on Second Life to get to Goodiepal (who I've mentioned in the past) being interviewed on a fairly straight TV show on Monday. He puts a small, white flightcase on the desk, and they talk for about six minutes. Then he opens the case, to reveal some kind of clockwork thing under a bell jar. They talk some more. The money shot is at about 20mins, where Goodiepal picks up the jar, winds it up and starts whistling. The clockwork thing becomes a little bird, which whistles along with him, as he plays some levers round the back. The presenter is flabbergasted. At about 23mins, they both get up and walk over to a table covered in little planets and stuff. Goodiepal starts whistling again, moving stuff about, and grunting in a weird Orc-like way. A previous poster thought it was awful. I thought it was awesome, if only for the look on the presenter's face.
After all that, you might want to learn more about GP. There's a rather noisy official site, a bit of stuff on flickr, and a straight biog. If you really can't bear the streaming windows nonsense (or the link has died), there is a bit of stuff on YouTube including this rather unenlightening clip of the mechanical bird in action - here is a higher res .wmv version. (Thanks, Martin)
Matthew writes to tell me about Max Neuhaus and his remarkable Radio Net Project from 1977: "Max Neuhaus, who is a musician (percussionist), inventor, something of a visionary. He’d figured out, given the way Public Radio was engineered in those days, that he could take the phone line networks and hook them together ... to create a piece of music by inviting listeners to phone in to their local public radio station and whistle into the phone. The sound would then go round the phone line network, run thru a phase shifter, and in a matter of seconds come out on the radio in a rather mysterious, layered texture of sound." Matthew's father made a documentary half hour documentary on Radio Net, which you can now watch here (Click on "A look behind the scenes at Radio Net's realization process"). There's a nice description of Radio Net, with diagrams here.