and ) : C

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Design inspiration behind the Omega Orion?

Andrew points out the similarity between the beautiful new Studio Electronics Omega Orion polyphonic mega synth and Chris Reccardi's wonderful painting "How about fiddling with these knobs for a change, Aldo Cosmo?" How about a super-hot spenderific keyboard version, chaps?

Omega Orion: analog synth as designed by Stanley Kubrick

Wow. This is the Orion Galaxy Omega 8, a new all-analog 8-voice poly synth from Studio Electronics. Well, the synth isn't completely new, it's an Omega 8 - the $4,600, 38lb mother of all modern analog synths - in a great looking new skin. Design is by boutique guitar amp builder Tim Caswell and someone called Antoine Argentieres, who seems to have no profile on the web at all, leading me to assume he's a pseudonym. No word on price yet, but expect it to be extra spendy with a £50 note on top.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

eBay of the day: DJ Turntables from the 1920s

eBay item 220262676074 is a great looking pair of record players, apparently from a radio station. I'm not sure they'll fetch $2,200 + $250 shipping, but they'd make a handsome drinks cabinet.

In Bill & Frank's essential book Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, there's a 1931 picture of Christoper Stone, Britain's first radio DJ, wearing black tie and leaning over a console a bit like this one.
In Frank & Bill's telling of the story, the first man in the world to ever play records in public for people to dance to was Jimmy Savile, who - in 1943 - hired a function room in Leeds and cobbled together a system from a turntable and a radio. By 1947, he had two turntables and a microphone. Jimmy's later claim to have invented rap music in 1962 is perhaps less convincing... (Thanks, Rachel)

A dodgy review of a didgeridoo

A dodgy review of a didgeridoo: "She started yelling, talking over me, and saying that I was 'still paying for shipping!' Based on this phone call, she has serious anger management problem.". (Thanks, Michael)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DJ Frank has spent 3 years buying vinyl in West Africa

Here's a fantastic preview trailer for a documentary about New York DJ Frank, who has spent much of the last 3 years collecting old vinyl in Africa, where "People burn records, because for them it's an old format". He's trying to track down the fruits of the '70s African funk boom, before all the vinyl decays or gets lost, and meeting the people who made the records along the way. Much of the music is on Frank's Voodoo Funk blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Awesome photos of labs at night

It's nothing to do with music, but I feel certain you'll enjoy Seed magazine's Labs at night series. Above - the control room of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Not a blue LED in sight... (via Kottke)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

If Stephen Hawking gave guitar lessons, he'd be Richard Lloyd

This video of Richard Lloyd (from Television) is wonderful and bonkers. Highlights: 3:00 when he starts chanting numbers and says "Agriculturalcadabra" and 5:38, when he orders his guitar to obey him. If you're really clever, there are lots of guitar lessons on his site, which includes Why is the guitar tuned like that?. (Thanks, Drew)
UPDATE: An anonymous commenter points out uncanny similarities between Richard's lesson and Alan Partridge explaining World Cup '94.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Isn't this the sweetest cassette tape you've ever seen?

It's like one of these Teac Cobalt 52's, but with a teeny tiny Roland logo on it. It's also the data cassette from an MC202 for sale in this auction. (Thanks Matrix!) Lots more on vintage cassettes in the archives.

Comment moderation on old posts

In my ever-exciting battle against the Chinese Runesacape Gold spammers, I've turned on pre-moderation for stories over two weeks old. Not a problem for you, dear regular reader...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Billy Alexander, the organ player with no fingers

"Billy Alexander was born with a birth defect on both hands & feet. Many surgeries, 8 years of professional organ lessons..." and here he is, rocking the Hammond B3 at a Church in Monroe MI, and playing the Tom Lanza show in Texas. (Thanks, Gareth)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chimera BC8: an 8-knob synth with a built-in sequencer for £75

Chimera Synthesis have a new thing: The Chimera BC-8 is a shrunken version of the BC16 - the cute little handheld modular. From the preliminary spec sheet: "bC8 contains a stereo headphone amplifier connected to a 24bit / 48KHz
digital to analog converter (same unit as used in the bC16). A powerful DSP generates a VCO and LFO (similar to the bC16), also the DSP performs VCF and VCA functions as well controlling the patching of functions to each other and running a simple but powerful ‘ one button’ pattern sequencer. bC8 is controlled by eight rotary knobs and one push-button. Four LED’s indicate battery status, LFO and EG level and other mode elements. bC8 pattern sequencer records the timing/duration of the button presses and all the knob settings for each action, these can be altered live for acid loops etc…"
Sounds like a lot of fun for £75, competing perhaps with something like the Korg Kaosscilator. More details as they arrive. Shipping later this month, apparently... (Thanks, Brad)

Analog VU meters spotted on new Samsung TL9 camera

Nice to see enthusiasm for VU Meters and analog controls spreading to consumer goods, with this unlikely-looking Samsung TL9 camera, which has dials (more automotive than recording console, unfortunately) for battery life and memory capacity. Strange that they'd photograph the thing with a flat battery. While we're on the subject, here's a VU Meter in a Favicon. (Via Engadget)

OT: Looking for great web developers in London

Sorry, this is completely off topic. In my day job at Times Online, I'm trying to hire a couple of full time developers to work with editorial and - hopefully - do some interesting things. So, if you know anyone, please do pass this on. Thanks!

Times Online is hiring web developers
We're looking for passionate, innovative web developers to help us win more awards, attract more traffic and delight our 16m users.

You'll need flawless front end web skills, Java experience within a J2EE environment and the ability to build small web applications and tools from scratch. You'll probably be comfortable using things like Flash Action-Scripting, Processing, Google Maps API, JavaScript, CSS, PHP, AJAX etc. You'll enjoy working with XML, forms, data visualisation, search, journalists, editors and graphic designers.

You'll be working directly with the editorial team at Times Online, both responding to breaking news and working on longer-term projects. This is a full time, permanent role, based at Times House in Wapping. The deadline for applications is this Monday - 21 July 2008. For more details or to apply (with a CV and some URLs of things you've made) write to tom dot whitwell at timesonline dot co dot uk

Very pleasing video interviews with Adrian Utley from Portishead

Sonic State spent a long time talking to Adrian Utley from Portishead about their new album 'Third'. The album is tiresome, but the videos are lovely, Adrian and daughter in his nice house/studio (in Bristol?), talking about the fun of making music. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Shame they spelt his name wrong on the title card...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

eBay of the day: Three Synclaviers on a Lincolnshire lawn

At dinner last week with Matrix, Dr Ben, FMass and Daniel P, the talk was of eBay item 190235556573: not one, not two, but three vast Synclavier systems. Three keyboards, six man-sized equipment racks, a very badly designed eBay auction and a starting price of £10,000. Fortunately, we didn't get drunk enough to bid. (Thanks, Chris)

Spooky Hammer Horror / Wicker Man / Theremin / MaxMSP mashup

Here's Spacedog at the Brighton Festival Fringe, managing to use a Theremin on a Hammer Horror-related track (a splendid cover of Willow's Song from the Wicker Man) in a way that isn't tiresome. Taking the sound output, feeding it into a Max/MSP patch which the pitch to scrub through a sample. Presumably you could to the same with a Kaoss Pad, but it does work very well.. Create Digital Music has the full tech specs. (Thanks, Sarah)

SenseSurface: Attach knobs and sliders to a laptop screen

The mockup image looks like a hoax, but it isn't. SenseSurface is a prototype system that lets you connect real knobs and sliders to any LCD screen. An x/y sensor matrix clips onto the back of the screen and attaches by USB. The sensor can pickup the position and movement of knobs attached to the screen (it's not clear how they're attached, but even a suction cup might work OK). The first prototype video shows the proof of concept. There are lots of questions (How do you close your laptop when it's covered in knobs?), but it's a nice idea - you could buy a cheap 19" second monitor and cover it in these things... (Thanks, Nick - via)

The twenty most popular Music Thing posts ever*

Just looking at my site stats (a rather depressing business, given how rarely I post these days) and realised I've never shared this list with you...

1. How the Mac startup sound was made

2. How the Microsoft startup sound was made

3. How the THX sound was made

4. The greatest beat making videos ever

5. Who is Esteban, and what's up with his guitars?

6. What are Daft Punk playing in their pyramid?

7. Sasha's new Ableton controller

8. New iPod does proper stereo recording (not sure I was right on this one...)

9. Dude releases his new album on NES cartridge

10. 10 guitars shaped like guns

11. Why do ice cream vans sound the way they do

12. Aphex Twin interview in Future Music

13. Blue Man group's musical toys

14. Italians build huge sub woofer tunnel

15. How the Intel Inside sound was made

16. Why is this electric guitar worth €2,500,000? Because it's made of pure cocaine

17. The worst music video ever

18. Learn to play guitar like a superdork

19. School band play Endtroducing with real instruments

20. 10 triple neck guitars

Not on the list is the most popular Music Thing spin-off, the Daft Punk Samples video, which has had 1.8 million views.

* Ever actually means 'since August 2006, when I started using Google Analytics'. The site started in August '04.

So, what does this all mean?

Stylish cable racks from Synthwood

The sheer volume of cables in my room is getting absurd - patch leads, kettle leads, snakes, USB cables, wall-warts etc. The least of my problems is keeping track of neat, short patch leads. Even so, it's hard not to fall in love with Synthwood's Cable Holder, which comes in a range of hardwood finishes for $35/45. A cheaper alternative is the The Claw from Middle Atlantic Products (as used by Carbon 111). Lifehacker offer 10 ways to get cables under control, by I think my needs are greater than theirs. Any top tips (apart from 'put them in boxes' or 'throw them out'?) Previously: How to roll up your cables (properly)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Music Thing music gear jumble sale

'Studio' clear out time...

1. DSI Evolver desktop with v3 firmware (And it's signed by Dave Smith!) £200

2. Ghetto studio monitor setup: Pair of Acoustic Energy AE200 passive monitors (Reviewed here in Sound on Sound) + Cambridge Audio A500 amp + chunky cable (there's a CD player too, if you want it). £100

3. EMU 1820m PCI audio interface, inc Audiodock, rack shelf, all the bits and pieces. Fantastic, rock solid interface if you can use PCI. Vista drivers are available. Reviewed in Sound on Sound. £100

4. Epiphone LP Junior, 'vintage sunburst' £100

5. 1GB PC2-6400 Ram for a 2008 iMac £20 (inc postage)

6. 1 x 17" and 1 x 15" LCD monitors. £25 for the 17, the 15 goes free to a good home.

7. Pentium 4 3ghz PC. Good case, 1gb ram, Zalman CPU fan, quiet PSU, chequered history, NO HARD DRIVE. Free to a good home.

I'll ship items 1 and 5 to UK addresses. Everything else is initially collection only from South East London. Email if you're interested. Bigger pictures on Flickr.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Want cheap vintage gear? Get a job at Sound on Sound...

Ben writes: "Here's a story you should write about on ur blog. Oscar advertised for 500 quid in Sound on Sound. I emailed the bloke. Reply below."



Date: Fri, Jul 4, 2008 at 11:15 AM

Subject: Re: Enquiry re mono synth in Sound On Sound Readers' Ads


Some bloke who works in Sound On Sound bought it before ad was even published.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Flame Echometer and Six-in-a-row - awesome experimental sequencers

Last year's most covetable boutique synth was probably the Flame Talking Synth - a little tweakable Midi speech synthesizer. For 2008/9, Flame have just announced two more beautiful little switch & knob-covered boxes (click on 'Preview 2008'). The Echometer seems to be a live-oriented sequencer, triggering loops from three red buttons, while Six-in-a-row is a bank of backlit, sequence-able buttons, like a self-contained Monome, or a boutique, midi-only Tenori-On. No word on prices or availability yet, but be sure to look at the Flame 'Projekte' page to see a whole mass of awesome handmade instruments. (via Matrix Synth)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So, I switched to a Mac to make music...

Thanks to everyone who participated in the great Mac or PC for Music? debate a couple of weeks back. The result was 22 votes for Mac, and 13 votes for PC, so I ended up buying a bottom-of-the-range 2.4ghz iMac, which works nicely (after a bit of messing about with DNS addresses). Assuming that cheap Logic Studio from Amazon isn't an ebay-style con, that should be arriving soon, together with a pile of non-Apple Ram. I'll probably get a used Motu 828 mk 2 firewire, unless that's a terrible idea (I need a few inputs, so won't be buying an Apogee Duet, before you mention it).
Now, MT-reading Mac enthusiasts, you got me into this position, what do I need to know next? Essential freebies? Good ways to learn Logic? Nice ways to integrate hardware into the system? Brain training to understand why they have the ALT and CTRL keys swapped round?