Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ballet mécanique played by MIDI controlled robots!

Here's a weird one, hardly news as it happened last year but still cool. In conjunction with a massive exhibit on Dadaist art the National Gallery of Art on the Mall in Washington, DC, hosted an installation of a fully-automated orchestra performing the Ballet mécanique. You can click HERE to see a video of it.

The orchestra consisted of 16 MIDI-compatible grand player pianos, provided by the Gulbransen division of QRS Music, and three xylophones, four bass drums, a tam-tam, a siren, and three "airplane propellors," all controlled by MIDI, using robotics built by the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots, under the direction of Eric Singer.

Ballet Mécanique (1924) is American composer George Antheil's best known and most enduring work. It remains famous for its radical style and instrumentation as well as its storied history. The "ballet" is not a show of human dancers but of mechanical instruments. Among these, player pianos, airplane propellers, and electric bells stood prominently onstage, moving as machines do to provide the visual side of the ballet. As the bizarre instrumentation may suggest, this was no ordinary piece of music. It was loud and percussive – a medley of noises, much as the Italian Futurists envisioned new music of the 20th century. To explore a fascinating artifact of modernist music like Ballet Mecanique, it is worth understanding its history and also its musical qualities.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Zeit Sequencer Quick Demo

"I've posted a short demo of the Zeit sequencer on Youtube. It's a simple
thing designed to give people an idea of how the Zeit works. In the
video, the Zeit is generating one 16 step MIDI sequence which is being
sent to a Moog Voyager RME. Along with the note events are two streams
of CC data affecting the Filter Cutoff and Filter Spacing on the Moog."

thanks to Bionaut-2

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Yamaha CS01 Free VSTi

I was looking around trying to find a cute little toy synth. I had the microKORG but just didn't like it so I thought I'd look at the Yamaha CS01. First I found one for sale HERE and then I found a free VSTi HERE.The Yamaha CS01 is a very cute little synth. Not the most powerful synth in the world having only 1 oscillator, but it can be battery powered, it's very simple to use and has a built in speaker. It'd be great for simple basses, leads and synth FX... cool little synth and sounds very analogue.

You can listen to it HERE (via
and HERE (via vinatgesynth)

Darrenager posts Acid Clips on YouTube

I wasn't going to post these as Matrixsynth already has most of them in various posts but what they hell they're cool and you can see the guy put a lot of work in.

Elektron Monomachine

Korg EMX

TB-303 & TR-606

FR 777 & TR-808

Friday, February 23, 2007

Microsoft sued for $1.53 billion over MP3 licence

On Thursday 22nd Feb Microsoft lost a $1.52 Billion court case with Alcatel-Lucent over MP3 licensing rights. In a strange case of what looks like corporate shenanigans Microsoft had licensed the rights to technology used in converting audio files into MP3's from the Fraunhofer Institute. However Alcatel-Lucent say they hold the licence rights and have a previous claim to the technology. AT&T Corp. and Fraunhofer agreed in 1989 to develop MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 technology, now called MP3. Scientists from AT&T's Bell Labs collaborated with Fraunhofer before AT&T spun off the unit in 1996. Bell Labs became Lucent Technologies Inc., which Alcatel SA acquired last year.

Confused... it gets better -
Microsoft accuses Lucent of deceiving the U.S. Patent & Trademark office by having one of the patents reissued and backdated to 1988, removing it from the scope of the 1989 deal with Fraunhofer. The result Microsoft has to pay out $1.52 Billion.

The main concern of this case is that this court case may leave the door open for Alcatel-Lucent to sue companies who thought they had purchased a legitimate licence from Fraunhofer. You can see a list of companies HERE. These include MP3 player manufacturers, phone companies, games companies. This could conceivably impact on the development of digital audio.

"We are concerned that this decision opens the door for Alcatel-Lucent to pursue action against hundreds of other companies who purchased the rights to use MP3 technology from Fraunhofer, the industry-recognized rightful licensor," Tom Burt, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, said in a statement.

I guess one idea might be to move to the open source OGG format.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

George Duke playing synth solo

George Duke playing a synth solo. I'm not sure what synth it is... looks to be custom or modified. I think he's using a foot controller to switch patches.

Linplug Alpha 3 free

LinPlug have updated the Alpha series of softsynth to the aptly named Alpha 3. To promote the release of Alpha 3 LinPlug have created a completely free slightly cut-down version called, imaginatively enough, Alpha 3 Free. Click on the link to download Alpha 3 free for PC or MAC. You can see a comparision chart HERE. The major differences between the commercial and free versions of Alpha 3 are less voices (32 to 8), no freerun oscillators, no noise generator, no saturation or FM on the filter, only 1 LFO instead of 3, no detuning, master tune or analog mode. What it does have is 2 oscillators, a multimode filter and loads of modulation routings. You can LISTEN to a few demos of the Alpha 3 not the free version but it should give you an idea. If you already have the free version that came with Computer Music magazine then there is no real point in downloading this version as the CM version is slightly better.

Korg R3

Korg announced the R3 synthesizer at NAMM a few weeks ago. On looks alone it looks like an updated version of the microKORG. It has a big preset selector knobs in the centre and 5 knobs to the right for the matrix editor. The matrix editor has been improved with the inclusion of digital readouts describing the function of each knob. This should make it a lot easier to navigate through the menus. Looking across the very small legending on the microKorg could prove difficult especially in a dark club.

Although the R3 looks like the microKORG it really isn't the same synth. In theory the R3 is a just a mini version of the Radias engine with 8 voices instead of 24 and two timbres per program instead of 4. There are some juicy features in there including dual multimode filters in series or parallel, waveshapping, cross modulation, unison, pulse width modulation (PWM), variable phase modulation (VPM), hardsync and ring modulation (RM). It also has a modulation sequencer so you record you knobs twiddles and it'll play them back. Also just like the RADIAS the R3 has a 16 band vocoder and you can record and store your own formants (in normal speaks aaahhhs, ooooohhhs and eeeehhhs). The vocoder section has an XLR input so the vocoding should be of good quality and will serve up all those Cylon, Daft Punk and Anthony Rother style robot vocals.

I think the R3 looks very sexy. I always liked the look of the microKORG and found it quite enjoyable to use but I was let down by the lack of complexity in the sound. The R3 hits the mark it has the easy accessibilty of microKORG but the more complex synth engine from the RADIAS. Also as users over at the KORG forums pointed out the presets will probably be better because the sound designers are now much more familiar with the engine. It looks like the R3 will come in around at €750 and will probably drop to about €650 or so to compete with the Alesis ION and the Roland SH-201.

Anyways you can have a listen to demos of the R3 HERE and HERE.
Also there is a SonicState vid from NAMM. You can watch it with REAL or QUICKTIME or WIN MEDIA.


Here's one for the mad scientists among you...
The Arduino is a handy little board similar to the BasicStamp but a damn sight cheaper. It allows you to connect your choice of analogue or digital sensors or other input devices (knobs, sliders, piezo, switches, FSRs etc) to your computer via a USB connection. These can then be mapped to control software parameters in your program of choice (Max/MSP being a popular one). Communication is 2 way which means you can also send info from your computer via the Arduino to control external devices (LEDs, motors etc).
The board can also be programmed as a stand alone device using C or the native Arduino language.
A little soldering and a box of odds and ends from your local electronics supplier and Hey Presto! Your very own light controlled synth/espresso machine.
Basically if the thought of hacking your own knobs and wires onto your computer or building custom controllers turns you need one of these!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Shape Of Things That Hum

The Shape Of Things That Hum is a series of 8 X 11min short videos about various pieces of juicy gear. Thanks to Elektroid over on VSE forums for the upload.

AKAI Sampler

Yamaha DX7


Roland TB-303


Roland TR-808


Monday, February 12, 2007

Almost Reactable

Another highly inventive take on the Reactable.

If you haven't seen the Reactable yet.

both are great but I think I might have a chance at using an Almost Reactable.

Scrotum Smasher Vid

Metasonix's Scrotum Smasher TM-7. What Metasonix say about it...

"The TM-7 is for the DISCIPLINED, intelligent, non-risk-averse musician. It is NOT SUITABLE for whiny little d00dz who seek the Ultimate Tone. Suck it, Dimebag fans. And stop flossing your ragged green teeth with your crotch hair. You disgust me. Scrotum!"

"The TM-7 is basically a mean, angry guitar preamp made of three vacuum tubes. Plus a feedback loop which makes the preamp unstable. There is nothing else like it. No, it does not sound like a Death By Audio pedal. No, it won't make you sound like Steve Vai. It is unsuitable for 80s nostalgia cover bands, unless they like to do industrial versions of Duran Duran. Scrotum.

The first tube is a 6AK5. It was used as an IF amplifier in military radios and suchlike. We use it as a preamp—a BAD preamp. The SCROTUM knob controls input volume--badly. No, you can't turn it fully down. This is intentional—because it interacts with the DOUBLE SCROTUM switch. Turning down SCROTUM won't silence the awful noise and oscillation. It just makes the TM-7 howl and scream at various pitches, intermodulating with your lovely sweet guitar tone. Ha ha ha. Scrotum."

If you want to hear a bit more they have a few demos online
. The best demo for me is the TM-7 doing it's angry business on a Roland TR505. LISTEN

VID: Create Digital Music

Friday, February 09, 2007

Funny Pic...

Saw this and thought it was pretty funny... no links just the pic

MP3 news

Lets do a bit of MP3 news. First up Vodaphone Europe has made a deal with Myspace to allows the 3G mobile phone to access Myspace on the move. This might not seem like much but if you couple this with their previous deal with Napster to stream music to their mobile well you can see a pattern emerging. Vodaphone are obviously heavily invensting in streaming media.

Steve Jobs from Apple Inc. in an open letter has come down against DRM file protection. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is that annoying piece of code that restricts your rights over music you download from certain legal sites. Basically you can't copy, share, or use the MP3 in a different player than the one you downloaded for. Steve Jobs argues that DRM's haven't worked that 90% of music sales are still on CD which does not use DRM and that DRM only serves to alienate those who do buy from legitimate download sites. I take most of this with a pinch of salt especially considering i-Tunes track record on sharing rights. Anything downloaded from i-tunes will only play on an i-pod. The have been brought to court over this monopolistic behaviour by many European consumer groups and some have been successful. Noteably Ireland does yet not have an acount with i-tunes. i-tunes and i-pods strangled hold of the per download mp3 market is so strong that Sony have finally capitualted and are now producing accessiories for the i-pod.

It's crazy time again for MP3 lawsuits. A young woman is being forced to pay €750 for every track she downloaded resulting in a fine of over €30,000. According to a New York Times story, "Michelle Santangelo is the oldest of five children of Patricia Santangelo. When the elder Ms. Santangelo, 42, of Wappingers Falls, NY, was sued in 2005 by five record companies, she said she had never downloaded music. If her children did, she said, the file-sharing programs, not the parents, should be blamed." Michelle Santangelo brought her story to the media and contributions mostly paid the bill.

Also that popular but outright illegal russian MP3 store is being sued for $1.65 trillion. were in some kind of russian loophole and so they sold entire albums online for $1 and then never gave the money to the record companies. They were very open about it and traded themselves as if they were a completely legit company. The trouble started get serious when creditcard companies stopped allowing customers to credit allofMP3.coms account. The funniest thing about this case is that the RIAA are claiming €150,000 per track... Now I knew MAriah Carey's last song was good but jesus if I knew I was going to be paying €150,000 I would have asked for lap dance as well.

I now know how to make money from music. Just put some disgusting profanity into a fairly crap pop song and then encourage kids to download it illegally. When they do sue the pants out of them and their parents for anything between $750 and $150,000 per track. Who needs to be creative when you can be litigious and still get rich?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

8 Bit remixs of Kraftwerk

I saw this on Rertothing and thought I'd pass it along...

Aliasing, Digital Noise and Crunch...

I've been looking around for a little digital noise box. I want something that sounds properly digital. There are enough Virtual Analogues synths to fill a small blackhole at this stage. I'm looking for that digital crunch. The ROZZBOX looks and sounds great but it isn't available yet. Mostly I have been looking at various implementations of the Commodore 64's reknowned SID chip. There is the SIDSTATION(listen) from Elektron which is great but ludicrusly priced at €950. Then there is the MIDIBOX SID(listen), a converted C64, which I would adore but unfourtunately it's an electronic DIY kit and my soldering skills will most deffinately not pay the bills.
Then there is the HARDSID(listen) upto 4 SID chips in a PCI slot for €200 but PCI is going the way of the dodo and again this is on the computer and I think I'd prefer a little box.

If I was going to be editing on computer anyways I may as well lok at some of the software solutions. We have the quadraSID(listen) by REFX. At $59 it's cheap and features 4 emulated SID chips each with it's own stereo output. I could just go mad a buy an old C64 and then run Prophet 64 a sequencer, synth, drum machine and 303 clone that runs on the C64 using the SID chip. However this is not as powerful as the MIDIBox SID and you're still dealing with a computer monitor.

Of course I could go all out and get a handheld. The GAMEBOY has two music packages to choose from NANOLOOP(listen) or LSD (listen). NANOLOOP and LSD (little sound DJ) are both sequencers however NANOLOOP has a built in synth while LSD uses samples.
I could alternately go with a Nintendo DS and get Nitrotracker. I mentioned in a previous post that NITROTRACKER(listen) recently got an upgrade and can now control external synths remotely over MIDI. Nitrotracker comes well stocked with a sequencer, sampler, a little sample editor and MIDI integration.

To sate myself while I try to make up my mind I have being making do with the MAGICAL 8Bit PLUG (listen) and Tweakbenchs TOAD. They don't model the C64 but they do a good nintendo and both are free. One free progrma that does model the C64 is the Quantum 64 from developers Land of Cockaigne. A lovely little app with one oscillator, an arp and some digital degrading.

If this has left you with a taste for 8 bit music make sure and check out Herv Dublin's own 8bit breakbeat music mangler... if you get a chance to see him I don't think you'd be let down it's always good craic.

News of the Rozzbox V2

The ROZZBOX is developed small one man company. Initially it was designed as a cheap €250 digital noise synth. ROZZ mean DIRT in german. So I think most Irish producers would like a synth called DIRTBOX. In construction it's a 4 OP FM synth with analogue and digital filters. The new update is going to give it another 12dB tube filter, 4 sequence tracks per voice, lower bit rates and the abilty to add aliasing noise to the filters output. Yes this thing is designed to sound harsh and digital. Although it can sound analogish it excels at digital crunch. Have a listen HERE. As of now the ROZZBOX 2 does actually exist so it's not quite vapourware but you can't actually buy so its not quite a synth either. This week the site has been updated with a description of the ROZZBOX 2 and a promise to let us know more.

NI update MASSIVE to 1.1

Native Intruments have announced the release of MASSIVE 1.1. As you most likely know Massive is NI's wavetable synthesizer. Massive was already a well stocked synth with 3 wave scanning oscillators, 2 filters in series or parallel and more modulation sources than you can shake a stick at. Now NI have added more:
  • 140 brand-new sounds and additional wavetable content
  • New Virtual Analog Oscillator Modes
  • New 'Acid' Filter' (presumably an 18dB filter modelled after the TB-303)
  • New 'Hardclipper' insert effect (even more grit)
  • Many usability improvements
Version 1.1 will be available as a free download to registered users sometimes in the middle of Feburary. You can check out an online video tutorial HERE

Free Sample Round-Up

I thought this week I'd have a short round-up of some of the best places on the net for free samples. You can never have enough samples in my opinion. I have about 5000 kick drums but still there might be a better one out there.

First up it's over to The Freesound Project. The Freesound Project aims to create a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, all released under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus License. As of today it has 28,107 samples. Most of the samples packs are organised into fairly descriptive categories and all royalty free provided you give credit to the samples creator. has been running underground for a few years but has just recently launched a public website.
This AIFF/WAV collection is currently 4.6 GB (7,579 sounds) including 1,420 techno, hiphop, trance, and drum and bass loops & breakbeats, 950 drum hits, 874 sound FX, 581 instrument samples, 579 vocal samples, 440 melodic loops, and more. You have to register but it's a hassle free process.

The picture above is a free collection of Hard N'Bouncy samples from the SeriousSounds groups. The sample pack contains kicks, snares, hats, hoovers, stabs etc. Similar to the previous three links SeriousSounds is a user uploaded sample database. If you like HardN'Bouncy samples one click and they're yours. It is also worth going through the forum as you can find a few more samples in there.

I couldn't leave a post about free sample collections without mentioning the fantastic For all your breakbeat needs it's the essential link. Now what are you reading this blog for - get back to making music.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

DSI announces BoomChik Analogue Drum Machine

Dave Smith Instruments (DSI) have just updated their website with some details of a new analogue drum machine they are tentatively calling BoomChik. This is a fairly exciting one considering its the coming together of 2 godfathers in electronic music Dave Smith and Roger Linn. When the designer of the Prophet-5 and one of the instigators of the MIDI language, Dave Smith, combines forces with the designer of the LM-1 and the MPC60, Roger Linn, to build an analogue/digital drum synth you can't help but sit up and take notice. BoomChik is going to feature analogue and digital hits with drum pads, a sequencer and effects. This one looks very appealing to me, knobs, pads,buttons, sliders and analogue drums...what's not to like. One thing I hope is that you can load your own samples like with the Jomox Xbase 999. As of now it's vapourware (a computer graphic only) with a about a year to go before coming into production. Projected cost $1000 to $1500,

Friday, February 02, 2007

Digidesign Xpand!

Digidesign this year created a new department called A.I.R. (Advanced Instrument Research). A.I.R. is aimed at developing virtual instrument for Pro-Tools propriatery RTAS format. The good news for Pro-Tools users is that all new Digidesign products now come bundled with a free virtual instrument called Xpand! and those who already have Pro-Tools can download it for free."Xpand! is a free sample-playback/synthesis plug-in that provides fast ways to access and manipulate thousands of high-quality sounds from within Pro Tools. With its 1,000+ presets, multi-synthesis engine, sample playback, virtual tonewheels, and effects processing capabilities, Xpand! is a sonic powerhouse that enables you to craft anything from pristine-sounding acoustic instruments to complex synthesized soundscapes or loop-driven techno tracks."
A.I.R. is spearheaded by Peter Gorges formerly founding member of Wizoo. You might know Wizoo for there series of instruction books and guides. Wizoo were one of the first companies to become involved with virtual instruments developing kits for Steinbergs LM-4. Since then they have developed a good few instruments including Xphraze, Darbuka, and more recently Digidesigns virtual drumming program Strike. The most interesting thing about Wizoo is they have developed tools for Steinberg, M-Audio and Digidesign.
Pro-Tools was painfully lacking in free instruments. Although this was negated by the inclusion of the dynamically named Ignition Pack it is obvious there was a lack considering Cubase comes with 4 free instruments, Logic has an an unbelievable 9, Ableton 4, and Sonar 1.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Freebie Magazines

I thought I might remind a few people that they can get a good ol' style freebie. If you go to you can order a 3 month trial subscribtion to Remix, Mix and Electronic Musician magazine. If you like what you see you can complete your subscription if not just cancel the order. My issue of Electronic Musician arrived this week so I'm happy.

Stomp those Behringers

Normally I wouldn't talk about Behringer but their new range of stomp boxes are just so cheap I can't help myself. Behringer have a range of about 35 stomp boxes and they have recently added a few slightly more interesting ones. The Chorus Space C is a clone of the Roland D Dimension. Other pedals include the Vintage Tube Monster, Vintage Time Machine and the Phaser PH9. Behringer pedals on average cost between €20 and €80 so for those hard-up students out there a few hours collecting glasses or working in ESSO will get you a few pedals. A month working in those excellent student jobs would get you a whole heap of Behringer pedals (€83 for the Chorus Space-C), a mixer (€277), a controller (€168), a MIDI keyboard (€168), a soundcard (€108) and some monitors (€374) and maybe even a mic (€132). Given the minimum Irish wage is €8.65 p/h and working 40 hours a week. You'd have €1,384 after a month leaving €206 after all your purchases. It might be crap but its cheap crap and if your going to buy cheap anyways you might as well get it for as cheap as you possibly can.

Roland/Boss recently threatened Behringer with court action for copyright on their pedal designs (possibly this explains why all the pictures are graphics and not photos). Behringer, well known for producing cheap look-a-like clones, were previously in trouble with Mackie for cloning the design of their mixers. It has to be said I have had problems with Behringer stuff before but only when put under pressure. For home recording, jamming, learning and non-professional situations Behringer stuff will serve many quite well.

Microsoft releases VISTA

Vista microsofts brand spanking new OS was offically released last tuesday. Apart from the groovy but cpu munching transparent 3D windows what has Vista got to offer musicians? Well as is now typical with new OS's it will probably be several months before most manufacturers hard and soft get to grips with Vista.

So far in terms of software we have all of Propellerheads outputs including Reason, Reload, Recycle, Rewire and Rex files.FL 7 and Sonar are also compatible with Vista.Motu have also released public beta of their virtual instruments. Cubase 4 has a downloadable installer for VISTA compatibility
Although not yet certified Max/MSP seems to work under VISTA.
No sign of Ableton 6 yet although they did promise news of an update before the new year. I guess that hasn't happened. User reports that Ableton 6.03 works well but I don't think it's certified.

In hardware MOTU released new VISTA drivers for all their PCI, USB and Firewire cards. RME's 400/800 firewire soundcards have been VISTA ready since December. No drivers yet from M-Audio although again user reports the Oxgen & Radium series of controllers work well. Digidesign is a no show as of today. Search Digidesigns entire site for a reference to Vista and you come up with a big fat "Results 0-0 (out of about 0 total matching pages) for vista". The fantastic and free is already working with Vista so if you're stuck at least you can have some form of ASIO support.

Will Vista be of any use to PC musicians? Well first up straight out of the box Windows Audio has been completely revamped and now supports multi-channel high definition audio. Probably this is because windows are trying to get into the home entertainment sector.

There are stricter requirments placed upon hard and software developers. This coupled with Vista glitch resilience (???) should result in more stable sessions.

The big hitter for me is the ability to load upto 128Gb of Ram under Vista Business. Although more likely is 8 and 16GB under Vista Home and starter edition. This has got to be a good thing considering sample libraries are just getting bigger and bigger. Talking about RAM users report VISTA needs about 800mb of RAM just to run so recommendations are for about 1.5GB of RAM. I imagine the new minimum for most musicians will be 2Gb with those who can fork out going for 4Gb.

For what it's worth I probably won't be installing VISTA for a while and when I do I think i'll be dual booting for a few months. XP was a great advance from Windows 98 so hopefully VISTA will have the same impact. What we are all looking for is greater stability, less glitchs and better performance from our ASIO drivers... here's hoping!