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We live in a silent century. Though no less powerful than their pre-millennial ancestors, our post-millennial innovations are mostly intangible; even when they do occupy physical space, they but wobble neighboring air particles and scarcely make a sound.

Compiling the "Sounds of the 21st Century" is a steep challenge, therefore, but one that legendary beatboxer Beardyman didn't shy from.

"There's an absence of sound rather than a defining sound," he tells Wired.co.uk. Pay attention to the objects around you—the ones that are truly 21st century make next to no noise when we interact with them. The clatter of keyboards? 20th century. The din of car engines? 20th century. The cacophony of the city? Choose whichever century BC you like.

To create a track that begins to "encapsulate the mood of living in the future," as Beardyman puts it, you have to amplify the silent touches we make to interact with modern society. First and foremost, the tapping of fingers on smartphones. "That's all everyone does these days. That's [partly] the point of the video," he says.

In the song, Beardyman meshes beatboxing, phone-tapping, key-bashing, and other sounds in a glitchy track, which will be performed live on September 2 at the O2 Campus Party Europe opening party.

Beardyman presents "the sounds of the 21st century"

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Matt Brian

Murmur_large

A new project combining the collective talents of four French design studios literally allows you to see sound in a whole different light. Murmur is a device that allows passers-by to interact with an LED light wall, turning their voice into visible sound waves. Building a "luminous bridge between the physical and virtual worlds," it transfers sound waves towards the wall using an LED strip, displaying the movement of each spoken word.

Experts in visual, sound, and object design, participating studios chevalvert, 2roqs, polygraphik, and splank utilized Raspberry Pi and open-source toolkits to create the installation, referring to it as “echo’s room” — which alludes to both the audio effect and Echo nymphs in Greek mythology.

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Imagine any acoustic instrument able to act as a synth, and you begin to appreciate the potential instrumental pioneer Paul Vo may be about to unlock.

As we reported last month, music-technological innovation can absolutely involve guitars, not just synths with keyboards. So, it’s fitting that we tun now to a lover of keyboards and guitars alike, Chris Stack, for a look in video at the work of Paul Vo.

Vo may not be a household name in sound tech, but he should be, as the inventor of the impressive Moog Guitar. Here, we get look back at what came before — and what’s next.

Below, Chris gets his hands on a one-of-a-kind prototype that came before the Moog Guitar, in the form of a fretless model. You can see the fruits of the labors on Moog Guitar in the video at bottom, which demonstrates what a versatile electronic instrument this can be – as much a “synth with strings” as anything, beyond only what you might think of in guitar tone.

But having done fretless, electric, bass, and lap steel, Paul Vo’s tech now reaches a truly new frontier: the acoustic guitar and other stringed instruments. And that could be very big news. Watch, at top. It’s still early to fully grasp what this instrument may be like, but already there’s something really special going on:

The Vo-96 Acoustic Synth is the newest innovation from Paul Vo, the inventor of The Moog Guitar. It opens a new method of musical expression called Acoustic Synthesis. Will Rayan and Vincent Crow of The Electric Jazz Project try it out for the first time.

Code-named LEV-96, the concept instrument here uses harmonic content from strings as its source material. The inventor explains:

The numeral 96 refers to the number of individual harmonic control channels. Each channel is capable of controlling the behavior of one harmonic partial of a string’s timbre. 16 such channels are instantiated per string. 6 x 16=96

And if your mind isn’t blown yet, here’s more from Paul on how he’s thinking:

Add-on hardware, says Vo, will unlock the harmonic content of acoustic instruments in a way you haven't ever heard before. Photo courtesy Vo Inventions.

Add-on hardware, says Vo, will unlock the harmonic content of acoustic instruments in a way you haven’t ever heard before. Photo courtesy Vo Inventions.

With Acoustic Synthesis™ any acoustic musical instrument – any object that makes a sound – can be enhanced to bring out its hidden acoustic voice. Think also of potential new instruments – playable objects of acoustic art.
So far I’ve worked mostly with vibrating strings. The musical instrument string is arguably the most ubiquitous means of making music. It’s also the most difficult to vibrate coherently using electronic control. One idea I had back in 1979 turned out to be a great solution. I was amazed to find it was still unknown and patentable 20 years later.
Over the past 50 years or so we have accepted and become familiar with using synthesizers to create an endless variety of sounds electronically. I’m saying we are now beginning to extend this idea into the physical realm. We can make the virtual become real. We can artistically create new sounds by bringing out modes of vibration that have up to now remained hidden within the material objects we call musical instruments. Through Acoustic Synthesis™ the same sonic exploration is possible for other acoustic instruments and even creative objects of acoustic art that no one has imagined – not just yet anyway.
Analog Synthesis. Digital Synthesis. Acoustic Synthesis™: it isn’t empty hype, this really is a distinctly different and new method of voicing instruments, designing new sounds, and making music.

He covers this on his site:

Vo Inventions

Finally, a look back at the best-known Vo project, the Moog Guitar:

Chris’ site has been recently improved, so it’s well worth exploring all that he’s doing with creative instrument adventures and exploring sound design.

http://experimentalsynth.com/

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Let’s enhance!

So, it seems a bit like Elektron might be working on a 4-voice analog synth. That is, especially since that’s what’s in the image found on the teaser site.

Wonder what we can learn from the other corners of the image.

I think the most interesting question here is whether Elektron does something clever with the sequencing portion – that is, obviously, another analog 4-voice synth isn’t news, but if it fits the Monomachine mold, it might be.

Thank you to Jakob Penca for tipping us off via Twitter, and to the Elektron Users forum. Sorry, I’m late to this party, as – speaking of choosing between hardware and (Ableton) software, we were deep in the Live 9 launch information in mid-October. Been a surprisingly big month for tech. Synthtopia notes CV I/O are visible in the earlier images, too, so in fact control voltage connectivity is a sure thing, continuing CV’s remarkable comeback.

Uh… but CDM is the first, I believe, to post the Enhance! video. Dear Elektron: want to go on a Lapland ski holiday together so we don’t have to meet at NAMM? (Boring!) We can invite Teenage Engineering and Sonic Charge.

Update: Sources tell DE:BUG that the image is correct, and that the product should arrive later this year. (Don’t know if that will be an announcement or actually shipping.) Article in German.

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Rilist

The obvious challenge in reviewing installation art is the inevitable “you had to be there” issue, relying as it does so much on real-time manipulation (in a non pejorative way). This is especially true of Ryoji Ikeda’s new data.anatomy (civic) piece which opened yesterday in Berlin, combining as it does a massively theatrical setting with a complex piece of video art.

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Through the eyes of satellites, roving Google trucks, aerial imagery, and more, we have plenty of eyes on our planet. But what does it sound like here on Earth?

In a Web application and accompanying art installation, the world turns as it echoes sounds recorded around the world on Creative Commons-licensed site Freesound.org. It’s stunning to hear our world’s acoustic diversity – in some strange way, even more than seeing it, in that sounds can instantly give you a sense of place and time. You can load a version on your browser or on the iPad; then, from the world’s cities, listen as sounds mix automatically from one locale to another in an ambient sound score.

Browser Version (animates a bit slow for me, but works)
iPad World Sound Mix app [free | iTunes]
(via Hermann Helmholtz – great tip!)

The basic notion is something we see repeated regularly, even with this visualization; this is a fantasy those of us who work in sound routinely entertain. But it’s doubly worth mentioning, in that it’s an excuse to mention the lovely Japanese label/artist/laboratory 43d.

43d engages sound through a variety of tools. In the 43d laboratory, the spinning Earth interface finds its way into an installation (video below), iPad app, and browser app, as workshops send participants into the field to listen to their environment and gather more sounds. Such exercises have an added bonus for us electronic musicians, of course, as collected sounds can easily become the raw materials of music in any genre through the wonderful alchemy of our machines.

http://labs.43d.jp/

The installation and sound mix project:

“World Sound Mix for BankART LIFE3″ is a sound visual installation, generating new soundscape around the world. This work continues mixing the sounds at selected two points somewhere in the world from the database of huge quantities of environment sounds and generating new soundscape.

For this exhibition, we set up a magic box that resonates mixed soundscape in Sapporo and somewhere in the world. During the exhibition, a globe in the box keeps turning and resonating sounds in real time.

About sounds data:
World Sound Mix is based on a sound database from Freesound project, its sounds have been recorded and gathered by sound hunters around the world. The use of sound data is under the CreativeCommons Sampling+ 1.0 License. By the username and “freesound sound ID” shown on the globe, listener can refer to original content.

http://www.43d.jp/wsm2011/

Freesound.org, a terrific source of sounds:

http://www.freesound.org/

But what I especially like about all of this is that the environmental sounds don’t have to exist in a vacuum. 43d is also an ambient music label, the work of artist Junichi Oguro:

A sound artist who widens the realm of music. Born in Sapporo in 1974.
He started to compose music since his childhood, and received a grand prize at a national contest. In 2006 he visited Berlin for making music in various fields from commercial music for TV spots to sound space design in various areas of Europe. He also showcases sound art pieces in the realm of the contemporary art. He manages an ambient label “43d” which was established for creating leading edge sounds.

The just-released “Unfield” is breathtaking, turning effortlessly from rough-shod digital glitches to icy-sweet ballads and intimate, gorgeous vocals by Malloy Nagasawa. It combines custom software and control with more conventional recording techniques:

http://www.43d.jp/releases/

Have a listen:

Hope to hear more from this whole project.
43d.jpg

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Hear the idea of creating a car sound, and you might imagine a sound designer working on a video game or film. Imagining that person producing a sound for an actual car could sound like a joke. But as today’s vehicles go silent – whisper-quiet electric cars to human-powered bicycles – the problem of imagining noises for them to make becomes deadly serious.

Our brains are wired to respond quickly to sound, so when cars suddenly don’t make any noise, alerting us to their presence is a serious issue. Audi’s engineers are working on that problem in the video here (thanks to reader Vadim Nuniyants for the tip!):

Audi’s future e-tron models will cover long distances powered by practically silent electric motors. To ensure that pedestrians in urban settings will hear them, the brand has developed a synthetic solution: Audi e-sound.

Audi’s not alone, either; it’s a safe assumption that many electric makers are working on this problem. Cyclists may want to consider it, too, though mechanical solutions (letting the wheels produce a click) and the old-fashioned bell aren’t a bad start. Before the TV show Portlandia poked fun at Portland, readers chuckled at an open source synth out of PDX that produces sounds for a bike – but now, automaker Audi is basically doing just that with real cars. The video of that solution (which isn’t really such a bad idea – now we just need extra lights):

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Knock-for-knock

Maintaining a collaborative output based on shared experience, photographer Antony Crook and the Scottish band Mogwai present the exhibition and film Mogwai Japan: Knock for Knock. The mutuality between Crook’s visuals and the band’s sound provoke a simultaneous “stillness and calm” and “intensity and weight,” evident in their depiction of the intimacy of a landscape and its inhabitants that both parties encountered while travelling in Japan. After the jump you’ll find the trailer – the exhibition opens on April 6 at KK Outlet. (Read more)

www.kkoutlet.com/knock-for-knock

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