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Original author: 
Peter Kirn

laptopsonacid

CDM and yours truly team up with Berlin arts collective Mindpirates next week for a learning event we hope will be a little different than most. The idea behind the gathering is to combine learning in some new ways. The evenings begin with more traditional instruction, as I cover, step-by-step, how you’d assemble beat machines, instruments, effects, and video mixers using free software (Pure Data and Processing).

But, we’ll go a little further, opening up sessions to hacking and jamming, finally using the event space at Mindpirates to try out ideas on the PA and projectors. By the last night, we’ll all get to play together for the public before opening things up to a party at night. I know when I’ve personally gotten to do this, I’ve gotten more out of a learning experience. Getting to do it with the aim of creating useful instruments and beats and visuals here, then, I think makes perfect sense.

Working with free software in this case means that anyone can participate, without the need for special software or even the latest computers. (What we’re doing will work on Raspberry Pi, for instance, or old netbooks, perfect for turning small and inexpensive hardware into a drum machine.) No previous experience is required: everyone will get to brush up on the basics, with beginning users getting the essentials and more advanced users able to try out other possibilities in the hack sessions.

If you’re in easyJet distance of Berlin, of course, we’d love to see you and jam with you. In trying to keep this affordable for Berliners, we’ve made this 40 € total for three nights including a meal each evening and a guest list spot on the Saturday night party.

But I hope this is the sort of format we can try out elsewhere, too. If you have ideas of what you’d like to see in this kind of instruction – in-person events being ideal, but also perhaps in online tutorials – let us know.

Create Digital Music + Mindpirates present: Laptops on Acid
Facebook event

Pre-registration required; spots limited – Eventbrite
Register while spots are still available!

(fellow European residents, I’m as annoyed at the absence of bank transfer/EC payment at Eventbrite as you are – we’re working on an alternative, so you should email elisabeth (at) mindpirates [dot] org to register if you don’t want to use that credit card system!)

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Can’t get enough Live 9 information? In cased you missed it, here’s a nearly hour-long presentation. It’s notable for Ableton founder and CEO Gerhard Behles talking about what matters in an instrument, then “discovering” that Push fits in a backpack, for Dennis DeSantis doing a beautiful job of showing what really musical workflow looks like, and Jesse Terry brave enough to do a live set on hardware that’s only just been finished. I say this partly because I have to do presentations, too, and – it’s not easy. I think they do a good job of sharing their ideas honestly and clearly; it’s up to you to judge whether those ideas fit your music and whether you invest in their creation.

Bonus: isomorphic pitch layouts.

The setting is the private event you may have heard about. Last week in Berlin, a number of artists, partners, and press were gathered along with Ableton employees to witness a private event launching Live 9. I became briefly concerned that I was going to find out I was already dead, or having some strange dream, given the number of people I knew who were there. (Crap – really, we didn’t manage to get off the island? Did the plane crash on the way to LAX for NAMM ever happen? I’m so confused.) People came all the way from New Zealand. I came all the way from Kreuzberg.

It’s also worth noting that Robert Henke is not in this video. While, even viewed from the outside, Robert clearly continues to influence what Ableton does, the best place to find him is doing extraordinary work in performance and research, internationally. I point this out only because I think some people assume everything in Live springs from Robert’s head. That’s not the case – and it fails to appreciate all the other things springing from Robert’s head. It must be nice to focus on being a user of Live; I’m sure given what I’ve heard about gen that he’ll do some incredible work there.

Anyway, now the content of this presentation is available to all of you. Let us know if you see anything you missed. And enjoy the dog and pony show. (Darn, now I want to see a show with dogs and ponies.)

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Thavius Beck live in Los Angeles playing the legendary Low End Theory party, in 2009.

Whadayaknow, Ableton users?

Whether you’re an existing user or considering it for the first time, this month online school Dubspot is giving away 30 video lessons on using the software, free, through the end of June only. So, I turned to my friend Thavius Beck (Plug Research Records), LA-based producer and rapper, and master instructor, to make something exclusively for CDM to add a little more free knowledge. If you are playing with Ableton for the first time, you can unlock the 30-day free trial and give it a shot.

I’m just glad to read Thavius’ tips. You’ll feel a little more like an expert afterward, I guarantee – or, alternatively, count how many of these you did already know. (Yes, some of us have been using Live since its first release.)

30 Tips for Ableton Live

Thavius Beck

1. Holding SHIFT while adjusting a Transpose parameter with your UP/DOWN arrow keys will Transpose by an octave instead of 1 semitone

2. “Z” will transpose your computer keyboard DOWN one octave. “X” will transpose it UP one octave

3. “C” decreases the velocity of midi notes entered with the computer keyboard or mouse by 20. “V” increases the velocity by 20

4. You can disable the grid in the Arrangement View and in the Sample Editor by Right-Clicking in the grid area, and selecting OFF under Fixed Grid in the contextual menu

5. Individual drum cells in Impulse can be routed to other audio tracks to be mixed separately or given individual effects. Enable the I-O (inputs and outputs) button on the Session View, and in the Audio From tab select your Impulse instrument. In the tab below that, you’ll see all the sounds in your Impulse. Choose one, then either arm the track or set the Monitor status to IN.

6. The Ableton Device Spectrum not only shows you the frequencies being generated by your music in real time, it also will show you the specific note that a frequency corresponds to. Hold your mouse anywhere over the graphical display in Spectrum and a box in the lower right corner will show you the exact frequency, decibel level, and corresponding note based on where your mouse is.

7. If you have Live Suite, when using Slice to New Midi track try slicing to a single Sampler instead of the Built-In preset. When your slices are in the Sampler, you can change the pitch, attack, decay, voices, etc. of all the slices at once without using Macro knobs.

8. Right-clicking on the crossfader allows you to choose different crossfader curves.

9. If your audio interface has multiple outputs that are enabled (go to Live’s Audio Preferences and select Output Config), you can enable a separate CUE output so you can monitor on your headphones without affecting what is coming out of the Master. Make sure your I-O button is enabled, and on the master channel you will see Cue Out and Master Out. If the Cue Out is different from the Master out, your tracks solo buttons will become cue buttons, allowing you to cue up tracks in the headphones while the party people continue to party…

10. AutoFilter and Gate also have sidechain sections that allow an incoming signal to trigger/exaggerate/alter the effect.

11. Right-clicking on the metronome allows you to set a count-in. Helpful if you need to record something right at the beginning of bar 1.

12. If you need to record multiple tracks at once, go to Live’s Preferences, select the Record/Warp/Launch tab, and under the Record section disable the Arm button next to where it says Exclusive (you can also do the same thing to the Solo button if you want to solo multiple tracks). Ed.: I feel a little differently than Thavius on this one. I like that when you arm one track, you de-arm another. Generally, if I do want to arm multiple tracks, I’d rather hold down the “shift” key when selecting arm – the same for Solo. So consider that an alternative tip 12! -PK)

13. If you haven’t already, stay in that same page of Live’s preferences and turn off Auto-Warp Long Samples. This will prevent Live from putting a million incorrect warp markers on your audio when drag a longer audio file into it and enable Warp.

14. Complex warp mode may sound better than Beats for warping full songs and playing them below their original tempo, but be careful… Complex and Complex Pro are the only two warping algorithms that alter the quality of your audio even when it’s playing at the original tempo. They can also introduce some odd phasing issues when playing song with deep sub bass… Complex Pro is good for acapellas, but I suggest using either mode with a bit of caution before playing a gig…

15. If you change the Global Clip Quantization to NONE, you can scrub through your audio in the Sample Editor by hovering your mouse right below the loop bracket (so it becomes a speaker icon), click and hold, then drag the speaker icon through your audio clip.

16. You can create your own Slice to Midi preset by opening up a blank Drum Rack or Sampler, adjusting the parameters to your liking (you could even add effects to the blank Drum Rack if you like), save your new preset by hitting the disk icon in the upper right corner of the effect (or rack), and then dragging that preset into the following folder in your Live Library: Library/Defaults/Slicing. Next time you Slice to a New Midi track, try out your new preset…

17. Another way to manually “slice” a sample is to drop an Audio Clip into several different empty cells in the Drum Rack, and change the start point on each on so they each play a different part of the sample. The same thing can be done with the Sampler.

18. You can remove the Stop button from a blank clip slot by Right-clicking inside of it and selecting “Remove Stop Button” (or use the shortcut Command/Ctrl-E)

19. You can set the launch tempo of a Scene by Right-clicking inside the scene (next to the scene number) and selecting Edit Launch Tempo, then type in the tempo. You can also just rename the scene and type in the tempo followed by BPM.

20. You can also set the launch time signature of a Scene by Right-clicking inside the scene and selecting Edit Launch Time Signature, and then type in the time signature. You can also just rename the scene and type in the time signature (e.g. 7/8).

21. If you press DELETE while any parameter is selected, it will be returned to its default setting.

22. Double-clicking on any of Live’s Browser shortcut buttons will collapse any unfolded folders.

23. You can write your own notes in the Info View of clips by Right-clicking on any audio or midi clip and selecting Edit Info Text

24. You can drag any Groove Pool template into a midi clip slot to see the velocity and timing of the groove.

25. You can change the Launch Quantization of individual clips by enabling the Show Launch Button (the L button under the Clip View) and changing the Quantization from Global to something else.

26. If you want to MIDI or KEY map buttons to let you select or scroll through your Scenes, select with MIDI or KEY map, and you’ll notice buttons that appear above the Master fader and below the Stop Clips button. The first button will play the selected scene, the next two are arrows that can be mapped to buttons to select the next or previous scene, and the final box can be mapped to a rotary knob to scroll through your scenes.

27. You can automate tempo changes in the Arrangement View on the Master channel. On the Master channel in the Arrangement View, select Mixer in the Device chooser box (top chooser box), and then in the Automation control chooser (bottom choose box) you’ll be able to select Song Tempo.

28. If you select a parameter, it will be selected in the Automation chooser box on that track automatically. This is very helpful if you want to automate a parameter but aren’t sure exactly where to find it in the automation chooser box.

29. You can drag and drop a quicktime movie into the arrangement view so you can write music to picture.

30. If you set Locate Points in the arrangement view, you can MIDI or KEY map buttons to the Previous and Next Locator buttons (the left and right arrows above the first track in the arrangement view).

BONUS – Enable Info View to find out about any parameter that your mouse is hovering over. Very helpful if you don’t know all of the areas I refer to in the previous tips. Enjoy!

For more of this kind of knowledge, check out Dubspot’s full 30-lesson course with Thavius free – while you can.

http://www.dubspot.com/ableton3030/

“Did You Know?” Video Series

Very much along the lines of these 30 tips, earlier this year, Thavius also did a series of videos for Dubspot entitled “Did you know?” They focus on topics you perhaps should know about Ableton Live, but that some users – beginning and advanced alike – might have missed. Here’s that complete series.

Previously

Once More, From the Top: Learn Ableton Live in Videos, from the Very Beginning

http://www.dubspot.com/ableton3030/

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Click here to read I'd Play This Game Even If It Wasn't Called <em>Drunken Robot Pornography</em>

When Dejobaan Games, the developer behind The Wonderful End of the World and AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! - A Reckless Disregard for Gravity create a first-person shooter that's all about building and demolishing gigantic robots, they don't need to name it Drunken Robot Pornography to get my attention; the name it Drunken Robot Pornography because there's something wrong with them. More »

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Could a piece of software make you think differently about sound? Could it reflect ideas, the culture of listening?

The developers of the SUFI series of plug-ins seem to think so. In place of screencasts showing which knob to turn which way, they head with a video crew to Morocco. The “instruction” might be about the value of reflection or call to prayer, about living as much as how to use a tool. You can see the first two examples: a meditation on the idea of daily interruptions in the soundscape coming from God, and a collection of electronic drones set to a beautifully-shot backdrop. The interfaces are rendered in graphics and (for the vast majority of us) a foreign language, and instead of reverting to the conventions of plug-in design, they assimilate ideas from another culture about tonality and function.

The plug-ins will be released for Max for Live on the 8th of May, and VST plug-ins later on. (Some version of the Max for Live plug-ins are available now – links at bottom.) The collection includes:

  • DEVOTION, lowering your volume five times a day at the time of call to prayer
  • A drone machine (in the second video, sounding quite nice)
  • Four soft synths tuned to Arabic maqam scales. (They describe these as “North African maqams,” but I believe the tuning should be consistent with the use of maqam elsewhere around the Mediterranean and Arabic world.
  • One drum machine amidst the synths, Palmas, with a hand-clapping UI (see screenshot).

You have a week to practice learning to read neo-Tifinaght Amazigh script.

Updated: There are in fact no references in the videos here to Sufism, but the creators respond to questions about why they selected this name on their FAQ. As with the videos above, collaborations and friendship inspired their thinking. They write:

The title is an homage to several Moroccan Sufi musicians we’ve worked with over the years who influenced our thinking about musicianship & sound itself, as well as a way of foregrounding the complex but largely unremarked relationship between faith and technology. We’re fascinated with how software and digital environments encode cultural values and beliefs by conditioning choices and framing possibilities. For example, If Apple is a secular religion, selling contemporary magic, then should that change the way we feel about – and engage with – its operating system? The spirit of Sufi aphorisms, we hope, is manifest in these plug-ins. At a literal level, many of the roll-over infotexts come from Sufi verse.

Apart from being an interesting “cross-cultural” exercise, though, these plug-ins can serve as a reminder of two things. First, design choices are constrained only by your imagination. Aside from any perceived cultural values, you can really make software do, theoretically, anything – and make any sound. Convention can be a useful tool, but it can also become a prison. Second, the creators consider VST compatibility as a way to reach users in the Middle East and Africa. Whether this particular effort is successful or not, those are massive and growing audiences. (To anyone reading there, by the way, hello from way up at this end of the Northern Hemisphere!) Of course, these plug-ins will be just as foreign to nearly all of that audience as it is to, say, producers in Melbourne or London, but as we watch the videos from Morocco, it’s worth considering just how small our Internet-connected planet is – and how wonderfully-vast the spaces between us, and the possibility contained there, remains.

Software can serve for a medium for collaboration, as in this case, which ties together a variety of backgrounds from traditional producer to Amazigh musician. The Amazigh people, tying together modern Arabic culture and language with Phoenician roots (much like my own Lebanese ancestry), represent a rich practice of music. Just as the remote, historical world of J.S. Bach might direct a modern software plug-in, these can, too – and in living fashion.

The work is led by Jace Clayton (DJ Rupture), with programmer Bill Bowen, designer Rosten Woo, Amazigh musician Hassan Wargui , and videographers Maggie Schmitt and Juan Alcón Durán. The creators report that “a physical Sufi Plug Ins Forever Box is expected for late 2012, and Clayton is currently preparing an installation version of the Sufi Plug Ins.”

Mark your calendar for next Tuesday, or join the mailing list at the site. More information:

http://www.beyond-digital.org/sufiplugins/

Thanks, Jesse Engel!

As seen on maxforlive.com (thanks, David):

Devotion: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1140/devotion
Drone: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1139/drone
Palmas: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1138/palmas
Hijaz: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1137/hijaz
Bayati: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1136/bayati
Saba: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1134/saba
Khomasi: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1133/khomasi

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Ludum Dare 23, get your Ludum Dare 23 here! I’ve gathered together eleven of my favourites from the recent 48 hour compo/jam, although that’s not to say I’ve played all 1,402 of the entries. The theme was ‘Tiny World’ and below you’ll find a musical, an existential microjaunt, a personbreeding simulation and a space cat trader, with other delights sprinkled about. There are also unconventional marks out of ten, based on number of graphics, similarity to Tetris and inclusion of comical readme file.

(more…)

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How do you visualize the invisible? How do expose a process with multiple parameters in a way that’s straightforward and musically intuitive? Can messing about with granular sound feel like touching that sound – something untouchable?

Music’s ephemeral, unseeable quality, and the ways we approach sound in computer music in similarly abstract ways, are part of the pleasure of making noise. But working out how to then design around that can be equally satisfying. That’s why it’s wonderful to see work like the upcoming Borderlands for iPad and desktop. It solves a problem familiar to computer users – designing an interface for a granular playback instrument – but does so in a way that’s uncommonly clear. And with free code and research sharing, it could help inspire other projects, too.

Its creator also reminds, us, though, that the impetus for all of this can be the quest for beautiful sound.

Creator Chris Carlson is publishing source code and a presentation for the NIME [New Interfaces for Musical Expression] conference. But this isn’t just an academic problem or a fun design exercise: he also uses this tool in performance, so the design is informed by those needs. (I’m especially attuned to this particular problem, as I was recently mucking about with a Pd patch of mine that did similar things, working out how to perform with it and what the interface should look like. I know I’m not alone, either.)

The basic function of the app: load up a selection of audio clips, and the software distributes them graphically in the interface. Next:

A “grain cloud” may be added to the screen under the current mouse position with the press of a key. This cloud has an internal timing system that triggers individual grain voices in sequence. The user has control over the number of grain voices in a cloud, the overlap of these grains, the duration, the pitch, the window/envelope, and the extent of random motion in the XY plane. By selecting a cloud and moving it over a rectangle, the sound contained in the rectangle will be sampled at the relative position of each grain voice as it is triggered. By moving the cloud in along the dimension of the rectangle that is orthogonal to the time dimension, the amplitude of the resulting grain bursts changes.

You can see how Chris is imagining this conceptually in a sketch he shares on his site:

An extended demo shows in greater detail how this all works:

Chris is a second-year Master’s student at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics [CCRMA] in California. The iPad version is coming soon, but you can get started with the Linux and Mac versions right away, and even join a SoundCloud group to share what you’re making. You’ll find all the details, and links to source code, on the CCRMA site. (And if someone feels like building this on Windows, you can save Chris the trouble.)

https://ccrma.stanford.edu/~carlsonc/256a/Borderlands/index.html

I also love this Max Mathews quote Chris shares as inspiration:

Max Mathews, in a lecture delivered at Stanford in the fall of 2010
“Any sound that the human ear can hear can be made by a sequence of digits. And that’s a true theorem. Most of the sounds that you make, shall we say randomly are either uninteresting, or horrible, or downright dangerous to your hearing. There’s an awful lot to be learned on how to make sounds that are beautiful.”

Beyond the technology, beyond this design I admire, anything that sends you on the path to making beautiful sound seems to be a worthy exercise. It’s a challenge you can face every day and never grow tired.

http://modulationindex.com/ [Chris' site, with more information]

Thanks to Ingmar Koch (Dr. Walker) for the tip!

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Galcon series developer Phil Hassey has released a trailer for his upcoming game Dynamite Jack, offering a tantalizing glimpse of its unique brand of alien-exploding action.

Dynamite Jack (formerly Anathema Mines) is a 2D, overhead-view action game in which a lone space marine must sabotage and escape from an alien mining colony. Players are equipped with time bombs, giving the gameplay footage a feel similar to Hudson's Bomberman series and the PSone obscurity Silent Bomber, with bonus stealth mechanics.

Dynamite Jack will be released for Windows and Mac in May.

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Hamilton's Great Adventure developer Fatshark announced that its tactical action-RPG Krater will premiere for Windows platforms via Steam on June 12th, with a Mac release to follow in July.

Built on a foundation of "crafting, exploration and consequence," Fatshark promises a cooperative, survival-based experience in which players can level up their characters, but risk permanent injuries and death during dangerous encounters. Follow-up episodes will be released as downloadable content starting later this year.

Fatshark plans to release a preorder-exclusive beta version of Krater shortly before the game's launch in June.

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Following up on the release of an impressive trailer last month, the developers of the upcoming turn-based strategy-RPG The Banner Saga have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game's creation.

The Banner Saga is the debut effort for independent studio Stoic, founded by ex-BioWare employees Arnie Jorgensen, Alex Thomas, and John Watson. Described by its creators as "a mature game aimed at gamers who appreciate art, story and strategy," The Banner Saga features hand-animated artwork throughout, and places heavy emphasis on dialogue and narrative.

As of this writing, the pledge drive has earned $40,000 toward its goal of $100,000 in its first day of operation. Kickstarter pledge rewards range from desktop wallpaper to t-shirts to original animation cels. Supporters who pledge $10 or more will receive a digital copy of the game for Windows and Mac upon its completion.

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