On A Personal Note: To Blog Or Not To Blog?

Hello there dear reader! Just a note to say sorry for my radio silence of late… I’ve been wrapped up in a truly staggering number of things that have taken precedence over blogging. I’m grateful for the manic surge of brain activity but frankly, it’s more than my mind can handle all at once. Over the last few months I’ve been engaged in:

1. Learning programming. Took an online course in Python. That has lead me to research an exponential number of paths to follow next, including Java, Javascript, Objective C, C… I’m kind of all over the place, wanting to devour all knowledge in sight yet not really knowing where to start. Anyone care to chime in with advice?

2. Video games. Another result of the aforementioned class, (which delved into creating games), I am trying to absorb everything I’ve missed in the years since I stopped playing video games. I’ve been wanting to learn how to make mobile apps and games for years, (the whole reason I started learning to program in the first place), so it only makes sense to play (err, I mean, research) as much as possible. Any games out there I absolutely must try? 

3. Resumed messing around with MAX/MSP after years of hiatus. I’ve also dabbled in Csound a bit in the past;  I hope to integrate one or the other or both into my musical activities again and, eventually, build some sort of musical app of my own.

4. Trying to upgrade my rig. I set up a Mavericks OS on an external hard drive and am testing out various new softwares on it before I commit to overhauling my reliable yet slightly out-of-date laptop. It’s hard to let go of a system that has so many toys on it and simply works, but I am falling behind the curve…

There are oh so many more things I have on the back burner of my mind that I wish I had time or energy to get into, like pedal building, arduino, analog synth building, amp building… the list goes on. I fear I may never get to any of these things. Which brings me to the question of: To blog or not to blog?

I’ve mentioned that I wanted to convert this blog from a pure product plug format to more of a demonstrative document… If I can get it together, I hope to make this happen very soon. Until then, I guess it will just be sporadic updates, though hopefully more interesting than this one!

In the past I’ve struggled with whether or not to keep this blog strictly “professional,” to throw in the occasional personal update now and then, or to start a whole new personal blog for moments such as these. What do you think? 

Anyway, if you’re still with me, thanks for letting me rant!

Squarepusher Composes for Robot Band Z-Machines [VIDEO]

Z-Machines,

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re turned on by robots, and hopefully by the music of Squarepusher. Well friends, you are in luck today, because now you can enjoy both at the same time.

Brought to you by Zima (???), favorite beverage of teenage girls everywhere, (apparently in Japan especially), Squarepusher’s new song ‘Sad Robot Goes Funny‘ is performed by a band of robots. And really, who better to perform Tom Jenkinson’s maniacal sounds? Someone should have thought of this a long time ago. Of course, it was Molson Coors Japan Co., right? These are the lengths that Japanese advertising goes to, and frankly I’m blown away. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen robot used to perform music, (check out Eric Singer’s Lemur Bots or Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion), but this robot band has some undeniable flair. My question is, who gets to compose for the Z-Machines next?

View the video, read the [extremely thorough] press release below, and make sure you scroll all the way to the end of this post for a brief interview with Squarepusher on his thoughts about the project.

To: Members of the Press September 4, 2013 Molson Coors Japan Co., Ltd

78-finger Guitar, 22 Drums, Beyond-Human!

Squarepusher and robot band from Japan in Music of the Future collaboration — a must see video!

On September 4th, ZIMA, an alcoholic beverage brand of Molson Coors Japan Co., Ltd. (President: Kenichi Yano) that has always been at the forefront of youth culture, will start streaming the video of “music of the future” created together by the party robot band Z-MACHINES and highly acclaimed UK electronic artist Squarepusher. The music will be released on iTunes Store under the artist name Squarepusher x Z-MACHINES on the same day.

Referred to as “an attempt to break new ground for emotional machine music” by its composer Squarepuhser, Sad Robot Goes Funny features the superhuman prowess of Z-MACHINES, showcasing in particular the stupendous chops of the guitarist playing multiple melody lines with 78 fingers and 12 picks at lightning speed in the latter half of the song. On the other hand, the music also tells an emotional story contrary to the image of robots always being mechanical. This makes it a truly groundbreaking piece of music from Sqaurepusher to open the way for new music of the future.

The music video featuring Z-MACHINES’s performance was produced by Daito Manabe of Rhizomatiks, an up-and-coming director who recently garnered attention at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. To project the cool, minimal image, the robots’ playing were captured at super-close distance using cameras attached to a robot arm which enabled some dynamic camera work probing into the close-ups of Z-MACHINES in action. Highlighting Z-machine’s structure in detail and how they produce sounds, the music clip is filled with astonishing images that you’ve never seen before. We invite you to come watch this “video of the future”!

About Z-MACHINES

Z-MACHINES is a social network party band of three robots developed by ZIMA for the “party of the future”. Its creation was supervised by Yoichiro Kawaguchi, a professor of the University of Tokyo, and artist Naohiro Ukaawa.

MACH -Robot guitarist challenging the speed of over BPM1000

Mach, Z-Machines,

MACH inspires music creators to advance the possibility of music with super-accurate playing beyond human ability – it can not only play ultra-fast, but also play the slide, mute strings, and use the whammy bar. He’s also equipped with the “Body & Soul: Synchronicity System” where he will bang his head in synch with the movement of the audience watching the performance online. He will bring together the audience and players for a whole new party experience. .

ASHURA -Robot drummer that can play the most complex rhythm on 22 drums!

Ashura, Z-Machines,

The special drum set consists of 19 drums and 3 bass drums which are more than double the usual set – it is the one-and-only drum set in the world specially developed for ASHURA. The extreme dance rhythm possible only for a machine drummer inspires composers for a totally new musical innovation.

COSMO -Robot keyboard player resembling a future life form!

 

Cosmo, Z-Machines,

COSMO’s sexy neon colors add a touch of flamboyance to the Z-MACHINES performance. Designed with the concept of “future life form”, he is supposed to be an ancient life form evolved a few thousand years ahead. He has spiral shapes in many of his body parts, which is a symbol of primordial life energy, and revs up the party “spirally” upward with music. He can emit light from the eyes through user demand online, playing the role to unite the party involving the power of the online audience.

Squarepusher

Squarepusher

Squarepusher, a.k.a. Tom Jenkinson, is a leading artist of Warp Records. His revolutionary style of works is influenced by all categories of music including the experimental and, particularly popular “drum & bass” style inspired by the music of jazz and fusion. Ufabulum, a new album released on May 2 is characterized by the extensive use of electronic sounds throughout the album with super-fast and super-complex rhythm reminiscent of his earlier works. The jazz-oriented feel of “Feed Me Weird Things”, beautiful and pop melody of “Hard Normal Daddy”, and acid and aggressive “Go Plastic”, all make this the best-ever album exceeding the perfection of his classic Ultravisitor.

He played in the Fuji Rock Festival in 2001, and also sold out all shows in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya for his Japan tour of 2004. He also put on an astounding performance recently at the Electraglide Festival in 2012.

Daitdo Manabe

Daitdo Manabe, Z-Machines,

Daito Manabe’s works are created by rearranging familiar phenomena and materials after looking at them from a new perspective and understanding them in a fresh way. His goal is not to create rich, high-definition, and highly realistic works, but rather to use careful observation in order to discover the intrinsically enjoyable elements of phenomena, bodies, programming, and computers. In 2006, he founded rhizomatiks, a design firm that covers a broad range of media, from web to interactive design. In 2008, he founded the hackerspace 4nchor5La6 (Anchors Lab) with Motoi Ishibashi.

Born in 1976, he graduated from the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, Tokyo University of Science as well as the Dynamic Sensory Programming Course at the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences. He has used his programming skills to participate in various projects across a range of genres and fields. He is also active in educational efforts in countries around the world, holding workshops among other activities in locations such as the MIT MediaLab and Fabrica. Many of his works and workshops are aimed at children, such as a computer workshop held in a Thai orphanage. Participated as a presenter at the openFrameworks developers conference and the Cycling 74 Expo. Juror at the 2009 Prix Ars Electronica, and received the Award of Distinction in the Interactive Art Category at the 2011 Prix. Received 1 Grand Prize, 2 Excellence prizes, and 7 Jury Recommendations at the Japan Media Arts Festival held by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Responsible for the video projection and creation system as well as the balloon explosion system for Perfume’s 2010 Tokyo Dome concert, for which he received much attention, such as being featured in the opening pages of Japanese Motion Graphic Creators. He directed Etsuko Yakushimaru’s “Venus and Jesus,” “Lulu,” and “Body Hack” music videos, as well as her website. He also provided an earlier-made work as a commercial for the Spring 2011 Laforet Grand Bazar that received attention from media around the world, including the New York Times and the Guardian.Featured in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase in 2013, he has also produced music videos of artists outside of Japan including FaltyDL and Nosaj Thing.

Squarepusher’s comment on Sad Robot Goes Funny

Q. When you received the offer (to make a song for Z-MACHINES), what was your first image of the song for Z-MACHINES?

A. My first idea was about the robots being sad because they are just treated by the public as entertainment machines, and all of their other qualities are neglected. And so this sadness comes out in the music they play, and strangely becomes one of the reasons why the public like them because they seem to be able to evoke strong emotions in their audience. But when the public goes home, the robots play their own music which is more fun and to do with their playful aspect – they think back to being young robots, before they were employed in the sphere of public entertainment, and remember the silly antics they used to get up to. So the first section of the piece is them entertaining the public and being sad, then the second section is them having fun when the public goes home, and lastly the third section is when the public comes back and they are sad again.

Q. Why did you decide to join on this project?

A. The idea of making music with machines fascinates me, as people have often assumed that for music to be emotionally powerful it has to come directly from a human hand, whereas I disagree with that, and enjoy proving those people wrong. This project is an excellent way of exploring that area more.

Q. When you actually joined this project, how did you feel?

A. I was very excited and once I had all of the technical information I got to work on it straight away. I made the piece in three days I think.

Q. What do you think about your song?

A. I think that it explores some of the many fascinating possibilities of music-playing robots. I kept the guitar sound clean (i.e., no distortion) so I could freely explore the possibilities of polyphony. The majority of the guitar element of the piece is written to sound like four guitarists playing even though there are only two guitars in the actual performance. There are so many other aspects of the capabilities of the robots that I would like to explore.

Q. What do you think about Z-MACHINES and their playing technique?

A. So far it seems very impressive. I especially like the way guitar robot plays.

Why You Should Give Up On Gear

Someone recently asked me for a guitar rig recommendation (as people who know me are oft to do). The conversation went something like this:

HIM: “I was up till 5am watching videos and browsing forums and wow did you see the [gratuitously expensive but awesome thing any self respecting guitarist NEEDS]???”

ME: “Yes indeed that is ridiculously amazing and I NEED IT, but sadly I have no income at the moment. BUT DID YOU SEE THISSS????”

[sick gear porn exchange ensues over another 10 emails]

So the question is, what do you really need to make great music? Really, nothing but your mind. After all the punkest thing you can do is NOT play music at all. But if you simply must get those glorious refrains out of your head, maybe some staff paper would do the trick, if you know how to read and write music. Ok ok yes we are in the 21st century, who uses paper, yadda yadda yadda. You have heard that even basic computers these days have way more musical possibilities than the Beatles had access to, right? Are you really better than the Beatles??? So what do you really need to get the job done?

Every year, more and more musicians get lost down the rabbit hole of gear, the gear-hole if you will, and many never come out, nary a note heard from them again. I found myself treading down this slippery slope, which caused me to start this blog, which caused me to stop making music.

Recently, I’ve been trying to reverse that trend. Lack of income has helped the process of recovery a bit, though I still troll gear sites and forums lusting after every piece of bleepy bloopy contraption I see. This past year, I took a cross country trip, leaving my studio behind. I missed all my stuff dearly, but you know what? I MADE MUSIC. In a small rehearsal space, with only a guitar, a few select pedals, my little GK Microbass amp, a Pearl drum kit, a pair of [cheap-made-in-China] Oktava MK12 omni condenser mics, a Shure SM57 for vocals, a 2 channel USB interface, and my laptop, my wife and I recorded this:

It’s admittedly lo-fi, out of necessity, but I think it has its own certain charm.

I realize I haven’t posted in a while, and I’m happy to say that it’s because I’ve been working on lots of music (and trying to find an actual paying job)! Going forward with this blog, I am thinking about focusing on products I actually have, and trying to fully utilize the possibilities they offer, instead of just gushing over the latest hot-new-thing. Hopefully this will lead me back down the path of steady COMPOSING instead of merely CONSUMING.

Arturia iMini Review + Demo [Video]

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

When Arturia first released iMini, it was already quite impressive. To have a faithful, rich sounding Minimoog emulation running on your iPad for just $9.99 should have been a miracle for most. But of course, it is just our over-priveledged nature to hold an amazing human achievement in our hands and still cry about what it lacks. No Audiobus? Wahhh!!!

Arturia was quick to respond to this oversight, adding the inter-app audio capability in version 1.1, along with a few other bells and whistles. Now, there is truly no reason to complain. You can plug iMini into Audiobus, you can even plug external audio INTO iMini for God’s sake! And that’s not all:

“background audio advances mean that iMini is always live, yet will still respond to MIDI and be able to run its arpeggiator when working as a background app. And on that very note, whenever iMini is making no sound itself its CPU usage drops dramatically — another neat touch that helps keep things running smoothly when running multiple music apps.

Moving onwards and upwards, expanded MIDI support lets those up-to-date iMini users pick and choose from multiple sources; moreover, inter-app MIDI support — which establishes MIDI messages that enable two iOS devices to identify and enumerate each other — makes it much easier for cool controller apps like Audanika’s SoundPrism Pro advanced MIDI controller for iOS to individually control multiple iMini instances while running in the background on the same iPad, for instance. Let’s talk, in other words!” – Arturia

Yeah yeah, that’s all well and good, but what ELSE does iMini do, you say? Let’s take a more in depth look…

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

iMini has three tabs: Main, Perform, and FX. In the Main tab, you see a wood-panel framed, familiar synth layout. Choose from a large library of sorted presets, tune it up or down 2 octaves, set the Glide (Portamento) amount, adjust the Mod-Mix (between Osc.3 & Noise), and you’re off to the races.

The Oscillator Bank contains three oscillators, each of which can be tuned over several octaves. If you hold your finger on oscillators 2 or 3, further coarse tuning is revealed. You can also choose a separate waveform for each, from triangle, saw-triangle, sawtooth, square, wide rectangle, or narrow rectangle. Set their volumes in the Mixer section, along with Noise and External Input. The Modifiers section offers a tasty 24db per octave filter, with Cut-off, Emphasis (Resonance), and a Contour setting that controls how the filter responds to the Envelope Generator. There is also a Loudness Contour with amplitude envelope controls. In the Output section, you set the main level, volumes for the Chorus & Delay effects, or switch to Polyphonic mode.

The Keyboard is pretty straight forward with pitch bend and modulation wheels. But that’s not all: if you hold down the small settings icon next to the iMini logo, you get some additional controls, including the ability to change the octave, scale, and key.

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

The Perform tab is really where the action is. Here, you have the Arpeggiator and two XY pads. Get that sound throbbing, then give it the two-finger attack tweak. The default filter and contour controls are pretty fun, but you can set any of the controls from the Main page to the XY axis. Add a little Chorus and or Delay in the FX tab to fatten up your sound.

IF THAT IS STILL NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, go ahead and fire up Audiobus, add some effects from your favorite app, and record that ish! While the sound of iMini is pretty rich and warm, I like to run my keyboards through guitar pedals, so the free GuitarTone app from Sonoma does the trick for me, (although it is a bit buggy with Audiobus on my iPad 2). Loopy HD, another invaluable offering from Audiobus’ maker A Tasty Pixel, is a cool way to lay down ideas on the fly and let them loop on top of each other ’til you’re dizzy.

Here’s a video of me making some noise with these toys:

Download iMini

“With all this talk of added support, it’s good to know that Arturia will make a donation to The Bob Moog Foundation for every iMini sold in recognition of the groundbreaking instrument to which it owes its very existence. In turn, this supports the dream of building the MoogseumTM (Bob Moog Museum), the convergence of The Bob Moog Foundation’s goals of inspiring and educating people through electronic music.” –

Mind the Gap?

TwinFalls

You might have noticed it’s been rather quiet here lately. Did you miss me?

The reason for my silence has been a long stretch of travel. After spending some time in LA, I drove up the Pacific coast to San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. It was glorious. Then I traversed the country back east, stopping in Colorado, Chicago, and Detroit. Oh the wonders I could tell you about! But I suppose this is not really the time or place.

Now, back in NY, I return to you, dear reader, refreshed and renewed. I’m also in the business of once again seeking gainful employment. Multimedia remote work would be preferable, but I am open to anything really. I’m always looking to learn new skills and dreaming up business ideas. My path as a musician who does not wish to starve has lead me to jobs in all different facets of the entertainment business. In fact I might have spread myself a wee bit too thin. You see, when people ask, I have trouble describing what it is exactly that I do, since my skills are rather diverse. I try to fit them all under one umbrella: multimedia, or digital media, though that’s really two umbrellas now isn’t it? Sometimes I just say “computer stuff.” In any case, here is an outline of things I am proficient in:

Music Composition

Audio Recording/Editing/Mixing

Sound Design

Graphic Design

Web Design

Video Editing

Photo Editing

Marketing

Branding

Writing

Blogging

Social Media

Audio/Video Hardware & Software Installation

Computer Maintenance

Tech Support

IT

So if you know of a job that needs filling somewhere along those lines, please email toneluster@gmail.com. Thanks!

And now back to more music technology…

Squarepusher News

Squarepusher, Ufabulum, Enstrobia, LED helmet

I’ve been meaning to post about Squarepusher for ages.

Tom Jenkinson dropped his latest album Ufabulum last year, along with a wild new live show. Consisting of an LED helmet and fantastic visuals that respond to sound, the experience created by the venerable Squarepusher really takes his music over the top. As if it weren’t explosive enough already!

Nowadays there are plug-ins and apps (such as iZotope’s Stutter or Glitchbreaks for iPhone & iPad) that can produce similar effects to the inimitable Squarepusher’s sound. And of course there are generative video programs as well. What makes Squarepusher special is not just his technical wizardry, but that he is a truly innovative Artist. He doesn’t use the fanciest new equipment to create his work. He painstakingly programs things from scratch, and culls otherworldly sounds from his bass rig that are utterly futuristic. Jenkinson is a sculptor of sound – a visionary, mad genius.

Squarepusher has a new EP entitled Enstrobia available.

Originally released exclusively with the vinyl or double CD versions of his 2012 album Ufabulum, this is the first time the tracks have been available as a standalone EP.

Squarepusher says – “The Ufabulum live show has been constantly developing over the last year of touring – including using parts of Enstrobia at specific events. Although not originally part of the project, these pieces seem very integrated with it now and have triggered a lot of interest from fans who hadn’t heard them before.”

He also has a remix contest

Squarepusher, Ufabulum, Enstrobia, LED helmet, Remix,

Download stems here: https://bleep.com/release/42392-squarepusher-squarepusher-remix-stems#description

Here are some great interviews and live clips:

Catch Squarepusher at one of his very limited live shows this month:

 

Let’s Making Noise For One More 100 Years!

Luigi Russolo, Intonarumori, noise music, noise machine

I first got into noise music as a college student wandering the streets of New York City. The constant crush of sheer sound was both exhilarating and strangely calming, like the way white-noise is used to sooth infants and insomniacs. I remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to propel noise back out into the world. I couldn’t walk down the street without the screech of brakes piercing my eardrums, and I thought: this is war!

Nowadays I feel more attracted towards the idea of sound enveloping and coddling my poor rattled brain in a blanket of ambient comfort. I dream of throbbing pink-noise ecstactic transcendence. Warm waves of aural bliss.

Createdigitalmusic brought to my attention that today is the 100th anniversary of Luigi Russolo’s “Art of Noises” manifesto. A great reminder to finish reading 2 documents I have waiting in my Kindle app! One of which is the very manifesto I just mentioned, and the second being a very interesting book on Russolo and his dealings with the occult, Luigi Russolo: Futurist.

If you don’t know about Russolo:

Luigi Russolo was perhaps the first noise artist. His 1913 manifesto, L’Arte dei Rumori, translated as The Art of Noises, stated that the industrial revolution had given modern men a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds. Russolo found traditional melodic music confining and envisioned noise music as its future replacement.

He designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori and assembled a noise orchestra to perform with them. A performance of his Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917) was met with strong disapproval and violence from the audience, as Russolo himself had predicted.

(from wikipedia)

Coincidentally, (though I am cognisant of so much syncronicity on a daily basis that I’m not sure I believe in coincidence), my wife and I were taking an afternoon stroll and somehow got onto the topic of how Noise is the only thing still capable of effecting a world numbed to music. I’m not even sure that’s true. As this very blog post attests, noise is nothing new. Big-name noise artists like Merzbow, Prurient or Kevin Drumm have all taken the idea to the Nth degree. Sure, Russolo’s concert caused a riot a century ago, but what would the reaction be today?

What do you think? Listen to some of Russolo’s work at Ubuweb and decide…

Sound City Soundtrack: Grohl+Homme+Reznor’s Mantra

Sound City, Reel to Reel, Dave Grohl

Have you seen Dave Grohl’s film Sound City yet?

The soundtrack is coming out March 12th. It features a ridiculous cast of music legends, including Sir Paul McCartney, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear of Nirvana, who debuted their track “Cut Me Some Slack” at the Madison Square Garden Hurricane Sandy Benefit last year. Dave has been playing shows all over the world with different configurations of the loose collective he calls the Sound City Players, which will be making a stop at SXSW March 14th. Grohl is also the keynote speaker of the festival this year.

Watch this sweet behind-the-scenes video of Dave banging the skins, while Josh Homme slappa da bass and Trent Reznor tickles the ivories, as they record the epic 7+ minute ‘Mantra.’ The result is, predictably, a little bit Foo, with a dash of Queens, on a bed of Nails.

This is just the instrumental in its glorious birthing stage. The finished version has vocals on it.

Listen to Sound City – Reel to Reel in full  here.

Order the Sound City Soundtrack

Watch Sound City the Film

Native Instruments Super Tease [Video]

Native Instruments, Supercharge Your Beats

Native Instruments is on some sort of mysterious teaser video bender lately. After releasing the Traktor DJ app, they quickly followed up with a very vague but awesome 3D video promising  “revolution.” Now NI has unleashed another teaser that leaves you wondering just what exactly will “supercharge your beats”?

The sound of the 21st century comes wrapped in a futuristic user interface, fusing ultimate power with a lightning-fast, visual workflow. Seeing is believing – stay tuned.

Futuristic indeed… Is it an iPad app? A virtual instrument? A holographic waveform rendering arcade game DMT trip?

Hear some audio samples to sooth your question wracked mind:

FAWM: February Album Writing Month – Game On!

fawm.org, february album writing month

Do you wanna write an album? Do you need some inspiration? Do you want to be part of a songwriting community? If so, FAWM.org might be just the thing for you.

The goal is to write 14 songs in 28 days. That’s not a requirement, just a suggestion. And FAWM is full of suggestions! FAWM.org offers a place to post your song ideas, collaborate with other musicians all over the world, or generate ideas using their MUSE tool, weekly challenges and daily tweets. So what are you waiting for? February is upon us! Get writing!

I think this is a really cool idea, and it’s the sort of thing I envisioned for the future of this site. If you’re down to join the discussion, head over to the toneluster+ page, join the community, and hopefully someday soon we can all start sharing ideas with each other.