Sound Cameras

Stumbled across this on flickr – what a brilliant idea!

Eric Archer makes a number of unique electronic instruments, but his sound cameras do more than just generate sounds – they translate light (captured via the super 8 camera lens) into sound… Check his sound camera sound archive here for some example sonifications including LED signs, dripping water, solar radiation and this evocative description of recording percussion: “The sound camera is tripod-mounted and focused on glare from daylight through a window as it reflects off the cymbal. The camera is 2-3 feet from the instrument. The cymbals are played with mallets, hi hats are played with sticks.”

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Wahooo! I had a bit of luck at the VEIMA auction early this morning. The time difference between UK & NZ meant the auction began closing at NZ 3am so I had no choice but to put in a bunch of proxy bids & see what came through… The first two things I checked were what I was really after & success! I now own a Doepfer G3 + G6 case! Doesnt sound so exciting, but my Doepfer suitase is full & I have a few modules sitting here waiting for a case (and an AFG & Z3000 VCOs on their way) so that should solve that problem… I also picked up a few modules; a Doepfer noise source A118, an A148 dual sample & hold and an Analogue Systems RS310 BBD Reverb/Chorus… But the most interesting items I won in the auction is a small collection of circuit bent gadgets;

Apart from the two bent drum machines, theres a FreakenSpeak, a Babelbox, 2 toy keyboards, a photo theremin built into what looks like an alarm clock & then that crazy looking device on the left with the 7 note keyboard! I cant wait to load them all up with fresh batteries & see what chaotic sounds they produce!

I also picked up a cheap bent Radio Shack delay – love the auction description:”Circuit-bent by an unknown hand, a neat ‘electronic reverberation control’. Unpredictable but often interesting and meaty results, though does tend to self-oscillate annoyingly if no input signal present”

Expect some heinous demo samples once all these gadgets travel around the globe to their new home! Oh theres also an unbent Casio VL tone included, which I already have one of, but could be kind of fun to try some Steve Reich-like lofi beat phasing!

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A Starling Speaks?

This is slightly disturbing…

Reminds me of that metal band with a parrot as the lead singer – I kid you not. Dont believe me? check the myspace site for Hatebeak or their record labels site
Heres a bit of Hatebeak from a 7″ called Beak of Putrefaction. It makes as much sense to me as anything else in that genre, although I’m not sure if thats a compliment or an insult..

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Constructing Chords

You have to be some kind of musical genius to have a chord named after you, take this for example:

That chord is a dominant 7 #9 chord othrwise known as the Hendrix chord or the Purple Haze chord, for obvious reasons… I’m not much of a Beatles fan (although some of their studio experimentation I do love) but funnily enough a mathematician has recently solved an ongoing mystery as to the opening chord of A Hard Days Night – I’ll let him tell his own story here but he makes an interesting observation at the end of the article: “Music and math are not really that far apart,” he says. “They’ve found that children that listen to music do better at math, because math and music both use the brain in similar ways. The best music is analytical and pattern-filled and mathematics has a lot of aesthetics to it. They complement each other well.”

I’ve never studied music theory, any skills i have are primarily ear/instinct driven although I guess I’ve picked up some basic theory along the way, more by osmosis than anything conscious… but I am good at maths, so maybe theres hope yet? Wikipedia has a deep resource about music & maths here and google will consume as much time as you have to spare on the subject, but there is an interesting discussion here by a statistician using many real world examples…

Whenever I visit someone who obviously has a big music library (real or digital) I love to check their iTunes & display their music library sorted by number of plays – if you havent ever done this, it can be surprisingly enlightening – even of your own listening. What you think you like to listen to may not actually be what the stats reveal, and mine threw up a funny anomaly, until i realised why it was: a ten second file called Fibonacci was my number 1 track! Then I realised, every playlist I ever make I use it as a visual & audible divider between sections… But it says something of nature, music & maths that I can play it now, after literally thousands of listens & enjoy it as much as the first time, have a listen:

download Fibonacci mp3

Lastly & back to the chord topic, I’m kind of intrigued by this recently announced application, due for release next month by sugar-bytes

From the press release: “Consequence is a chord groovebox, with a surprising depth of possibilities while being easy to use, due to an intuitive workflow. Chords are alternated, split up to custom arpeggios and turned into leg-driving basslines, amazing melodies or dreamy sound textures. The internal audio recorder keeps your ideas when they come or records loops or even full tracks. The allround soundlibrary contains all possible kinds of instruments, from thick basslines to gentle violines. Combine these with individual triggering options for unheard sequences full of joy and groove! Combine sound-presets and sequencer-presets, an unlimited source of inspiration. CONSEQUENCE is a composition tool which can create chordlines or whole songs on the fly, but also chords which are played via MIDI can be supersized using the innovative sequencing engine.

And one last observation; I am a big fan of the lovely sound of Native Instruments Akoustik Piano simply because to my ears it feels like a definitive ROMpler of many beautiful pianos (including a Steinway Concert D $100k+ piano) but there is one aspect of the software that really annoys the living hell out of me; The app has a basic recorder, so say you just want to improvise & experiment chords, melodies etc without having to boot up whatever host app you use (Live or ProTools in my case) then you would think the built in recorder was a genius feature, but despite the app inherently using MIDI it wont let you export what you record as a MIDI sequence! It will only export as rendered audio!?! How stupid is that! The whole point of having that recorder is surely to be able to improvise and then later on delete the mistakes & edit up the gems in a MIDI sequencer, but no – it seems Native Instruments presumed we are all such brilliant piano players that the only reason we would want to record ourselves is to capture our perfect performances. I have just one thing to say: FAIL!
Of course i emailed Native Instruments asking how come it doesnt support this very obvious need & all I got for my trouble was a generic reply mumbling something about that feature not being supported… In disgust I have searched long & hard for a very basic MIDI recorder that could host Akoustik Piano & do nothing other than record MIDI and then export a MIDI file, and does such a thing exist? Well, I havent found one as yet… let me know if you use one in OSX… I dont even care about click tracks or tempos or even viewing the data… suggestions anyone?

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Studio Aesthetics II

Following up on a previous rant about the aesthetics of studio design; from an interview on Native Instruments site heres a couple of photos of Lumos retro-futuristic looking studio in Berlin:


methink someones been watching re-runs of 2001…

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