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Digging the Asian and African undergrounds with C-drík Kirdec

It’s time to get beyond the geographic bubble – without resorting to narrow expectations of “world music” – and really appreciate the wide-open world of music making in which we now live. To take us there, CDM’s Zuzana Friday talks to Cedrik Fermont, who is evangelical when it comes to breaking apart old stereotypes and digging deep into the underground. -Ed.

I met Cedrik Fermont, alias C-drík Kirdec, for the first time about six years ago in Brno, where he performed at a local experimental night I used to work for. We, a group of crazy young creatives behind the event, decided to take the party upstairs with our usual routine of drinks and an improvised snack baked in a roasting pan. (Said roasting pan had a few events earlier served as a musical instrument — my friend played it with a hammer.) Sober Cedrik politely refused a cup of tea with honey, saying that the bees suffer when the honey is taken from them. Distracted by music, party, and friends, I couldn’t entirely process this information. But that was the first time I saw past his chosen appearance (mohawk, tattoos, piercings, and head-to-toe black), to his caring, uncompromising devotion to what’s important to him.

The next day, we took Cedrik to Zbrojovka, an old remote factory complex where guns were produced years ago and a handful of artists were at the timing living on the cheap. He made some field recordings of us, banging some metal junk on a construction of some kind, improvising musical instruments from found materials. In his next gig in Brno, he used these recordings in live set, which added a very personal character to the performance.

C-drik. Photo: Felix Xifel.

C-drik. Photo: Felix Xifel.

Since then, we met several times for interviews or on events, including a visit in a house project, where he resides when in Berlin – which seems to be about only half a year, the remainder spent touring Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Apart from defining himself as an anti-sexist, anti-racist, and anti-fascist straight-edge vegan, Cedrik is also an artist, show organizer, founder of the Syrphe record label, a member of approximately fifteen bands, a solo producer and field recording enthusiast, and an avid expert on independent, industrial, punk, hardcore, ambient, noise and various electronic music genres, particularly in Asia and Africa. You can explore that musical web in his compilations, in a vast database on Syrphe website, and soon in a book called Not Your World Music which Cedrik co-wrote with his colleague Dimitri della Faille. The book focuses on independent music scenes of Southeast Asia and will be published in September this year together with a CD.

At a time when the line between independent and commercial music is disappearing and the Western world is starting to turn its gaze to places it had previously neglected, Cedrik’s 20-plus years of activity seem more relevant than ever. I spoke to him about his life and work, as well as Western perception of African and Asian music, gender (in)equality in local scenes, and contemporary and historical gems from those landscapes.

Zuzana: Where does your interest in non-Western independent, electronic, punk and extreme music originate?

Cedrik: I suppose that it’s connected to where I come from and where I grew up. My family is partly from the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], where I was born (when it was still called Zaire). I only lived two years in the Congo and then grew up in Belgium. When I was a teenager, I faced the fact that I was one of the only non-white persons in my circle. That was in the 1980s. From the second half of the 80s, I started to trade electronic, industrial, and experimental music cassettes through the mail art network, started my first band Crno Klank in 1989, and then a tape label in 1991 where I published some of my projects and other international artists.

I quickly noticed that I would find a lot of music from North America and Western Europe, and a little from Eastern Europe (partly due to the fact that the world was divided between the capitalist West and the pseudo-communist East), or Australia and Japan. I was convinced that this music existed in many other places and I started to buy some fanzines, write letters to whoever could help, and step by step, I discovered electronic, noise, and experimental music artists mostly in places like Chile, Brazil, South Africa, Yugoslavia, the USSR, Czechoslovakia… I published a compilation cassette in 1996 which included several artists from South Africa, Brazil, Chile, Japan, and many others from other continents.

The difficulties I had to go through to find artists in let’s say the non-Western circuit were frustrating to me, as well as seeing a mostly white scene. I couldn’t believe that no one would do this kind of music in the non-Western world. I became totally obsessed and told myself that I would discover musicians and composers who do noise, experimental, electroacoustic, and similar genres in as many countries as possible. Many told me they didn’t believe I would find anything in Africa or Asia… But I started performing outside of the traditional circuits: in Turkey in 2003, Thailand in 2004, and a then I had a six month-long tour in far and Southeast Asia in 2005 where I was performing and collecting music and contacts in Singapore, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Laos, etc.

Now I can say that I published several compilations and albums of artists mostly coming from a lot of Asian countries, including the Middle East and to a lesser extent Africa, I wrote several essays, gave plenty of lectures and concerts in more than fifty countries, developed a database dedicated to Asia and Africa and some networks.

Zuzana: Do you think you would be interested in African and Asian music as much as you are if you hadn’t been born in the Congo and faced racism growing up in Belgium? (I remember that once when we talked, you explained that being the only mix-raced kid in the class wasn’t really a piece of cake.)

Cedrik: I cannot really say for sure, but obviously my life would have been different if I hadn’t been part of a sort of minority. But too many factors shape one’s character and paths. I’ve been rebelling all my life at some points, against my parents, schools, society… Not particularly because of my origins. So maybe I would have ended up doing more or less what I do now anyway. I’ll never be able to tell.

Belgium was full of electronic musicians and experimentalists back then. We were bathing in electronic music — whatever it was, from disco to electro-pop, electronic body music, new beat, techno or industrial. You couldn’t escape it.

I didn’t face racism daily. It was more at school with a handful of kids, nothing more, but it could be violent, and I suffered, of course. And there had been some racism inside my family too. I was indeed one of the very few non-white kids at school – something that’s almost impossible to see these days in Belgium. So I would not say that I grew up in a racist environment, but I often had to face racism and intolerance. Now, an adult, brown man wearing skirts, piercings, tattoos and a mohawk, I still am confronted to what I call racism, but not especially in Berlin. All this shaped me and I like most of what I am.

You co-wrote the book with Dimitri della Faille, a Belgian-Canadian sociologist and also musician. Where did you meet and how did he come to share your interest in Asian independent music?

Dimitri and I met when I lived in Brussels or perhaps even a few years before I moved there. He had and still has a music project called Szkieve and started a label, Hushush, where he published some of the projects I was involved in, in the early 2000s: Ambre, Moonsanto, and my first solo CD. Thanks to his work at the university, Dimitri travels quite a lot, across the Americas and also in Asia, sometimes Europe and Africa. He would now and then ask me for contacts in Asia to perform, knowing that I’m very well connected all over the continent.

We have a different approach when we travel there. As you mention it, Dimitri is a sociologist, so not only does he play, but he also analyses the scenes there from a sociological viewpoint. On my side, I above all do research and dig in the past to collect music and information about the local scenes, all of which has unfortunately not been written yet, or which hasn’t been told loudly enough. I try to understand how those scenes and artists are interconnected, how all this is developing, from where, and when.

Which topics and countries will the book cover and how is it structured?

We speak about the noise scene or scenes in ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian] countries, so to speak Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. It’s divided in several chapters: history, discography, interviews of local artists or organizers, definitions (of noise music, of a genre), sociological analyses, bibliography of popular music (from traditional to pop, dangdut [Indonesian music genre], noise, metal or electronica and so on), etc.

We try to cover many aspects — also gender issues. The historical part is not only limited to noise per se, as noise music is connected to other genres like electroacoustic music, improvised music or rock, grindcore and punk and politics — we also take account of those topics. The interviewees include women, men and one transgender artists, local artists and organizers but also some who’ve lived in the region for many years.

Do you also provide historical and socio-political context of each country?

We do. The historical chapter is divided by countries and starts with a small introduction about the past and present, the censorship (or freedom) the citizens and artists had to face, some cultural connections via politics. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and somehow Myanmar by way of socialism; Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia due to the culture and languages, for example. I think it would be hard to understand why noise music exists or not somewhere without historical and socio-political and sometimes religious or philosophical context.

For how long have you been working on the book? And do you have any idea of how many hours of listening you’ve spent during your research?

It is hard for me to answer this question. Dimitri proposed that I write this book as I had been touring Southeast [Asia] and a bit the Far East in 2014 — 18 Asian countries. And I was working on a book I never finished, more global, about Asia and Africa, focusing on alternative electronic music such as electronica or breakcore and “experimental” like noise, electroacoustic, etc. But I am terribly slow because I think I never collect enough data, hence I tend to read more than I write and gather more and more information… I had plenty of documentation, some of it already written. Then Dimitri initiated the project which I’m really thankful for.

So we really started to work on that specific book in the summer 2015. As I’m writing this answer, we’re making some updates and corrections. We are reaching the end and it feels good. I don’t know how many hours I spent listening to music, not only to music but to what musicians and composers have to say — their opinions, their feelings, their knowledge. I have been to an incredible amount of concerts too when I didn’t organize them by myself. And I do radio shows… I think it would be easier to calculate how many hours I spent without listening to any music!

The book will also be accompanied by a compilation. In which format will it be and which artists will be featured on it?

There will be a CD and a digital version. The artists on the CD are: Cheryl Ong & Vivian Wang (Singapore), Menstrual Synthdrone (Indonesia), Nguy?n Hong Giang (Vietnam), Sodadosa (Indonesia), Dharma (Sigapore), Sound Awakener (Vietnam), Bergegas Mati (Indonesia), GAMNAD737 (Thailand), Goh Lee Kwang (Malaysia), Yandsen (Malaysia), Teresa Barrozo (the Philippines), Musica Htet (Myanmar).

The name of the book Not Your World Music reminds me something which you pointed out during your lecture at CTM 2016: that usually, Western people expect the music from Asia and Africa to have traditional elements, even when we’re talking about experimental music. How far are they from the truth? Is the book a way to disprove this assumption?

The book — just as my essays and talks — is partly there to disprove this myth. And the title is clear about it. Most noise artists don’t use traditional elements in their music, wherever they live on Earth, so why would Asians or Africans break the rule to fit their ex-colonizers’ expectations? Of course, some experiment with traditional elements such as Senyawa from Indonesia and many improvisers and electroacoustic composers such as Taiwanese pipa player Luo Chao Yun who collaborates with electronic musicians. It is interesting and important, but it should not be a mandatory rule or obvious expectation. We speak about noise (and experimental) music – it has to surprise us, not to fall in some kind of clichés.

Senyawa, Jogjakarta, Indonesia 2014 by C-dr¡k

Breaking another stereotype, you introduced Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh as one of the electronic music pioneers. I also have to admit that even when studying electroacoustic music history at a university, I have never heard of him. Do you also cover his work in the book, and are there other composers or collaborations between Western and Non-Western artists which happened until the 1970s?

I don’t talk about El-Dabh in this book as we focus on South East Asia only. But I speak about some ASEAN pioneers in the field of experimental, electroacoustic and tape music from the late 1950s until the 1970s, like Filipino artists David Medalla and José Maceda, Indonesian composers Slamet Abdul Sjukur, Yose Haryo Suyoto, Harry Ruesli, Otto Sidharta, Adhi Susanto and so on.

How is the situation with female and queer scene in countries of South East Asia, where does it blossom and female artist play often and where is it still male-dominated?
The scene there is mostly male-dominated and only Vietnam, for several reasons I try to explain in the book, has a scene which is not too uneven, followed by the Singaporean scene.
Nevertheless, some movements are growing and raise awareness – in Indonesia for example, some women, like noise musician Indonesian Rega Ayundya Putri (of the noise duo Mati Gabah Jasus) or Vietnamese musician Nguy?n Nhung (Sound Awakener) are well aware of it. Singapore has got some active queer or non-heteronormative artists such as X’Ho and Tara Transitory. Indonesia and Malaysia, such as Singapore have a huge punk hardcore scene, hence gender issues aren’t put aside there.

In 2014, in Yangon (Myanmar), I attended a discussion panel about women, gay and lesbian and minority rights during a biennial. We were a small group to attend the event but it’s a good step. Recently, Indonesian film maker Hera Maryani made a documentary about women in the punk hardcore scene in Java: Ini Scene Kami Juga! (roughly translated: We are part of this scene too!). It is of course not always easy for women or queer people to openly express themselves in conservative societies but the situation has improved in the past decade.

What about noise music? It’s apparently big in Indonesia, there is Psychomedusa magazine, or video by Noisey documenting it. Why would you say that noise and improvisation found their listeners and creators specifically there?

Indonesia has got the biggest noise scene of Southast Asia. It’s blooming and full of experiments. The punk, metal and grindcore scenes are enormous too, some of the biggest on Earth, I think. There are a lot of netlabels and some publish physical releases. There are many fanzines, too, and an interesting media library in Surabaya (c2o Library), where one can attend concerts, talks, buy fanzines, music, books… Mostly from local underground artists.

Some musicians in Indonesia say they reject the way a part of the punk scene which became too “mainstream”, for example, Balinese punk band Superman Is Dead (S.I.D.) signed years ago to Sony/BMG and it frustrated some. So you find a lot of artists coming from the punk, metal, grindcore scene who do noise now as they want something more radical and free. I’m not sure of the answer I can give about why it is like that, as I still try to understand it myself.

Do you see any breaking points in the evolution of experimental or electronic music of countries of South East Asia? For example the time when synthesizers became more accessible, or later computers, laptops…?

Yes, there are some important events that shaped that landscape: access to the internet, the political changes (fall or change of dictatorship) and of course economic progress, mostly for young urban people. In some countries, smartphones, internet communities and platforms such as MySpace, Soundclick, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Facebook have helped to spread this knowledge. For example, many people in Indonesia cannot afford to have a computer, but they have a cheap smartphone or go to internet cafés where they can surf the net. One can make noise or experimental music without any computer, and many artists in Indonesia build their own instruments, electronic or not.

What are the most valuable or hidden gems of these countries which you found throughout the years? Some artist, collective, cassette or a record, a concert…?

New Music China, a compilation published in 1988. It contains a bit of everything from dull pop to classical and folk but above all a piece by one of the pioneers of Chinese experimental music and musique concrete: Jing Jing Luo. I was looking for her composition Monologue Part 1 (Excerpt) for a while and finally managed to get the tape.

The collective Jogja Noise Bombing, doing harsh noise performances in public spaces, like parks, streets, restaurants. And their concept is spreading across Indonesia.

The first mini-festival for noise, improve, and experimental music in Myanmar in 2014. It was not only great to play there but also meet all the musicians, hear them and see all the people of the neighbourhood attending with their children who were dancing on noise music.

I should stop here… In the past 13 years, I’ve seen so many concerts in Asia and a bit in Africa and collected so many recordings and books, it’s hard to make a short selection.

Since you also dig the African and East-European (as far as I remember) music scene, can we look forward to more books in the future?

I guess so and I wish, but I will need to put some limits and not try to condense everything at once and I will have to face the fact that some information will always be missing, as frustrating as it is. I can’t tell exactly what a next hypothetical book will be about, but it will be connected to Asia and or Africa. There is a lot to be written about sound art, noise, and industrial music in China/Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan, electroacoustic and ambient music in Iran (I will write an essay about it to be published in autumn if all goes well), improvised and experimental music in Turkey, electronic music in North Africa, electronica in India/Pakistan/Bangladesh or search deeper in the underground scenes of Indonesia… We first need to publish our book, relax a bit and see what will come next.

And last but not least, how and when will ‘Not Your World Music’ be available for purchase? How many exemplars will you have in the first edition?

We are very late and I have to apologize for that. The book will be out in September; the compilation has already been sent to the pressing plant, there will be 500 copies of the CD, but not all of them will be for sale as we offer many copies to the artists and some cultural centers. As for the book, it will not be a limited edition and for those who prefer or cannot afford it, there will be a free online version.

A version of this interview was originally published in HIS Voice in Czech. Edited for CDM.

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Roland is releasing 30+ new things on 909 – September 9

The next big Roland product unveiling isn’t at a trade show – it’s on the Internet. At a 24-hour streaming “online musical instruments festival,” the Japanese giant is promising a bunch of new stuff (30+).

The date is an auspicious one for the company – September 9, or 909. And sure enough, they’re also calling it a celebration of 33 years of their legendary drum machine.

http://tfr.roland.com/en/909-celebration

In addition to the product unveilings, they’re live in a bunch of cities with artist performances and other events, too – LA, NYC, Toronto, Paris, Brussels, Tokyo, and here in Berlin, among others. (The global south gets left out of that, which is a bit unfortunate!)

We are always on the Internet, as it were, but we’ll be catching up with Roland in Berlin, I hope – in person, even.

Watch the trailer for more:

As for what to expect in products, this is structured an awful lot like a Roland press conference. (And with all due respect to Roland the brand, whose products I often love, I do … rather hope this is very different from such a press conference, which is better geared for dealers than the rest of us.)

They’re doing launches in multiple categories – synths, keyboards, DJ stuff, but also video equipment. In other words, it’s all CDM territory (even Create Digital Motion).

And this video shows just how excited they are about the 909 bit. It seems new AIRA stuff is a definite go. I still wouldn’t put it past the company to do a reissue of the 909, by the way, given used prices – and given that Roland has done all sorts of things we would have never imagined until recently. (Eurorack?!)

But given the 909 date, and the fact that 909 sounds were already available for the AIRA TR-8 machine, some sort of new 909 product seems a no-brainer to me. I’m guessing something either called the TR-9 as a successor to the hit AIRA drum machine, or a 909-based product in the more compact, ready-to-play Boutique line.

We’ll be watching. And in case you don’t want to watch the whole stream, we’ll of course also get news for you as soon as we can.

I have no idea what it means to redefine the future, exactly. I’m going to put off figuring that out until tomorrow. Oh… wait.

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Funklet teaches you your favorite grooves in your browser

You can learn a lot from a drummer. The best grooves of all time are meticulously constructed – and understanding them means understanding a lot about rhythm and form. So these are objects worth study. What your Web browser can do is make that study easier – even if you’ve never touched a drum kit.

That comes at the right time, too. Thanks to the power of the computer and electronic music hardware, we’ve all of us become composers or expanded our compositional horizons. We may not imagine that we’re composing drum parts when we mess about with drum machines or edit patterns, but of course that’s precisely what we’re doing.

And even apart from that, music study is fun.

Funklet proves just how much fun that can be with an interactive tool at hand, in the new Web audio-powered browser tool. You can both hear and visualize drum parts from your favorite tunes (like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”). Apart from that, you can even try modifying those patterns, editing individual steps. (There are other features, too, like adjustable reverb). And the Funklet curators have not only chosen some nice examples, but also included commentary, anecdotes, videos, and the like.

If you want to create your own pattern from scratch, too, this is also an in-browser drum machine:
http://machine.funklet.com/funklet.html

It’s a clever creation, the product of Jack Stratton and
Rob Stenson – the latter not only a coder but also apparently able to play the fretless clawhammer banjo. (If you prefer making music outside the browser, see also their compression plug-in for the Mac).

Check it out here:
http://funklet.com/

An alternative drum machine is available, too (same content, different sounds):
http://maestro.funklet.com/

Good times. Found other tools for learning more about rhythm? (Hey, paper books welcome, too!) Let us know in comments.

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Bengal could be the Ableton synth you’ve been waiting for

Years ago, when Ableton’s Operator FM synth designed by Robert Henke made its debut, it was a revelation. Its clear panel design and flexible architecture made FM synthesis more accessible to countless Ableton Live users. But now Operator, while still a great go-to instrument, certainly deserves some competition. And that makes Bengal special. The production of Max for Cats (and Christian Kleine, another key designer of Ableton instruments), Bengal also innovates in the area of clear design and architecture. And with a semi-modular design, it goes further than Operator in opening up avenues for creative sound design.

The semi-modular idea is the key selling point. We’ve already seen live patching interfaces from Max for Cats. This time, you can use the patching metaphor to rewire the operators, filter, and other components in a ready-to-play instrument.

As with Operator, Bengal focuses on four operators. This time, you can use a bank of 20 sets of sine wave partials which you can edit directly, or you can load one of 40 wavetables, or you can drag and drop your own samples to use those as wavetables.

That flexibility alone should be a winner. But each operator also has additional features: independent ADSR envelopes with curve shaping and looping.

The key to FM synthesis, of course, is then how you route the different operators. Here, you can use one of six algorithms, or patch using the patch bay.

For the filter section, you get two multimode resonant filters. These also have different types – so in addition to lowpass, highpass, and bandpass, you get notch, comb with adjustable feedback, and the option of a Moog-style ladder lowpass. Each filter also comes with drive saturation and wet/dry controls. You can also route the two filters either in parallel or stick filter 2 after filter 1.

And then there are the modulation options:

Two LFOs (which can themselves become FM sources), 0.1Hz up to audible-range speeds
An eight-step sequencer (which outputs MIDI notes or modulation, plus scale snapping, swing, and randomization)
Four modifiers – smooth, scale, apply math functions, do four-way mixers
Six audio effects – reverb, delay, distortion, chorus, limiting, stereo widening

Each LFO and each operator envelope (not just the sources, the envelopes) is available for routing to anything – even to the effects controls. So even calling this semi-modular perhaps belies how much is there. You just drag from source to target, as you like – and this being software, of course, you get patch storage and recall and never run out of cables.

Once you’ve come up with your patching routing, you can also map to eight Macro controls on the Device – which in turn you can access from Push or other hardware controllers (like even my lowly Akai MPK mini keyboard, for example).

bengal

Now, any software instrument can pack a lot of power – one of the advantages of working in software as a medium is that you’re constrained only by available memory and computational resources. So the measure is really making this all accessible. And I think the key there is making the structure clear on the front panel. There’s also visual feedback, with a selectable Scope, Phase, and Spectrum view for showing your signal and its frequency and stereo positioning information.

Here you can see it in action (as demo’ed at the Ableton offices):

Or watch the trailer for the release – charming, this one:

And lastly, here’s a complete video walkthrough of how to work with it:

This one looks epic. I expect to be spending a lot of my fall with this particular instrument, so expect more soon.

More:
https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/bengal-max-for-cats/

USD 59 / EUR 49.

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Etch-a-Sketch dissection – what makes this classic mechanical toy work?

Here is a rather long, but very informative video showing a machinist opening up and analyzing the inside of the classic Etch-a-Sketch toy. He rambles a bit which I sort of enjoy. In any case, he’s very knowledgeable about machines. The toy is also a small engineering marvel.

If this video has made you miss your own childhood toy, here is where you can get a new Etch-a-Sketch. Or…perhaps you want to take it apart now?


A new hope to reissue lost Discogs records on vinyl

A funny thing happened on the way to supposedly all inclusive on-demand libraries of music. A lot of the music simply disappeared. Well, Qrates wants to bring it back – and in physical form, too.

All of this depends on whether Qrates themselves can deliver on the promise of making small batch vinyl issues easier and quicker. The notion here is that a minimum order would start small (100), get wide distribution (with a built-in network), and do it quick. The speed thing matters – Qrates is promising to reduce turnaround time without diminish quality, just as vinyl labels have been struggling under the weight of delays.

But Discogs integration is interesting for two reasons. One, the catalog. This is a play by Qrates to get loads of content. You can pick any release of yours you want to repress out of the Discogs catalog and launch right away.

Two, Discogs is as much a community as a catalog. So there’s a chance to notify anyone with a release in their wishlist that the reissue is coming, and to take orders directly from the site.

If you’re rich, you’re already sold on the idea. If you’re broke, you might wonder how you’re going to fund this. Qrates claims to have a solution here. They offer crowdfunding or simple preorders that allow you to make sure you’ve got enough orders to justify the run. And there, I think, sites like Kickstarter are really overkill. I don’t need an entire crowd funding campaign just for a 7″ I want to buy – I just want to hand over a few bucks and then get my record later on, and I’m okay with waiting. I suspect I’m not alone.

Qrates is nothing if not tantalizing. The model seems great. The need is unquestionably there. Now we just need the service to deliver. For now, you can sign up to get an email when this launches – I sure will.

http://repress.qrates.com

Thanks to Alan Oldham (a great DJ as well as a great guy) for pointing this out.

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Novation’s Launchpad app now in color, works with hardware

Now, it comes in colors. Novation’s Launchpad app has a new UI that shows in colors – and matches colors on connected Launchpad hardware. And with this latest update to the iOS apps from the Blocs team at Novation, you’ve got a more viable option for making music and jamming without the laptop.

And that app is free – only when you want to add importing, effects, or sound packs do you need to pay for an in-app purchase.

launchpadstudio

I’ve already observed that the Launchpad app heads in this direction, thanks to some feature additions. The ability to change tempo while playing, sync with Ableton Link, and sync with MIDI by sending MIDI clock to external gear already opens up this possibility. It’s not so much that you use this as an alternative to your laptop – that Link support, indeed, means it’s more likely you’ll use the two together. But it does mean you aren’t tied to your laptop, just as a way to connect sync or work with other gear.

What’s special about this week’s Launchpad update is that it harmonizes the iOS apps on iPhone and iPad with Novation’s hardware. So colors on your iPad, for instance, will match up with grid hardware like the Launchpad Pro, Launchpad mk2, and Launchkey.

Or, look at it this way – for a lot of us, the reason we make music on the laptop instead of on an iPad is because we want tactile, velocity-sensitive pads. So we wind up using the computer just as a hub for connecting that hardware. Now, you’ve got a choice: you might just as well take the Launchpad and swap it between the laptop and the iPad.

And, of course, this UI change is also better even when working on iOS alone.

I think making these things work together seamlessly is really the future. And yet we’re still not there yet. I want to be able to work with Ableton Push features in a bus with an iPad as a controller – so I can do it on the train, where I won’t be lugging Push. Or I want to organize Traktor sets and play with STEMS with my iPhone. Mobility means the chance to steal back some time that’d otherwise be lost, doing what we love.

That seems intuitive to us, but there isn’t a lot going on in our industry with those kinds of connections. And that’s too bad. Because the flipside is, that same iPad doesn’t replace my need for this hardware – for its tactile feedback, expressivity, and ruggedness in situations like studio and stage. So I don’t believe these would necessarily cannibalize sales. On the contrary, I imagine it could increase appetites.

Anyway, not to complain – right now the Launchpad apps and Launchpad hardware are looking like a sweet combination, and one you can use for self-contained music making or as a way of connecting your hardware rig. That seems great to me.

More:
http://blocs.cc/launchpad

Previously:
Novation’s iOS app updates do Link, let you ditch the laptop

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Wings in Steel and Glass – mechanical sculpture by Shasa Bolton

Check out the latest piece by Shasa Bolton!

See more sculpture by Shasa Bolton on this web site.


Grids in key, with Novation’s new Launchpad Pro scales

A piano keyboard or fretboard is set up with a particular mapping of pitch in mind. But the major advantage of any undifferentiated grid is the ability to work with scales. You can have any tuning and modes you like. A new free update to Novation’s Launchpad Pro adds that functionality to their grid controller – and that transforms how you’d use it musically.

scalemode

Now, Novation’s grid controller is far from the first such hardware to add the ability to map the pads to scales. Native Instruments’ Maschine (4×4) and Ableton’s Push (8×8) each have scale modes for their grids. But the Launchpad Pro has a few advantages that make its addition significant. For one, it’s pretty affordable. It has a uniquely simple layout – one that isn’t specific to a particular piece of software – and that makes getting to scale mode quick and easy.

And, crucially, Launchpad Pro works standalone with MIDI gear even without a computer, so this means the same scale functionality works with all your other gear, whether the laptop is handy or not.

image002

There are some 32 scales packed into the Launchpad Pro. That includes all the so-called “church” modes (Major, Minor, Phrygian, Locrian, whatnot), though those are a bit confusingly not all in the first group. But there are also a bunch of additional scales, including the jazz “BeBop” scales (I remember practicing these at jazz camp, literally), and Ukranian and Hungarian modes, plus lots of Japanese options.

There are some clever implementation details, too – which again set this apart from something like Maschine or Push in terms of getting right at playing the scales.

SHIFT + NOTE enters the mode; NOTE leaves it.

You can choose an OFFSET to decide how far apart each successive row is from the last. This is huge, actually, as it means there are really 7 x 32 layouts, not just 32 – you aren’t restricted to the developer’s choice as far as how the intervals are spaced vertically between rows.

You choose a root note and an offset and have the layout just where you want it.

And when you save that setting, too, it sticks – in standalone or software mode. (The only trick to this is you can’t load up a few different scales quickly for a performance set – you’ll have to swap them on the fly.)

Now, what a keyboardist is doing essentially is teaching your brain “scales mode” on the piano keyboard, so this may still not win you over if you don’t like grids. But to me it’s a pretty useful tool, and the Launchpad Pro grid feels great and has terrific velocity response – maybe my favorite for an 8×8 grid. (My 4×4 grid favorite remains the latest Maschine revision, but playing a 4×4 and an 8×8 grid are oddly really different.)

Full details are in the support section (there’s both the firmware updater and a PDF):
https://novationmusic.com/launch/launchpad-pro/support-downloads

This is normally the point where I complain about the Launchpad Pro not having something for those of us with poor finger skills, like a repeat mode. But… actually, maybe that isn’t a good idea. Watch this video Novation have produced of Harry Coade playing the instrument. (It also gives a good overview of what this mode is about.)

Given there are lots of step sequencers and things with various quantized repeat modes out there, this makes me want to just stop complaining and embrace some human rhythms — and actually practice. So, ironically, the Launchpad with scale mode might be the thing that convinces you to play more off the grid.

The post Grids in key, with Novation’s new Launchpad Pro scales appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Get a library of floppy drive sounds for almost nothing

You’ve been watching those wild YouTube videos of people performing tunes with hacked floppy drives – most recently Star Wars and Nirvana. Now get those sounds in a sample library for nearly-free donationware.

The very-British “Spitfire Audio” have a series they called “labs,” where they build experimental libraries. As a self-professed weirdo, of course, this is immediately more interesting than even the very lovely usual content. Bonus: while the downloads aren’t free, they’re just 2 GBP, and those proceeds go to a charity of your choice.

This is amazing, too: they’ve raised a whopping £122,628.60.

Find this one (you’ll need a full copy of Native Instruments’ Kontakt):
http://www.spitfireaudio.com/shop/a-z/floppy-disk-drives/

And wow, there are a lot of interesting samples in this library – a huge collection:
http://www.spitfireaudio.com/shop/ranges/spitfire-labs/

A walkthrough on the Labs project:

And if you’re interested not just in grabbing these samples but trying some floppy mods yourself, you’ll want to read a bit of the behind-the-scenes info on how they did it:

n the video we’ve got four floppy disk drives hooked up to an Arduino and a ATX power supply.

The Arduino is hooked up to a laptop which is providing all of the pitch and timing information to the floppy disk drives.

I’ve re-arranged this theme so that one of the drives was playing the bass line in 8ths, two of the drives were playing the melody an octave apart and one drive was playing a counter melody.

The drives were arranged as so: Bass, Melody, Counter-Melody, Melody Octave.

The drives were clamped closed, which is what happens when a floppy disk is slotted in, which gives them more presence in their tone.

We’ve programmed a snare beat on the PO-12 Rhythm. To sync the two up, we simply left the Teenage Engineering PO-12 Rhythm running and timed the disk to start on the first beat of the pattern.

As for recording, we decided to just use the microphone on the camera. We felt it would give the video a genuine feel, similar to when a producer puts up a snapchat or vine of them working in the studio on their phone.

Apart from the fade in at the start and a bit of colour correction, there has been no post done to either the video or sound. Everything you are hearing and seeing has been captured by the camera in real time.

The post Get a library of floppy drive sounds for almost nothing appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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