Art + Music + Technology

NOTE: This podcast is the fifth and final interview in our collaboration with Synthtopia.com on expressive MIDI controllers developments. You can listen to the podcast here, on the Synthtopia website (in an embedded player) or on iTunes.

But you can also read the interview as well as search for information by viewing the transcription on at the following location:

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2016/12/25/keith-mcmillen-interview-modern-instruments-should-combine-traditional-expressiveness-with-new-power/

Back in podcast episode #54, I talked to Keith McMillen about his background, his experiences in developing new musical tools, and the development of his 'smart fabric' technology that is at the heart of KMI's controllers. This time - and on the success of the Kickstarter funding of the K-Board Pro 4 - we talk with him about his experiences working on expressive controllers, and his long term goal of making every instrument able to interact with the computer.

I like talking to people with large visions, and Keith is right there: he'd like to change the world by making instruments more expressive and responsive, reduce latency to nothing - and also change the way that composers document their work so that it is available across technologies and implementations. These visions are the 'hard work' of what we need to do in electronic music, and Keith is simple not scared off by the difficulty of the task.

I hope you enjoy this discussion - we are pretty wide-ranging in the discussion, but in the end get to see the grand unifying vision of Keith's view of the future, and even what steps he may take to see them through. Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_157_KMcMillen2.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 12:17pm CST

NOTE: This podcast is the fourth interview in our collaboration with Synthtopia.com on expressive MIDI controllers developments. You can listen to the podcast here, on the synthtopia website (in an embedded player) or on iTunes.

But you can also read the article as well as search for information by viewing the transcription on at the following location:

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2016/12/18/jordan-rudess-interview-on-new-instruments-the-future-of-keyboard-performance/

In the music instrument industry, Jordan Rudess is a rock star. He is a tremendous product demonstration guru, and is able to figure out - and shred upon - almost any controller at the drop of a hat. His history with Korg, Kurzweil and others map out the best of keyboards, and he's been a demo machine with all of them.

In the software development business, Jordan Rudess is also a rock star. He's designed some of the most interesting and playable iOS music applications (including MorphWiz, SampleWiz and GeoShred), and is working with others on some upcoming goodies.

And, of course, Jordan is also an actual rock star. As the keyboardist for Dream Theater, a member of the Dixie Dregs and an amazing solo performer and recording artist, Jordan has established himself as a force in rock keyboard circles.

What's cool, though, is that Jordan is a great guy, and is really wired in on every new technology. He's embraced the expressive controller world, including devices like the ROLI Seaboard, and finds these tools to open up a new world for him in both performance and recording. We talk a little about his past, his present and what he sees for the future in this two part (all in one file...) chat.

Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_156_JRudess.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 12:00pm CST

NOTE: This podcast is the third interview in our collaboration with Synthtopia.com on expressive MIDI controllers developments. You can listen to the podcast here, on the synthtopia website (in an embedded player) or on iTunes.

But you can also read the article as well as search for information by viewing the transcription on at the following location:

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2016/12/11/continuum-creator-lippold-haken-on-the-future-of-electronic-instruments/

No matter who you talk to about expressive MIDI controllers, one device keeps coming to the forefront: the Haken Continuum. Developed by our guest, Dr. Lippold Haken, the Continuum defined a new class of instrument that put a sensor-based system at the hands of the player. As part of creating the instrument, Dr. Haken had to invent many supporting technologies, and we see some of that in the emerging MPE specification.

But there is a lot more to Haken's work than a spec: there is also the details that he explored in the development of the Continuum. And they are quite remarkable: crazy (and expensive) sensors, highly sensitive interfaces and even the creation of the unique keyboard-like playing surface - all of this had to be developed from whole cloth.

The fact that Dr. Haken pulled it off is rather amazing, and points to the dedication that he has for his craft. This was a great discussion about the system's development, but also his vision for a specific instrument and his tireless search for the right solutions.

You can find out a lot more about the Haken Continuum at the Haken Audio website, and by checking out players like Jordan Rudess, Rob Schwimmer and others wailing on the device on YouTube. Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_155_LHaken.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 12:00pm CST

NOTE: This podcast is the second interview in our collaboration with Synthtopia.com on expressive MIDI controllers developments. You can listen to the podcast here, on the synthtopia website (in an embedded player) or on iTunes. But you can also read the article as well as search for information by viewing the transcription available here:

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2016/12/04/geert-bevin-mpe-interview/

Everyone in the MPE/expressive controller game talks about Geert Bevin. He got his bones working on the Eigenlabs Eigenharp, but has been instrumental in helping a number of instruments come onto the market - most recently the Roger Linn Linnstrument.

But Geert is more than just a coder; he's a long time musician, guitar player, songwriter and instrument experimenter. He doesn't just work on the code, he works on the instrument, helping each device to sing its own peculiar song. Talking with him helped me understand the reverence that others had for him, because he sees the holistic nature of instrument development, and is able to think this way about making the instruments into a playable reality.

You can learn more about Geert from a number of sources, but perhaps his most interesting writings can be found on http://expressiveness.org/ where he talks directly about the devices he's built/used, and also provides a view into the things that he finds interesting in that world.

Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_154_GBevin.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 12:00pm CST

NOTE: This podcast is presented as a collaboration with Synthtopia.com for the presentation of people working with and creating expressive MIDI controllers. You can listen to the podcast here, on the synthtopia website (in an embedded player) or on iTunes. But you can also read the article as well as search for information by viewing the transcription available here:

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2016/11/27/roger-linn-mpe-interview/

Roger Linn is one of my Music Tech heroes. His development of the sampling drum machine has defined a significant portion of my musical life, and I still surround myself with tools that he designed or helped develop.

In this podcast, Roger and I get to chat a little about how he got started (including his design process for the MPC, which is a little mind-blowing!), his current mission to replace on/off switches and how he perceives his own future. He also gives us some real-life example of the value of expressiveness in MIDI controllers, and talks about the musical implications of this effort.

I was blown away by Roger's relaxed attitude about these incredibly genre-altering creations, but he's the first to admit that it's the musicians, not the gear-builders, that make the difference. But in the meantime, he's out there obsessing for the good of us artists, and I couldn't be more excited.

Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_153_RLinn.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 12:00pm CST

I'll admit it: one of the reasons I moved over to Eurorack systems was because of Make Noise music. I found the Maths module a remarkably musical combination of utility and fun, and the Optomix has the right bump for the money. It also had a kooky look that screamed "fun" instead of "study more"! So yeah, it was a pretty easy transition...

I was pleased to get a little of Tony's time for the podcast, and he didn't disappoint - not only did we dive into the development of his modules and systems, but I also got him to talk a bunch about how he got started in electronics, and what were the influences that drove him forward. We also talk a bit about his manufacturing process, and how he things about running a modular synth business. It's a great interview, and really reveals a lot about how great a person Tony really is.

I hope you enjoy this, and if you aren't familiar with Make Noise, you should check out their work. But in any case, enjoy my chat with Tony!

Direct download: podcast_152_TRolando.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 7:21am CST

Tim Place is one of those amazing guys that, at a fairly young age, has already accomplished so much. He is one of the main designer/programmers behind the Jamoma project, developed the Teabox sensor system (as well as designing and building the best sensors in the business...), created the Hipno plug-in package and has been developing objects and systems for Cycling '74 for almost a decade.

I was anxious to talk to Tim for many reasons, but one of them was to talk about his efforts in getting his doctorate in music, why he sort of stalled out on that process, but how he was also able to leverage that experience into a useful career. And his discussions about career are somewhat familiar to me as I surf the variety of people that make it in music tech: he puts out a lot of feelers, works really hard on a lot of things, and one of them happens to 'hit'.

In Tim's case, a number of these things are still on-going concerns, with the Jamoma package at the forefront. But it's interesting to talk to Tim about his continued interest in C++ coding, his re-entrance into math (a subject he abandoned in high school) and his approach to trying many things in search of The Right Thing.

Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_151_TPlace.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 8:38am CST

Here's one of the great ones.

Tom Erbe is an amazing cat. He's been on my radar for almost as long as I've been serious about electronic music; his early work with Soundhack (subsequently expanded into plug-in and app form) was inspirational, and opened my ears for computer music outside the realm of standard sequencing. He's a serious experimental music engineer and producer, and has implemented a Williams Mix performance and recording (available on his personal website). Most recently, he's garnered a following for his work with Make Noise on the Echophon, Phonogene and Erbe-Verb.

I watch amazed as Tom float from hardware to software, all the while creating head-bending, fun results. With all of that, it's amazing to find that he's the most laid back, easy going person you'll ever talk to. What a great talk!

Enjoy.

[ddg]

Direct download: podcast_150_TErbe.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 1:04pm CST

I don't often get to talk to superstars - there are simply too many layers between who I am and what they do. So, generally, gear and creativity talk aren't in the mix for most stars' PR blitzes. However, Jesse Carmichael (Maroon 5) and Jason Lader (pretty much EVERYBODY!) have put out an EP as "The Circuit Jerks", and they reached out to me to talk about the process. This release, called EP1, features some unusual tracks, including two 1:11:11-long tracks that are pretty mind-bending.

What I really enjoyed about this conversation is the recognition that star status doesn't change your passions - and these two guys are rabid modular fans. I'm sorry that this chat is going to disappoint Maroon 5 fans that want to know about Jesse's love life, or train spotters that want to know what kind of shoes Elvis Costello wears in the studio. We talked hard core gear-geek talk, praising Doepfer modules, video performance tools and imagining a future of net-based sync.

Alas, at the end of the chat the real world steps in (the manager hung up on us *exactly* on schedule), and we go on our merry ways. But for a little bit, we really got an insight into the point of passion in your work, and how excitement expresses itself in music-making. This was a lot of fun, and I owe these guys for sharing the time with us.

Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_149_CJerks.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 10:46am CST

Douglas Eck and the Magenta Project first came onto my radar by doing a podcast that was posted on the Web Audio API Weekly email, and I found his discussion about music and machine learning to be compelling and focused. I reached out to him, and things came together quickly: he invited me to Google for a visit with his team, and also got the planning into motion for this podcast. Once it cleared all the hurdles, we were on!

We didn't have a lot of time, but it is clear that Douglas is experienced in presenting the Magenta team's vision "in the time allotted" - whatever that time might be. He certainly packed a lot of information into the small amount of time I was able to talk to him. Trying to understand how machine learning can work within a musical environment - as well as how it can draw musicians in, rather than pushing them away - is something I'd never considered, but it is clear that this is a big part of how the team is imagining their work.

If you are interested in musical machine learning as a concept, you'll want to check out the Magenta project at its website, and also get some basic machine learning education wherever you can find it. Hearing about the successes that Google has had with "deep learning" and "reinforcement training" is pretty interesting, and it is exciting to watch this stuff develop from the ground floor.

Want to get involved? The Magenta project is open-source, and is actively interacting with artists and art-tech folks as they are able. Start by reading their site, test-driving their tooling from Github and learning more along the way.

Enjoy!

Direct download: podcast_148_DEck.mp3
Category:Performing Arts -- posted at: 9:47am CST