Fringe Music Technology

2004-10-17 17:02:09

*sigh* This is a shot of my office closet. One side of it -- I don't have the heart to show you the other side that contains the Roland guitar synth and the Lync LN-1000 strap-on keyboard (that's keyboard, Danielle, strap-on keyboard!) It also doesn't show the Ultimate Support Stand and my Korg Wavestation that are currently hiding under my bed. And don't even ask about my Warr Guitar . . . But the rack contains a Fuhrman power / light unit, a JL Cooper MSB Rev2 Programmable MIDI patch matrix, an Oberheim Matrix 1000 (1000 classic Oberhiem sounds, it's a keeper), an emu Proteus/1XR (factory sampled sound player), and a Korg KM 122 mixer.

But the music industry -- existing as it does outside of my office closet -- is always changing, changing, changing. Here's a smattering of some of the recent products out there on the fringe:

LEMUR - The JazzMutant MultiTouch Control Surface
"What is LEMUR?

"LEMUR is a handy and modular touchpanel based controller designed for audio and multimedia real-time applications. Our technology associates multitouch capabilities with visual display. LEMUR is provided with an extensible library of User Interface Objects such as faders, switchs, pads, keyboards, strings, etc. A software editor (Windows, Mac OSX, Linux) allows the user to build easily his own interfaces by dragging and dropping objects on the control area. The JazzMutant software editor also provides advanced tools to map and setup objects and control parameters.

"What do you mean by "Multitouch capabilities"?

"It means that it allows the use of multiple fingers at once, thanks to its multitouch sensitive LCD.

"What is LEMUR designed for ?
Sounds like major fun to me -- a 21st century answer to the Buchla Thunder controller.

DSPerado Chiclet DSPMusic.org

"The DSP Music Syndicate is developing hardware for electronic musicians and artists that is portable, tiny, battery powered and powerful. It can make music for you without wires, software or human intervention. This device, which we call "Chiclet,' allows musicians to create music that changes as it plays, that reacts to its environment, that is different every time, all in a compact and cheap package that can be sold in record stores. You can get your ideas in silicon using our freely available development packages, at the abstraction layer of your choice (from a macro-based music language with real-time UI all the way down to banging bits at the codecs with machine code.) The Chiclet board itself has audio inputs and outputs, can last 10 hours on AA batteries, can store songs when the device is off, and has limitless expansion for external devices (sliders, displays, MIDI, external codecs.)"

The goals seem exciting -- of course, the question is, can they actually create compelling, and listenable music with these things?

AATON Cantar-X

"AATON Cantar-X brings five firsts in the digital-audio recording domain:

"1. a portable field recorder conceived as a real extension of the hand, for both over the shoulder and cart use, in a striking industrial design.

"2. a rugged recorder which offers both rotary faders on its nine analog inputs AND six waterproof linear faders and pan pots for track levelling and 'live' mixdown.

"3. a 24bit, 96KHz HDD recorder - with 18 simultaneous inputs - which nevertheless runs for 10 to 15 hours from it's on-board battery set.

"4. a sophisticated recorder with a touch screen where it has to be, in the hands. A Bluetooth connected PDA can control the '18 inputs to 8 track' routing, recall the user's routings and settings, and allow the script supervisor to enter scene and take IDs from up to fifteen meters (45 feet).

"5. a peace of mind recorder: the built-in CDR/DVD+R driver burns the mixdown of the day in a few minutes. The burner itself can either be standalone or nested onboard, well protected behind the swiveling front panel."

As Tom posted on Music Thing: "I don't care what it does, I want it!" It looks like something rescued off of the bridge of the USCSS Nostromo.

Korg microKORG
"State-of-the-art analog modeling and multi-band vocoding are finally available in a compact, portable instrument. With 37 keys and 128 user-rewritable programs, the microKORG Synthesizer / Vocoder is perfect for the performer, producer, computer musician or beginner looking for an affordable synthesizer. The new microKORG delivers the quality sounds and features you expect from Korg at a price that will astound you."

I played around with one of these the other day and was quite impressed. Especially when I looked at the price tag: $399US. Not cheap, but a lot less than I would have expected.

Korg microKONTROL
"The microKONTROL is the ultimate portable MIDI keyboard controller, providing every function and type of control you need for computer - based music production or performance.

"With a compact and sophisticated-looking design, it includes a three-octave keyboard (37 note mini keyboard), eight encoders, eight sliders, and sixteen trigger pads that you can use to control your favorite soft synths . . . "

Another item I noodled about with. Also $399US, it doesn't have the analog modeled synth or the vocoder capabilities, but it appears to be One Righteous MIDI Controller.

Korg KP2 KAOSS Pad - Dynamic Effect Controller
"The concept of the KAOSS Pad is brilliantly simple -- as you move your finger around the pad you are controlling many sophisticated aspects of a powerful effects processor. Move your finger left to right and you control certain aspects of the sound. Move it up and down and you control other parameters. Make an arc and you bring in even more changes. All you need to do is glide across or tap on the pad to make evocative changes to your mix, producing a level of complexity that would be impossible to achieve with any other system or controller.

"100 Killer Effect Programs
"The KP2 is packed with essential effects like filters, delays, reverb, and flanging, along with cutting-edge DJ effects like isolator, slicer, and auto-panning. Select effect programs by turning a knob and assign up to eight in the program memory buttons for instant recall. A Hold switch lets you freeze an effect in its current position, making it easy to capture a perfect setting or to rhythmically change the sound by drumming on the pad.

"More Groove with Synths and Vocoders
"Not only does the KP2 come with amazing effects, it also is loaded with 15 super-cool synth sounds including analog synth programs and ethereal ambiance-type sounds. Use the pad to play and manipulate the sounds for some truly unique creations. We've even included five vocoder programs that are great for MC or vocal processing.

"You're in Sync with Special BPM Effects
"Sync delay time or the LFO of modulation effects such as pan, phaser or flanger to the beat with the KP2's specially programmed BPM effects. You can use the Auto BPM function to detect the speed of an input source, adjust the BPM manually, tap in the tempo yourself, or even sync the KP2 to incoming MIDI Clock messages. Eight new BPM patterns can be triggered from the touch pad, allowing rhythm and bass synth patterns to be played, perfectly synchronized to the BPM.

"Sampling with Effects
"Plug into the KP2's audio input and sample up to six seconds of sound at 44.1 kHz. The KP2 has two sample keys for a total of twelve seconds of sampling. Run the samples through the KP2's effects. Or you can process a sound through the effects and then sample it. Use the touch pad to apply time-stretch, reverse-playback, pitch shift, or scratch effects to the samples for unlimited creative possibilities.

"Record Your Pad Movements and Transform Them
"The KP2 remembers your exact movements. Simply record your moves with the Pad Motion function, and you can play back complex pad movements and instantly reproduce your original effect sounds. The Mute function can be used to cut the input sound, leaving only the reverb or delay "tail," or you can switch muting rapidly on/off in time with the rhythm (a DJ technique commonly called "transform")."

Translation (in case you're still here): "it does all kinds of funky shit, more than we can tell you, you'll just have to trust us." I've never played with one of these, but it looks like it'd be tons of fun -- something like the Lemur above, but not as programmable.