Thursday, October 13, 2016

Heads Down, Mister!

Not sure what made me do it, but I was digging around for some details on my Yoga 900 Windows laptop and ran across a curious thing: people were complaining that their machine wasn't shutting down when they closed the lid. Most people complained that their battery got wiped, but nobody was moaning about overheating or anything.

Turns out that, in the energy settings, I get to set what happens when I close the lid. So I said "Nothing, please" - and there you go, the laptop is closed, but I'm still able to run whatever I need. I've been a Mac guy for too long - where something like this is unwise because of the need for cooling.

Anyway, this is the perfect thing for me to do for performance prep - especially if I'm using a new (or too-long-shelved) control interface - in this case, an Ableton Push 2. I've been wanted to dive back into it, especially with some of the goodies recently added. But if the oh-so-familiar Live interface is glowing from the screen, I just won't focus on the Push for anything but pad mashing.

But with the laptop lid closed, no problems. Focus returns to the surface, and I learn that thing about 1000 times faster than I do when the screen is shining. There are a few functions I've not yet figured out, but I'm getting there - and may well be using this for my next set of gigs. Doing on-the-fly sampling/slicing (of the modular) produces radically different results than modular + effect.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Twin Cities Synth Meet grooves (#1)

Yesterday I visited the Twin Cities Synth Meet, and got a chance to try out a few things. I also took a few photos - of course, asking for ultra-cheese Facebook faces!

This guy (can't remember the name, because I'm terrible with names...) had some interesting stuff in a small-ish system. Among the modules that caught my attention were a HackMe Vectr, a Blue Lantern quad quantizer, and a stand-alone Social Entropy Engine MIDI Sequencer.

I like that sequencer a lot. It seems to be a quick-work machine, supports a MIDI drum channel (so it would be a perfect match for a DRM, for example), looks like it support poly-rhythm sequence lengths and holds a metric ton of sequences and stuff. And it is small, and clean looking, and completely not-computer-like. I'm gonna have to see if this one might fit in my performance rig.

But I'll need to do some reading, because I'll want to support both manual and keyboard entry, I'll want to do partial (non-bar-based) switching and lots of modulation control. On the surface, it looks like that should be a go, but I need to investigate before diving in. At $665, it's not an off-the-cuff purchase. But on the surface it looks really, really good.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Podcast posted: #146 with Robert Henke

Robert Henke, fresh off a China run, took a little time to sit down and chat with me for the Art + Music + Technology podcast. We get a chance to talk smart about gear, collaboration, inspiration and the beginning of the techno culture in Berlin.

Robert is one of my favorite people in the world, and his latest release (VLSI - shown above, and just released onto Spotify) is a musical powerhouse. If you get a chance, give it a listen!

And, at the very least, check out the podcast!


Friday, October 7, 2016

That 185-2 Video I Promised...

Per Jase's request, I put together a simple walk-through of how I use the 185-2 for sequencer switch-ups while I'm playing live. Really makes for a much more varied sequencing system - and prevents the audience from falling asleep (sometimes).



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

OK - So What am I Missing?

OK - so I know that one of the ways to make people hate you is to act ultra-superior about your choices in life, and guffaw anytime anyone questions you about your choices. That's sort of the lingua franca of Muff's, and I can appreciate how that can be Chicken Soup for the Asperger's Soul. So I'm sure that's why nobody looks at my rig and says "Huh, a Rubicon, eh? How do you like it? What does it do for you?"

I wish I had a good answer, but right now the answer to "What does it do for you?" is:

It takes up 18HP.

Much like other Intellijel modules, the front panel speaks to me. Tons of options. Tons of ways to modulate things. Through-Zero FM - the platinum unicorn!

But the sad thing is that it's not speaking to me musically. Maybe it's that I can't find anything too interesting in the TZFM world. Maybe the soft- and hard-sync functions don't sound any different than anything else that I'd use and/or prefer. Maybe I've not been missing alternative sine wave types after all. 

Or maybe this, like many recent modules, this one doesn't communicate the analog/modular/oddity behavior that I learned at the hands of a Serge system, or an Aries before that, or an Arp 2600 before that. When we have every option available, we tend to either use:

a) all options in an unaware form (i.e. "I made this patch that I can't ever tear apart, 'cuz the magic will never come back"); or,

b) one set of functions in a limited form (i.e. "The super-saw on this is sooooo sweet that I'll never go back to a regular oscillator").

I generally tend toward the later, but I also get irritated at myself when I ignore too many of the options. That's at the heart of my problems with the Rubicon - I really want about a third of what is on offer (and you can keep the TZFM, for which I've not found a single musical use), and maybe take up about a third of the panel space.

In order words, I really just want another Dixie II! But then I'd need to fill up the rest of the rack, and the kids are starting to grumble about not having lunch money, and the vet bill...


Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Refreshing Change

Made a little change - can you tell what it is? The sharp-eyed among you might have said "Hey, you have a silver-faced Rosie now!"

You are correct! As my friends already know, I'm a complete tweak about certain things, and panel coloring is one of them. When he saw my setup, Wes Milholen of dropped me a line with an offer for a grayscale panel for my black-faced Rosie and I jumped at the option. That had always seemed like a bad anchor to the lower right of my system, and I was hoping it would be as cool as the PEG and Ardcore panels were.

And it is. Love it - thanks, Wes, for keeping our systems clean looking!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This Week in Northern Cali

Writing from Dillon Beach, CA, where I'm at a little work retreat with my teammates...

If you get the Cycling '74 newsletter, today you'll be seeing a bigger version of the above image, along with my rave-ola about a Max for Live tool I've started using for quick-hit track creation. But the key to the device - and my excitement about it - is the use of the iPad and the Mira app to control it.

This is a kind of 'modular' that I really like: moving functionality to appropriate devices in order to better serve the artist. Moving this user interface (and, in fact, many interfaces) to something like an iPad makes the system more focused, easier for the audience to appreciate (rather than seeing your head stuck inside a laptop lid) but maintains the full value of your computer/software/plug-in investment. This, control surfaces (like the Maschine, Push 2 and Livid Alias 8 - all of which I currently use) and Arduino-based sensor systems all provide alternative interfaces to your work, and represent one of the exciting futures of modular-based artistry.

Right now, I've been diving back into C++ and writing an extreme looper for my live use - I want something as versatile as the RC-404, but with a little less clown makeup and a few more channels and options. I also want to prevent menu diving - which is at the heart of the 404. So I'm writing the heart of a looper in C++, embedding it into a Max object, then building the interface in Max - and exposing with Mira.

I'm not sure that Max people have paid attention to what's happened with Mira lately. The price was dropped to $10, it now has a wired USB option (for Mac computers) and is a lot more stable. It's been incredibly stable for me, and is going to be Main Interface #1 for my looper system. I'll make sure I do a video as this develops...