Archive for April, 2008

Prophet 08 review

William H of Inside Synthesis and Sonic State has part two of his in-depth Prophet 08 video review up.  Here’s part one, a bit higher-level, if you missed it; it includes a interesting comparison with a vintage poly synth, but not the one you expect.

A jargon failure

“Remix” means two completely different things:

1. To mix down a song for the second time.

2. To make a new work by creatively combining elements of a different song.

Unfortunately, it’s not even always clear from context what you mean.  I propose we coin a new term for one of the definitions.  Suggestions?

How to keep the microKorg arpeggiator in sync

Last week Aaron and I were raving it up– he with his Doepfer, I with my microKorg.  We were frustrated, however, by our difficulty getting the microKorg to stay synced up.  After much investigation, I unearthed the cause and solution to our problem.

When the microKorg’s clock is set to EXT, it accepts MIDI clock from the master.  MIDI clock is a series of ticks sent at regular intervals.  The synth can calculate the master tempo from the time between ticks.  But MIDI clock contains no information about bars and beats.  (Other MIDI protocols do, but the microKorg does not accept them as far as I can tell.)  So the synth matches its tempo to the master, but it has no knowledge of how to line up the first beat with the master.  The arpeggiator might start on the beat just by chance, but it’s just as likely to start halfway between beats.

After much investigation, I discovered that you can force the microKorg to jump back to the first beat in time with your host.  Details after the jump.

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How to listen to music

Warning: serious geekery follows.

I don’t actually use CDs any more.  I still have piles of them, and I even buy new ones from time to time, but they’re basically decorations.  I pretty much rip them once and put them away.  Unfortunately, my equipment has not kept up, and I don’t really have a good solution for listening to digital music away from my desk.  At the moment my solution is to plug my iPod into the receiver, but that is less than ideal.

I would like a solution that lets me have a single collection of music that I can access from multiple points in my house over the network.  A few candidates I’ve found are:

  • The Mvix.  You put a hard disk inside, and then it acts as a music and video player with built in wireless and wireful networking.
  • The Neuros.  Similar to the Mvix, but more video-oriented.  Also, no wireless and you must add an external hard drive.
  • The Linn (no relation to Roger) Sneaky Music DS (no relation to Nintendo).  Very cute, and has the power amp built in (just add speakers).  But it’s comically expensive.

All three are built on open-source parts, which means they ought to be hackable, which is nice.  The Mvix is the frontrunner.  But at the moment I am leaning towards building a small, quiet mini-ITX computer in an attractive case and running mythTV or something similar.  It would run slightly more than a Mvix, but I like building stuff.

Band name of the day

The Aneurythmics. They have a droney garage-band-from-space sound to them. You can download Fathom from Amplified Music Pollution. I haven’t decided if I like it yet, but give them points for the name.

Trivia: the proper name of the 80s band is Eurythmics, not The Eurythmics.

(HT: Inq)

Five artists with day jobs

5. Russian Linesman

4. Low Technicians

3. Dan Deacon

2. The Hacker

1. The Architect

Trivia: The original “Russian linesman” was actually Azerbaijani.

Gigs from hell

Minimalmusic.org reports that someone stole Matthew Dear’s removable hard drivein the middle of his set.

Stealing a musician’s instrument (and if you perform with a laptop, that’s your instrument) is a particularly galling form of theft because the loss to the performer is many times greater than the gain to the thief.  A USB hard disk costs about $200, while the data on there probably represented hundreds of hours of work.  Both parties would have been better off if the thief took $300 out of Dear’s wallet instead.

Why Johnny can’t mix

In one of my Beatport diatribes last week, I mentioned that I have a hard time DJing in Live. I’ve been puzzling over why. Ignore for the moment all the cool effects and re-arrangement possibilities that Live offers. Since Live keeps everything tempo-synced, once I’ve warped my tracks, I should be able to make the exact same mix I do on my decks with less effort. Right?

But it hasn’t worked out that way. My Live mixes come out sort of feeble.

I recently thought of a simple explanation: I don’t know my digital dance music nearly as well as I know my vinyl. While doing the actual beatmatching, I’m forced to listen fairly closely to both records. I also tend to let them play together for a while after the beats are aligned but before actually starting the transition. And beatmatching is something that you have to practice a bit, so I’m doing this over and over. In the process, I internalize the structure of the tracks and learn where transitions and breaks are. And that is the key to making two tracks flow together, not crossfaders or EQs.

If that’s the case, the solution is pretty simple: I just need to listen to all my digital dance tracks, all the way through, with an attentive ear. It may seem odd that I haven’t done this already, but it can be kind of weird to listen to house or techno songs straight through outside of a mix.

Sidechain compression with Buzz, take 2

Kibibu helpfully pointed out that Fuzzpilz Oppressor is a much easier sidechain machine than BG Sidechain Dynamics. He is right, so here’s a revised tutorial. If you still want to use BG Sidechain, that tutorial is still available.

If you don’t have Oppressor 3, you need to get it from Fuzzpilz’s site. Our scenario is the same as last time: we have a kick drum and a bass line; we want the bass line volume to duck in time with the kick drum.

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Five artists named after places

5. Sydney Blu

4. Rktic

3. Boards of Canada

2. Telefon Tel Aviv

1. Venetian Snares

Honorable mention: Metro Area

Edit: Lifetime achievement award: Afrika Bambaataa.  (Thanks Darius.)

This list was surprisingly difficult to assemble.