“I’m the operator with my pocket calculator…” — and now you’re the engineer/builder, too.
This excellent, copiously documented project by Hamood Nizwan / Gabriel Valencia packs a capable drum machine into a handheld, calculator-like format, complete with LCD display and pad triggers. Assembly above and — here’s the result:
It’s simple stuff, but really cool. You can load samples onto an SD card reader, and then trigger them with touch sensors, with visible feedback on the display.
All of that is possible thanks to the Arduino MEGA doing the heavy lifting.
The idea is to build a Drum Machine using Arduino that would simulate drum sounds in the 9 keys available in the panel. The Drum machine will also have a display where the user can see the sample name that is being played each time, and a set of menu buttons to go through the list of samples available.
The Drum Machine will also use an SD Card Reader to make it possible for the user to store the audio samples, and have more playfulness with the equipment.
This is a guest contribution by Sarah King who works at Grand Central Recording Studios in London, a sound design and audio post production facility, creating award winning sound for TV, cinema, online, interactive audio and radio productions.
Having worked within the creative sector for the last 10 years, the latter four of which at Grand Central Recording Studios (GCRS), I have – remarkably – never been exposed to the significant gender imbalance that has clouded over the industry for considerable time.
During a period that spawned The 3% Conference and seen the likes of Cindy Gallop flag-wave for minorities, I have personally been lucky enough to work for a number of women who are not only experts in their field but prime examples that the glass ceiling can indeed be smashed. On a daily basis I am in contact with a myriad of talented female producers, creatives and directors who defy the expectation that there are few women making an impact in the creative industry.
Looking closer to home however, it has struck me how comparatively few female role models there are in the sound industry. Gender equality is hugely important, no less for its ability to encourage real diversity of creative influences and approaches, so the fact that female sound designers are such unicorns is a real problem.
It is challenging for women looking to enter the industry – many could be deterred. I have been impressed by the will and determination of some of the young potential stars we have welcomed in recent years at GCRS, whose aspirations in the sound industry remain strong despite any hurdles they have encountered. Beckie Thornton and Tess Ludlow are two such individuals.
As young women already on the career path at award-winning sound studio GCRS, Beckie and Tess first noticed they were entering a male-dominated industry at university, while studying music technology and audio respectively. Both were in a significant minority with women making up less than 5% of the graduating class.
According to Beckie, the technical side of the profession could be a deterrent:
“There’s so much to learn regarding the hardware and software that, initially, it is daunting. But we are built to learn and we can achieve anything we put our minds to.”
From Tess’s experience, there is a lack of knowledge and inspiration in the industry, potentially influencing young women. Many may not be aware of the career paths in the field, and adding to the mix the lack of prominent female ambassadors for sound, young women may feel that the sound industry is less obtainable to them.
It’s clear there is work to be done on demystifying a career in sound design, and Beckie believes that raising awareness of the craft and the career possibilities in the field will help open channels:
“To open up the industry, I think it is important that we move the focus from the lack of women in the industry, and start concentrating on the people who are currently in leading roles to learn from them and their achievements. We need to start praising the women who have made it.”
Likewise, Tess acknowledges the importance of educating people from a young age about the fact that it’s an accessible and exciting industry for men and women alike.
“A career path in sound might seem more appealing to younger women if they can see role models clearly, rather than having to dig to find someone to aspire to. I think increasing the visibility of prominent female ambassadors for sound will make young women more aware of our industry as a career option.”
Beckie sought inspiration from other industries:
“I’m a massive fan of Grimes. She started writing and producing her own music, completely self-taught at home. She even dabbles in sound design within her music, and it goes to show anyone can learn about the technical sides of post-production if they want to.”
Interestingly, Beckie’s point of view shines a light on different perceptions of the industry and womens’ roles within it. It may be more common for women to pursue careers in music and composition rather than in, let’s say, post-production sound in advertising. This siloed way of thinking is something Beckie feels our industry should avoid, and adds that it’s important to learn, support and educate individuals across the board and to encourage and develop a healthy connectivity within the field.
For Tess, role models can be found in the field indifferent of gender:
“I take inspiration from people and their journey, in one way it doesn’t really matter if it’s a male or female role model.”
This standpoint highlights the importance of female ambassadors in sound from an awareness perspective, specifically in regards to encouraging young women to enter the industry, from an educational point of view.
Women in sound want to be recognised for their work, not their gender – so shining a light on the issue is a bit of a double edged sword. But the bias is something which needs to be addressed in order to attract new talent. When discussing the impact of gender imbalance on the work environment, neither Beckie or Tess perceive any effects of gender imbalance on their career growth or development. Beckie comments:
“I never feel discouraged or discriminated against for being a woman, and I feel like there’s equal opportunities for everyone to progress through the company.”
However, bias comes in many shapes and forms. Misconceptions can only be eradicated by educating our industry and the people we want to enter it, that men and women alike can have equally prosperous careers in sound. How do we do that? We need to engage with schools and colleges and let them know about our industry and the multi-disciplines therein. There are many facets of sound to explore – recording, editing, mixing, sound design in TV dramas or commercials or feature films or radio etc – so the issue is not a lack of opportunity or routes in. At Grand Central we are happy to hire first jobbers with or without degrees and will train them from the ground up. It is not about experience or academic achievement, it is about natural talent, passion, commitment and hard work.
A big thank you to Sarah King for contributing this piece and to Beckie Thornton and Tess Ludlow for sharing their perspectives on this important topic. Follow this link to find out more about Grand Central Recording Studios or find them on twitter @GCRS.
Most hardware and software for music making has generally gotten better, but not the dedicated audio editor. This once-proud genre of music software has fallen on hard times. Tools have been acquired, discontinued, received too-few updates. At best, the tools we’re left with look like they came from another decade.
And that’s too bad. Because having a tool devoted solely to day-to-day audio chores is a really good thing. Maybe you’ve got a set of samples you want to crop and clean up to load onto your drum machine or into a software sampler. Maybe you’re sorting through a big stack of field recordings. Maybe you’ve got a big set of cues for a video game or app project. Odds are just about everyone, no matter how basic, winds up with some grunt work converting and editing audio and applying effects and plug-ins.
I’m always up for some new entry to this market, and so I was glad to see ReSample pop into my inbox. It’s a Windows and Mac tool for audio editing. And it at least looks modern: it’s got a slick interface that looks at home on today’s high-density Mac and PC displays.
It’s also, at last, ready for your new hardware. So on both PC and Mac, you get multi-touch trackpad gestures and slick editing that makes browsing through waveforms easy. On the new MacBook Pro, you even get Touch Bar support – making this one of the first third-party apps to support Apple’s new input device.
There’s also a lot built-in: noise reduction, vocal removal, tons of effects, high-quality sample rate conversion, loads of file conversion options, and rich spectral views of everything so there’s visual feedback on what you’re doing. As for your own plug-in collection, this app acts as a VST and AU host, too.
The most essential feature to me is the one that’s missing in this very first release: there’s no batch conversion. But the developers do tell me this is a priority, and should be available in the near weeks.
A quick play of the program reveals it to be simple and effective. I’ll try to do a full review soon (I may wait for batch features to give it an in-depth go).
I walked into the main building of The New England Conservatory of Music as a youngster in the Fall of 1975 when my older sister enrolled at the school. My childhood recollection is of a large staircase in a classic large atrium like something out of a 19th Century mansion. I left with the feeling that this was an important and serious place in the world. All these years later, I find that NEC is the oldest music school in the country — dating back to 1867. But the more impressive aspect of NEC is that its still a vibrant institution producing some of the best new musicians in a vast array of fields. Last year we welcomed to these pages the amazing Guerilla Toss, a band consisting primarily of graduates of NEC. This year its Simon Hanes, a former sometime member of GT whose band Tredici Bacci reflects his own eclectic and unique approach to composition undoubtedly honed inside of the classic halls of the New England Conservatory.
The music of Tredici Bacci is in some ways nothing like we’ve ever featured here before. Hanes’ fixation on Italian movie soundtracks from the 1970s is surely odd, but when the music is so meticulously constructed and utterly true to the form it has the effect of affording the listener the opportunity to conjure a movie plot in their imagination while Hanes soundtracks the image. At Sunnyvale in January, Tredici Bacci was a ten-piece band of prime musicians who projected Hanes’ compositions onto our imagined technicolor movie screen. The set was a relatively short thirty minutes, but accomplished what it set out to do — with precision, style and some humor. Tredici Bacci released their new album Amore Per Tutti (NNA Tapes) in November and this set featured two tracks from that album, a couple of older cuts and what appears to be some newbies. What is obvious from seeing Tredici Bacci live is that Simon Hanes has a fertile musical mind and we can expect to see more of Hanes and his many musical projects on these pages moving forward.
I recorded this set with the Schoeps cards mounted at the front and center of the stage and mixed with a nice board feed. We were initially skeptical that the recording could balance the full band, but after a fairly standard mixdown of the sources, this recording really does a superb job of capturing the band in all its glory. Enjoy!
Download this Recording in FLAC or MP3 from our Bandcamp page [HERE].
Stream the Complete Show:
Digital Master Recording
Soundboard + On-Stage Audience Matrix
[Total Time 28:40]
01 Introduction – Winter Fireworks
03 Swedish Tease
05 Sesso In Futuro
06 Hey, Come On Motherfucker
The band on this night:
Sami Stevens: voice
Abby Swidler and Siv Brun Lie: violins
Joanna Mattrey: viola
Dan Pencer and Will Greene: saxophones
Ezra Weller: trumpet
Jesse Heasly: bass
Peter Moffett: drums
Simon Hanes: guitar
When we talk about the audio industry and the areas in which its lives, we tend to think about it in two ways: linear and nonlinear format. And within these categories, the dominant players seem to be films, games, and television. But how is it that we’ve forgotten about radio? The oldest medium of them all, radio is more than just a linear or nonlinear format. It’s a living thing. It’s an audio only experience that has shaped our emotions, influenced our views, and informed our societies for generations. So why don’t we talk more about it now?
“In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act which deregulated how many media properties an individual company could own in any given market.” That was the voice of Jeff Schmidt, Creative Director at Cumulus Media, audio designer, and expert of sound for radio. “There used to be much stricter regulations for how many radio stations a single company could own. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was part of a broad sweeping change to loosen those restrictions.”
So how did that action change the face, or rather the voice, of radio? “Wall Street noticed that at the time, radio was (and still is) a very high margin business. A well run radio station easily makes 50 cents on the dollar. It’s a 17 billion dollar a year industry. They saw that and thought, ‘If we can just roll up all these companies through leverage, we can own it all.’ So that’s what a lot of them did. And now, most of those companies are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Because they over leveraged.” It doesn’t matter what market you talk about; if one, or a select few companies have monopolized the creative decision making power, you’ve got a situation in which all outlets can potentially become standardized. And if those companies aren’t turning a profit, the situation becomes worse. And that’s exactly what happened to radio.
“If you just spent 20 billion dollars to buy a bunch of radio stations and found yourself overleveraged, you would need to find a way to cut costs. So that’s basically what those companies did. One of the most popular ways to cut costs was to make everything come from corporate. They just treated radio stations as receivers for corporate programs. So all the decisions were made in San Antonio, Texas for every market throughout the country. It really went through this horrible homogenization thing.”
The result of this consolidation meant that specialization of creative thinkers died and that people started being asked to manage multiple markets simultaneously. “Right now,” says Jeff, “I’m working with two stations, although occasionally I give input on others. But previously, I’ve done more. And when I originally took over those two stations, there were people that felt that you could only keep one brand in mind at the time. You’re either this, or your that. You can’t be a rock guy and like top 40. You can’t be a rock guy and do country. You can’t be a rock guy and know jazz. You needed to be a specialist. But as these companies started reducing a lot of the staff, people who were specialists found themselves out, with companies saying, ‘You’re a great rock guy, but we need somebody who can do a rock thing and then also help us out on our top 40 station.’”
“Here’s a perfect example. The two stations I was working with a couple weeks ago were both giving away tickets to see U2. One was a male station targeted at ‘harley driving’ dudes and the other station targeted 35-year-old females. So how do you talk about the same thing to two different audiences? It came down to the copy, the people reading it, what they sound like, and the music & FX I’m using. For the female leading station, I used “Where The Streets Have No Name” whereas on the male station, I used “Bullet In The Blue Sky.” So it’s the little things like that that distinguish between the two stations.”
“Somehow, I’ve managed to stay engaged and employed this whole time. But I think part of it has to do with the fact that I have been able to switch around. I like rock music, but I’m not the rock guy. I like top 40 and hits music, but I’m not the hits guy. I can get inside each one and start to figure it out.”
The Living Voice
When we turn the radio on, and switch to a station that we enjoy, we expect to hear a specific style of conversation or music. And if those expectations aren’t met, we can get frustrated quickly. Maybe we change the station or switch to another medium completely. But one thing we haven’t considered yet is the simple expectation that we all have, for the radio just to be on in the first place.
“Radio is always on. You always have a minute of time to fill…”
“Radio’s are living things, happening day in and day out. It’s not like, ‘I created this, and now we can go send it off.’ Radio is always on. You always have a minute of time to fill while holding more than two brands in mind at the same time. And to keep them unique. I like to have distinct identities for everything I’m working on. ‘Cuz that’s the point. For the music formats, or even the talk formats, there’s usually something about the product or the program that wants to be unique. Even stations that are playing a lot of the same music.”
Personally, I think trying to keep multiple radio stations continually speaking with their own voices would make my head explode. But Jeff seems to do it effortlessly. And it all seems to come down to the style of voice, pacing, and music choices. And of course, sound effects. Being an audio designer himself, Jeff has used his talents in sound design to continue to create a unique identity in radio and to innovate in sound.
“Early on, back in 2003, I decided I wanted to do this for myself. And it was purely selfish, because I wanted my own stuff that no one had. I didn’t want to sound like other stations by getting the same sounds that they were using. But the first thing I did that made me realize I could actually make something, was totally by accident. I held down all three modifier keys in Pro Tools and I was in scrub mode. I had zoomed out and had a bunch of music tracks on my timeline and for some reason, took the mouse and kinda scrubbed across the right channel of one track and the left channel of another track. And it was doing this kind of extreme tape manipulation. And I thought, ‘That’s cool.’
“I pressed record on my DAT machine, loaded up a bunch of plugins on the master output, like L1 and all kinds of weird EQ, and started scratching all the tracks.”
I pressed record on my DAT machine, loaded up a bunch of plugins on the master output, like L1 and all kinds of weird EQ, and started scratching all the tracks. Then, I just copied all that back to Pro Tools, went through it all and just pulled out little bits. Not using whole things, but little pieces. And then, I would take them and reassemble them into mini things. That, and at the time, I had the Roland JP series keyboard with expansion boards. And I had this expansion board in it that had these really cool pre-dubstep sounding bases. So I started mashing chords. Not even real cords. I’d just mash them, record them in and start scratch them. And that was literally how the first library got made.”
What’s more, Jeff was able to take that new library he was designing and create a side business to sell it. It’s called Alien-Imaging, and while I’m not suppose to promote sound libraries here, I will tell you that it’s pretty awesome. “I would produce things and think, ‘Wow that sounds cool or that sounds different, maybe other people would dig it.’ So I created a website back in the day, this was 2003, and took out an ad in an industry publication that used to only go to people who do what I do. They sent out a CD every month and you could buy the first track of the CD to put in your demo. So I made a demo for my first sound effects library and put it on there. Within a week, fellow Radio Producer Steve Stone from the Howard Stern Station in New York called and said, ‘I gotta have this. How much is it?’ And once New York had it, well, that was like social currency. All of a sudden it was like, ‘Wow, New York’s on it, it must be good. I want it too!’”
The Medium & Tools
When designing sounds, most of us understand deeply the kind of environment in which our sounds will be played back. I, for example, design sounds for a mobile platform, which couldn’t be more different than someone who designs for film. Radio is no exception. It has it’s own set of rules and demands a certain kind of workflow to be successful. “Radio hates dynamics. It’s like trying to hear a TV in this environment [we were having our conversation at an Irish pub in Northern California]. Is having a really dynamic show on here effective? It’s not. [There was a TV going in the background. We couldn’t hear it.] Same thing with radio. When you’re driving a car, there’s 60db of road noise. So that’s why all these radio stations have at the end, a chain called “optimizer” which is basically this huge, complex, multiband compressor and limiter.
“Everything is getting crushed. They have to because the FM frequency band is dramatically limited.”
Everything is getting crushed. They have to because the FM frequency band is dramatically limited. It won’t transmit anything above 11k. I have to do all this massive pre-emphasis, adding tons of top-end gain to audio before it hits the transmitter. Because the radio itself can’t transmit the frequencies, it gives the illusion that those frequencies are coming through. The medium itself is not friendly to sound. To good sound. You have to learn little techniques. Because it’s restrictive. It seems high-fidelity, but when you listen to it, it sounds really bad.”
Jeff and I had spent a good portion of our time talking about how he started making sounds for radio and how that process had evolved overtime. So my follow up question was, what is your process like today? “I still use Pro Tools as the main setup, but I also have a modular rig now that I use to modify stuff. It’s still all about taking simple or basic source material and then manipulating it through plugins and processes. I’ve been a big fan of Ableton Live for years now. Most of my first wave of creation is through Ableton, because I can have all these clips going at the same time, I can chain things to each other so that it’s playing the first 100 milliseconds then it goes on to the next sound. I can have all this jumping around, take the tempo up to 999.99 all the way down to 20. Just do these massive sweeps. Automate all kinds of stuff. It’s really expressive.”
“It doesn’t matter what you start with. Start with a simple footstep. And that can become all kinds of stuff. You’re not limited. It used to be that you had to start with really cool sounding stuff. Or really original sounding stuff. It’s not like that anymore. It’s much more like what you do to the sound you have.”
We’ve seen how the creative decision making behind radio has functioned in the past and we’re starting to understand it’s limitations as well as its strengths. But the real question is, how do we decide where radio is going in the future? How are creative thinkers like Jeff constantly challenging the status quo and pushing the medium forward?
“Radio people are used to hearing the voices that they’re used to hearing. You hear the same voices over and over again. The same sound. We say, ‘Oh this is what that kind of station sounds like so we’re going to use that guy.’ But when I see that kind of thing, I tend to become a contrarian and ask, ‘What could it sound like if it was different than what everybody thinks it should sound like?’ It’s challenging. Because, most people are not ready to step out of that comfort zone. Because at the end of the day, these are big companies, and their job is not to run radio stations, their job is to return value to their shareholders. The easy decision is the easiest because there’s just so much momentum behind it. So trying to be creative in that environment is challenging. But you have to keep pushing. Otherwise nothing new happens.”
“I think the big thing is paying attention to all other mediums. Like Adult Swim, for example, and the interstitial elements that they create. It’s like they’re saying, ‘Okay, we’re going into commercial break, and we know that sucks, so here’s 30 seconds of goofiness for you to zone out on. Or when we come back from commercial break we will reward you with this little piece of audio.’ That’s kinda like the purest version of branding for the sake of branding. For the sake of entertainment value. They’re not selling anything other than Adult Swim. They’re selling the vibe of Adult Swim. And I look at that and think that I could do more of that on radio. Because with radio, a lot of times, what we’re forced to do is very promotional. Like coming up in 15min, this is happening. Coming up tomorrow, this is happening. Here’s how you can win this. There’s much more of a call to action.”
From Jeff, I have learned that radio is a complex industry. Run by corporate conglomerates, in some people’s opinion, it struggles to remain contemporary amongst all the noise of podcasts, streaming music services, or whatever new thing is throwing sound at us today. And yet, we still treat radio as a given. Something that we expect to receive but not put any effort into. And through all of this, it still manages to turn a profit, even if some of the companies that own individuals stations are going under. Some people like to say that radio is dead. But it’s not. In fact, it’s not going away at all.
A big thank you to Jeff Schmidt for being willing to be interviewed for this article. And to you, the reader, for making it this far. Cheers!
There are some questions about just how Maschine 2.6 works with MIDI gear after our story yesterday. Well, the fine folks at ADSR tutorials have gone and made a really clear, step-by-step walkthrough – and they even chose our very own fire engine-red MeeBlip triode to use as a demo. (That’s an easy choice, as the parameter assignments are pretty straightforward.)
Have a look:
Integrating MIDI brings a number of benefits:
1. Control gear right from your Maschine hardware, if you choose.
2. Easily record and playback automation and performance states.
3. Add randomization, draw in automation, and more.
4. Use Locks and morphing to create transitions between parameters programmatically.
And do all four of those things alongside Maschine patterns, which could be useful musically / compositionally. It’s good stuff.
Let us know how you use it! And if you make more hardware profiles, do share those, too.
Following the success of the event last year, we’re hosting another one. So whether you’re attending GDC or happen to be in the area, come join us for an informal gathering of interactive audio aficionados ahead of the conference.
DS contributing editor Richard Gould will be at the venue from shortly before 4:00pm to hand out stickers which will signify you’re part of this event so you’ll know who and who not to randomly strike up a conversation about reverb zones with.
Please join us and invite your colleagues and friends.
No Charge, no cover, RSVP not required but it will help us gauge numbers.
It’s not easy to be a live band like Suuns. When you make spare, often trancelike music that relies on repetition, fueled by loops and electronics as well as live players, you need to be more than competent on your instruments; you need to be technically almost flawless. Their music can indeed put you in a trance, but the communion is broken if anything — almost anything — is out of time or introduced at the wrong moment. The amazing thing about Suuns is that nothing ever is — if “precision” was their band name instead, it wouldn’t be wrong. Their latest album Hold/Still continues their streak of infallible, tight production, made all the more impressive this time by the fact that they reputedly recorded most of it live. Hearing the songs live, it’s somewhat easier to believe. Suuns songs often tend toward modern paranoia and anxiety, but in execution of them, the band members’ melding of the human and technological is at ease.
On this winter night, the band played two full sold-out sets at Saint Vitus, an intimate, appropriate clime for the band’s dark, almost claustrophobic sound. Drawing on elements of krautrock and electronic music, Suuns’ sound is as distinct as it is penetrating. If escapist fare like “La La Land” and whatever pabulum won most Grammys last night is hailed as the right cultural output for our times precisely due to its unreality, Suuns owes equal claim to the title precisely because it sounds like just this moment. When vocalist Ben Shemie intones the single lyric from “Resistance,” over a fractured guitar line and its vaguely militaristic backbeat, you almost forget that this song was actually written in 2015. It meant something different to me when I first saw it, nearly two years ago to the date.
To that end, another exciting song to see come to fruition was “Infinity,” a number the band has worked on in various forms for several years, but finally laid down for Hold/Still. After a solid dose of newer material for the bulk of the set, Suuns took us back to their first record, Zeroes QC, for a bit, with “Arena” making an appearance, and the set closing with one of their best early songs, “Pie IX.” If Hold/Still is any guide, this band’s next few years are going to be equally fertile ones.
I recorded this set with Schoeps MK4V microphones and a soundboard feed. The sound quality is excellent. Enjoy!
There are those things in music making that are just pure joy. There’s finding a particularly nice groove or pattern, or getting that really juicy synth or effect parameter to morph just so. And there’s getting to use all those toys and external gear you really love.
So, while Maschine 2.6 is just a “point” release, I think it works out being one of the most welcome updates to come to Maschine’s loyal audience of groove makers yet. It gets at both these points. First, it inherits all the clever stuff added to Maschine Jam for adding variations and randomization and live improvisation. But now that works on any hardware, so if you prefer your 4×4 velocity-sensitive pads and don’t feel motivated to buy that new Jam grid hardware, you don’t have to. Second, it adds MIDI CC support for external gear – ’bout time – plus a whole bunch of external gear support right out of the box.
MIDI CC support is very, very cool. When I wrote about Akai’s standalone MPC introduction, a lot of you replied that what you most liked about Maschine was actually its computer integration. Many, many readers like a software drum machine precisely because it lives on a computer, inside your DAW, with all of your plug-ins.
Now, Maschine starts to look just as appealing for its support for external gear. Being able to send MIDI Control Change messages for manipulating parameters on external gear is overdue. But Native Instruments have given us a nice present by including pre-mapped parameters.
Of course, a lot of the appeal of external gear is being able to reach out and grab a knob or fader directly. But with MIDI CC presets included, you can also draw in or automate parameters, by name. (So you get “filter cutoff,” for instance, instead of “uh, what’s that MIDI CC number again where’s the MIDI implementation chart ugh?”)
And wow, NI have put in all our favorite stuff – including CDM’s very own MeeBlip triode and anode synths. Here’s the complete list (cue elevator music and a slow infomercial crawl animation):
Elektron Analog Heat
Jomox MBase 01
Jomox MBase 11
Jomox X-Base 09
Korg Volca Bass
Korg Volca FM
Korg Volca Kick
Korg Volca Beats
Korg Volca Sample
MFB Tanzbär Lite
Moog Little Phatty
Nord Lead 2
Novation Circuit Session
Novation Circuit Synth
Novation Circuit Drums
Waldorf Pulse 2
Waldorf Pulse Plus
It’s really lovely to see some more obscure boutique stuff among the big three Japanese brands, no?
And that means all of this hardware now behaves in your system as if it’s software, complete with parameter storage and recall and morphing. So this makes Maschine a really powerful hub for live performance, because it can be a home to all the presets for a string of different songs – and that’s a reason to take that computer onstage.
The other features in 2.6 standardize a bunch of features across the whole product range – so features exclusive to Maschine Jam now work with all previously released Maschine hardware, and visa versa.
Maschine Jam features now everywhere else
Maschine Jam brought a lot of subtle but really powerful functionality for composition and improvisation. Now these work with Maschine MK1 and MK2, Maschine Studio, and Maschine mikro MK1 and MK2.
Humanize and Randomize. The so-called “Variation Engine” now lets you automatically add more variety to percussion and melodic patterns programmatically – yeah, in case you aren’t really good enough at finger drumming, for instance.
Lock and morph. “Lock” is an even more interesting feature. You can store snapshots of parameters and then recall them, or morph between them over a number of beats or bars. If you’re thinking this could be really cool when combined with all the MIDI CC stuff above — yeah, absolutely.
Fixed velocities. This was more essential on Maschine Jam because it doesn’t have velocity sensitivity in the pads, but could well be useful elsewhere. You can now set velocities on an individual step using one of 16 fixed levels on a grid.
Maschine features now available in Jam
Maschine Jam is cool, but it was missing some significant functionality available when using other Maschine hardware. The step sequencer now has support for all note parameters (pitch, velocity, length, swing, and position), plus parameter access on each step (for plug-ins and other sound sources).
Also, one subtle improvement for everyone: when you change scale, that setting will also be used for the next group.
Maschine 2.6 is a free update for existing users; you’ll get it in Native Access now.
Digital media is a double-edged sword. Digital data itself can be duplicated an unlimited number of times without any generational loss – meaning it can theoretically last forever. But digital storage on physical media is subject to failure – and that failure can render the data inaccessible. In other words, archivists (including you) have to transfer data before the media fails.
And we’re already entering an age when one of the most popular formats is reaching the start point for common failures.
A report by Tedium (republished by Motherboard) demonstrates one of the most alarming failures. Some media, evidently using faulty dyes, can fail in under ten years, via something unpleasantly dubbed “disc rot.”
At issue is the fact that optical media uses a combination of different chemicals and manufacturing processes. That means that while the data storage and basic manufacturing of a disc are standardized, the particulars of how it was fabricated aren’t. Particular makes and particular batches are subject to different aging characteristics. And with some of these failures occurring in less than ten years, we’re finding out just how susceptible discs are outside of lab test conditions.
In short, these flaws appear to be fairly widespread.
That just deals with a particular early failure, however. In general, CD formats start to fail in significant numbers inside 20 years – on average, not just including these rot-prone flawed media.
What’s tough about this is that the lifespan can be really unpredictable. Before you dismiss the CD as a flawed storage format, many discs do reach a ridiculously long lifespan. The problem is really the variability.
To get an accurate picture, you need to study a big collection of different discs from a lot of different sources. Enter the United States of America’s Library of Congress, who have just that. In 2009, they did an exhaustive study of disc life in their collection – and found at least some discs will be usable in the 28th Century (seriously). The research is pretty scientific, but here’s an important conclusion:
The mean lifetime for the disc population as a whole was calculated to be 776 years for the discs used in this study. As demonstrated in the histograms in Figures 18 and 19, that lifetime could be less than 25 years for some discs, up to 500 years for others, and even longer.
Other research found failures around 20-25 years. That explains why we’re hearing about this problem round about now – the CD format was unveiled in 1982, and by the 90s we all had a variety of optical disc storage to deal with.
There are two takeaways – one is obviously duplicating vital information on a regular basis. The other, perhaps more important solution, is better storage. The Library of Congress found that even CDs at the low end of life expectancy (like 25 years) could improve that lifespan by twenty five times if stored at 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) and 30% relative humidity. So, better put that vital collectors’ DVD in the fridge, it seems. That means instead of your year-2000 disc failing in 2025, it fails in the 27th Century. (I hear we have warp-capable starships long before then.)
But anyone using discs for backup and storage on their own should take this even more seriously, because numerous studies find that writeable CD media – as we purchased with optical drives in the 90s – are even more susceptible to failure.
There are many other issues around CDs, including scratch and wear. See this nice overview, with some do’s and don’ts:
I’ve seen some people comment that this is a reason to use vinyl. But that misses the point. For music, analog storage media still are at a disadvantage. They still suffer from physical degradation, and reasonably quickly. For digital media, hard disc failures are even more frequent than CDs (think under three years in many cases), and network-based storage with backups more or less eliminates the problems of aging generally, in that data is always kept in at least two places.
The failure of CDs seems to be more of a case of marketing getting divorced from science. We’re never free of the constraints of the physical world. As an archivist will tell you, we have to simple adapt – from duplication to climate control.
But I’d say generally, with network-connected storage and automation, digital preservation is now better than ever. The failure point is humans; if you think about this stuff, you can solve it.