Tuesday, October 22, 2019
There have been a lot of post, messages and CTA's about the release of the Catalina version of Apple's OS X. Many of them suggest waiting for software to be updated to support the new version, or warn of impending copy protection issues - or whatever. But for some of us, Catalina represents the death of a generation of software.
For me, the issue is "M" - the algorithmic software created by David Zicarelli, originally for Intelligent Music, and still sold by Cycling '74 (my employer). We've been concerned about the trend of Apple slowly turning out the lights for historically relevant software, but Catalina - by killing off 32-bit apps and libraries like QuickDraw - eliminates a generation of software that defined digital media art.
M is a particularly important piece of computer music history. Over the years, I've had dozens of composers talk about the albums they created using M, or the jump start that its spartan interface had on getting them to embrace interactive-but-generative music creation.
I guess I understand Apple's need to move on - but I wonder if this isn't another example of hubris on their part. They've always been happy to throw away the past, whether serial ports, FireWire, QuickTime, 32-bit software or even something as elemental as the QuickDraw graphics library. But it was also Apple that, back then, stated that QuickDraw was the optimal way to developer for the Mac. Might it not be useful to maintain some sort of compatibility?
I see people running age-old software on Windows 10, so it is clearly not impossible to do. I'm sure someone will say "Oh, there's so much extra cruft in Windows to support that old crap..." - but what about the cruft necessary to support the new crap? I never saw the screaming need for all the sausage needed to get the touchbar operational. Does anyone even know where their Apple Remote is - and if it still works? And let's make sure your Apple Watch can post your resting heart rate to Instagram or something. Pa-leese.
I might just be chuffed about this one because it directly affects me (because I always have a wonderful time when I play with M). I'm sure others would point to OS X and the death of Opcode Vision, or something else along the way. But I'm a bit broken-hearted about this one, and a little pissed off, too.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Earlier this week I got pinged by the good folks at NAMM to let me know about the opening of Music from the Sound Up: The Creative Tools of Synthesis, an exhibit about electronic music synthesis and the musical instruments that surround it. This exhibit, at NAMM’s Museum of Making Music (MoMM), is a unique interactive program that introduces visitors to the basic ideas of sound synthesis using metaphors like a sieve for a filter, or a bicycle wheel for a modulation.
It's a neat approach to opening doors for interested parties, and it's good to see NAMM embrace synthesizers (and systhesis), since it is a pretty robust part of the MI market at this point. If you find yourself in Carlsbad (which is a bit north of San Diego), check it out - and let me know what you think!
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Well, I do keep looking for The Perfect Beast. I thought I had it with the ol' 414, then the 424 MK2. But the seller of this thing - a Tascam 424 MK1 - pointed out an important feature: it runs at 'Slow' (half-normal) speed. That's 15/16 ips, at which point the tape wobbles and burps like crazy. I've already used it for a couple of upcoming tracks, and I'm a bit in love with it.
Alas, the purchase wasn't an unqualified success. I paid a hefty premium to get a deck in the original box, in 'perfect working condition'. Of course, it wasn't - there were level problems going to/from tape, several scratchy channels on the mixer, and the headphone output crackles constantly. The seller (local here in MN, goes by the handle That Tascam Guy on Reverb...) communicated for a while, deflected any time I suggested there was a problem, then just went radio-silent.
What, exactly, is it about tape decks that makes people unscrupulous sellers? I haven't gotten a straight sale on a Tascam deck yet, and I always take it in the chin when I sell because I mention everything. Is it cassette decks? Or is it Tascams? Or is it just an overwrought market for 40 year-old gear?
Anyway, it's working well enough for me to do the great wobbly low-fi recordings I was hoping for. Expect some half-speed drone music coming your way shortly! (Oh, and it really looks cool on top of the Output desk!!!)
Monday, October 14, 2019
OK, so this might be a little hard to see, but I really don't know how this could happen...
I was rearranging the Intellijel 7u studio case to find room for the new Crow, and all of a sudden had a hard time putting in one of the screws. If you look at the top row of holes, you'll see that the second open hole from the left - well, it isn't tapped. No threads, no use.
Got me thinking: isn't there a robot doing this job? 'Cuz this looks like the kind of workmanship that used to occur when I was working on the industrial paint line ("Geez, boss, I guess I hung every 10th panel upside down. Sorry!"), but not the sort of thing a robot does. I mean, it's not like they take lunch break and need retraining for the afternoon shift.
So now I'm on the hunt for a 3mm tap. Dammit.
Monday, September 16, 2019
In a few recent photos of my studio rig, people have rightly noticed that I have a row that is almost completely dedicated to Mutable Instruments stuff. And I'll admit it: in most cases, the MI gear speaks to me in a kinda-analog-kinda-digital way, and I can find my muse in the work that Emilie has brought to the table.
But a few weeks ago I ran into a problem. I really, really wanted more voltage control over my envelopes, but the Peaks weren't having it. I started screwing around with multiple envelopes fed into some VCAs, and voltage controlling a different envelope, and a bunch of other stuff. Then I realized something: I needed to reconsider the idea of having two Peaks in my system.
Since I've always been a fan of Make Noise's Math - but didn't have space in this case for one - I figured that I might want to try plopping a Function (one of the envelope channels of a Maths) as a replacement for the Peaks. Two envelopes/LFOs dropped to one, and I was a little concerned, but I spent some time with it this morning and it fits like a nicely worn-in shoe.
So despite my rigorous desire for complete MI-ness across the whole row, it turns out a little flexibility makes for a great neighborhood. In modular terms. In my systems. In my studio...