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The world of PMCs – Linnstrument

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Wired introduces the world of PMCs (polyphonic multi-dimensional controllers) as ‘revolutionary’ MIDI machines that

can sense finger movement in three dimensions simultaneously—in addition to controlling volume, a musician can also change a note’s pitch and timbre in real time.

The article details the Linnstrument; others cited include the Roli Seaboard, the Haken Continuum, the Eigenharp and Madrona Soundplane.

Fifty years from now, the 1970s to 2015 will be regarded as a strange period in history when people played musical sounds with secretarial input devices: on-off buttons, switches, sliders, and knobs. Controlling numbers by pressing keys. That’s a horrible interface. – Roger Linn

Over at Youtube you can check out what Roger had to say at NAMM 2015, and this well-played Linnstrument using a classic guitar patch.

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Axoloti, a digital audio platform for makers

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Recently seen at the CCC conference in Hamburg is Johannes Taelman’s OPEN Axoloti project (link to 30-minute CCC video.) (Synthtopia link)

It’s built around the Axoloti Core (DSP and microcontroller) hardware. The Core is configured using Axoloti Patcher, a modular audio environment written in Java and works on Windows, OSX and Linux. Similar to Pure Data and MAX, Patcher output runs on the standalone Core’s micro. The CORE also handles MIDI I/O.

Taelman’s IndieGogo campaign has already reached its goal two weeks early, so it’s on!

Axoloti website, (with links to already-completed projects), Github site, YTube playlist

The “electronic guitar” question

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The other day I was thinking about the difference between “electric” and “electronic” instruments (would Spock play analog?) and began wondering about what’s happened in guitar world. I ad-hoc decided that an “electronic guitar” would not use magnetic pickup magic, but would actually sense and analyze string motion and send that digital information to the (nominally 6) built-in oscillators.

Having decided that, I asked around and learned about the existence of a chintzy but fun Casio MIDI controller, model DG-20 made in the mid-80s. Then I turned to the web. I soon came across Troubador Tech’s MIDI guitar roster which led to his (?) Casio MIDI guitar page. It does not include the DG-20, which was a bit of a toy (manual here), but does point to the top-of-the-line 1987 model PG-380 (which cost $1500 1987 dollars). Five years after the first MIDI synth.

Casio PG-380 (1987)

The PG and (cheaper) MG-series derive the pitch information from a magnetic hex pickup next to the bridge. Both put out MIDI pitch, velocity and program change data…. More to the point, The PG- electronics include a built-in, monotimbral, playback-only synthesizer using VZ technology, with 64 preset sounds in internal ROM and take a RAM card.

Doesn’t quite fit my definition of “electronic guitar” but may come as close as anything has. (No? Comment!) I mean: is it really ‘guitar’ without the overtones of slide, bends, the pluck-attack?  Maybe Germans could succeed at digitizing string motion, since US geeks are preoccupied with OpenSSL (and Italian and English CPU boards) and Japan seems stuck in cleanup mode.

I’ll keep ruminating on the question and post the results here.
Does the SynthAxe count? There are only 100 in the world.


Grant Muller was asked to repair a 380, his description of the innards includes some pictures.

Wikipedia: Guitar synthesizer.

VID: Make Noise modules demo

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Getting behind on where modular’s going? Tony Rolando at his Asheville, NC synth module workshop demos his handicraft.

CDM has more on Make Noise – and also on the always-startling question of Richard Devine‘s up to.
Make Noise at Sonic State
Make Noise website

Wolfgang Palm tells the PPG story

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Wolfgang Palm is sometimes called the “father of digital synthesis”. He founded PPG (1975-87) in Hamburg, Germany, where he invented  wavetable synthesis and made the PPG Wave line of synths. In the “History” section of his blog he tells the story of those heady days for his tiny company at some length.

Synths were becoming important across the music scene in the PPG years. There was an endless line of well-known musicians with special needs … and a lot of competition, inside Europe (Fairlight) as well as from Japan (Roland, Korg) and the US (Moog). Wolfgang describes the hectic timeline of all that, and the constant pressure it (and rapidly changing, fragile technology) put on his little company.

“Today, nearly every digital synthesizer implements wavetable synthesis in some form.”

Quick intro to Fast Fourier Transform … with Python code

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Math blog Math ∩ Programming veers into the world of audio processing with an intro to FFT and some Python code. Most of us will probably skip past the heavy math part to get to the application part!

Probably not many of us want to make DIY audio code … but, lots of hardware, software (DAW plugs and software like CSound and Supercollider) use FFT, so it’s good to know what it’s good for. PLUS the author promises more: “Next up in this series we’ll investigate more techniques on sound processing and other one-dimensional signals.”

Bonus link (another cool application of heavy math): SOS article on convolution. Convolution (among other DSP tricks) lets you map the recorded reverb of any space onto your sounds!  The really cool part is that you can borrow that reverb from an existing recording! There are (or at least, used to be) stand-alone apps to let you do that … or you may find a plug.
(See also followup SOS article on generating reverb spaces from scratch.)

Geist MR-808 Drum Robot

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Moritz Geist has recreated many of the sounds of the 808 drum machine using mechanical actuators to play physical objects. MIDI controls the Arduino which controls the actuators. All instruments are encased and lightsrwerkin!

On a separate page, Geist explains all the technical details. Might be useful in many ways!!

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