The EM Poll
Archive for January, 2009
Last year EM did a story called “It’s Easy Being Green,” in which we talked of ways to make your studio more ecologically friendly. One of the suggestions was to recycle old CDs and DVDs. Some municipalities have local recycling options for such discs, and that’s obviously the best option for recycling. However, if you’re like me, and live in a town that doesn’t recycle CDs and DVDs, you might want to know about an organization called The CD Recycling Center of America. It offers free recycling of discs (apparently some companies charge for the service), and if you live in New England, you can arrange for pickup of your discs. Outside New England, you have to ship them the discs.
I recently went on the company’s Web site, and here are instructions for how to send your old discs to them for recycling:
1. Choose a small location in your home, perhaps a home office or the basement.
2. Place a small envelope or box there, and write on it â€śRecycle Compact Discs Hereâ€?.
3. Simply take a few minutes, check your car, and other areas of your house for old, scratched, used, or unwanted discs.
4. Place all the discs into the box.
5. Mark the box â€śCDs / DVDs / HD-DVD / Blu-ray Discs onlyâ€?
1. If you have plastic cases such as a jewel case, or a slim case, please see if you can reuse them, or keep them for future use with perhaps another new disc.
2. If broken or cracked, please collect in a separate box, other than the disc box.
3. We accept all standard CD packages, cases and sleeves.
4. If your CD case is a cardboard and plastic combination, such as a DigiPak or similar, please tear off the plastic part and place it in this box, but see below in regards to the paper.
5. Mark the box â€ścases onlyâ€?
Inserts, Covers, Paperwork
1. If you have covers, inserts, manuals or any other paper or paper board product that accompanies your compact disc, Please collect in a separate box. Please write on it â€śCD paperwork hereâ€?
2. Mark the box â€śpaper onlyâ€?
When your boxes or envelopes are full, please send to:
The Compact Disc Recycling Center of America
68H Stiles Road
Salem, NH 03079
Yes, the shipping may cost you a small amount, but although you may not realize it, youâ€™ll be generating less trash, which you would have to pay to dispose of anyway. Less trash = less weight = less pickups which hopefully means fewer and cheaper trash pick ups.
Think about itâ€¦
* Youâ€™ll generate less trash.
* Youâ€™ll be helping the very planet you live on.
* Landfills will be less filled with non-decomposing plastic
* Incinerators will be generating less pollution that hurts our atmosphere.
* Your Recycling companions will love you for it.”
It’s always nice to find users who post their favorite sounds and patches for free download. Swedish band Diskodiktator offers a ton of free content on their Web site (diskodiktator.com). The downloads are in the form of Reason 4 ReFills and consist mostly of REX loops and WAV files with a smattering of Redrum, NN19, and NN-XT patches. The emphasis is on vintage hardware in general and drum machines in particular. My favorite is an extensive collection of words and phrases from the Texas Instruments educational toy Speak & Spell.
Special thanks to EM contributor Steve Skinner for pointing me to this resource.
Palmer Station, Antarctica 1/26/09â€¨â€¨
Ice is one of the defining aspects of Antarctica and it is one of the â€¨materials I was most looking forward to working with when I first â€¨dreamed of traveling to Palmer Station. Many different kinds of ice â€¨form in Antarctica: icebergs, ice shelves, ice caps, glaciers, sea â€¨ice in all itâ€™s various forms, and even a few frozen lakes. However, â€¨because it is the middle of summer right now in the Southern â€¨Hemisphere, the vast majority of ice we see here on the west side of â€¨the Antarctic Peninsula originates from alpine glaciers. more
A quarter-century ago, a friend who sold Apple computers convinced me that the newly introduced Macintosh would change my life. He was rightâ€”it did. About a month after its launch, I paid $2,500 for a dot-matrix printer (the Apple ImageWriter) and the first mass-market personal computer that had a mouse and offered graphic icons to navigate its operating system rather than text. The original Mac had a built-in 9-inch monochrome display, 128K of RAM, no fan, and a single drive that used a new type of disk called a microfloppy, which was encased in a hard plastic shell. It took me a couple hours to get the hang of using a mouse, and the disks cost $5 apiece. The Mac came with a word processor (MacWrite) and a bitmapped graphics program (MacPaint), and I spent many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of hours exploring those programs and doing things that were previously impossible for mere mortals.
One morning a couple weeks later, I woke up in a sweat. Had I made a terrible mistake? Should I have bought a Commodore 64 or an Apple IIe instead? After all, music software for the Mac didnâ€™t exist. If I had bought one of those other machines, Iâ€™d be able to print music, record MIDI sequences, and store patches from a Yamaha DX7â€”never mind that I didnâ€™t have a DX7 yetâ€”had I made the wrong choice? Obviously, history has proven that Iâ€™d made the best of all possible choices, but it was many long months before I heard even a simple melody emanate from my computer. For that, I had to learn to program in BASIC, and that was my only motivation to learn any computer language. Eventually the first version of MOTU Professional Composer appeared. It was the first pro-level Mac software for music, and I wrote my first software review for EMâ€”just one example of how the Mac changed my life.
If you’re nostalgic for the good old days of cassette tapes, or even if you just want to have some retro fun, take a look at TapeDeck 1.1 (Mac OS X Leopard, $25). This two-track audio-recording software has all the bells and whistles of a low-end vintage cassette deck. It also has throwback animation and sound effects built into its GUI. But it is a real toolâ€”perfect for quickly capturing ideas, musical or otherwise.
TapeDeck features one-click recording, high- and low-quality modes, authentic cassette labeling, and automatic tape-library management. You can search by label text, send tapes to iTunes, and import and export audio in a variety of common formats. You can also post tapes on YouTube and email them to your fans from within the application.
On Saturday night I attended what very well may be the most memorable party of my life. The invitation said, â€śDress to impress,â€? and many guests did just that. The champagne flowed, the bar was open, and the entertainmentâ€”well, more than one person in the crowd said it was â€śFellini-esque.â€? Actors, mimes, and dancers from a performance-art troupe called Lucent Dossier appeared in costumes best described as â€śnaughty Elizabethan Cirque du Soleil.â€? They performed acrobatics while suspended from the ceiling, froze into human statues, served trays of top-shelf hors dâ€™oeuvres, and performed onstage in a series of musical pantomimes.
The event was the grand opening of EastWest Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The studios, designed in the early â€™60s by Bill Putnam himself, were formerly known as Western Recorders and later Cello Studios. Many well-known records were produced there, including albums by Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead, Madonna, Buffalo Springfield, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartneyâ€”the list goes on and on. In fact, the RIAA says that more gold and platinum records were recorded there than anywhere else.
EastWest Sounds, developers of such acclaimed sample libraries as Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra, Stormdrum, and Voices of Passion, purchased and refurbished the studio after it went bankrupt and sat vacant for several years. EastWest hired renowned French designer and architect Philippe Starck to help preserve this temple of sound and reveal the magic within its walls. Outrageously ornate furniture and a general â€śspare-no-expenseâ€? vibe lend an air of indulgent decadence to most of the rooms, suites, and lounges. The six studios, however, are preserved as closely as possible to their original state during their heyday, from the racks of vintage processors to the pockmarked linoleum floor. After investing millions of dollars to refurbish the 21,000-square-foot facility, EastWest plans to use it both as the companyâ€™s headquarters and as a commercial studio for hire.
The Perils of Antarctic Recording, Palmer Station
Last week I wrote about the dangers my equipment faces here on the Antarctic Peninsula. Now Iâ€™d like to share with you some of the perils that I, as a fragile, corporeal human, face while trying to capture the sounds of the natural world around Palmer Station. more
Yesterday Yamaha launched the Avant Grand, an amazing feat of technology that digitally simulates not only the sound, but the physical experience of playing a fine grand piano. The Avant Grand combines meticulous multisampling, an ingenious speaker system, and an array of actuators that reproduce a pianoâ€™s acoustic vibrations in a design called the Tactile Response System. The idea is that if you close your eyes as you play, it feels and sounds as if you’re playing a top-of-the-line Yamaha CFIIIS concert grand. Four speaker systems are located in the same positions as the four microphones used to sample the source instrument, and two resonators reproduce the buildup of sound that a pianist hears and feels. Whatâ€™s more, the Avant Grand is a really beautiful instrument that squeezes a 9-foot grand into a 4-foot space. If youâ€™re at NAMM, donâ€™t take my word for it; visit Yamaha and play it for yourself.
Ableton had big news on several fronts at its NAMM press conference. At the top of the bill are Ableton Live 8 and Ableton Suite 8. Liveâ€™s Warp engine is improved to allow adjusting individual audio events on the timeline. Overdub recording is made easier and more like classic sound-on-sound hardware devices with the new Looper. New effects plug-ins include a vocoder, a frequency shifter, overdrive, limiting, and a multiband dynamics processor. The premium FM synth, Operator, gets a facelift and some new features, and youâ€™ll find a variety of under-the-hood workflow improvements.
Ableton Suite 8 adds a completely new sound library of grooves, presets, templates, and over 1,600 sounds. You also get a collection of Latin percussion instruments together with authentic clips and grooves. The new physical-modeled instrument, Collision, focuses on mallet instruments. Estimated release date for both versions of Live 8 is the second quarter of 2009.
Ableton has partnered with Akai to produce the APC40, a custom control surface tailored especially for live performance. It has 109 buttons, 16 endless rotary encoders, and 9 faders, and it conforms nicely to Liveâ€™s Session view for fast clip and scene triggering and control of Liveâ€™s plug-ins and mixer.
In another, much-anticipated development, Liveâ€™s partnership with Cycling 74 has produced Max for Live, which puts much of the power of Max/MSP inside Live. In short, itâ€™s a toolkit for making or modifying custom devices directly within Live. Ableton anticipates an active community of device creators to fill the pipeline for those disinclined to create their own. Max for Live will be available later in 2009.
On the communal front, Live 8 makes it easier to share live sets with one-click upload and download to Ableton servers, online access management, and intelligent file transfer to optimize transfer times. The procedure should begin beta testing within the next few months.
Learn more about all these features at the Ableton Web site.
Tonight I attended the unveiling of the Roland V-Piano, the latest instrument in the V-Series of physical modeled instruments. It was inevitable that a least one major manufacturer would pursue this particular golden fleece, as modeled acoustic pianos (first pioneered by the Modartt Pianoteq) offer many advantages over sampled pianos. In addition to sounding remarkably lifelike, the V-Piano lets you change the hardness of the hammers, lengthen the soundboard, turn copper-wound strings to pure silver, and much more, all with the twist of a knob or the press of a pedal, in real time. Roland has obviously put a lot of resources into developing and extending this technology, making it possible realistically emulate classic acoustic instruments, from Steinway to BĂ¶sendorfer, as well as dial up new pianos no one has ever heard before (or at least, not before tonight). With much fanfare that included a speech by Rolandâ€™s founder, Ikutaro Kakehashi, the evening wrapped up with a mesmerizing performance by legendary jazz pianist David Benoit and his trio.
The Bus, EM's editorial blog, features posts from all the EM editors on topics related to gear, recording techniques and much more. It's also home to posts from a selected group of guest bloggers.