Friday, 30 November 2012

The importance of MIDI

I wasn't aware that Dave Smith of DSI was the man responsible for developing and convincing music makers to adopt Music Instrument Digital Interface for controlling synthesisers and drum machines, so this little article courtesy of Auntie Beeb makes for a good (if short) read. They even make comparisons with the open/free software movement as Smith was more interested in industry adoption of the technology than making money with it, although in hindsight I feel it was better to have a standardizing technology like MIDI rather than unreliable and variable voltage control technology.

Nice to see Alex DR Patterson of The Orb making a sound byte as well!

Full article available at

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Photos from Music Production Show 2012

Moogs at Source Direct
I took a day off on Friday to go visit the Emirates Stadium (home to Arsenal Football Club), which was playing host to the Music Production Show 2012. Strangely enough, this is the only event in the UK devoted to music production and I think it was definitely a step in the right direction, focusing on dance and electronic music as well as guitars and traditional gear.

Amongst the exhibitors were Source Direct (pretty much the UK's number one supplier of all American and import synthesiser equipment), Yamaha, Steinberg, Music Tech, Sound On Sound, Novation, KVR and lots of microphone and studio equipment suppliers, so there was plenty to catch and have a play around with.

Steinberg's Cubase 7 Stand

As the Friday (it was also on on the Saturday) had much more of a student focus, there were a couple of decent tutorial seminars from Yamaha / Erb n Dubs on drum and bass production and Steinberg who were presenting the new Cubase 7 DAW. Lots of exciting new stuff coming up and interesting to get a new perspective on things; in particular, Erb N Dubs had a nice sample CD of drums and kits for all attendees, which I was able to grab a copy of as there were loads of students vying for copies as well. I haven't had a good look around it yet but there's plenty there plus Rex files and Massive presets as well, if you are so inclined. Either way, free stuff is free stuff and I am sure I will find a use for it at some point. 

I also got to meet Nick from Sonic Lab as well, which was a pleasant surprise, who says that he's already gearing up for NAMM 2013 coverage early next year. It just reminds me of quite how ridiculously busy we've all been this year and how 2012 is going to be 2013 in a matter of weeks. Anyway, a thoroughly nice bloke and I'm sure that his website will contain some nice video coverage of the show as well.
Hopefully the successes of the MPS 2012 will translate into the organisers returning to London next year for a repeat show and with any luck, making it bigger and better.

More photos after the jump!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Teeny tiny synthesiser

Nanoblock Synthesiser
No, Korg haven't realised a smaller Monotron - I've just been given one of these lovely little Nanoblock bags with enough pieces to build a small synthesiser.

Apparently you can pick them up online quite easily or at Toys R Us warehouses and other toy shops. The pieces are much smaller than your average Lego bricks but luckily they give you some extra bits in case you want to get creative and/or mislay some of the parts.

Oh those Japanese, they come up with smaller and more amazing things these days!

More photos below or you can visit:


Holy mother of god, I've finally managed to get something musical that I have been waiting so long for. Full review to come very very shortly.

Unatco Theme - Deus Ex

Thanks to the division of developer Ion Storm into two separate entities (the other being responsible for the collosal failure of Daikatana), Warren Spector's Deus Ex was a revelation in gaming when it came out in 2000. A story of a criminal consipiracy working in the background to usurp the United States ran alongside the development of AI, nanotechnology and human augmentation, with you playing a genetically and nano-augmented super agent of a government agency. 

Thrust into a game world with plenty of backstory to discover, plot twists and lots of great touches everywhere, Deus Ex needs an entry in my Saturday Soundtracks list. The UNATCO HQ theme is a great standout track, as it is one area during the beginning of the game that you repeatedly come back to and it works well to describe the humdrum office environment and some kind of resemblance to "home" during the game.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Daft Punk website reborn!

Picture credit: Resident Advisor
Okay, so slightly late compared to the rest of the world, but the Daft Punk website has just been updated (although just to reflect the name of the band). This has been the first change in ages to their website and with any luck, this will mean new material coming out from them in the future. After the Tron Legacy soundtrack, it will be good to see what the French super duo have in store for us.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Blood Money - Atari ST

A slow and ominous track from developer DMA Design (a respected software house who later became Rockstar and the rest, as they say, is history), this featured in the game Blood Money: the more polished successor to title Menace. Blood Money was a slick shoot 'em up with lots of well animated baddies to shoot, coins to collect and tons of upgrades. As per many titles of the time, sprites and backgrounds made as much use of 16 colours as possible and the combination makes for an excellent and challenging game today.

As for the music: on the face of it, it's a nice and simple bit of Atari ST chiptunes that belies some complex arpeggios, some nice crunchy percussion and whispy square waves. Just what you need to accompany you in your little submarine when blasting anything moving that wants to send you to a watery grave.

SomaFM Xmas streams

As regular as clockwork, my favourite internet radio station SomaFM have just opened their new streaming radio channels for the holiday season, including the firm favourite Xmas in Frisko. 

Seeing as they seem to have disappeared from iTunes, you can download the streaming files and listen to it in a variety of formats at their website:

Thanks guys!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Book review: How Music Works

Best described as a part biographical, part educational and part historical text, How Music Works is David Byrne's attempt to track the evolution of music as it has been affected by history, social norms and technology. Given the author, this is pieced together with a smattering of stories and references to his career with Talking Heads, his solo works and relationships with other artists including Brian Eno.

The book's rather large undertaking splits its subject into several key areas per chapter, covering different venues and the topic of reverberation in one chapter and evolving recording technology in another. Other areas include production methods, the relevance of recording studios past and present, collaborations and analogue vs digital. What starts off as a large topic is broken down into a somewhat free-flowing story of anecdotes, research and examples, making for easy and humour-filled reading. Byrne is happy to share his knowledge and experiences from his career and melds them nicely into the narrative. Despite the sense that Byrne routinely seems to demonstrate that he has "been there, done that" at every step of the way, his recollections rarely seem boorish and always have relevance to each point.

It might be easy for critics to accuse him of being overly nostalgic when looking back on how things developed and how they affected his band, however Byrne carries an appreciation of the future and that things move on; none more so than the music industry. It is in this area that Byrne certainly makes up for any shortcomings with his no-nonsense explanation of the music industry. Coming at the subject from the angle of an amateur musician, I really enjoyed the clear overview of the industry and the pros and cons that all the options present. In coming at the subject from a business perspective, the book really does give some great insights into the industry and adds that the traditional models are also being circumvented by modern distribution methods. From a personal point of view I'm not sure whether it has given me hope or not in terms of making music to make money, but it has certainly been demystified for me.

Also of note is the variety in his musical tastes, drawing on his extensive music library so that when referring to genres or artists to apply to his theories, these are not limited to the those that he is associated with during his career. In doing so, you are forced to consider different styles and the cultures that developed them, emphasising that the book is about how all music works, not just some. For me, how Music Works is not designed as the be all and end all of music history and industry handbook, but a reasoned approach to charting the evolution of music, its production and consumption and gives plenty of food for thought for any music aficionados or aspiring artists.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Thoughts on physical media for music

A recent post on the Guardian website gave me food for thought; not least of which because at the moment this is a question I have been thinking about for a while. Whilst there are more and more people who consume music via live streaming, YouTube and .mp3s, I know that there are plenty of people that prefer a physical connection to their music. So I thought I'd weigh in on the discussion and make for a rambling post.

Zombie Stomp - new track on Soundcloud

I have a new track to listen to on Soundcloud, this time taking some inspiration from Halloween. It's been an idea I've had in my head and in draft form for about three years so I'm glad I was able to finally get it arranged and put out there. 

As ever, any feedback is much appreciated

Listening to music at work.

A good, albeit short, article on Business Week caught my eye this week - looking at how music affects your mental state while at work. I personally like the way that it focuses my attention by blocking outside noise / stupid questions / requests for information etc. But as most of my day is spent communicating with people, I can't exactly listen to much anyway!

For those of you who are lucky enough to listen to music at work, enjoy!

Original article at: