blog

AudioCubes: An Audio Visual Performance Tool

April 29th, 2011 | Posted in tech reviews

Life in the music business isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. You tend to hear the same people saying the same things over and over again with no real progress in sight. Technology is a different story all together. Technology is where the real innovations lie. Technology is the real voice of the music industry so I hope your are listening closely.

This blog has become a living, breathing hodgepodge of everything we find interesting (which doesn’t always have to do with new features Official.fm). We highlight artists that are doing cool things with our tools, but also have a soft spot for interesting technologies that are an extension of our community.

One such company is Percussa, the creators behind AudioCubes. When the company’s Director, Bert Schiettecatte reached out to me earlier in the year (about a totally unrelated topic) I was enamored by the simplicity and usefulness of their product. AudioCubes is hard to explain in words so click on the video below to see them in action.

Instead of feeling restricted by the existing tools for creating electronic music AudioCubes allow you to have control over the technology itself. To me, this is a brand new type of musical instrument, a new performance tool… a new way for musical expression and exploration. Read below for a short interview with Bert Schiettecatte

What are AudioCubes and how did the idea come to be?

AudioCubes are primarily an audiovisual live performance tool. Professional laptop performers are using them in their live performances to conduct their performance from a high level, create impressive visuals and create a performance that’s more engaging for the audience.

I started working on AudioCubes years ago, roughly in 2003, after designing and building a laser harp with friends while being a student at Stanford University. I wanted to create a musical interface that was minimal in several ways, and would drive new ways of music creation, exploration and live performance. I guess for me it was a reaction against the zillion knobs that are present in many music tech tools. A return to gesture, communication, interaction, listening and experience. At the same time I had a strong interest in tangible interfaces, and in using smart objects to control software and computers.

How have you seen artists create original music and performance art with AudioCubes?

Sure. One of the most active users is Mark Mosher, you can check out his blog at http://modulatethis.com

Pearls for Swines are an audiovisual duo from Belgium and are also quite active with AudioCubes.

It’s important to note that AudioCubes are catching on around the world with equal adoption in the US, Europe and Asia. I’ve seen a number of audio visual performance tools in my lifetime, but none quite as unique as this product.

Well done Percussa. Keep up the good work.


The Best iPad Apps for Music Discovery

February 23rd, 2011 | Posted in tech reviews

The April 2010 release of the Apple iPad has created a huge play for tons of computer manufacturers to enter the tablet arena. I’ve tested some of the unreleased machines that have been created to compete with the iPad including BlackBerry’s Playbook, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, HP Slate, and the Dell Fuck Box (not really the name) but nothing comes close to the reliability and flexibility of the IOS platform.

When considering how to “make it” in a tough business like the music industry, I often like to work backwards. Meaning, I’ll look at where potential fans look for new music and then make sure all of the artists that I work with are putting their best foot forward on those platforms. Make sense?

That being said, I’d like to share some of my favorite iPad music discovery tools. I have no disclosures this time. I don’t work for any of these app manufacturers so I’m speaking completely on preference and availability. There isn’t much out there in the marketplace now, but I guarantee by next year this time, the iTunes App Store will be filled with like tools.

Pandora

I hope you are familiar with Pandora by now, if not here is your chance. Talk about a company that was on the brink of bankruptcy. Tim Westergren and Co. had their start up backs against the wall before a little thing called the iPhone was released. Since then they have seen their traffic sky rocket. When I spoke to Tim at San Fran Music Tech last year he was happy to report that the company was profitable although not by much. His model is steeped in licensing fees from major labels who want their cut at the cost of Pandora’s bottom line. The iPad app takes Pandora a step further. This is my go to app for long spans of uninterrupted internet radio listening. With the mutt task feature in iOS 4.2 I can keep Pandora playing in the background while I surf the net researching for my first ebook. However, I don’t hear many artists that I’ve never heard before like I did when the company first began, so I’m not sure how well they play in the music discovery space.

Discovr

Discovr This is a cool new app built on The Echo Nest platform. Before I go into the app, I should explain who The Echo Nest is an what they do. I first ran into Director of Developer Platform Paul Lamere at Music Hack Day and boy is he smart. In a nutshell The Echo Nest is a music intelligence company that powers a lot of the heavy hitting mobile apps. Discovr is no exception. This time they have paired with 7digital and You Tube to provide iPad users with a visual representation of bands that relate to ones that you plug into the search field. When demoing it for this post I did run into a few glitches in the service (i.e. artist names not appearing, infrequent crashing) but overall “A good college try”.

Aweditorium

AweditoriumThis cool new app attempts to re-imagine the feel of experiencing music on an iPad based on album cover art inspired by TheSixtyOne.com

The founders aim to find a way of taking content around an artist (i.e. high resolution images, artwork, lyrics and high def video and tying that together in a multi touch device.

Artist membership to have your music featured on Aweditorium is closed for now. I’d keep my eyes peeled for any updates. This is looking like the early days of Pandora if you ask me.

Sound Hound

If you are ever walking around and hear a song playing in the background you can now capture the name of the artist and song with this app. The concept is not new here as companies like Shazam have seen great success in this service as well. The cool thing here is that you can actually sing that stupid song thats stuck in your head into the built in iPad mic and Sound Hound will identify it for you. Cool huh?

Coming Soon: Hitlantis

There is a great review by Nick Parker over on Evolver.fm (my new favorite blog)

http://hitlantis.com

Don’t have an iPad yet? Do yourself a favor, don’t wait for a front facing camera or SD card slot because none of that shit really matters in the grand scheme of things. Make the purchase today if you can afford it. Tablets are obviously the new frontier in computing, but don’t take my word for it. Check this recent report by The Raymond James Financial Center.

All of these companies are planning a tablet launch sooner or later. What are your favorites?

by Kevin English

Kevin is a tech marketer and student of the arts, who blogs about the skills and strategies necessary to get the most of your musical career.