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Article

Ableton  

Brandon Smith

Music production software company based in Berlin, with a branch in New York. Ableton (Ableton AG) was founded in 1999 by Gerhard Behles, Robert Henke, and Bernd Roggendorf. Its main product is a computer program called Live, which was released in 2001. This is a digital audio workstation (DAW) environment for recording audio and MIDI with an emphasis on working in real time, essentially allowing the user to play the software as an instrument. Practically any operation can be controlled via MIDI. Since its introduction, Live has become popular among electronic music artists for its ability to allow spontaneous manipulation of audio in a performance situation. Many manufacturers of MIDI controllers have developed control surfaces for Live, bridging the gap between software and hardware.

Live is equally suited to arranging and production applications, with abilities similar to those of other popular recording platforms such as Cubase and Pro Tools. It can run in tandem with most other DAW systems using the ReWire protocol by Steinberg Media Technologies (the creators of Cubase), allowing Live and other programs to share audio and MIDI information with a host DAW. In many ways Live has redefined the role software and computers in general have had in music creation and production. It was among the first programs able automatically to ‘beat match’ (synchronize audio files with different tempos). An integrated Max/MSP platform (a visual programming language) allows users to program their own virtual instruments by linking together pre-made blocks or ‘objects’. Ableton also produces virtual instrument plug-ins and libraries of samples for their Live platform....

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[Elektronmusikstudion] (Swed.: ‘electronic music studio’)

The Swedish national centre for electronic music and sound art, in Stockholm. It was preceded by a smaller studio run by the Worker’s Society of Education from 1960. EMS was established by Swedish Radio in 1964 under music director and composer Karl Birger Blomdahl (1916–68), who hired the composer and performer Knut Wiggen (b 1927) to take charge of creating the studios. In 1965 an old radio theatre studio called the klangverstan (‘sound workshop’) opened for composers. Construction of a new facility was begun, but after Blomdahl’s death EMS became independent, funded only in small part by Swedish Radio, and otherwise by Fylkingen (a society for experimental music and arts) and the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.

Wiggen envisioned EMS as both a place to produce electro-acoustic music and a research institution that would give the composer ‘the possibility of describing sounds in psychological terms’. The studio was equipped accordingly. The sound sculpture ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Unique MIDI synthesizer controlled by a gamma-ray spectrometer designed and built by Jerry Chamkis (b Los Angeles, CA, 1942). He studied physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but disillusioned by the emphasis on military applications, he left and became chief engineer at a radio station in Houston, Texas. In 1975, he formed AERCO (Acme Electric Robot Company), where he initially produced peripheral devices and memory expansions for small computers and then moved on to computer-controlled hot wire cutting systems, broadcast equipment, and microphone preamplifiers. Since about 2000 he has concentrated on various art projects such as the Kosmophone.

The gamma-ray spectrometer used for the Kosmophone operates at 3–7 million electron volts, the energy coming primarily from very high-energy cosmic radiation. Although mostly stopped by the atmosphere, gamma rays produce secondary energy emissions that the Kosmophone detects, sending the information to a synthesizer MIDI control port. The radiation pulses are processed and digitized to 12 bits, 7 of which are sent as the MIDI pitch value and 4 as the MIDI velocity value. The first Kosmophone was built from standard nuclear instrumentation modules and custom circuit boards. The second version is a self-contained portable unit with an integral detector, a self-contained nuclear analyser, an Alesis QSR synthesizer, and a 100-watt-per-channel amplifier. It was first shown publicly at the Electricity and Me show at Gallery Lombardi in Austin, Texas, in ...

Article

Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner and Anne Beetem Acker

American firm specializing in digital audio workstations (DAW) featuring sound design applications and environments for music, film, advertising, television, audio research, computer games, and other virtual environments. Founded as Kymatics in 1989 by the musician and inventor Carla Scaletti and Kurt J. Hebel of the Computer-Based Education Research Laboratory (CERL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the company was incorporated in 1990 as Symbolic Sound Corporation and is based in Champaign.

Scaletti, president of the firm and formerly a professional harpist, studied composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (DMA 1984); she also took the degree of Master of Computer Science at Illinois (1988) and the MM at Texas Tech University (1979). The Kyma system (see below) features almost exclusively in her later works, the interaction between performer, composer, and machine remaining a primary motivation. In 1995 Scaletti received an International Computer Music Association award for her interactive online installation ...

Article

Robert E. Eliason

The first commercially available digital music synthesizer, introduced at the 1977 International Computer Music Conference in San Diego, California. It was designed and built by New England Digital Corporation (NED) founders Sydney Alonzo and Cameron W. Jones in collaboration with Dartmouth College professor Jon Appleton. During the 1980s it developed into a digital audio system capable of FM synthesis, sound analysis, sampling, stereo recording and playback on up to 200 tracks, audio editing, video synchronization, and music printing. By 1985 over 400 systems had been sold to recording studios, video post-production operations, and professional musicians such as Michael Jackson, Pat Metheny, Oscar Peterson, Sting, and Stevie Wonder. Commercial producers such as Richard Lavsky used the Synclavier to create accompaniments for such diverse uses as Canon camera commercials, promotional shorts for ABC News, and “Sesame Street.” The success of the Synclavier came to an end in the early 1990s with the advent of several more-affordable digital synthesizers and samplers. Following the end of operations in ...