All preferences and judgments aside, the simple numbers show that more professional musicians, producers and DJs use Mac computers over Windows and Linux machines. However, you can of course achieve professional results with any computer. And now Microsoft is putting some resources toward promoting the marriage between its technology and innovative music and multimedia creation.
Today Microsoft officially launched its Music x Technology website, where they post in-depth features on how musical artists collaborate with one another and with multimedia designers and developers to create ambitious projects and live performances.
The initial crop of artists for Music x Technology’s launch includes Deadmau5 and his Mau5trap label signee Attlas, Phantogram, Neon Indian, Matthew Dear and others.
A common thread in the stories so far is the Microsoft Kinect playing a key role for interactive live visuals and art installations. Microsoft is also playing up the musical possibilities of its Surface Pro, a touchscreen computer with the full featured Windows OS for which Apple does not yet have a direct alternative.
Music & Motion Sensing
In a video we publicized earlier during Music x Technology’s pre-launch, Neon Indian collaborated with visual artists using the Kinect for its showcase at the CMJ Music Marathon last year.
Similarly, Phantogram worked with visual artist Blair Neal, who used the motion-sensing Kinect, custom software he made with OpenFrameworks, and various controllers like the Keith McMillen QuNeo to produce ghostly visuals to coincide with a concert at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
My favorite use of the Kinect for music featured on the new site comes from a project that intertwined original music from Matthew Dear with special fabric walls to create what Dear called, “a living, breathing, sound sculpture.”
The installation, dubbed DELQA: Inside the Music of Matthew Dear, an Interactive Experience, was housed in New York’s New Museum last year, and it contained an integrated system of more than 40 loudspeakers, lights, a spatial audio system designed by media engineers, and a rig of special see-through interactive fabric.
Installed Kinects tracked people’s movements through the space, and when they pushed into different segments of the fabric, they changed certain qualities of the music. For example, if they pushed into the drum segment of the fabric, the rhythm became more complex and the sound timbres changed. So you would never hear the exact same music during any number of visits.
In the embedded Microsoft video on the making of Delqa, Dave Rife, of the music interaction & spatial sound team, said, “The big idea we were exploring was being able to step inside Matthew’s music.”
There is also a deeper tutorial on how they made Delqa with open-source software.
Building a Better Mau5trap
During a recent tour, Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, took his Mau5trap label signee Attlas on a tour bus rented from Timbaland and outfitted it with a traveling studio. One of the important pieces was a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet computer with a full version of the Bitwig Studio DAW optimized for Surface control. With that, they were able to work on music on the bus and take the device to the stage the same night.
“It’s the merging of studio and performance that I think is the most exciting frontier,” Attlas said in another Microsoft video.
It seems the exploitation of the Surface Pro for music has only begun, but already there are some novel and useful applications for such a mobile device. For example, the StaffPad music notation software lets composers draw in musical notation by hand with the Surface pen, and the software then translates that to standard notation that can be used in the computer.