WEB SITE OF THE MONTH
From Demo to Deal is the first in a series of music-education programs by InsideSessions (www.insidesessions.com). The ten lessons, referred to as sessions, are in the form of interviews with industry professionals, including well-known individuals such as Sting, Elton John, and George Martin, and other highly influential industry types, such as Glen Ballard, Bob Clearmountain, Jimmy Iovine, and Tommy Mottola.
The program is designed to let students work at their own pace. When a person has finished the course, he or she will receive a Certificate of Completion. In addition, the A&R department of Universal Music Group (the parent company of InsideSessions) will review the student's demos. If the student opts for MusicSessions Plus package ($99.90), he or she will also receive written feedback from a Universal Music Group A&R exec.
The ten sessions are How to Get In, Writing the Songs, Making the Demo, How to Get a Label Deal, Making the Right Deal, Building a Team, Inside a Record Company, Inside the Recording Studio, Getting Your Music Out There, and The Future. Each session is divided into related subsections, and you can easily move between them using onscreen buttons.
Subsections in the Writing the Songs session, for example, include Inspiration (featuring Elton John and Enrique Iglesias) and Heavy on the Hooks (with Shaggy, Barry Gibb, and Nelly). Under Making the Demo is the topic How Raw Can It Be, featuring Sheryl Crow and Tony Brown. Even if you don't like the music or style of the artists being interviewed (the list of interviewees is extensive, covering every popular style), what they have to say is universal when it comes to succeeding in today's music industry.
From Demo to Deal requires that you use the CD-ROM in conjunction with the Internet, and a high-speed connection is recommended (though dial-up users can view the lessons from the disc). I viewed the lessons using a Mac G4 and a Power Macintosh 8600/300 MHz with a T1 connection, and surprisingly, the viewing experience from the Web was much better than directly from the disc in both cases.
The minimum requirements for using From Demo to Deal are Windows 98/ME/2000 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 on the PC, and Mac OS 9.0 and Netscape Communicator 4.5 on the Mac. Windows Media Player 7 and Macromedia Flash Player 5 are also required on both platforms, and all of the required applications are available on the CD-ROM.
Whether you are looking for a musician to tour or an engineer for an upcoming studio session, check out iMusicWorks (http://imusicworks.com). The service is free, and it gives you a safe and secure place to find audio professionals for your project or to offer your services to others…. Theremin enthusiasts have a number of quality resources on the Internet. Start out with a visit to ThereminWorld (www.thereminworld.com), where you can learn more about the instrument and network with other like-minded theremin fans. The site's Photo Gallery and RCA Victor Theremin Registry are personal favorites. From ThereminWorld, you can move quickly to other theremin-related sites using the Theremin Ring buttons at the bottom of the home page. Highlights of the Ring are Theremin.info (http://theremin.info), which includes scanned manuscripts of Percy Grainger's rare score for theremin, Free Music No. 1; and Art's Theremin Page (http://home.att.net/~theremin1), which offers articles about building a theremin, schematics, and related technical advice. No theremin tour would be complete without a visit to the home page of the instrument's reigning virtuoso, Lydia Kavina (http://postman.ru/~tvox). And all levels of theremin player are welcome to subscribe to Levnet (www.korrnet.org/mailman/listinfo/levnet), the online discussion group that is named after the instrument's inventor, Lev Termen (aka Leon Theremin).
DOWNLOAD OF THE MONTH
If you are looking for an introduction to granular synthesis, you could hardly pick a better place to start than Marcel Wierckx's Real-Time Granular Synthesizer (RTGS) 2.1 (Mac; $45; www.wxs.nl/~menti049/software.html). RTGS puts the basic granular techniques at your fingertips.
RTGS was created in Cycling '74 MAX/MSP (which is not required in order to run RTGS) and comes with very clear HTML documentation and balloon-style onscreen help. The demo version is fully functional except for audio recording, which is limited to one minute.
Granular synthesis involves breaking a sound file or live-audio stream into small fragments called grains, and then sequencing the grains. RTGS gives you independent control of the pitch of the individual grains, the size of the grains, and the time between grains. If the sound file is buffered in RAM, you can also control the speed and direction of the sound-file scan that is used to create the grains. RTGS will buffer sound files as long as eight seconds (by simply loading the first eight seconds of any AIFF or SDII file). It also works with live audio, which can be streamed from disk or input through your sound card.
RTGS's Main control panel is where you choose the source for granulation and set the basic granulation parameters. All the parameters except grain density (for example, the time between grains) offer real-time randomization. In a nice twist, transposition (for example, grain pitch) can be microtonal or quantized to semitones and restricted to a user-defined scale. When buffered input is used, you can automate the Scrub control at speeds ranging from half speed to ten times. That allows you to create interesting time-stretching and time-compression effects without changing the pitch of the individual grains.
One of RTGS's more unusual features is its binaural processing of RAM-buffered sound files. With RAM-buffered files, you always start with two mono sound files. RTGS alternates grains from the two files but applies the same parameters to each. (You can work with stereo by first splitting the stereo files.) When the two files are unrelated, the results are unusual, intermingled effects. The MP3 example Worry illustrates several granulations of a pair of spoken-word files. RTGS's minimum requirements are a Macintosh G3/233 MHz, 64 MB of RAM, OS 8.1, and, if you plan to use MIDI controllers, Open Music System (OMS) 2.3.8.
— Len Sasso
The eXtensible Music Format (XMF) is a new standard designed to facilitate the delivery of a wide range of audio-file types to various software applications and handheld devices. Published by the MIDI Manufacturer's Association (MMA; www.midi.org/xmf/xmf_faq.htm), the XMF specification outlines a highly flexible file format that Internet developers and cell-phone manufacturers can use to combine MIDI, WAV, DLS, and MP3 data into one tidy package. The standard is open and free, and it can be incorporated into operating systems and multimedia products without license or patent fees.
An XMF file is made up of two basic parts: a hierarchical container, or metafile, and the audio content. Actually, it's very much like the files-and-folders system that you find on your Mac or PC. The container is defined as a series of nodes; each node can contain a specific file (such as MIDI data) or another node (such as a set of DLS instruments used by the MIDI file). A node can even contain a URL link to a file on a Web server, allowing an XMF file to play audio data that continually changes, such as a weather report.
Metadata that contains information about the audio file's content is also stored. This can assume the form of a standard Resource ID (MIDI, DLS, and so on), copyright notices, or customized data such as composer's notes or musical-style indicators. XMF files are geared toward low-bandwidth applications; therefore, the specification also includes optional compression and encryption algorithms for fast, secure downloads.
Beatnik (www.beatnik.com) has already launched a new version of its Audio Engine, which supports XMF. The mobileBAE, as it is called, is optimized for delivery of multimedia messages and ringtones to third generation (3G) cell-phone technologies. It uses a Type 1 XMF content format that combines standard MIDI files (SMF) with DLS instruments and is the functional equivalent of an open-standard, nonproprietary version of a Rich Music Format (RMF) file.
But XMF files are highly expandable and could also function as, say, a header file containing all the sounds effects and digital music files for a game level. At the 2001 Fatman's Bar-B-Q (a yearly interactive audio conference held in Texas), Chris Grigg, chair of the MMA's XMF Working Group, dreamt up an overview of what an interactive audio development environment might look like, using the XMF spec as a starting point (www.projectbarbq.com/bbq01/bbq01r5.htm). However, though the MMA has published example code for parsing XMF data, there are no publicly available tools for actually creating XMF files. That may change if the standard is adopted by a burgeoning mobile-Internet industry.
— Peter Drescher
BAND ON THE WEB
Few musicians go to Mark Trayle's level of musical and technological extremes (http://shoko.calarts.edu/~met). Whether it involves installing a tiny video camera inside a flute or placing a photoresistor in a tin can, Trayle is not content with simply putting musical notes on paper: he insists on designing his pieces from the ground up.
For example, on his most recent release, RPM::MHZ (Artifact Recordings, 2001; www.artifact.com), Trayle built a credit-card reader, for the piece “¢apital magneti¢,” that plays microcompositions based on the information culled from the magnetic stripe on a performer's credit card.
“Each time a card is swiped,” Trayle says, “the contents of its magnetic stripe are captured and parsed to form the melodic, rhythmic, and timbral motifs of a short musical composition. Using genetic algorithms, compositions compete in a simulated music marketplace. Some become dominant, others less ‘popular.’ Some combine to form new ‘styles’ or ‘genres’ that in turn influence the more popular ones, and so on.”
For the piece “Arcana 33 1/3” on RPM::MHZ, Trayle transformed an old gramophone turntable into an interface for a computer and used a tin can, with built-in photoresistor inside, as a MIDI controller. The final work on the disc, “Ciprocal,” is a bubbling, rhythmic work created as Trayle navigates through a highly complex “web” of digital circuits of his own creation.
Trayle is also an agile improviser. On his recent release with multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia, Music for Electronics & Woodwinds (Nine Winds, 2001; http://members.aol.com/ninewinds), Trayle used the software synthesizer SuperCollider (www.audiosynth.com) running on a Mac Powerbook to both manipulate Golia's sounds (particularly on “lazy Third Eye,” “Cheapman and the sweater he cherished,” and “Behind the Fifty-five dollar face”) and generate new material. The result is a remarkably fresh electroacoustic interaction.