CatSynth: The App! 2.0 for Android released.

We are excited to announce the release of CatSynth: The App! 2.0 for Android.

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It provides the features that iOS users currently enjoy like creating and sharing recordings with Mystery Synths and following other users, and a beautiful new material-design interface. Indeed we think this new Android version looks better than the iOS version 😉 – but don’t worry iOS folks, an update is coming soon.

If you have an Android device running Lolipop (5.0) or later, please check it out! You can get the download and more info at the Google Play Store.

NAMM 2016: Tracktion Biotek and Copper Reference

During a break at NAMM, a friend showed me the tag line for Biotek that described it as an “organic synthesizer.” That sounded quite intriguing, though also a bit baffling. Did it contain biological elements or designs based on organic systems? It turned out to be a new software synthesizer from Tracktion. It uses high-quality field-recordings from nature as sample sources and incorporates them into a full-featured synth architecture. The centerpiece of the synth and its user interface is a function that morphs between the natural sound and different degrees of processing from the rest of the synthesizer.

Tracktion BioTek

It is quite striking to look at. Playing with just the central control is fun. The sounds are unique, especially in the middle between fully synthesized and fully nature-sample. I had fun playing a patch based on avian sounds from the connected keyboard and found myself thinking of musical ways to combine it with analog sounds. Whether it would be a novel feature for a handful of tracks or an regular instrument is hard to say – I leave that to other musicians to explore and decide.

All during the demo of Biotek, I was listening to the sound on Tracktions new (and first) hardware interface, the Copper Reference.

Tracktion Copper Reference

As one can see in the photo above, it is gorgeous. The case is a shiny copper finish with soft edges, topped with two vacuum tubes. The vacuum tubes are part of a selectable overdrive circuit for the inputs. It also contains high-end high-sample-rate D/A and A/D converters. It sounded great in the Biotek demos, though a NAMM booth is not an environment where I can discern its character compared to others. It is definitely a boutique interface that will carry a high price tag ($5000 USD), especially for just stereo. But it is gorgeous!

CatSynth: The App! 2.0 for iOS is released!

We at CatSynth are excited to announce the release of the 2.0 version of our iOS app knows as CatSynth: The App!. It has a redesigned modernist interface for browsing and reading articles. And the biggest change is that you can now record and share performances with the built-in Mystery Synths!

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If you already have the app (thanks!), we strongly recommend that you update to the new version. If not, we encourage you to give it a try. And for our friends on Android, we hope to have a 2.x version in the not-too-distant future.

CatSynth: The App! for iOS 1.4.142 is released!

CatSynth: The App

CatSynth: The App! for iOS

We’re happy to release the first major update for the iPhone/iPad version of CatSynth: The App!. 1.4.142 (yes, it’s the square root of 2) has the following new features and improvements:

  1. New Mystery Synth #3!
  2. Facebook or email login for comments, favorites and more.
  3. Numerous bug fixes and under-the-hood improvements

It’s that last one that really took the longest: the under-the-hood improvements using a completely rebuilt backend. We might have more to say about the technology that went into it (it’s pretty cool from the point of view of a computer-science geek), but for now we simply ask that if you have an iPhone or iPad, please download and enjoy the new app.

And yes, 1.4.142 for Android is coming soon, too!

Getting Ready for “Play Ball!”, Arc Gallery

“Play Ball!” at Arc Gallery and Studios is a multimedia show about women’s passion for baseball bringing together artists Amanda Chaudhary, Mido Lee and Priscilla Otani. The installation was a true collaboration brought together our respective talents in physical object making, electronics, software, sound, and photography.

One of the more challenging aspects was the interactive sound installation, which was to be installed a series of columns representing the bases on a standard baseball diamond. Four sound sets were composed based on field recordings made at Bay Area games and installed on an Arduino-based system for playback. The electronics included the Arduino itself, a Wave Shield from Adafruit for sound playback, and several motion sensors.

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The sensors and main electronics package were installed in spheres made from baseball scorecards.

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Programming the devices, installing them into the physical space, and then testing and debugging was an incremental, iterative, and at times grueling process. But through repeated efforts and understanding the interaction of sensors, wiring, and our software code we ultimately made it work.

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[Photos by Priscilla Otani]

Within the final installation, viewers can explore the bases and the surrounding life-size images representing the diversity of women at baseball games. As viewers pass by individual bases, different sounds will be triggered, creating an immersive sound, space, and visual experience.

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“Play Ball!” opens at Arc Gallery and Studios on Friday, April 3. In keeping with the theme, traditional stadium fare (including hot dogs and peanuts) will be served.

CatSynth: The App! now available for Android

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We at CatSynth are happy to announce that CatSynth: TheApp! is now available for Android. You can get your copy on the Google Play Store.

It has all the same features as the initial release of iOS, including an Android-optimized reader and manager for the blog, and of course a couple of Mystery Synths 🙂

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So please download, leave us a good review, and share with your friends. But most of all, just have fun with it.


Get it on Google Play

CatSynth: The App! is live in the App Store

IMG_3592We at CatSynth are excited to announce the release of CatSynth: The App! for all iThingies (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch). It is available in the App Store now!

CatSynth : The App! brings you the odd world of cats, synthesizers, music, art and more in a beautiful interface optimized for your handheld device or tablet. New articles are added quite often, so we hope you come back frequently to check them out. And you can always make new and unusual music with the included Mystery Synths!

It should work on all devices running iOS 7.1 or later. Please check it out, maybe leave us a nice review, but most of all just enjoy it. And for our friends on the Android platform, don’t worry, we should be releasing the app for Android quite soon 🙂

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A Personal Remembrance of David Wessel

wessel_at_slab_0I was very shocked and saddened to hear that David Wessel, Director of the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), passed away suddenly on October 13. There have been quite a few thoughtful and strong tributes written in the past few days. Mine is more focused on our personal connection and his influences on my work and interests.

When I came to CNMAT in the mid 1990s, David Wessel was already well established in our small but growing community of academic music with computers. He had already made major influences in the field including timbre spaces and software for real-time musical performance. His focus, both in his own work, and those whom he guided, was on expressive musical performance. Through his introduction, I began working on research that included both of these influences. Along with Adrian Freed, Matt Wright, and others, we embarked are a run of successful research projects and publications, several of which remain influential.

As part of my thesis work, he and I did a version of his groundbreaking piece Antony, which features hundreds of moving partials in frequency space using my OSW software. I am hoping to resurrect the software for that in the coming weeks, but until now this video gives a sense of what this piece is about.

I did also have a chance to work on musical composition and performance at CNMAT. I was quite influenced and inspired by Wessel’s work with controllers and real-time synthesis, especially in ways that preserved the physical embodiment of performance – physical gestures mapped intuitively to musical sounds and ideas, rather than sitting behind a laptop. Although my music and performance style has evolved in very different directions since then, the principle of physical gestures guiding technology for music that he championed has remained a core part of my electronic music.

We got to attend many conferences together, including several years of the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), where he was always ready to include me and others in social gatherings with colleagues from all over the world – he seemed to know everyone in the field. The beer, wine, and spirits often flowed freely, as did the conversation, veering from personal to deeply intellectual ideas in mathematics or psychology. This picture below was taken in Barcelona in 2005, and also includes Roberto Morales and Clarence Barlow.

David Wessel, Roberto Morales, Clarence Barlow

In addition to attending these conferences, he continued to support my participation in musical and research activities and remain a part of the community, most notably sponsoring me for a prestigious Regents’ Lecturer spot in 2011. He had joined the faculty and advisory board of Berkeley’s ParLab for research in advanced parallel computing, and part of the appointment was to give talks and work with students there, but he also made sure that it included the chance to give a solo concert at CNMAT. I still recall the glowing and generous introduction he made for me at the start of the evening. Indeed I was deeply touched by it. I had the chance to return the favor early this year when I introduced him for a panel at the Bone Flute to Auto Tune conference at Berkeley. It was the last time I saw and spoke with him in person.

The entire community around CNMAT and the greater community he touched have been mourning the passing of David Wessel, as well as celebrating is personal, artistic and technological influences. There will be events to remember and celebrate his life over the next month, and I hope to be there for some of them.