All the big Apple news from WWDC, at a glance

Okay, creative pros or itinerant machine art producers or fugitive digital bohemian technomusicologists or whatever we call ourselves – a lot of news just dropped at WWDC, but here’s the stuff that likely matters most to you.

M2 architecture – and a new MacBook Pro 13″ and MacBook Air. The M1 was the first-generation Mac, and it felt a little like early adopter tech compared to the M1 Pro and M1 MAX. Now, there’s both a new architecture – the baseline M2 – and updated MacBook Air and 13″ MacBook Pro. I expect that will make the budget-minded entries far more competitive, and of course will have us on the lookout for Pro and MAX versions and other updates of the M2 Pro and M2 MAX. You also get the stuff I loved on the higher-end models, at the entry-level price. For now, check the 13″ models while we wait on what the bigger siblings will bring.

The MacBook Air also gets a very-tempting hardware redesign. You get a dedicated MagSafe charging port, two Thunderbolt ports, full-height function row on the keyboard with Touch ID, and generally the form factor and touchpad you know from the higher-end models.

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Big surprise – both the new Air and new 13″ Pro models are promised as available next month, though we’ll see in what quantities. (Surprise as in – despite the ongoing pandemic.)

And I’m still excited to see what the MAX can do with Houdini. (For now, these performance gains – while cool – mainly trounce rival PCs in the same price class plus the previous Macs at that tier, though they are impressive.)

Oh, also 13.6″ display and better camera and battery on the Air?

Courtesy Apple.

About that M2 – new features. Apple promises 40% more operations per second for the Neural Engine, a new higher-bandwidth video decoder supporting 8K H.264 and HEVC (hey VJs!), ProRes playback of multiple streams of 4K and 8K video, and new improved image noise reduction.

On the CPU side, you get 18% greater multithreaded performance than M1, says Apple, and … it squashes PCs on efficiency and power, compared with the latest 10-core PCs, but I’ll let you read the claimed stats.

The GPU has a larger cache and higher memory bandwidth with up to 25% higher graphics performance.

I still like the Pro as a sweet spot, but the Pro and MAX also ironed out some glitches on the original M1 so – I’m bullish on baseline M2, too.

macOS Ventura. Spotlight has some cool new tricks that remind me of third-party stuff I’ve used over the years. Stage Manager – uh, hot take, can we just finally tile easily? But yeah, there are now some flashy ways of moving windows around. I think the big bonus here is that there is built-in, internal support for using iPhones as webcams (and mics), which was always a bit dicey with third-party utilities. You also get camera centering with the Ultra Wide camera and clever special effects like “Studio Light.” Camera improvements have me very excited.

The other stuff we’ll need to deep dive on – think accelerated visual performance, which they’re touting for gaming but might well apply to a ton of creative and live visual apps.

There are also new accessibility features that I’ll be curious to explore as far as creative apps. Apple has really led the industry on accessibility in a lot of ways, and a ton of musicians and artists make use of this every day.

I’m sure I can maybe possibly be sold on Stage Manager. I also love what Apple has (finally) done with Focus on iOS, so I’m glad to see that on desktop, too.

And uh – they have the ability to favorite music artists and get notifications when I drop a record. Sorry, I mean, when an artist you actually listen to drops a record.

Current list of changes, overview.

iPadOS 16 + iOS 16. iPadOS 16 is interesting from a collaborative standpoint. Both look like worthy updates, though what’s new for developers, advanced graphics, and music we’ll need to loop back on.

What we didn’t see: No widely-anticipated augmented reality / mixed reality announcement. But I expect “we didn’t get to see the new hardware thing we expected” could well be the theme of 2022, given ongoing major supply chain disruptions. Read: COVID-19 means people can’t get to work in China and other locations, goods can’t move, and the war in Ukraine means raw materials from Ukraine and Russia aren’t getting to their destination. Not to, like, bring down the mood, but we should absolutely get out of the sense of entitlement we’ve tended to have.

Of course, the absence of the rumored augmented reality stuff could also have nothing to do with that. Apple tends to be conservative about showing stuff only when it’s done and ready. And this is new tech for them. I’d say wait and see.

Meanwhile – the Mac sure remains a healthy platform with speed, battery life, and features that come straight out of a lot of user fantasies. Stay tuned for more on the new OS(es) and silicon. I’m personally going to stay focused on upgrading my brain and learning more of Houdini and stuff, and … resting my brain at the lake, too.

Full keynote:

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And the edit from Verge:

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One more thing: Yeah, we better finally call it “Apple Silicon,” not “M1.”

Or just, you know – Mac.

Composer, Developer & Podcaster Darwin Grosse Has Died

Darwin Grosse

Composer, developer & Art + Music + Technology podcast host Darwin Grosse has died.

He had recently announced that he was ending his podcast because of his health issues.

“While I wish this could continue, I’m afraid it no longer can. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and began treatments and procedures that have left me greatly fatigued,” he noted. “Early last week, it became clear to me that my health complications will prevent me from dedicating the time and concentration to AMT that I strive to achieve. As a result, I will be discontinuing the podcast production permanently.”

The news of his death has been shared by friends via Facebook.

Darwin Grosse was a composer & synthesist, a writer, the Director of Education and Customer Services at Cycling ’74 (developers of Max) and a hardware developer.

He released several solo albums via Bandcamp, including The Means Of Production and 2600.repast, and he collaborated with Colorado-based synthesist Mark Mosher as (no)poem.

Darwin Grosse created ArdCore, an Arduino-based programmable module for MU and Eurorack systems.

As a writer, Grosse authored dozens of articles for Recording magazine. For years, he wrote and edited the site He wrote the book series Modular Synth Mastery. And he created educational content like 20 Objects, “A Pragmatic Method for Learning Max/MSP/Jitter and Max for Live”.

As part of his Masters Degree program, Grosse developed the ArdCore platform,  an Arduino-based multi-function device for modular synthesizers. ArdCore is an early example of an open source hardware + software platform in the modular world.

The module, which has been made available in both MU and Eurorack formats, can be loaded with a wide range of firmware, so it can be used as a quantizer, sequencer, clock divider, gate sequencer and more.

Darwin Grosse was most widely known, though, as the host of the Art + Music + Technology podcast.

His wide-ranging background meant that he was equally at home interviewing synth pioneers like Morton Subotnick, tech gurus like Native Instrument co-founder Stephan Schmitt and keyboard gods like Herbie Hancock. He hosted more than 380+ episodes, which are a massive resource for synthesists.

Episodes of the Art + Music + Technology podcast are available via the podcast site.

UK venues experiencing 30% increase in costs compared to pre-pandemic, survey finds

Soaring inflation amid the UK’s cost of living crisis is having a significant impact on the UK’s nightlife industry, according to a new survey by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA).

Seeking the views of around 200 nightlife businesses in the UK, the NTIA’s research concluded that almost half are “unsure” of whether they will still be business beyond the next year, while more than half of the surveyed businesses reported a 30% increase in operating costs compared to pre-pandemic levels.

This has been attributed to the UK’s cost of living crisis, which has seen energy prices soar, alongside costs associated with various business supplies such as food and drink.

Another of the concerning findings to have emerged from the NTIA’s research is that 48% of the businesses reached out to have said they are currently “barely breaking even”, and 20% of those also say they are frequently losing money as things stand.

In addition to rising prices, those in the events industries are facing supply chain issues associated with Brexit, soaring insurance premiums, a shortage of trained staff with many having left during the closures of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the possibility of having to pay back pandemic debts.

The businesses surveyed have seen a 37% increase in energy costs on average since reopening. Many businesses and promoters are also struggling to sell tickets for events as the cost of living crisis forces many people to cut costs and eats into their disposable income. 15% of the survey’s respondents told the NTIA they have lost as much as half of their pre-pandemic trade.

In a statement issued alongside the NTIA’s research, the organisation’s CEO, Michael Kill, said: “

These figures are extremely hard to ignore, the situation is worsening day by day, with operating costs becoming untenable. We are starting to see the impact on customers through slowing ticket sales, bookings and frequency of visits.

“Our industry is still extremely fragile, many will struggle to survive another crisis. Time is running out, the Chancellor must act now, and answer the calls from the industry to reduce VAT back down to 12.5%, and [introduce] an energy cap for SME businesses.”

Read the full findings of the NTIA’s survey here.

WHO warns festivals could amplify spread of monkeypox

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that summer festivals, and other such large-scale events in the coming months, could amplify the spread of monkeypox.

The contagious virus has recently been at the centre of a significant outbreak across Europe and the US. Considered similar to smallpox, its effects, however, include a milder rash, while it also carries a lower mortality rate than smallpox. The virus is typically carried by animals in tropical regions of central and West Africa, where small numbers of cases are often reported.

Issuing a warning around the virus’ spread across Europe and the US, the WHO said that summer festival season could “provide further contexts where amplification may occur”.

The virus is known to be spread through very close contact with an infected individual, such as through sexual contact, as well as potentially through clothing or bed linen.

“As new patients present every day, investigations into past cases show that the outbreak in our region was certainly underway as early as mid-April,” said WHO Europe regional director Dr. Hans Henri Kluge. “Many – but not all cases – report fleeting and/or multiple sexual partners, sometimes associated with large events or parties.”

Describing Europe as currently being at the epicentre of the outbreak, he said the potential for further transmission of the virus was high because the most recent series of cases present the “largest and most geographically widespread monkeypox outbreak ever reported”.

As of Sunday, 5th June, the UK has recorded 302 total cases of monkeypox. Symptoms of the virus include new rashes and blisters on your skin.

Speaking last week, Kluge said that while the “rapid, amplified transmission [of the virus] has occurred in the context of the recent lifting of pandemic restrictions on international travel and events”, we won’t quite need to see the levels of restrictions introduced that were required to combat early outbreaks of COVID-19. 

The risk to the public from the virus, Kluge said, “remains low”, but health officials are warning people to pay close attentions to new spots, rashes, ulcers and blisters.

Glastonbury announces memorial structure burning for last night of festival

This year’s Glastonbury festival will draw to a close with the symbolic burning of a large sculpture on site.

During this year’s event, attendees will be invited to write messages about things they wish to let go of on a 40-foot sculpture shaped like a lotus. The sculpture, created by artist Joe Rush and a fellow team of artists, has been constructed from salvaged wood and canvas.

The sculpture will be based close to The Park Stage, and it will be symbolically burned at midnight on the festival’s last day, Sunday, 26th June.

In a statement about the project, festival organiser Emily Eavis said: “During the Festival, people will be encouraged to write down memories and images of people or situations that they wish to let go of, it may be people who died in the lockdown who were not properly said goodbye to, it may be failed business projects, may even be failed marriages, but the point is that all of these things will be focused on and then placed inside the Lotus.”

She continued: “At midnight on Sunday of the festival the Lotus will be ignited and while the flames roar up, the whole gear-driven inferno will be burnt to nothing and with this we will be able to let go and get some closure. A cathartic moment and one that many of us need.”

This year’s Glastonbury takes place from 21st-25th June. Last week, set-times were revealed for across the festival site.

Houdini’s tricks: inspiration and tutorials for the essential free-to-start visual tool

It’s time to become a visual escape artist. Houdini, the 3D procedural tool from SideFX, is vital secret sauce in visuals, including live and immersive AV. But what’s it about – either technically how to use this thing or why and how to get inspired? There are some great recent videos from the Houdini folks with just that in mind. Don’t forget, too – it’s free for Unreal and Unity use.

Oh yeah, and it’s great to see OFFF, the creative festival, back in the mix – whatever the tool. So here’s what’s up. (Pictured at top / XK Studio for London Symphony Orchestra)

First, let’s catch you up on Houdini – and yes, it is one of the Great CDM Create Digital Motion Wormholes.

A great place to start is the MOPs, which let you immediately treat Houdini like a kind of visual instrument:

Remember, it’s free for Unity and Unreal users, too:

And indeed, combining Houdini with other tools is a big part of how to make it work:

But what about non-technical artists? From OFFF HIVE 2022, two educators talk about exactly that problem, and a topic I always love – pain. “Why do I even want to learn Houdini?” And how do you approach it without a technical background?

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For all the sameness of a lot of motion graphics, then you see extraordinary work like Alexa Sirbu and Lukas Vojir. I find this really inspiring – and a cue for where live and performance visuals might go, as well. “Hyperrealism, tactility, emotion” – check, check, and check.

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XK seek to combine the technical prowess that Houdini offers with narrative abstractions and hyper-real art direction in creating seductive, even hallucinatory movement and materiality.

Alexa Sirbu and Lukas Vojir are the founding artists of XK studio. A design and motion practice, with experimentation at its core, they specialize in the creation of high-end 3D visuals and films. The studio has evolved into a team of creative minds who adopt a blend of artistic and technical approaches to craft striking visuals for brands worldwide. Drawing inspiration from the worlds of nature, fashion and art, they focus on reimagining these concepts and exploring the boundaries of beauty through a digital, futuristic lens. They closely collaborate with their clients to produce mesmerizing motion, meaningful narratives and daring aesthetics.

More of their work:

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LSO pic also at top. See their studio:

And more motion designers – but wow, would love to see live folks more represented, too:

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Okay, so ready to give this a try? They’ve been busy uploading tutorials on the Houdini account, too.

The Destruction FX gives you a primer on a number of related physics topics and as they put it: “One of the things that makes visual effects fun is that you get to blow things up without causing any real damage.”

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There’s a ton of stuff to dig through there, but I found this lightning strike FX tutorial to be grounding. Sorry, unintentional pun, really.

Start from the beginning – you get a great look at Niagra and a ton of different tools come into play over the full series:

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Their series on nodes has been great, and very much up to the alley of CDM visuals, complete with lesson/project files — mm Pyro Solver, Volume Deform:

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And they’ve been doing little “snacks” on topics like, uh, swirly things:

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So yeah, can you just, like, dump this stuff into Unreal or Unity? Indeed you can.

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What about M1?

Well yes, I am very excited for M1 native support. It’s already in a tech preview if you’re brave:

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But Rosetta 2 can already do a lot.

Get it

Check SideFX Houdini:

Oh, and still more wild Houdini-for-music ideas:

Dave Smith, founder of Sequential Circuits, father of MIDI, dead at 72

Dave Smith, founder of Sequential Circuits, father of MIDI, dead at 72Dave

Dave Smith, the founder of Sequential Circuits and the father of both MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and the Prophet 5 synthesizer, has died at the age of 72. Smith is reported to have died of a heart attack while attending Movement Music Festival in Detroit.

Smith is regarded as one of the industry’s most influential figures, owed not only to Sequential, a synthesizer company that has played a large part in dance/electronic music production hardware over the past 40 years, but also to his pioneering efforts related to MIDI and Prophet 5. MIDI, a protocol that supports communication between computers, musical instruments, and other hardware, was developed to standardize digital music hardware. It remains an industry standard today, and in 2013, Smith was presented with the Technical Grammy Award for the development of MIDI.

Smith is also noteworthy for developing the Prophet 5, the first fully programmable polyphonic synthesizer to use a microprocessor. The Prophet 5 launched in 1978 and thereafter, was used in Kraftwerk’s music, among that of other dance/electronic creators.

Featured image: @sequential_llc/Instagram

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London is getting a new 25,000-square-ft club, HERE

A new venue is opening in Central London this September called HERE.

The club will be situated four stories beneath Soho’s Denmark Street, and have a capacity of 2,000 people. It forms part of a redevelopment project in the area, called Outernet London, which has been going on for a number of years.

The team behind the 25,000-square-foot space have described it as the “first venue to be purpose built in Central London since the 1940s”, and it will host live concerts and electronic music club nights upon opening. According to social media posts, HERE will also come with “cutting edge audio and visual technology”.

London promoter Simon Denby, part of the team behind both Percolate and London’s Waterworks festival, and New York artist Nicolas Matar, will oversee the programming of the new venue’s club nights.

Speaking collectively to Resident Advisor about their plans for the space, Denby and Matar said: “We’re focusing on a diverse range of electronic music, with club and live shows reflecting the makeup of London’s diverse and exciting musical heritage. It will also be a space to host the best of worldwide touring talent with all its contemporary and eclectic musical strands.”

They continued: “Top-level production is at the heart of the project. The sound treatment is more like that of a music studio, but on a very large scale unseen in London clubland. It features the latest D&B Audiotechnik sound system installation, a top-spec lighting rig and a huge 8K resolution screen.”

Another venue will also open in the same space, called The Lower Third. Run also by the team behind the Outernet redevelopment project, the 350-capacity space, previously known as 12 Bar Club, had been closed since early 2015.

Mike Williams, Magnificence link up for turbulent Musical Freedom single

Mike Williams, Magnificence link up for turbulent Musical Freedom singleMike Williams Dancing Astronaut Credit Press

Dutch standout Mike Williams returns to Tiësto‘s Musical Freedom for the first time since 2021’s “Get Dirty,” this time to link up with fellow countryman Magnifience for “Here For You.” The new release displays a completely new facet of Williams’ signature bigroom sound in its lean into future rave territory. It’s also the first time that Williams has working alongside Magnificence, who’s steadily built a name for himself with releases on the crème de la crème labels such as Axtone, STMPD, and of course, Musical Freedom.

Williams and Magnificence’s new single easily gets by on its unadulterated, high-octane energy, but the release is made all the more memorable by its dark-yet-vibrant rave aesthetic, apparent from start to finish. With early support from Timmy Trumpet, W&W, Tiësto, and Nicky Romero, it’s clear that “Here For You” is one of the 2022 festival circuit’s sureshot hits. Stream “Here For You” below.

Featured image: Eric Bergenstråhle

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Hear SIDEPIECE and Lee Foss sample Ciara on ‘1, 2 Step’

Hear SIDEPIECE and Lee Foss sample Ciara on ‘1, 2 Step’IMG 5457 2

Sampling hits from the early 2000’s continues to be a trend among tech-house producers. Grammy-nominated duo SIDEPIECE and Repopulate Mars label head Lee Foss take inspiration from Ciara and Missy Elliot’s R&B fan favorite “1,2 Step” on what surfaces as their first joint effort. “1, 2 Step” is SIDEPIECE’s first single since February’s “Don’t Keep Me Waiting,”; for Foss, it comes in response to his May 13 EP, Golden State.

Beginning with an ominous build, “1, 2 Step” layers in powerful drums over the sampled lyrics. Premiered during SIDEPIECE 2021 EDC Las Vegas set, this house tune has been waiting in the wings for seven months and now, it’s primed and ready for play across the summer festival circuit.

Stream “1, 2 Step” below.

Featured image: Tyler Fuhrmeister

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