Kurt James Werner is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer-Based Music Theory and Acoustics (CBMTA) @ Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA, pronounced "karma"), a composer of electro-acoustic / acousmatic (&c.) music, author of digital signal processing code & compositional algorithms (see: Grani+, boots&cats&&&, &c.), & avid circuit-bender. His research focuses on computer modeling of circuit-bent instruments (see: bent.fm, &c.), experimental audio and visual codecs, and other aspects of music technology. His music references elements of algorithmic / generative composition, breakbeat, chiptunes, musique concrète, circuit bending, & (granular & otherwise) synthesis, in juxtaposition & superimposition, directly & indirectly. He recently received a Bachelor of Science in General Engineering (w/ a secondary field in Acoustics) & a Bachelor of Music in Composition / Theory from UIUC (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
see my music / project / research / &c. notebook at http://kurtjameswerner.tumblr.com. "Things I work on: music, audio / image compression codecs (forensics, and code-assisted databending), computer modeling of circuit-bent instruments, psychoacoustics, synthesis, SLOrk, &c."
upcoming concerts, presentations, &c.
Computer Modeling of Circuit Bending @ Circuit Benders' Ball Nashville, Tennessee [12 April 2014]
The Circuit Benders' Ball is a "festival of free culture, art, music" held in Nashville.
Early circuit benders kept traditional art practice and engineering techniques at arm's length - a mindset prefectly encapsulated by Reed Ghazla's term "anti-theory." Today, the ethos of circuit bending has spread into the digital realm and broader theoretical movements. At the same time, it is now possible to apply computational techniques to unpack the magic in the machines. Kurt James Werner has applied "virtual analog" and "physical modeling" techniques which are well-studied in academia and the commercial sector to analyzing and digitally emulting circuit-bent instruments. This serves dual goals of understanding and preserving these historic devices, and re-opening access to classic devices that have ironically grown scarce and expensive. Kurt will review and demo his work on modeling bent digital devices (see: bent.fm), modded drum machines (TR-808), and preliminary work on the Casio SK-1.
The TR-808 Drum Machine and its Emulations @ Bone Flute To Auto-Tune University of California, Berkeley [24-26 April 2014]
Roland introduced the TR-808 Rhythm Composer in 1980. Though it represented a leap forward in analog drum machine technology (both for its programmability and the quality of its voice design), it was released just as interest in digital sample-based drum machines (such as the Linn LM-1 and the Oberheim DMX) was taking off. Reception and sales were lukewarm, and “the 808″ found only limited use in its intended purpose – the creation of studio demos. Although Roland discontinued the 808 in 1984, it soon found new use (via the bargain bins) as an affordable source of beats for early hip hop and techno musicians.
Today, the 808 remains ubiquitous in many forms of electronic dance music and pop music, as a source of musical material and frequent lyrical reference (see Kanye West’s “808s & Heartbreak”, Ke$ha’s “Your Love Is My Drug”, & many others). Ironically, an instrument once prized largely for its cheapness has become an increasingly expensive commodity. Reacting to this trend, many have emulated the 808, in both software and hardware regimes.
Software emulations of the 808 range from early software samplers that reproduced the interface of the 808 (Propellorhead’s ReBirth RB-338), to signal-model imitations (Tactile Sounds’ TS-808, &c.), to modern physics-based simulations of the actual circuitry of the 808 (the D16 Group’s Nepheton, &c.). Hardware emulations of the 808 range in scope from single voices (see Eric Archer’s work, the XX808 series by TipTop Audio, &c.) to complete clones (AcidLab’s Miami, e-licktronic‘s Yocto, Christian Hartig’s TR-8060, &c.). Interest in hardware and software emulations reaches across borders, connecting experts and hackers, corporations and hobbyists, engineers and producers.
With Kevin Tong, I (re)designed a hardware 808 “mega voice,” capable of simulating many of the 808’s voices and creating new hybrids. My current research focuses on creating physically-informed software models of “circuit-bent” and modded 808 voices. In my presentation, I’ll examine various approaches to recapturing the 808’s original sound and experience, paying special attention to how these emulations track technological progress and social change.