Akai EWI 4000s patch editor for Linux 
Sunday, March 1, 2009, 01:52 AM - Misc Music
I just noticed this nice Akai EWI 4000s patch editor/librarian app called EWItool. The best part is that it runs on Linux (as well as on Windoze). There is a pre-compiled debian package too.

It can automagically fetch patches from EWIpatchExchange.

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Akai EWI USB: a quick review 
Friday, December 26, 2008, 08:06 PM - Misc Music
I've been playing with my new Akai's new EWI USB for a couple of weeks now. I have to say, it's a mixed bag. Compared to the more expensive EWI 4000-S, there are pros and cons.
Let's start with the pros: it's a lot cheaper than the EWI 4000-S ($300 versus about $600), it's lighter (no built-in battery, no built-in synth), it's powered through the USB cable, and the breath, lip, pitch-bend, and key sensors are essentially identical to the 4000's, except that they are self-calibrating. Now for the cons: my main gripe is the absence of portamento sensor. The 4000 has a slider on the right side of the octave rollers that, when touched with the left thumb, turns on the portamento (or glissando). I love that feature, but it's absent from the EWI USB.
Second, since the EWI USB doesn't have a built-in synth, it comes with a software synth that runs on PC/Mac. The sounds provided with the soft synth are few and not so great. Many of them do not even react to the EWI sensors (like the pitch bend or breadth control). So, you will need another soft synth if you want decent sounds. I tried to install the soft synth on Linux under wine. The good news is that it runs. The bad runs is that the latency is so high that it's unusable. I'm not sure where the latency comes from, or whether it's fixable.

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Akai EWI USB available 
Saturday, December 6, 2008, 01:02 AM - Misc Music
Akai has announced the availability of the EWI USB, the latest product in their long line of Electronic Wind Instruments. The EWI USB sells for about $300 at Sam Ash, Sweetwater, and other online music instrument stores. It look similar to the EWI 4000S, but has a USB port instead of a MIDI port, and has no built-in sound module. Instead, the EWI USB relies on software synths on PC or Mac to produce sounds. Getting rid of the built-in analog emulation synth allows Akai to bring down the street price from $700 for the EWI 4000S to $300 for the EWI USB.

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Meta-EWI: enhanced electronic wind instrument 
Wednesday, January 3, 2007, 02:33 AM - Misc Music
Thomas Enrique from the University of Lisbon, is presenting his Meta-EWI (enhanced electronic wind instrument) at Dorkbot NYC tonight. As a fan of electronic wind instruments (Yamaha WX-5, and EZ-TP), I couldn't miss that. Electronic Wind Instruments generally have keys, a breath pressure sensor, and a lip pressure sensor. I have always though that more sensors would make the instrument more "personnal". I remember talking about this topic many years ago with David Wessel, director of Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at UC Berkeley. David says that musicians such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis can be recognized after only a few notes because the sound of their instrument is very special. The conformation of the mouth cavity of the player, the rigidity of the lips and other factors, give a personnal "voice" to wind instruments such as saxophones and trumpet. How could we reproduce this with electronic wind instruments?
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Tim Thompson: uber-geek-artist 
Tuesday, January 2, 2007, 12:42 PM - Misc Music
I stumbled again on the web site of my old pal Tim Thompson (a.k.a. "tjt"). Tim is a hacker and musician (I seem to run into a lot of those people). We met in the late 80's when we were both at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ (Tim did some work on our handwriting recognition systems). In the mid 80's, he founded the notorious Mostly Midi Mailing List, in which (mostly AT&T) geek/musisians would exchange tips and ideas about Midi and electronic music. He wrote the ultra cool KeyKit (formerly Keynote) Midi sequencer and composition software, which had a interpreted language front-end (as well as a GUI), and such things as Markov Model for generating melodies (he is a fan of algorithmic composition). Tim is now in California, and seems to be having fun with unusual Music controllers of his own design, real-time video processing, Burning Man contraptions, and such.
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Genesis tribute band concert in New York 
Sunday, November 26, 2006, 09:30 PM - Misc Music
The band The Musical Box played in New York this week-end. TMB is a Genesis look-alike band. They play Genesis music live, re-enacting the live shows of the 70's, down to the costumes, headgears, mannerism, lighthshows, everything. Amazingly enough, the music is more faithful to the studio recordings than Genesis's own live shows. In fact, the original Genesis musicians seem to say that TMB plays Genesis better than Genesis themselves!

I used to love Genesis in my teens and early 20's, so this was a serious nostalgia trip for me. There were quite a few young people in the audience at the Tribeca Performing Art Center, were TMB re-enacted the 1973 "selling England by the pound" show, but most of the audience was about my age....

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Yahama digital trumpet at Hammacher-Schlemmer 
Friday, November 24, 2006, 03:02 PM - Misc Music
Hammacher-Schlemmer, the way-overpriced-but-occasionally-cool gadget store has the Yamaha EZ-TP digital trumpet for sale at 500 bucks.
You sing into it (and use the keys if you want), and the trumpet turns the pitch of your voice into synthesized sound, or to the corresponding MIDI messages (from which you can control another synth). The trumpet has been available in Japan for a while, but this is the first time it is available in the US.
I'm guessing it will be available from other vendors for a much lower price after the holiday season, but since my WX-5 MIDI Wind Controler is broken, I can't wait.

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