Well, the future didn't turn out quite like we planned. And I don't mean that European tour that was this close back in '97, or the ill-fated "I do" from that same year. No, I'm talking about Web 2.o. It just wasn't quite the mad-scientist extravaganza that I (and a lot of other people) expected it to be. Now, I get it. Looking at a more conservative definition of Web 2.0, it's a resounding success. Blogs like this one. eBay. Deviantart. Facebook. Twitter. There's Tweets and Twatts and Farts going everywhere. I can't help but feel that... it's all just web pages, man! Where is the really awesome stuff? In the musical realm, particularly. Where are my toys?
Save your lecture about 'not being afraid of the Web' and economic singularity and the work of the ridiculous Jaron Lanier, because I'm going to the toys.
Does anyone remember the 808? You should, there have been enough odes to its sweet beats. How about the 303? These boxes helped make modern electronic music, both in the techno and rap world, and are rare enough these days to command hefty prices. So a few years back when Propellerhead Software released something called ReBirth, a lot of people were excited. Especially once it became free. Essentially ReBirth was a virtual suitcase, in which was mounted two 303 units for basslines or leads, and not only an 808, but a 909 as well, all topped off with some master levels and effects. It required a little virtual patching to get any useful recordables out of it, but at the very least you could just fire it up and boom, there you are, Mr. Bedroom Acid House Producer.
This leads up to a Facebook post from my friend Todd, the man behind the dearly departed MeowMeow, and brother to my even more dearly departed friend Tim.
Todd is afraid this will absolutely blow your mind: http://bit.ly/audiotool
So, it's ReBirth, as I have described before, but throw in a tone matrix, and a cubic ass-ton of emulated stomp boxes. ON A WEBPAGE. You can drag them around, reconnect, etc... ON A WEBPAGE. This is more like it. The recording and downloading of your musical creations is a work in progress, but I'm sure it will be awesome. At the very least, log on and start making some old school noise. Have fun! I wish more web pages... heck, my car loan payment page, were like this one. I wish more of the VST instruments I use to make music were this organic in interface. It's a small step in the perfect direction.
The same small steps are being taken in other places, such as the Korg DS-10, with its multiplayer support, and the various mods and hacks coming about for other platforms. Where I'd like to see all this transformation go is in the realm of collaboration. You and a few other people jamming out a couple of squoodly electro tunes on the tinny speakers of your DSs is all well and good, but honestly if I want my bandmate to sing up in Oly and I want to hear how it sounds through my Trueverb plugin here in PDX, there shouldn't be a flurry of emails and convertings. That may be an extreme example, but the point remains. I haven't checked out the online collaboration sites for a while- I was turned off by the 'latency makes us all play a measure later' methodology, but I am inspired by Audiotool to check out the current state of the matter. I believe that if more music apps look, sound, and behave in such a creative and cool way, then we will proceed in a much more direct fashion towards the kind of instant non-local participation that I'm sure we all dream about. Let's do it!