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Posts tagged as “History”

A Letter To iPad Users

Dear iPad users,

First watch this.

Now, let me admit that I am officially jealous. Why? Because you guys get to play with a bitchin’ version of Rebirth for only 15 bucks.

Oh, you say, what’s so great about Rebirth? Let’s rewind to 1997. I’m a sophomore in high school living in my parents house running a Macintosh Performa of some sort listening to Pantera all the time. The computer ran Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max, and Leisure Suit Larry. It could dial into the internet. I had a version of Photoshop (3.0, the first one with layers) that my brother had pirated for me. It had an enormous 750mb hard drive that was filled with pictures and Word Perfect documents and games. No one knew what a hipster, an IED, P2P, the blogosphere, Google, or an iPhone were. Broadband was years off. The only instant messaging was IRC. I got all my demos from the demo CDs (yes, CDs) stuck to the cover of computing magazines. It had a 3.5″ disk drive. It was so awesome.

It was on one of those CDs attached to the cover of an issue of MacAddict or MacWorld or whatever that I got my first taste of computer music in the form of a demo of Rebirth from Propellerhead Software. Of course, computer music had been around for some time already in the form of the demo scene on the Amiga and old Commodore computers, but this was new to me. I had no idea what a TB-303, a TR-808, or a TR-909 were or that they were what Rebirth was emulating. I had no concept of how important the 808 was to hip-hop music. I had no idea that the 303 had effectively created Acid. There was no Wikipedia. How would you find shit like that out? I was just a teenager in my parent’s house in California avoiding my schoolwork and making luscious crunchy electro sounds on this marvelous and, at the time, prohibitively expensive (199.00) piece of software. I just used the demo over and over and over, unable to save, until it would time me out and I would have to start over. I spent a LOT of time trying to recreate the 303 line from New Order’s “Confusion (Pump Panel Reconstruction)”. You’ve heard it, but in case you haven’t listen below.

[audio:|titles=Confusion Pump Panel Reconstruction|artists=New Order]

People often talk about books or albums of events that had huge impacts on their lives. I think that Rebirth is one of those for me. Couple that with the arrival of Johnny Violent’s “North Korea Goes Bang” on an Earache sampler CD again from the cover of a magazine, and my metal-centric world was split right open. Humorously, the Johnny Violent track was such a secret shameful pleasure of mine that I never really spoke about it to anyone but would still blast it in my bedroom. Listening to it now reveals it to be a little silly, but it was a gateway drug for me.

The combo of Rebirth, the awareness that the creation of such weirdness was accessible, and the Johnny Violent track, the awareness that electronic music wasn’t just bullshit glossy crap, opened up my musical world like nothing else had since my very first metal record years earlier. As the years went on and the stigma I felt for liking electronic music faded, I explored electronic music in depth. The late 90s were a wasteland for interesting heavy metal with nü-metal and rap-metal dominating the scene. Absolutely miserable. Instead, I turned to the sounds of Underworld, Front Line Assembly, Front 242, Future Sound of London, Fluke, Daft Punk, Orbital, Meat Beat Manifesto, and whoever else was exciting and fresh and new.

After the summer of 2002, I had a little bit of money in my pocket and I purchased the then-new Reason 2.5 and a USB MIDI controller. Reason was the successor to Rebirth by Propellerhead Software and it was (and still is) an amazing piece of software. But, with its added complexity and power, the simplicity of making silly little 303 and 808 lines in Rebirth was lost. Sure, you could sample and tweak synths until your eyes exploded and you weren’t limited to strictly linear composition of sequences, but a little something was lost. I’m not saying I would go back, but it was much like learning to edit on a linear taped-based system and the Steenbeck and then moving onto a fully fledged NLE like the Avid or Final Cut. The simplicity engendered by the more limiting systems prevented me from doing a lot of dicking around. Decisions were made and you lived with them. I’ve talked about this before.

Even then Rebirth was lost to me since the Props didn’t invest the time or energy to port Rebirth to OS X. They chose, smartly, to focus their energy on making Reason awesome. Still, the legacy of Rebirth lives on in Reason as a device that will pull info directly from Rebirth into Reason. You can still download it for free from the Rebirth Museum, but it won’t work for me. Alas. Ideally, we’d see them shove Rebirth back into Reason for version 6. No need to make it fancy. Just have it support mods, be sequenceable, be routable and boom. Instant love. And my money.

To bring it all back, iPad users I am jealous that you now have access to one of my favorite, most important pieces of software for a paltry 15 bucks. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t make sense to buy an iPad at 500 bucks (at the cheapest) when I could instead get the much more useful Native Instruments Komplete 7 for the same price. If I bought the iPad with 3G, I could also afford the upgrade to Reason 5+Record 1.5. Pair Komplete and Reason with Logic Pro and I have a formidable synthesizer army capable of unleashing the wrath of the Space Pope on the universe. Nevermind that I’m not that good at making electronic music, it’s still damned fun and it’s money better spent than on trinkets or booze or nonsense.

Does anyone out there want to let me give them 15 bucks so I can put Rebirth on their iPad? Yes?


The Black Laser.

Dick Raaijmakers & Tom Dissevelt and the Ancient Creation of Electronic Music

This is a fascinating look at the prehistory of electronic music (1959!) and early production methods before computers were smaller than large rooms. Neat! Back then, basically a million years ago, electronic music was not the heavily rhythmic, structured style it came to be known as, but an ethereal, spacey, abstract thing, filled with bloops and bleeps and pulses and saws. That’s, of course, because there wasn’t yet any MIDI, drum machines, sequencers, samplers, or any of the modern implements of electronic music production. You can clearly see them actually splicing bits of reel to reel tape to create new sounds, taking a sample in the most literal sense and then manipulating it. Pretty awesome. It all predates even Kraftwerk, the clear grandfathers of the modern electronic music scene, whose breakthrough, genre-defining record, Die Mensch Maschine, wasn’t released until 1978. These Dutch guys in the late 50s were exploring the wild frontier with no rules, no definitions, and no expectations. Everything new and exciting, fresh. The world had never heard sounds like this before.

If this is interesting to you—and it had better be—then I recommend Popular Electronics – Early Dutch Electronic Music From Philips Research Laboratories 1956-1963, a compilation of very early electronic experiments from the Philips lab, obviously. It features music by both of the men in the video, Dick Raaijmakers and Tom Dissevelt, as well as some other folks. It’s not exactly the most listenable thing, especially by modern standards, but it’s fascinating as a historical document. Check it out.

Mannahatta, 1609


Living here in Nueva York for some years, it is easy to forget that this city was a wild place just 400 years ago. I’ve often wondered what it looked like before Europeans landed here in the 17th century. You get a sense of it when driving even a short distance from the city into a place that hasn’t been entirely paved over. Even parts of Staten Island, particularly the southern end, still feel touched by that old wildness.

With that in mind, I found this particularly interesting.

The Mannahatta Project

The Wildlife Conservation Society has attempted to recreate the island of Manhattan as it would have looked just hours prior to the landing of Henry Hudson in 1609. Especially striking is the outline of the island now versus the outline of the island 400 years ago. Landfill has been quite a dramatic force in the reshaping of the land. It’s pretty neat to learn that much of the Upper East Side was swamp land back then. And is still today, just, you know, in a different way.

Click the link to go to the site that features an interactive map of Manhattan. I hope they do Brooklyn next.