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Generative Monolake MP3s

A new version of the popular music software Ableton Live has been announced. Ableton is gearing up to release Live 6. Musicmakers will be happy to check out the Ableton website, ableton.com, and read about drag’n’drop movie importing, project management tools and “multicore” processing, not to mention its massive “library of meticulously sampled and selected instruments” and a new emulator of vacuum tubes.

Now, whenever there’s a new edition of Live due out, a release by the musician Monolake (aka Robert Henke) isn’t far behind. This is because Monolake is one of the programmers on Live, and the Ableton company was founded by Gerhard Behles, who was Henke’s partner in Monolake for its early releases. Monolake music releases are almost always timed to the arrival of a new Live software release, but Henke is more than just the company’s marquee clothes horse; he’s also its most celebrated alpha-tester, working the software hard in advance of it being offered to the general public.

A quick check of Monolake’s website, monolake.de (look at the “download music” page), indeed reveals two MP3s that appear to have been built on early versions of Live 6. Under the heading “generative ambient,” Monolake lists two freely downloadable files, explaining, “these are pieces created using random operations in Ableton Live (six tracks with Random>Scale>Chord>Operator>Audio FX, triggered via Follow Actions, sets will be posted in software section after Live 6 is out.) They run forever. I just made a recording while they were running.”

By “generative,” Henke means that the files contain music that was less composed in a traditional sense than that it is the result of systems he put together in Live 6 and let run freely. According to his post, once Live 6 has been released, he’ll make some of these patches, or subroutines, available for download as well. In other words: an impending software upgrade engenders experimental music, which engenders more software. (Though Live 6 isn’t commercially available yet, a beta version will be posted for free download and further testing. More info at ableton.com.)

Judging by the file names of the generative Monolake tracks, the shorter of the two, a bouncy, 14-minute round of ping-pongy restraint (MP3), was produced on June 26 and the longer piece, an hour-plus excursion into far more subtle, gently vibrating tones that suggest a tour of an imaginary landscape (MP3), was done as recently as July 6.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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