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Bebot, the Cute Little Robot Synth (MP3)

The little sound-toy and audio-game apps showing up on systems like the iPhone are multiplying so quickly, a filter might be beneficial toward separating sound-making wheat from auto-tune chaff. One such filter is to observe the blogging of working musicians, to see which of these apps (from hand-held four-track recorders to iPod sequencers to Nintendo DSi time-stretchers) make the cut of people who are used to producing music on something more established than, say, their cellphone.

John Keston, founder of audiocookbook.com, has singled out the cartoony Bebot as one of his favorite such apps, and in late July he posted a little song that he composed on it (MP3). It’s a sweet if maudlin tune, Eno-esque synth baubles (soft little willfully artificial pings and bleeps) eking out a little melody. Keston’s experiment exemplifies how these sorts of sound apps seem especially appropriate for experimenting with melodic development. Listen as he slowly replays, with each pass, something nearly equivalent to his initial melodic riff, but with the successive iterations doing something slightly different — dropping in or out a note, playing with phrasing, employing once-only filigrees.

[audio:http://audiocookbook.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/bebot_music.mp3|titles=”Bebot Music”|artists=John Keston]

In fiddling with various apps, Keston asked the straightforward question: “which apps might lend themselves to being productive tools for creative artists?” And he praises Bebot as something that, as he put it, “could be used effectively for performances and recording.” Here’s an image of a typical Bebot screen:

In the app, you manipulate the little robot to make sounds. The promotional material lists among its features “4-finger multitouch polyphony, multiple synthesis modes, user-definable presets and scales, tweakable synth settings and effects.”

More on Bebot at the website of its programmer, normalware.com. More on Keston at johnkeston.com. Above screenshot from the appcraver.com/bebot review.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , , , , , / Comments: 4 ]

4 Comments

  1. zbeam
    [ Posted August 17, 2009, at 6:18 am ]

    a freind of mine had a go using this on my phone a few months back. i had the idea of plugging it into a cross fader to get better volume control and to takeadvantage of his scratching skills.

    sounded pretty nice indeed. i made a little recording of it using another iphones audio recording software but its open mike and a bit grainy… wish someone would create a line in jack.

  2. Erik Schoster
    [ Posted August 20, 2009, at 8:09 pm ]

    Bebot has made its way into my recent live set – something about the freeform grid paradigm just makes sense and opens my head up to different choices when I play – with the piano interface being sort of the defacto standard to break out of I suppose. Anyway, it’s one of my favorites too!

  3. Marc Weidenbaum
    [ Posted August 21, 2009, at 12:21 am ]

    Yeah, I’ve been enjoying it. A lot of options under the hood. What other sound apps are you digging? I just downloaded Star6 today.

  4. Erik Schoster
    [ Posted August 21, 2009, at 2:41 pm ]

    I haven’t seen Star6 yet – curtis of course is pretty fun, but I haven’t found it terribly useful beyond being a fun sound toy. The one I found via Peter Kirn’s blog the other day though really has me excited — SunVox is a pretty full featured DAW for the iphone and tons of other mobile platforms. That one has absolutely made it into my set – I’ve got bebot on the ipod and SunVox on the iphone running into my mixer, which in turns runs into my little netbook. It’s the tiniest and most robust setup I’ve worked out to date! Exciting time to be a laptop musician for sure…

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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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