The iPod was my last physical connection to music

Apple has discontinued the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle. There wasn’t much fanfare; it was a pretty quiet ending, when you consider that these devices defined a generation and changed the way we listen to music.

It’s utterly unsurprising that Apple made this move — after all, they discontinued the iPod classic back in 2014. There’s just not a need for these devices anymore. With the dawn of the streaming music era, why would you need to carry a physical version of your music collection?

The Nano and the Shuffle were the smaller versions of their original big brother. The larger iPod (remember the days before it even had a click wheel?) was to carry your entire music library — the Nano and Shuffle were just for a taste, the amuse bouche of your tunes. Whether you were listening with those trademark white earbuds or through an unwieldy FM transmitter in your car, with your iPod snugly in its sock, for a bright moment the way we listened to music was at the center of our culture.

It’s almost funny, then, that Apple itself is responsible for making its own devices obsolete. When they first introduced the iPod, and later the iTunes Store, they triggered a sea change in the way my generation interacted with music. It wasn’t just something we listened to, it was something we experienced. But slowly, as our sights shifted from buying digitally to streaming, iPods became less important. Apple pivoted the music industry towards streaming. It’s the natural end to a shift that happened almost two decades ago, and it sowed the seeds for the obsolescence of the iPod.

And yet, for those of us who remember binders upon binders of CDs, this is a sad day. The end of the iPod as we know it is more than just the discontinuation a device. It’s an acceptance that the heady days of my youth, when I agonized over music selection, are over.

I used to painstakingly curate my library; it was something I shared with pride. There was a song for every occasion, whether to describe my current emotions or for a deeper peek into my very identity. Music spoke to me; it defined me. But as I came into adulthood, with all the responsibilities that went along with it, my interest in music slowly dwindled. I didn’t have time for all the passions of my youth, and frankly, it was much easier to listen to a pre-selected playlist on Spotify than to carefully curate my library and explore new artists. I always thought it was a temporary thing, though, that one day, music would return to its pedestal in my life. But now, I realize that day will never come.

The truth is, streaming music has made it so much easier to be a music fan. Virtually every song I could want to listen to is at my fingertips. But there’s something lacking about it. By granting me the ability to listen to everything I want, streaming music has taken something vital away: the hunt, the quest, the sense of triumph that comes with discovering that amazing new band that gets you.

C43363_1HDon’t misunderstand me: I’m not nostalgic about the days of screaming at my iPod as it laboriously synced with iTunes. I don’t miss hitting the bottom of the device against something every time it displayed the Apple screen of death (something to do with the hard drive connections being loose?) I don’t even miss the hours I used to spend looking through music websites to find new artists I might want to listen to. Technology and discovery are so much better these days.

What I miss is something much more personal, a reflection of myself rather than of a device. I miss wanting to do these things. I miss caring enough about music to spend time and energy on it. I miss it having a place at the center of my life, as the key to my identity. I miss valuing it because it made me work for it. The music is still there. It’s my relationship with it that I find wanting.

For many who still collect CDs and vinyl, there is still that physical connection to your music. But for the rest of us, the iPod was the last remnant of that era. It was the tangible embodiment of what our music meant to us, but it’s also the reason we no longer have that connection.

Yes, the iPod Touch is still around, and of course I can load up my iPhone if the mood strikes me. But it seems almost poetic that the device that was the first nail in the coffin for the standalone iPod, the iPhone, doesn’t even have a headphone jack anymore. Technology is changing and evolving, and that’s a good thing. Soon, I’ll forget about my iPod nostalgia and move onto other, better things. But just for this moment, I’m going to choose to remember a time when the iPod taught me that music was all I needed.

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‘Take On Me’ app turns your home into an ’80s music video

A-ha’s classic video for “Take On Me” was the result of painstaking effort — it took 16 weeks to rotoscope the frames, creating that signature blend between the real and hand-drawn worlds. Now, however, you only need an iPhone to recreate the look yourself. Trixi Studios has shown off an augmented reality iOS app that produces the “Take On Me” look in your own home. The proof-of-concept software makes do with virtual versions of A-ha’s Morten Harket and the pipe-wielding thugs, but its effect is more convincing than you might think.

In many ways, the app (which isn’t publicly available, alas) is a showcase of how easy it’s becoming to implemented augmented reality. Trixi wrote the software using Apple’s ARKit, a software toolbox that gives iOS developers a relatively easy way to weave AR content into their apps. They don’t have to make an engine from scratch. You certainly don’t need ARKit to create the “Take On Me” effect, but a framework like that makes it possible for even small outfits to produce slick results. That, in turn, could lead to developers treating AR less as a novelty and more as an important creative tool.

Via: Prosthetic Knowledge, Sploid

Source: Trixi Studios (YouTube)

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Apple CarPlay now supports Google Play Music

If for some reason you’re an iOS and CarPlay user that also manages your tunes with Google Play Music, you’re in luck. Google’s music service is now compatible with Apple’s in-car system, which means you can control things from the safety of your car’s display rather than fiddle with your iPhone while on the road.

CarPlay already works with Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify, so it makes sense that Google would want to get its own service into rotation here. According to 9to5Google, Google Play Music for CarPlay has four main sections. You can view your recommendations on the Home screen, recently played tunes on Recents, your saved music catalog on Music Library and find genres and other collections on Stations. To get this fine feature, you only have to update your Google Play Music app on your iPhone and you’ll be good to go. You can also move the Play Music icon to your main CarPlay screen in the CarPlay Settings on your iPhone to make it even easier to access.

Source: 9to5Google

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An iOS app can help you create an ambient music masterpiece

Getting into electronic music is a breeze these days with all the great iOS apps out there. Ripplemaker, for example, is a fantastic modular synth app that even newbies can use, while veteran synthesizer manufacturers like Korg, Electro-Harmonics and Moog regularly update their apps with the best in modern and retro sounds. If you’re looking for more, you might want to give SynthScaper a look. It promises to turn your iOS device into an ambient music creation studio, with a library of presets that you can customize (or create yourself) to lay down those mellow soundscapes on the go.

Unlike some music apps, you won’t be trying to imitate real instruments with SynthScaper. The developer wants to encourage you to experiment with sounds, musical and otherwise, including weird noises and odd samples to create textured soundscapes. The app has a ton of independent oscillators, layer voices, envelope generators, and arpeggiators to create your aural masterpiece. If playing on the touchscreen isn’t your thing, you can connect up to two MIDI keyboards to your iPad or iPhone. The launch price is right, too: $ 10 for all of this functionality is half the usual price for similarly-equipped music apps.

You’ll need a 64-bit capable iOS device for SynthScaper, thanks to all the processing going on, especially when all the voices and oscillators are going at once. While you can start the app on iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 or 3 with an A7 chip, the developer recommends using at least an iPhone 6, iPad Mini 4, or iPad Air 2 and higher for the best experience.

Via: Fact Mag

Source: App Store

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Google iOS search now finds streaming movies, music and TV

Finding streaming content on your iPhone is getting easier. Google announced on Wednesday that the newest update to its search app on iOS devices will enable users to find TV shows, movies and songs on streaming services. That includes iTunes, Hulu, Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube and Spotify.

The feature, which is already available on Android and the desktop, displays the icons of streaming services that currently offer the content you’re searching for. So, for example, if you look for Zootopia, the app will pop the “Knowledge Box” at the top of the search results. Below the screenshots, movie ratings and synopsis, you’ll now find links to Netflix, Hulu and wherever else it’s streaming. The same goes for music, though you’ll find links to Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora instead. The app will also show how much you’ll have to pay to rent or buy the content.

It’s not a huge addition, but a helpful one. As mobile culture moves from surfing the web to working within apps, this new feature will help users find what they’re looking for more efficiently, regardless of which service the content resides on.

Source: TechCrunch

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GarageBand on iOS is now a more capable music production suite

Apple’s GarageBand is a good place to get started with recording, but it’s useful for more advanced skill levels as well. The company just revealed an update to the iOS version of the app that gives the software a few more tools for tracking on the go. First, the powerful Alchemy synthesizer from Apple’s pro-grade Logic software is now available as an instrument in the mobile version of GarageBand. It includes over 150 patches capable of producing sounds for a range of genres.

Inside the app, Apple has tweaked the sound browser to make it easier to find the so-called Touch Instruments you want to use on a project. The company made the recording process easier as well, thanks to a new Multi-Take feature. Just like in a studio, you can use the tool to capture multiple takes before auditioning and switching between them to see which one works best.

There’s also an updated audio recorder that allows you to employ vocal effects with a single tap. A few of the widely used options are available here, including pitch correction, distortion and delay. More advanced users can expect some new audio processing tools as well. Those include a graphic EQ that handles sound adjustments with the swipe of a finger and the ability to use third-party Audio Unit plug-ins for even more options.

GarageBand for iOS version 2.2 is a free update for anyone with a new iOS device. If you’re still rocking an older iPhone or iPad, you can download the app from the App Store for $ 5.

GaragBand Video iPad (30 sec) Pro Res 422

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12 gifts for music nerds

Nerds come in many forms. Some build stuff, some like video games, and others sweat the tiny details of audio fidelity or salivate over vintage drum machines. That latter group can be difficult to shop for if you’re not initiated in the ways of the music nerd. But don’t worry. Whether the obsessive audio freak in your life is more into making music or listening to it, we’ve got you covered. For those that love composing sweet beats, there’s the TR-09 — a pretty solid remake of the classic 909 drum machine that was essential to creating ’80s and ’90s house and techno. There are also pocket synths for musicians on the go, like the Pocket Operator line from Teenage Engineering.

For those who get their kicks more from listening than creating, there are subscription services like VNYL that deliver fresh pressed records to your door. You’ll also need a solid turntable like Music Hall’s MMF-2.3 to listen to them on, of course. And, if your favorite audiophile also happens to be an iPhone owner there’s an obvious stocking stuffer: Belkin’s Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar. This brings back the headphone jack and lets you charge the phone at the same time!

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.

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Roli Blocks is an affordable, modular way to make electronic music

British music-gear company Roli is mostly known for its attempts at reimagining the piano. The full-size Seaboard and smaller Seaboard Rise may bear similarities to traditional keyboards, but their rubberized, touch-sensitive buttons let you modulate, pitch-bend and slide between notes in a way that’s far different from what you can do on a standard keyboard or synthesizer. However, price is a big barrier to entry — the Seaboard Rise starts at $ 800, while its full-size counterpart will set you back $ 2,000 or more.

But Roli has been working on a way to bring its unique music-creation tools down to a much lower price point, and it’s taking the wraps off those efforts today. Roli Blocks are a set of modular synth controllers that snap together and hook up to your iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth. They’re tiny and inexpensive: The main controller, called the Lightpad, is a small square (less than 4 inches to a side) that sells for $ 179. That’s significantly cheaper than Roli’s other products. And while you can’t play the Lightpad like a keyboard, the short time I spent playing with it and the other Roli Blocks convinced me that it’s still a powerful, flexible and fun music-making tool.

At a high level, the Lightpad is essentially a MIDI controller; it’s useless without hooking it up to an iOS device. But once you do that and install the free Roli Noise app (only for iOS at the moment, but coming to Android soon), you can tweak the Lightpad in myriad ways. In the app, you can pick from 128 different software instruments like synths, bass instruments, pianos, guitars, pan flutes, drum sets and so on. Roli says it’ll continue to release more free instrument updates, and it will also sell instruments created by professional musicians like Grimes, RZA and Steve Aoki. But most of the content you’ll use to make the Blocks system work is already there in the free app.

Once you pick a sound you’re interested in, the Lightpad…err… lights up in a 5×5 grid pattern, with each box representing a note in the chromatic scale. The fun starts when you press your finger down on the Lightpad’s silicon-covered surface. The whole surface is pressure sensitive, so the harder you bear down, the louder the initial tone will be. Holding your finger lets the note ring out, while different slides across the pad will let you tweak the sound in some major ways. If you slide horizontally, you’ll bend the note to whatever pitch your finger lands on. But if you move up and down, you’ll apply each instrument’s modulation effect. You can move your fingers slowly in short strokes to apply a subtle effect, for instance, or quickly move your finger across the Lightpad to really tweak out your chosen sound.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That’s the basic gist of the Lightpad, but there is of course a lot more you can do inside the app. You can pick your scale (say, D major vs. E minor) and it will light up the pad with only the notes that fit into your chosen scale. That makes it a lot easier for someone who doesn’t know much music theory to hit the “right” notes when making a composition.

And the app offers way more than just major and minor scales too. If you’re a fan of the mixolydian mode, that’s an option as well. You can still play “dark” spots on the pad outside of your chosen scale, but the lit-up points help you stay in line. You can also have arpeggiated patterns play when you tap a note.

But while you can technically perform live on the fly with the Blocks system, it also has a fully developed recording and looping system. You can record multiple patterns, assign them to different “blocks” on the Lightpad and trigger them at will. You can also start by recording a drumbeat, layering a lead line and bass over it, and record that entire segment as one piece in a longer composition. I didn’t get to play around with it too much, but in my brief demo it seemed like a fairly robust system.

And we haven’t even gotten into the modular nature of Blocks yet. Each component has magnetic conductors on its side, so you can take two Lightpads and slap them side by side and the system will automatically recognize that you’ve extended your canvas and set it up appropriately. Roli is also offering two other blocks alongside the Lightpad: the Live Block and Loop Block. (They cost $ 79 each.) The Loop Block gives you instant access to the system’s recording and playback features so you don’t have to jump back and forth between your iOS device and the Lightpad while recording a new creation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Live Block is meant for, well, performing live; many of the features buried in the iOS app are exposed here. You can page up and down between software instruments, switch keys and scales, change tempos and effects and so on. While I was able to grasp how these additional blocks gave physical controls to features in the app, it’s a bit harder to say how useful they’d be to most users. There’s a definite learning curve here, though people who more proficient than I am at using sequencers and live electronic music gadgets might master it faster.

Even so, Roli Blocks piqued my interest. I’ve always wanted to get a small, electronic music-making setup but have never quite found what I was looking for. Playing the Lightpad felt intuitive to me, and the vast array of sounds and other variables built into the Roli Noise app make it a very flexible system, particularly at this price. I don’t know if the extra Live and Loop blocks are necessary just yet, but fortunately you don’t have to decide right away. In fact, the free iOS app includes a Lightpad-like view, so you can just start messing around there — and if you get hooked, you can buy the physical hardware controller. If you’d rather try this all out in person, Roli’s new gadgets will be available at Apple Stores this fall as well.

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