Visionary Tatsuya Takahashi leaves a huge legacy as he departs KORG

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It’s not an exaggeration to say that Tatsuya Takahasi has changed the face of the modern synth industry.

And I can even say that literally. “Tats” has become a household name in the international synth community in a way no other Japanese engineer, designer, or leader has. (Compare, for instance, Hiroaki Nishijima, creator of the MS-20 – a name people rarely know as readily as they do the synth.) Korg products are still the work of big teams, like any large maker, but Tatsuya has been a public figure, outspoken and eloquent in the description of the instruments he’s created and the philosophy behind them. (Perhaps his Western upbringing has mattered, too – Tatsuya spent a lot of his formative years in London and speaks English as if it’s a first language.)

That in itself is important, but even more so is the direction Tatsuya and KORG have taken with making synths more accessible, popular, and influential.

Ask a few years ago what would have the biggest impact on synthesis reaching new audiences, and I’ll bet a lot of people would have pointed to mobile apps. Instead, in his role leading design and engineering for analog synths, Tats made synth hardware the democratizing force. I think you could even go as far as saying that hardware, more than apps, has been what has most impacted the culture of music making in recent years and inspired the greatest passion in the present generation of electronic musicians.

Why is this man smiling? Why, because Tats has just finished what's likely to be another big hit for KORG.

Tatsuya visiting my studio last year with his (then-new) Minilogue, which I think is one of the best synths in recent years.

The long string of synth gear launches Tats has overseen has some clear themes. These are instruments that are fun to play with, offer lots of hands-on control, and typically feature battery power and portability. And what a roll he’s been on: the monotron (monosyth), monotribe (drum machine), volca series (synthesizers and drum machines), and most recently minilogue polysynth and its follow-up the monophonic monologue were all projects he led. He’s also been behind the analog reissues of the MS-20 and ARP Odyssey ad the SQ-1 sequencer. And he did the littleBits synth kit in collaboration with littleBits.

Tats talks about his populist philosophy in his public letter on Facebook (below, in case you haven’t read it already). But it’s worth noting just how far this realm has come.

Serial number 101 = the first serial number for volca, ever. No, we don't get to keep it. This is the unit Tatsuya himself was carrying around.

Serial number 101 = the first serial number for volca, ever. No, we don’t get to keep it. This is the unit Tatsuya himself was carrying around.

Making synths in this way really has transformed music. When a synth costs under $200 (like the volca series) or even under $100 (like the monotron), there’s a vastly larger segment of the population that can afford it. This isn’t a question of quality; there are some people who simply don’t have the disposable income to invest in a pricier instrument.

Reducing the price also telegraphs that this is something you can play with, something open to experimentation. It begs you to relate to the object differently on an emotional level. And actually, I think music benefits when you imagine a toy and all the freedom that implies, rather than a tool. An inexpensive synth is something you can try without saying something like, “hey Mom, hey Dad, I’m enrolling in ten years at the music academy, will you buy me a ‘cello?”

Singing has that kind of accessibility. Folk instruments can be handed down, like a mandolin, and have a similar emotional relationship. But synthesizers risk becoming the domain of people with extra cash and with an already established love of the field. When we say “too snobby,” we mean literally that an instrument becomes an expression of class. And I don’t think that’s something this world needs more of at the moment.

I have a personal connection to that saga, because it’s a story that has followed CDM, too. And that message came from people who read this site. Before KORG released the monotron, readers were already devising cheap DIY solutions to produce their own portable, cheap synths. Readers were telling me how important these values were to them, before KORG responded with a product with those values. Then Canadian engineer James Grahame started talking to me about the inexpensive, portable digital monosynth he wanted to produce. We had already started on schematics when the first monotron arrived on the scene – and instantly recognized that it embodied a lot of the philosophy we had talked about.

But that was really an important moment. Big companies – any big companies, even in electronic music – don’t tend to move quickly. So to see an individual bring this kind of new philosophy to one of the so-called Japanese “big three” was a revelation. Here was someone who “gets” it. And Tats and his team have continued to deliver hit after hit after hit. This has benefited our community twice over. One, KORG have a scale, technical competence, and distribution and marketing apparatus that smaller makers can never match, which means these products can reach a wider array of people worldwide. Two, there’s been the significance of having that resonance in a larger maker – it validates this populist agenda and even sets a standard for those of us who don’t have our own factories at our disposal.

Moreover, Tatsuya has helped lead the resurgent interest in analog synthesis, much in the way that Lomography has rejuvenated film photography.

It’s also redefined what’s important about analog and hardware, which is not so much the analog circuitry itself as hands-on control and simplicity – stuff that’s fun to play. So you can see KORG’s mark not only on new analog stuff from some of its competitors, but also on the (digital) AIRA and Boutique series reissues from Roland, and Yamaha’s Reface keyboards.

And I think KORG’s leadership has also helped all the other synth boats rise, too. Tats’ commitment to openness – releasing filter schematics and hackable boards, and working on the littleBits as an educational tool – has aided other boutique DIY makers (like us, for sure). KORG were the first major maker to embrace open source hardware licensing for one of their products, after some of us did it in much smaller enterprises.

For KORG’s part, it’s clear that this spirit won’t depart alongside Tatsuya. He promises in his letter to remain in an advisory role. And I think he’s taught the whole organization a lesson in what’s possible and commercially viable – indeed, all of us. You can also bet that some less publicly-visible people at KORG will carry on his new spirit and dream up some new ideas. Tatsuya mentions “Tada” in the Facebook post, for instance. He confirmed with me that that’s a reference to Tadahiko Sakamaki, product planning. Figuring out who will carry the torch – if perhaps a bit more quietly or less publicly – will be something I’m sure we’ll all be trying to suss out. But it is important to note that these are team efforts. That’s not to take away from Tatsuya’s talents – far from it; I think it’s harder to drive clear product focus with big teams and large scale.

Looking beyond KORG, though, I think it’s inspiring to read Tats’ email partly because there’s a lot more to do. If we really want to make synthesizers more accessible, if we want to make them work in education, if we want them to reach more people including those who lack the financial resources of our main market, if we want to be socially responsible instrument makers and musicians, we’re only getting started. And I think there’s a role not just for big players like KORG, but also all of you one-person and two-person shops making modules and kits and weird inventions. All of you CDMers, that is.

Tatsuya is moving to my country of residence Germany. I have no idea what he’s working on next when he says he will “explore new areas where sound and technology can have positive social implications.” He does assure us that’s not in this industry. But I wish him the best – and hope we all meet in Köln or Berlin soon, as this country is home to ever more inventors. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter will be.

Korg's Tatsuya Takahashi stops by our studio, playing his volcas (and a bit of MeeBlip with us, too!)

Korg’s Tatsuya Takahashi stops by our studio, playing his volcas (and a bit of MeeBlip with us, too!)

Here’s his parting letter:

THANK YOU!!!
It’s been a good ten years at Korg!

A few years after starting at the office, Tada and I, over a cigarette break, started shooting ideas around for a battery powered pocket analog synth. The monotron was the humble beginnings of what became a mission to make synthesizers fun, exciting and accessible again. To give synthesizers back to the people. To make synthesizers less snobby. To open up creative opportunities. To get people interested in electronic sound and see some kind of light in creating their own sound using technology amidst a world that is inundated with it.

monotrons, monotribe, volcas, minilogue, monologue, some reissues, SQ-1, littleBits synth kit – we put out a lot of gear.

After a blur of 21 products we released over seven years, I look at the world of synthesizers and it’s a pretty cool place. I see kids getting their first taste of synths with the volcas. I meet people who have their dormant synth passion rekindled by the minilogue. And it’s not just Korg. The whole industry has set out to achieve this common goal.

The name volca comes from the German word Volk: “the people” or “crowd”. Like Volkswagen “the people’s car”, the volcas are “the people’s synth”. I have fond memories of meeting Mike Banks and being told how the volcas reached poverty-stricken youths in Detroit. That manufacturers have to take responsibility for the social implications of putting out gear.

On the 17th of February I will be leaving my full time position at Korg and will sidestep to advisor. I will also be moving out of Tokyo to Cologne to explore new areas where sound and technology can have positive social implications. I won’t be going to any of the competition, but rather will be shifting direction of my main line of work while at the same time guiding the now super team at Korg venture into the future.

I am hugely indebted to everyone in engineering (my super duper team will keep designing the best of the best), production (love you all in Vietnam we did this together!), sales (job well done), marketing (fun times making those movies), distribution / dealers (essential work the world over), media (you guys got the word out) and most of all the musicians out there who are creating music with our synths – without you our work is meaningless.

THANK YOU

it’s been a ton of fun. more to come.

Tats

Via Facebook

The post Visionary Tatsuya Takahashi leaves a huge legacy as he departs KORG appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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Modding a Porsche 911 to Play Doom Is Absurdly Dangerous

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By now, it seems safe to say that Doom can be played on any device a person wants. It’s been adapted for printers, ATM machines, calculators, the Apple Touch Bar and many others. But none of those devices have 370 horsepower to send you careening down a road, honking like a maniac while you blow demons back to hell.

A YouTuber going by the name vexal uploaded this video tutorial showing what he claims to be a step-by-step guide to playing Doom on the console screen of a Porsche 911. That would be moderately interesting on its own but as he explains, the cars shifter, horn, accelerator and steering wheel all control the game—meaning you drive while you play.

According to his steps, take a flash drive that contains a single file with the car’s VIN number on it. Insert the drive into the Porsche’s USB slot and start the car. That should take the computer system into debug mode. Then, insert the game (he shows Doom II but says it works with the original as well) and select it on the console screen.

Once the game is fired up, start driving, start shooting and start praying because this isn’t safe. In fact vexal says that this video was shot on private property and warns not to try this on public roads. We’ll go further and suggest no one tries this at all. Even on private roads you could hurt yourself or your incredibly expensive sports car.

[YouTube]

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Endless nuclear power can be found in the seas

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Climate change is such an urgent issue that despite problems with radioactive waste, nuclear power is once again viable until renewable solutions like solar and wind are more widely adopted. The ocean is a good source of uranium fuel, but it exists in such small quantities that extracting it hasn’t been economically feasible. However, Stanford researchers have developed a new technique that can capture up to three times more, meaning we might soon get a new source of uranium that could help keep CO2 in check.

A surprising amount of uranium exists in the ocean in the form of positively charged uranyl ions (no jokes please). The total is estimated at 4.5 billion tons, enough to power current plants for around 6 millenia. However, there’s only around a grain of salt per quart (three parts per billion) and so far, it’s been too time-consuming and expensive to extract it in decent quantities.

The best way to get uranium out of salt water is to dip plastic fibers coated with an organic chemical called amidoxime into seawater. The uranyl ions stick to the amidoxime, and can later be extracted and refined into uranium fuel. The key to its practicality is how quickly ions can be capture, how much sticks and how often the fibers can be reused.

Chong Liu examines a carbon-amidoxime electrode before assembling it into the flow device.

Researcher Chong Liu examines a carbon-amidoxime electrode (Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News)

The Stanford team came up with a conductive hybrid carbon and amidoxime fiber prototype that’s better in all three of those areas. By sending electric pulses down the fiber, it was able to absorb up to nine times as much uranyl as previous fibers without becoming saturated. Over an 11-hour test at Half Moon Bay, the team captured three times as much uranium and the fibers had thrice the lifespan of standard amidoxime.

In 2012, a Japanese team estimated that their seawater extraction technique, using previous tech, could be developed for about $300 per kilogram. That was about three times the commercial price at that point, but right now, the price is around half of that. "We have a lot of work to do still, but these are big steps toward practicality," said the paper’s co-author, Li Cui. "For much of this century, some fraction of our electricity will need to come from sources that we can turn on and off. I believe nuclear power should be part of that mix."

Source: Stanford

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Can Blockchain Make Music Great Again?

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dj, music

Blockchain technology can’t write songs or play instruments – at least not yet. But, it might be able to ensure that those who do get the proper credit and compensation, a problem that has always bedeviled this $15bn industry.

Since the start of the 2017 alone, both The Three Degrees and The Carpenters have brought cases against their record companies for alleged unpaid royalties.

And the modern move towards streaming services, like Spotify and Jay Z’s Tidal, has brought a plethora of cases where artists said they have not been adequately compensated for the use of their music.

In 2015, for example, Spotify was sued for $150m by a group of artists who claimed that the service had reproduced and distributed their music without permission. Tidal, too, has been hit with law suits over the issue.

The Open Music Initiative (OMI) is a newly launched consortium that seeks to leverage blockchain technology to solve disputes like these, but it’s far from the only one.

There are a number of companies dedicated to building a blockchain solution for music, including dotblockchain Music (dotBC), Mycelia, MusicChain and UjoMusic, said attorney Jason Epstein, a partner in the Nashville office of Nelson Mullins, where he co-leads the technology and procurement industry group.

OMI is being led by the Berklee College of Music Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE) in Boston, in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab and IDEO, and with support from a number of major music labels, media companies, streaming services, publishers, collection societies and nearly 100 other founding entities.

Panos Panay, co-founder of OMI and founding managing director of BerkleeICE told CoinDesk:

"The objective behind the initiative is to use our academic neutrality and research abilities to advance the process of creating an open protocol."

If that sounds dense or unfamiliar, you’re not alone.

Stuck in the Middle With You

To understand how the blockchain could benefit the music business, it’s important to first understand a bit about that industry, Panay notes.

For one, it’s a complex mesh of many players, most who stand between the artists and musicians who create the music and the consumers who listen to it.

All of these players – record companies, publishers, streaming service providers – have their own separate databases to keep track of who owns the rights to the music and who is owed what money.

But none of these databases talk to each other. On top of that, ownership of the underlying assets – the composition of the songs as well as the sound recordings of the music – change hands all the time.

Another problem is the "dynamic and conflicting nature of the metadata itself", Epstein said.

"One company’s data will have identifiers for works, contributors, recordings and artists as one thing and another company may have different identifiers altogether. Often, there are even conflicts with the data in the same company," he continued.

For example, Chuck Berry, Charles Berry and other variations on the name could all be the same person, but might have different identifiers. This makes it very difficult to identify the works and who to pay, Epstein said.

"This lack of interoperability, coupled with the complexity of the way music is being both created and consumed, has created an issue where hundreds of millions of dollars are not really sent to their rightful owners," Panay said in interview.

He sums up the problem, and the opportunity for blockchain, succinctly:

"Just about every lawsuit you hear about in the music industry is ultimately the result of this lack of uniform way of identifying ownership."

Ball and Chain

Panay took his argument a step further, suggesting that this design also holds the industry back from its own ability to innovate. The cost of starting a new streaming service, he said, is prohibitively expensive, largely because of rights and licensing.

"Right now if your music gets played on the radio or in a restaurant or on a streaming service, it takes a minimum of 18 to 20 months to get paid, and when you get paid you have no idea if that is the right or wrong amount,” Panay said.

Panay argues a blockchain-type system could add oversight – a subject he knows about as the founder of Sonicbids, a leading platform for bands to book gigs and market themselves online.

OMI, he said, "is an attempt that uses the underlying technology of blockchain to effectively create a distributed ledger that enables all of these different databases and applications to interoperate."

Indeed, the distributed nature of blockchain tech, he said, is "catalytic" to making music industry participants excited about joining OMI.

"The technology is proving critical to getting the players to the table to advance this," Panay said. "For me it’s all because of the nature of the underlying technology."

For example, it sidesteps the past issues that have become apparent when central authorities have entered the equation, Panay said, adding:

"At its core, this is a distributed ledger where they are able to share data and validate transactions without having to give up their individual sovereignty."

Nevertheless, blockchain isn’t necessarily a panacea, said Epstein.

"Tracking royalties and licensing rights is only as good as the metadata associated with the data," he explained, suggesting that the solution may lie in combining blockchain with other technologies.

For example, one of his clients, Dart Data, uses machine learning to resolve the dynamic nature of data conflicts, which would facilitate the use of blockchain in the music industry.

Come Together

The exploration, while still in its infancy, has also attracted some major players who you might not associate with the finer arts.

For example, OMI is using Intel’s Sawtooth Lake, an active open-source project within Hyperledger, as its reference platform.

Sawtooth Lake is a modular platform for building, deploying and running distributed ledgers. The platform supports customizable data models to capture the current state of the ledger, transaction languages to change the ledger state, and consensus methods to validate transactions.

While that might not sound like the perfect match with OMI’s initiative, Reed argues the opposite.

"We have been encouraged by the banks and the music providers who have collaborated with us," he said. "Both collaborations have informed requirements that will increase the robustness and the versatility of Sawtooth Lake in the future."

Still, OMI is admittedly a bit of an oddity in comparison to Intel’s other work. Intel is a founding member of Hyperledger and is working across its more than 100 members, Reed said.

In addition to starting work with OMI, the company has had success with a bond-trading proof of concept with R3’s banking consortium.

Waiting Game

But how soon until all this becomes reality?

Panay notes that OMI is still in its early stages of development and acceptance. The entire coalition is planning to hold its third technology meeting in New York in the next few weeks to discuss the progress.

"I would expect between now and the end of the summer we will be able to demonstrate some early prototypes of what this can do," Panay said, but noted that it will take a few years to fully implement.

Epstein of Nelson Mullins notes that there are many different data standards for blockchain as well as various and emerging blockchain business models, factors he said will make development slow.

"It will take some time for those standards and models to develop before enterprises are willing to go all in," he said. Over time, however, "change is inevitable and it is merely a function of how all stakeholders in the industry adopt".

If the music initiative succeeds in this process, it could have wider implications for other similar creative and entertainment fields, such as book publishing, movies, television and the like.

"The implications are tremendous for efficiency in terms of payment flows, cutting out intermediaries, the ability of these companies to monetize content," Panay said, adding:

"In most places right now, that’s virtually non-monetizeable."

DJ-music image via Shutterstock

Blockchain ApplicationsIntelLifestyleMusic

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Color-changing hair dye responds to your environment

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Just because you want to color your hair doesn’t mean you want the same color all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice if it could change with the weather, or whether or not you’re inside? You might get your wish. The Unseen has developed a color-changing hair dye, Fire, that reacts to shifts in temperature — it could be red outside and revert to a more natural color indoors. The carbon-based molecules in the dye alter their light absorption when they’re subjected to temperature changes, producing different colors that you can reverse just by heading somewhere new.

Creator Lauren Bowker tells Wired that the dye is safe. It uses "less toxic" materials, such as irritants that are wrapped in polymers to minimize the damage to your hair and scalp. In theory, it shouldn’t be any more harmful than the dye you buy at the store.

Fire still needs to be refined and fully assessed for safety before you can buy it. However, this isn’t one of those far-off projects that will take many years to reach shelves — there’s already production-oriented testing underway. If everything goes smoothly, you could soon have a hair color evolves from moment to moment, not just whenever you feel up to a dyeing session.

Via: Wired

Source: The Unseen

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A single typo let hackers steal $400,000 from a bitcoin rival

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thief robber stealing hack riot
Sion
Touhig/Getty Images

Typos aren’t just a headache — they can sometimes have very
costly consequences.

On Friday, digital currency Zcoin announced that a typographical
error had let an unidentified attacker make a profit of around
$400,000 (£320,000).

Zcoin is similar to Bitcoin — it’s a digital currency powered by
cryptography, and without any single central bank. It’s based on
Zerocoin, a software protocol that was developed to to provide
its users with “complete financial privacy
and anonymity.”

But in implementing it, the Zcoin made a single screw-up.
“Yesterday, our team found a bug in our implementation of
Zerocoin,” Zcoin
community manager Reuben Yap wrote in a blog post on Friday
.
“A typographical error on a single additional character in code
allowed an attacker to create Zerocoin spend transactions without
a corresponding mint.”

In other words, they got a single letter wrong in their code —
and this let a hacker steal coins by cashing out from single
transactions multiple times.

Yap emphasises that there’s nothing wrong with Zcoin’s
cryptography — it was just the typo that was the problem. “The
exploit happened due to the bug in the code and not from any
weakness in the cryptography. The bug from the typo error allowed
the attacker to reuse his existing valid proofs to generate
additional Zerocoin spend transactions,” he wrote.

In short: It’s human error, they argue, rather than any fatal
flaw in the Zcoin project.

The still-unidentified attacker was able to steal around 370,000
Zcoins — around
$680,000-worth (£546,000) at current exchange rates, according to
CoinMarketCap
. Almost all of these have already been sold on,
netting the attacker a profit of around 410 bitcoin — $437,000
(£351,000) —
according to Zcoin
.

The attacker evaded detection for weeks by slowly making payments
and withdrawals. “From what we can see, the attacker (or
attackers) is very sophisticated and from our investigations, he
(or she) did many things to camouflage his tracks through the
generation of lots of exchange accounts and carefully spread out
deposits and withdrawals over several weeks,” Yap wrote.

“We estimate the attacker has created about 370,000 Zcoins which
has been almost completely sold except for about 20,000+ Zcoin
and absorbed on the market with a profit of around 410 BTC. In
other words, the damage has already been mostly absorbed by the
markets.”

Get the latest Bitcoin price here.

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