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Advanced technology is changing the way we interact with music, much like Chevrolet MyLink

By Mike Payne

Behind the scenes of today’s hit records, the lines between technology and musicianship are blurring. It’s as if science fiction arrived early for the modern musician, while the rest of us are still waiting patiently for a robot maid and a flying car. Musicians of today can use gesture-controlled software systems, expressively illuminated instruments, and more to compose and produce modern rock, hip-hop and electronic dance music in the recording studio. Like the Chevrolet MyLink* system's voice, touch and steering wheel controls, musicians today have some pretty revolutionary ways to interact with their music thanks to exciting new technologies like these.

Native Instruments Maschine
This glowing, pulsating piece of eye candy is one of the most popular musical instruments released this decade. Native Instruments Maschine is a hands-on hardware controller that connects to its own dynamic software environment for both PC and Mac operating systems. Its 16 colored pads are inspired by the legendary MPC sampler and drum machine, a device that almost singlehandedly inspired the golden era of hip-hop in the 1990s. Today amateurs, enthusiasts and professionals alike use Maschine to create a wide range of music. It’s a one-man digital band of sorts, and you can see it at its best when it’s used by drum machine virtuoso Jeremy Ellis.

Cubase iC Air
Most of today’s music is recorded and produced in software environments, and one popular creative canvas is the Cubase by Steinberg. This audio recording and editing environment is already state-of-the-art, but the new Cubase iC Air system pushes the envelope even further. Cubase iC Air is a gesture control system using depth cameras or Leap Motion to capture gestures and movement for creative control. With the wave of a hand, a musician can conduct a virtual orchestra, tweak settings in a mix, trigger samples and more. It’s a new kind of “hands on” for musicians who often lament the mouse click musicianship that comes with making music on computers.

Moog Theremini
Cubase iC Air wasn’t the first product to introduce gesture control to musicians. Gesture control in music predates the computer--the earliest electronic instrument ever invented used gesture control to create sound. The famed Theremin, first invented in 1918, allowed musicians to create sounds by moving their hands in proximity to a pair of electrically charged antennae. This year the Theremin lives on in a new model, the Moog Theremini. The Moog Theremin provides the same gesture-based instrumentalism of the original, but has been updated with a modern sound engine by the first name in electronic instruments, Moog.

Eigenharp Alpha
This remarkable musical instrument is the culmination of centuries of instrumental evolution and millions of dollars of research and development. The Eigenharp took inspiration from the wind instruments of the classical period, the fretboards of modern guitars, and the electronic instruments of this young century. It is controlled by an array of 120 touch-sensitive keys, 12 percussion tabs, a pair of expression strips and a breath controller. The most common creative control elements from a wide selection of musical instruments have all been added to the Eigenharp’s interface, making it possibly one of the most expressive instruments ever created. It must be seen to be believed and heard to be understood, but if anything is certain it’s this: the Eigenharp is far ahead of its time.

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Mike Payne is founder and publisher of TheCoolist.com, the web’s finely curated encyclopedia of cool. Mike’s interest in design, technology and the study of trends is part of his nature, having grown up in a family of automotive designers and visual artists in Detroit. When he’s not managing TheCoolist, Mike moonlights as a commercial photographer, photographing architecture and food for hotels, restaurants, architects and corporate clients.

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*MyLink functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

MyLink on Spark and Sonic does not include functionality such as enhanced voice recognition, Gracenote and CD player. MyLink

on Traverse does not include Gracenote functionality.

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