Discover Black MIDI, the songs made with millions of notes

What would happen if you made a song with 6 million notes in it? The chaotic yet strangely beautiful answer lies within the strange world of Black MIDI.

It’s been over a decade since the strange chaotic creations known as Black MIDI found their initial community in underground forums on the web. The concept: to create music on computer MIDI that used so many notes it would often crash computers, that they could paint pictures with and develop a dimension beyond the music whilst still creating a composition that sounded incredible.

In 2011 the first Black MIDI video was uploaded to YouTube and an artform in itself was born. The original video was deleted but you can see it in it’s original glory from a re-upload below.

It’s hard to believe that this pixelated, manic video of discordant sounds representing something like a Matrix fever dream captured the hearts of millions around the world and inspired an entirely new artform but it did. P.S. the best bit starts just after the 2 minute mark.

Black MIDI is named to describe literally what these compositions look like when played on a MIDI scrolling program on computers. As the notes come down towards the piano (think Guitar Hero if you’re unfamiliar) the compositions eventually become so dense that the screen becomes black – hence why creators will often colour their notes to distinguish them.

The compositions are, or certainly were, the main event with Black MIDI. Created as some sort of neurotic evolution of classical composition that has slowly gotten more complex and mind-boggling. To emphasise this strange dichotomy of composition and chaos, here is a classic from Grieg brought up to the Black MIDI standard.

The above video begins to example how Black MIDI has evolved itself in the decade since its inception. What I perhaps find most impressive about modern Black MIDI compositions is the focus creators have made on the visual aspect. In fact, to describe some of the creations made in the past few years as ‘Black’ does them a disservice.

This is where I believe it has gone beyond simply an experiment or at stretch a new genre.. What originally began as a sort-of musical experiment has become an almost three dimensional art form, where the music is only half of the creation that pairs up colourful, psychedelic visuals created by utilising the natural patterns within music and the density of Black MIDI compositions.

In some cases it is simply overwhelming and perhaps complete random, but I believe that many of these have been thought out in depth. The use of colours and patterns are as methodical as the music notation themselves. They represent something like a Bullet Hell game, pure visual chaos but a frenzy that has been designed with love and dedication.

Example:

As the popularity of these strange MIDI creations have grown and so has its base of creators, so too have the abilities to produce them enhanced. There are specific programs now capable of colouring and patterning MIDI piano rolls to provide the canvas for this new breed of artist.

As an excellent display of the emphasis on visuals within Black MIDI that I’m talking about, check out this piece called Tau which exemplifies everything that makes modern Black MIDI so great – and also features over 6 million musical notes in it’s 6.5 minutes!

The archetype of the best of Black MIDI: Colours and patterns used to incredible effect, chaotic sound that remains somehow emotionally resonant and enjoyable, and even the use of shapes in a form of MIDI Art.

It may not be an art form for everyone. In fact, some of you may not agree that it justifies existence as it’s own form of art as I do. But whatever you believe you cannot deny the effort that goes into creating these wild and wacky combinations of visual and aural madness.

To play us out, here’s a song we all recognise that has been transformed by one of the many Black MIDI mad geniuses in the world. Building on a classic and renowned composition in an entirely new way.

Poolside.FM brings last year’s coolest retro website to iPhone

Poolside.FM takes you back to a more innocent time abound with old skool OS, 80s dance music, and pixelated visuals – now on your phone.

Last year we discovered the number one time machine website on the web. The perfect accompaniment to a summer of pastel colours, pixels, and slightly distorted dance music, Poolside.FM is a retro throwback of computer and media that is impossible not to enjoy.

Now the aggressively 80s/90s themed website has launched as a free app on iPhones. The app reinvents your iPhone with colours, sounds, and images that will feel like a holiday through time straight into a sunny past.

The creators are planning to launch an Android version soon so that everyone can join the pool party. For now you can download the iPhone app here.

Radiooooo takes you on a musical journey around the world and through time

Pick a country, pick a decade and start listening to music that was on the radio in that place and time.

Click any decade between 1900 and NOW, Radiooooo will generate a playlist of suitable songs. Tracks play in full, and are filterable to only play SLOW, FAST or WEIRD songs. Hit Shuffle mode for a song from a random country and decade. Taxi mode lets you select multiple countries and decades for the ultimate playlist.

Sign up for free to access more features such as skipping tracks, saving tracks and submitting your own music.

Check out Radiooooo online, on the App Store or Google Play Store.

This group makes amazing music from reel tapes, like no others

This music is reel-y, reel-y good. No, for reel – it’s actually great.

The Open Reel Ensemble are re-defining reel-to-reel tapes place within music. Instead of being the format that instrument’s are recorded on to, for the ORE they are the instrument.

The trio manipulate reels and tapes by hitting them, pulling them out, whizzing them back in and physically playing with them in a multitude of ways. It makes for a totally unique sound that has sent them performing around the world amazing crowds with their totally unique soundscapes.

Check out an original piece that they have composed, created, and recorded using their unique methods below combined with traditional instrumentation and see why this trio of experimental musicians are stunning audiences around the world with their music.

Put down your synths, barcodes are the new way to play techno

How far will technology take us? With MIDI 2.0 breathing brand new life into digital music instruments what is the future of electronic instruments? The supermarket checkout, apparently.

Prepare to have your mind blown by this immense techno jam done entirely by the checkout team at Wal-Mart. Okay, they’re not actually cashiers but incredible musical engineers and creatives.

They’re called Electronicos Fantasticos and, led by artist and musician Ei Wada, they create art projects by transforming old electrical equipment into “electromagnetic musical instruments”. Launched in Tokyo, their incredible and unique instruments use a barcode scanner to identify patterns which produce different sounds when scanned and make for something totally different.

Check out more from Electronicos Fantasticos on their YouTube Channel and read more about them from their website.

17,572 singers, in perfect harmony (from their own homes) [Video]

Composer Eric Whitacre brings together over 17k singers from 129 countries for his massive virtual choir, perfectly in tune and in time.

Eric Whitacre and his team put together syncing and editing every submission for this choir featuring 17,572 singers. Sing Gently composed by Eric Whitacre during the pandemic, marks his sixth virtual choir. Starting over a decade ago, Whitacre’s first choir featured 185 singers and have grown with each iteration.

Boil the Frog generates a playlist that takes you between two artists

Web app Boil the Frog automatically creates a Spotify playlist that gradually takes you from one artist to another via suitable similar artists.

Boil the Frog claims to “Create a (nearly) seamless playlist between (almost) any two artists”.

Simply type the name of two fairly popular artists and Boil the Frog will instantly get to work using Spotify’s artist similarity info to find a connection. Click any track to hear a preview, click New track to choose a different song by the same artist, click Bypass to generate a new route without the selected song, click SAVE THIS PLAYLIST to add it to your Spotify library.

The favourites they list on the site include:

Boil the Frog Miley Cyrus to Miles Davis

Boil the Frog was created by Paul Lamere who works at Spotify. Check out Boil the Frog here.

Marshmello launches a new series of… educational music for kids?

Are the kids into massive EDM bangers? Well if they’re not already, Marshmello is on the case to get the kids bopping with his kids Mellodees.

Marshmello is embracing the younger audiences after his electronic music took new audiences by storm when he played a gig in the video game Fortnite. He managed to pull in 10.7 million people through his performance and now he’s joined up with the creators of music for even younger kids to give them some bangers for bedtime.

Mellodees is the electronic music producer’s brand new series for kids where he will entertain and inform them with his huge stadium-ready dance production powering the songs. With 3D animations the videos will follow the lyrics of the informative songs.

Animated kids music and educational content is huge on YouTube and whilst it may seem a strange move for the huge electronic producer, it’s probably a profitable one.

Check out his first foray into being a world-famous kids DJ below.

The 5 most iconic Motown Musicians

Motown Records is one of the world’s most influential labels and helped to launch the careers of many of the world’s biggest artists – let us explore some of the very best.

Motown Records, launched in Detroit in 1959 and named after the city of the motor, has a long and storied history. As an African-American owned label hiring black artists they achieved huge crossover success which brought a whole range of amazing black artists to the forefront of popular music.

Their cultural significance can not be overstated, but as socially powerful as their movement was they are also that a bunch of the world’s most iconic artists are known to us.

In celebration of this incredible label we wanted to take a look at 5 of Motown’s most significant, most talented, and wonderfully brilliant artists.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

After years of writing hits like Reet Petite and Lonely Teardrops, Berry Gordy met the talented Smokey Robinson when he was just a teenager. Years later, as the two advanced themselves separately but working closely together – Smokey as a singer and Berry working on his own label and eventually recording studio to boot – Motown Records was launched and Smokey became Vice President.

After gathering a band together – The Miracles – Smokey and his Miracles made Motown Records their first number 1 R&B hit in ‘Shop Around’ which helped put the label on their path to musical greatness.

The Marvelettes

You know this one. Another defining moment in the early years of Motown Records was the release of ‘Please Mr. Postman’ which saw the first number one record for Motown.

Their success with this song has reached far into the future. It even reached number one again in 1975 when The Carpenter’s covered it and revived the success of this great song and pivotal moment in Motown’s life.

The Supremes

The Supremes took the nation by storm with their fully female fronted act releasing hit after hit with the support of Motown behind them. They were one of the periods most notorious acts and are still beloved and regularly played today.

The group set a record with twelve number one singles in the US. They are recorded as the best-charting female group in US history and one of the best-selling female groups in the world.

Of course another spectacular thing about The Supremes is that they birthed the unstoppable power of Diana Ross upon us and all that her voice gave us after her years with The Supremes.

The Jackson 5

Do I really need to say any more than the name here? Well okay if I must. The Jackson 5, later The Jacksons, put the Jackson family into a limelight which it never left.

Before Michael Jackson took their name to super stardom the family unit was already cementing their voices through radios around the world and into the hearts of keen listeners everywhere with hit after hit, including: ABC, I Want You Back, I’ll Be There, and many more.

Marvin Gaye

Known variously as the ‘Prince of Motown’ and the ‘Prince of Soul’, Marvin Gaye was musical royalty without question. He was pivotal in shaping the iconic Motown sound which became so notorious and popular as a session musician before going on to write and record his own mind-blowing music.

He recorded multiple phenomenal albums throughout his lifetime including a duet with Diana Ross. Iconic albums like ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ and ‘What’s Going On’ have ensured that Gaye will live on through the stereos of generations to come with the beauty of his pure, unbridled soul for all to hear.