Posts categorized "Interviews" Feed

Modulate This Interview with Imagine Research CEO Jay LeBoeuf


I recently had a chance to meet Jay LeBoeuf, the CEO and founder of the San Francisco based company Imagine Research, and learn more about his past and current work. Imagine Research is working on next-generation intelligent signal processing and machine learning technologies. I thought the work was fascinating and Jay graciously agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to share some insights on his work and the field in general. He also has some suggestion on how you can get involved with helping to solve real-world problems in the digital audio and music realm.


Mark Mosher:  How long have you been involved in R&D work and how did you get started?

Jay LeBoeuf: I've always had a passion for music and technology – in undergrad (Cornell University) , I was an electrical engineer, with a minor in music, and gigged with my band on weekends.  Everything suddenly made sense when I did a Masters at CCRMA (Stanford University).  If you understand audio software and technology at its lowest levels, you have this immense appreciation for the tools that our industry uses.  You also develop this urge to make new tools, and help bring new experimental technologies to market… which is how I ended up at Digi.

MM: Prior to founding Imagine Research, you were at Digidesign doing R&D on Pro Tools. What Pro Tools features that Modulate This readers might use daily did you have a hand in creating?

JL: Digi was such an amazing place and opportunity - I was one of the first team members on Pro Tools' transition from OS 9 to OS X.  I was on design and test teams for D-Control / ICON mixing console, the HD Accel Card, integration of M-Audio into the Pro Tools product line, and Pro Tools software releases 5.1.1 through 7.4.  In my later years, I researched techniques for intelligent audio analysis  - the field that I'm most excited about.

Imagine Research Web siteMM:  Do you feel that being an independent research firm allows you to work more on the "bleeding edge" than if you were doing the research from within a company?

JL: Absolutely.  Imagine Research was founded because this "bleeding edge" technology needs a helping hand into industry.  Most companies, especially in the MI space, keep their focus on their incremental features, compatibility, and bug fixes - and applied research is inherently difficult and risky to productize.

The U.S. National Science Foundation has been a great partner in helping us bring innovative, high-risk-high-reward technologies to market.  We've received several Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to address the feasibility and commercialization challenges of music information retrieval / intelligent audio analysis technologies.  I encourage all entrepreneurs to look into the SBIR program.

MM:  How does Imagine Research help companies leverage emerging and disruptive technologies yet build practical solutions?

JL: Close collaborations are key during the entire technology evaluation process.  We focus on end-user problems and the workflows enabled by technology.  The solution is what's important , and we try not to geek out and use unnecessarily sophisticated technology when a simpler solution works fine.  That said, the more disruptive technologies tend to spawn new ideas, features, and products- and you need a long-term  partnership to capitalize on it! 

MM: According to your web site,  Imagine Research is working on a platform for “machine learning”. Can you briefly tell us what machine learning is and offer some examples of how machine learning could be applied to change how composers and sound designers create?

JL: In short, machine learning algorithms allow a computer to be trained to recognize or predict something.  One way to train a machine learning algorithm to make predictions is to provide it with lots of positive and negative examples.  You can then reinforce its behavior by correcting it, or having your end-users correct its mistakes. 

In our case, we use machine learning to enable machine hearing.  Our platform, MediaMined™,  listens to a sound and understands what it is listening to – exactly as human listeners can identify sounds.   

When software or hardware is capable of understanding what it is listening to, an enormous array of creative possibilities open up: such as DAWs that are aware of each tracks contents, search engines that listen to loops and sound effects and finds similar-sounding content, and intelligent signal processing devices.  I'm confident that this will enable unprecedented access to content, faster and more creative workflows, and lower barriers to entry for novice musicians.

MM: Are there non-musical applications for your platform?

JL: Absolutely.  Our platform was designed for sound-object recognition - so while I frequently discuss analyzing music loops, music samples, and sound effects, we can also understand any real-world sounds.  We're working on applying our techniques to video analysis, as well as exploratory projects involving biomedical signal processing (heart and breath sound analysis), security/surveillance, interactive games, and more than enough to keep us busy!

MM: How can app developers leverage your platform?

JL: While the specific platform details are still under wraps, I'd really enjoy talking with desktop, mobile, and web-based app developers.  We really welcome input at this early stage.  I'm happy to discuss at "info at imagine-research dot com".  For general information, announcements, and updates, please follow us on Twitter (@imagine-research).

MM: Imagine Research also creates "intelligent" algorithms for consumer audio and video products. Can you give us some examples of products that might be utilizing your algorithms?

JL:  Sure - check out JamLegend (think: Guitar Hero but online, free, social-networked, and it's one of the only music games where you can upload and play YOUR OWN music).  We developed the technology for users to play interactive Guitar Hero-style games with any MP3s.  So far, over 1.1 million tracks have been analyzed. 

We have a number of exciting partnerships with our MediaMined platform to be announced.  These applications directly aid musicians and creative professionals. 

MM: How do you think that the growth in cloud computing and the explosion of Smartphone processor power will change the landscape of digital audio?

JL: The most exciting thing to me is unparalleled access to content - we'll be able to access Terabytes of user-generated content, mash-ups, and manufacturer/content-provider material (loops, production music, samples, SFX),  online from any device. 

Music creation can now occur anywhere.  Smartphones provide a means to record / compose wherever and whenever the muse strikes.  With cloud-based access to every loop, sample, sound effect, and music track ever created, how do you begin to find that "killer loop" or sample in a massive cloud-based collection -- and -- on a mobile device?!?  Don’t worry, there’s some disruptive technology for that. 

MM: Do you have any words of advice you can give to Modulate This readers who might want to pursue a career in audio R&D?

JL: Full-time corporate R&D gigs typically requires a graduate degree in music technology and music and audio signal processing such  as at Stanford's CCRMA, UCSB's MAT program, NYU, etc.)  But let's talk about the most untapped resource for research: industry-academic collaboration.  The academics have boundless creativity and technical knowledge, but might not know the current real-world problems that need solving.  I'd encourage readers to reach out to professors and graduate students doing audio work that they find interesting.  Think big - the hardest problems are the ones worth solving. 



Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Music Tech & Technique Blogger, Boulder CO

Interview with Bert Schiettecatte Inventor of Percussa AudioCubes


I recently conducted a phone interview with Percussa founder and AudioCube inventor Bert Schiettecatte. I think music artists, visual artists, sound designers, those interested in tangible interfaces for installations, and music technology fans will all enjoy this interview – even if you are not in the market for a tangible interface. Below is a brief context-setting introduction. If you want to jump straight to the interview click here.

If you’ve been following Modulate This you know I’ve been using AudioCubes, a tangible interface made by Percussa. As I started using the cubes, I began contacting Percussa with questions. Percussa is a small company in Belgium and Bert Schiettecatte the founder and inventor of AudioCubes himself is happy to talk with customers directly which I found quite refreshing.

I have to say that prior to my experience with AudioCubes, I didn’t know much about tangible interfaces and the more I talked with Bert, the  more I began to understand how big of an innovation Percussa AudioCubes actually are.

Most tangible interfaces are comprised of an infrastructure of components that include tables with special surfaces, cameras, projectors, software, and computers. In most cases they are very, very expensive, not very portable, and require a lot of calibration if they are moved. In other words, tangible interfaces are out of reach for most artists.

Bert formed Percussa with the radical goal of producing an affordable portable self-contained tangible interface that you could throw in a backpack and that eliminated the infrastructure. The result is the AudioCube. Each cube is a wireless, battery powered, autonomous computer that can be used as a performance interface to music software.

Below is a recent phone interview I conducted with Bert. In this interview Bert discusses his time at the CCRMA lab at Stanford and the founding of Percussa. He also offers an introduction to tangible interfaces; and a detailed run-down on Percussa AudioCubes, their function, their electronics and how they compare with other tangible interfaces. He goes on to discuss some of the FREE apps that Percussa provides AudioCube users. Note – I originally planned on a 5-10 minute interview but after editing I ended up at around 24 minutes. Bert had a lot of interesting things to say, so I decided to offer all 24 minutes.

Listen using the player below. Download Embded Audio Clip as MP3.

Modulate This Interview: Bert Schiettecatte Inventor of Percussa AudioCubes by MarkMosher

0:19 - Stanford and Laser Harps
1:21 - Founding Percussa
2:13 - What are Tangible Interfaces?
3:23 - AudoCubes Explained
5:35 - On Overview of the LED System
6:37 - Overview of the FREE apps That Work with AudioCubes
11:48 - Where Do People Go to Get the Apps?
12:26 - OS Platforms, drivers and AudioCube fabrication
13:43 - How do AudioCubes compare to other tangible interfaces
17:16 - What are typical uses of AudioCubes and who is using them?
18:11 - Art installations
19:50 - Packaging, where to buy and shipping
21:28 - Where to go to learn more
23:03 - Thanks Bert


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Composer, Sound Designer

Download/Buy my album REBOOT on Bandcamp
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Modulate This! Interview With Smule's Dr. Ge Wang (Maker of iPhone Ocarina)


Want to know what one of the leading iPhone developers has on his mind?

I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Ge Wang, CTO and Co-founder of Smule are the makers of extremely popular and innovative iPhone applications such as Sonic Lighter and Ocarina. Dr. Wang is also an assistant professor at Stanford University, at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). He holds a PhD in Computer Science from Princeton University and a BS in Computer Science from Duke University. Ge is the creator and chief architect of the ChucK audio programming language, and the founding director of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk).

I asked a wide variety of questions in this interview - so - whether you are a musician, a developer, an iPhone user, or an entrepreneur, I hope you find this interview interesting and enlightening.

I've provided this audio interview in YouTube (for computer or iPhone users), and in MP3 formats*.

Part 1 - Dr. Wang discusses the iPhone as an application platform, how constraint leads to innovation, and his vision for using technology to bring people together. Watch on YouTube or Download MP3.

Part 2 - Dr. Wang discusses how people are using Ocarina and how Ocarina has brought music to the disabled. He also discusses the future of the Ocarina and Smule, and what it's like to be "Smulian". Watch on YouTube or Download MP3.



Mark Mosher

---- Production Notes ---
Audio was taken from a phone conversation between myself and Dr. Wang. I originally intended to publish as transcribed text but felt of the tone of conversation would be lost so I instead published an audio version. I decided to present both sides of our conversation at phone quality to preserve the feel of the conversation. Note that for a short time in the beginning of Part 1, Dr. Wang was on a mobile phone with some signal drop out and the quality improves as the conversation continues. In addition to MP3 format, I've provided a YouTube format so you can easily listen to this from an iPhone or web browser.

Modulate This! Interview with Ramin Sakurai of the Supreme Beings of Leisure


The Supreme Beings of Leisure are an electronic/trip-hop band based out of LA, California. According to their entry on Wikipedia “The release of the first Supreme Beings of Leisure album sold over 250,000 units with very little promotional touring. Instead, SBL opted to use the internet to market and promote the album, being the first band to ever do a "Virtual Internet Tour", and among the very first to use Flash animation for their videos. The "Supreme Beings of Leisure" peaked at 47 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart according to, and is in the top 100 of the Trip-Hop Dance & DJ music category according to sales ranking.”

The band is currently a DUO made up of original members Geri Soriano-Lightwood (Singer/Songwriter), Ramin Sakurai (Multi-Instrumentalist, Programmer).  In addition to working with SBL, Ramin produces, remixes, and composes music for artists, television and movies.  After a  5 year extended break SBL released its third major studio album, 11i, on February 12, 2008 with Rykodisc Records.

imageI recently had an opportunity to ask Ramin a series of questions about the making of 11i, and on the affect of technology on his process for making music.

Enjoy the interview and visit for more info on the band.

Mark Mosher

Mark Mosher: What was the primary music production software you used in the creation of 11i?
Ramin Sakurai:  That would've been Protools versions 6-7. Some of the songs started off in other programs like Live or Reason but they always ends up in Protools.

Mark Mosher: Can you give us brief overview of your studio rig?
Ramin Sakurai: The main studio rig consists of a Protools HD3 with two 192 i/o's and a G5 dual 2.5ghz. I run a 3.1ghz PC for GIgastudio. I use quite a bit of outboard gear as well. I believe a record can be recorded and mixed entirely in the box but you need a little help with some analog gear. I use Avalon, multiple API, NEVE-type preamps along with various compressors.

Mark Mosher:  How has the advancement of music production software and ability to produce from a laptop changed your workflow for this album?

Continue reading "Modulate This! Interview with Ramin Sakurai of the Supreme Beings of Leisure" »