Justin Lassen on Creating Music with Netbooks!

Hello! This is my first blog for the ISN. My name is Justin Lassen. I am a digital composer and artist. I have had the great privilege of working with Intel since 2003 and have earned the trust and loyalty of many brilliant Intel employees around the world that I gladly call my friends and confidants today. I was invited into the Intel Audio Alliance, which was an honor. Intel is the Sponsors of Tomorrow, and I have been lucky and fortunate enough to be one of those ‘Tomorrows’. Without Intel on my side, I would not be able to create the music and digital art that I am known for since the 2x86 days. For that I am humbled and thankful to all the hardworking people at Intel and the dreams they help all of us artists realize, whether we have a PC’s, Mac’s or Netbooks.

You may or may not have heard of me before. Or maybe you saw me in the most recent Intel Visual Adrenaline Magazine or in the official Intel App. I’ve been a part of dozens of tradeshows, events and festivals around the world for Intel showcasing new music technology on stages, booths, video and radio interviews as well as magazines and intel case studies over the years. It’s been a wonderful ride! I was even asked to be a Judge for the Intel Visual Life Competition this year and am often asked to give advice to many great people at Intel. It has been an honor to be a part of the groundbreaking things that Intel announces on a regular basis, and I get to play with all the cool new gadgets and toys and ask the engineers and hardworking developers’ questions along the way. The Intel software network has shown to be a strong supportive group who have helped me find solutions and answers when I get stuck.

Justin Lassen near Mayan Temple (2008)Like many world traveling musicians, I've recorded audio and made music in all kinds of places on all kinds of portable devices, like iPod’s, iPads, Nintendo DSes, Cell phones, Ataris, Gameboys, laptops, recorders, you-name-it, etc. But today I want to focus on Atom Netbooks. I want to entice and demonstrate their continued potential and let you know why I like Netbooks in particular as a world traveler and artist who gets inspired on the spot. I have heard employees of mainstream electronics stores try to steer customers away from Netbooks, saying that they are merely toys, or not powerful enough to do anything useful. I disagree. From what I have experienced with Netbooks, they are very affordable, disposable, portable devices that can be useful in a lot of situations for people on the go. An example to back that up would be, when I goto an event or show, I don't want to lug around my 3,000 macbook pro worrying if something might happen to it, or visit an island or country that isn't as politically or socially developed (I'm a bit of an Indiana Jones), where theft and gadget insecurity are daily life in places like that. With netbooks I still get basic computing and recording power but if it was to get stolen while on one of those adventures for field recording, it's not going to hurt the bank account that much unlike more expensive mainstream tablets. With Netbook+Cloud i'm safe wherever I go. I find i'm much more worried when traveling with more expensive items, and more creative when i'm not worrying. Netbooks bring even more piece of mind than an iPad because even with an iOS device they are more susceptible to theft targeting (500+), while Netbooks are more low key (200+).

Sony Netbook running FL Studio (2011)In 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, I got the chance to work with several Intel Atom Processor based Netbooks and Tablets as well as Core i3, i5 and i7 Extreme Laptops. There has always been this talk that “Netbooks are for surfing the net and checking your e-mail.” Or “Netbooks aren’t powerful enough to make music on”. Well, I want to show you a few examples that this is not the case. Special thanks to Gina Bovara, I worked with four distinct Atom netbooks/tablets. A MeeGo/Win7 Lenovo, A Win7 Sony, A MeeGo/Win7 EXOPC and a MeeGo/Win7 Indamixx. While it is true that you'll have a harder time creating giant sample-heavy midi symphonies of music on an Atom based netbook, it’s not entirely incapable of it either!

The first time I witnessed software sequencing and samples running great on a Netbook was in 2009 at NAMM, by Gary Garritan himself, maker of fine instrument sample libraries for composers. He has Cubase running the Aria Engine on a tiny Netbook perfectly! A fully realized orchestral composition at that! This intrigued me back then, and inspired me to dive into testing out the potential of these Atom processors.

MeeGo Tablet running Energy XT (Linux) Sequencer!Netbooks make good conceptual notebooks, idea devices and on-the-go sketching when paired with a primary laptop or desktop. For a DoD contract with BlueMarbleGameCo I tested out the theory that midi music could be conceptualized on a Netbook and finished on a more powerful system. I created a basic midi sketch in MeeGo on the sequencer Energy XT (Linux), and was able to export the session into my primary laptop to finish up (making them a perfect protable team), below is the Atom Processor Sketch Version and the Final Version of the track finished up on the primary laptop. This is particularly fascinating because I created it in a MeeGo, something people don't ordinarily associate with music production. (Me talking with Arti Gupta about the EnergyXT sequencer)

Intel Demo: Building A Shelter (MeeGo Edition) by Justin Lassen
Intel Demo: Building A Shelter (Game Version) by Justin Lassen

MeeGo Tablet running Ardour DAW at GDC 2011Another interesting example is an audio mix-down approach. For this GDC 2011 demo I used MeeGo Tablet with Atom processor running the Ardour Digital Audio Workstation (OSX/Linux), and was able to mix down broadcast quality multi-track symphonic production right on the tablet itself! This example is an eastern influenced composition with live vocals layered over it. Ardour and MeeGo handled this session awesomely! Check out this video clip of pro quality EQ working on this Atom tablet! Another example of the Atom surprising even me! (Me talking with Arti Gupta about the Ardour DAW)

The Becoming Trailer (Conceptual) by Justin Lassen

Justin Lassen in the official Intel App! (IDF 2011)I've been able to try with interesting results; Adobe Audition, Sony SoundForge, Studio One Pro, FL Studio, Sony Acid Pro, Ardour, Energy XT on the 4 Atom based Netbooks/Tablets that I had access to this year. It sure beats the limited and "light editions" of DAWs on App Store apps. Netbooks surely have their pros and cons, like any device, but the important part to me is that their potential is shown now, and I can only expect it to get better and better as time progresses. Perhaps even the new Ultrabooks standard will become more and more affordable as advancements are made. It's an exciting ever-evolving field to play in. As a musician, composer, sound designer, it is magic to witness and experience what we can do on the go and out in the world. Exploring our earth is the best use of time and any device that helps us get out of our dark gothic candle-lit studios and bat caves, is good in my eyes.  I'd love to hear your experiences with audio and midi on netbooks, laptops
and other portable devices as well. Thank you for reading and listening!

Below are 2 pieces concepted and completed with just a Netbook!

This track was part of my brand new 9-track Album called "The Attack of Lord Retro" as recorded with an Atom Netbook. Being a primarily audio driven session, the Atom processor handled it superbly.

This track was part of 12 tracks that were created for the my new iOS game "Herbert: The Misanthropical Fly", a fun shooter with fun music. Enjoy the Atom at large!

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