thoughts on all these new control mechanisms (and some that aren't new)

  • So once I finished the work on my first Max patch, the joystick controller, I decided to dive into Lemur template editing. Here's a little post I made on the Liine forum following another (4th in a row) straight day of 8-10 hour template making:

    "So I spent my first couple of templates doing straight ahead control setups for the minimoogVoriginal plugin and the organized trio plugin. Now I started on one for the ALWAYS free MinimogueVA (a classic! free vst). I got the front end nicely done then realized that I was wasting all the potential of Lemur and so started a second page interface with pads, ADSR sliders, multiballs, etc. and have been playing with it as I go. It opens up a whole new world on instruments that previously took several turns to mess with the sound. Now those same instruments are completely flexible in nanoseconds and it is crazy! So quickly getting sounds out of this free VST I wouldn't have imagined and now thinking about switchable possibilities.

    seriously must stop templating..."

    So, all this building of arduinomes and cases, performance racks, patches, and templates has me thinking about both how I see new possibilities, and how I've spent four more days not making music. While I'm not quite finished with the current template for the MinimogueVA, it is so fun to play with that I think tomorrow might have to be a couple of hours actually laying down some sounds.

    In many ways, this whole past ten years has seen the advent not wholly of new ways to interact with music production (though touch screens have made a big entrance) but really of the democratization of such interfacing. While an iPad and Lemur or TouchOSC isn't a cheap investment, you can have at least 16GB and a $5 app to wirelessly make crazy control possible.

    This, coupled with the burgeoning Max development scene, monomes, APCs, MPCs, etc, has meant that so many new techniques of making music are brewing every year. It's both exciting and overwhelming, especially for a project/construction/small scale engineering guy like myself.


  • "how I've spent four more days not making music"

    I'm not trying to sound like a douch so apologies if i do but...Pffssst. I have spent two weeks once, and many times periods of several days not making music, and I don't even program or code. That's just from me trying to device a custom template with other peoples' software tools/hardware. For me personally, I find i flourish with these self-exclusions and forcing myself to work with uncustomizable things; yet can still create unique and custom work flows. I often use pen and paper first, then make it happen, then trouble shoot. It's often results in a cluster-fuck and if i don't practice at that work flow it yields nothing and won't even remember why i did it in the first place.

    If anything i can def see myself benefiting if I learned some general hardware stuff like soldering and stuff. That sets me back sometimes. But kudos to you my friend. I would be too anxious and overwhelmed if i delved into what peeps like you, raja, and GTZ, and many other in here do.

  • It's X percentage tech and x percentage music. I think it's a lot like, but not completely, the digital camera scene. So many people comparing specs and getting down into the nitty gritty of aliasing filters or RAW format whatever that they completely forget what the camera is for, well in the purest sense. I think the maindifference with where this stuff is headed is that there is skill involved in the tech aspect. It's not just tech collecting and comparison. You are building things. I think after a certain point you have to accept that you are drawn to it for that reason partially, and then you can stop beating yourself up over it. To make and record sounds before was pretty hard, now you can make complex systems with no real world rules, shit is exciting.

    I had a friend who used to go to the gym and use all the equipment wrong, mainly just to do core shit with his own weight. Some old head came up to him one day and said "Fuck man, you don't even need to be here, all you need is a tree, a soup can, and a cinderblock." In the same way, I guess, you could be singing to yourself and pen drumming if you needed to get music out. I am caught up in the same shit though. I spend more time thinking about equipment than I do making music. Beatmaker on my iPhone gets way more use than anything at home, mostly because of work. When I am fucking around on the train I have these little moments of clarity about it all but then when I get a computer in front of me I start nerding out on other gear. I've accepted it. Look at the synth community, it's about collecting and having fun making noises.

    Side note it's 1:00am where I am and I am still at work. This is why all my shit has dust on it.

  • It was just sort of assumed in the design spec that a user would unlace their shoes for this. Which gives the instrument a new dimension of customizability, as you have your choice of color, length and material.

    Of course, if you rolled up wearing velcro shoes, this might not be compatible with your setup. But that won't be a deal breaker if you're serious about your art, so quit whining and buy a second pair. These'll be your performance shoes.

  • The can is full of rope soup. In my brainz I always pictured the soup can balancing on his head. Wow, I've never actually thought about what I think about when I mention that story. Soup can on head, cinderblock around ankles, doing pull ups on a tree?

  • Rope soup == spaghetti?

    (I bet you could weave pho into rope. Some assembly required, is all)

    (do they sell pho in cans?)

    (sort of. ...but they've left out the noodles. I think the Campbell's soup company is secretly opposed to music. How are you supposed to perform with this?)

  • Okay, so I had something to say since this thread (noodle pun?) has gotten a bit off-kilter (topic is dissolving in a can of soup currently anyway). However, now my brain has used all its power to punderwhelm you all so I have nothing to say. Going to the shop to make sounds that I likely won't ever record or have others hear.

  • My last reply will probably make more sense in the context of "I somehow missed that Beaver was talking about excercise and not music."

    Still, Campbell's Pho without noodles. This world's a strange place.

  • lesser computer? not sure I get that as the iPad is actually a computer. Now the monome may be a microcontroller, but not really a computer. What would be great was if I could just plug a monome (or in my case arduinome) into an instrument or computer and have it output the data as if the max patches ran right on it, then it would be a computer. I realize some raspberry pi talk has gone on about this lately, but I think of it differently.

    The iPad is a different kind of controller altogther. Certainly nothing against the monome as it has helped (by way of its users) a whole new way of thinking about/manipulating music and sound. The iPad, and other devices can emulate that behavior just fine. The arc is a bit more difficult to emulate as I would say the act of pressing a button is qualitatively differnt that twisting a knob more than the act of pressing an on-screen 'button' is different than a monome keypad. That said, the iPad can emulate that knob as well. As it is a computer, with software like Lemur, you can modify it to both interface and compute and thus both devices are completely different controllers.

    I think everyone here appreciates the aesthetics of the monome. Many also appreciate the aesthetics and flexibility of the iPad (though if Apple would loosen up a bit on things like midi/osc over cable and many other parts of the use of the device it would be great,).

    Mostly I think you like stirring up the pot... of soup.

  • Growing up as a keyboardist, the jargon had its own rules.

    A synthesizer generated audio without samples. A sampler triggered prerecorded sounds. This was true no matter the form factor. You might have a keyboard synth or a synth module, but it was a synth either way.

    If you turned off the volume coming out of your sampling keyboard and just used the MIDI out, you'd still refer to that as a sampler, not a controller. Because a controller doesn't generate audio.

    The rules didn't make a lot of sense then, and they haven't aged well.

    Still, I don't think of the monome as a controller, because the signals I'm using to drive all my audio originate in a max patch. The monome's an interface. A tangible interface, with bidirectional feedback. But it can't be a controller any more than it can be a sampler or a synthesizer. Those things are all virtual now; the monome is physical.

    So, what the hell is an iPad?

    I don't know, man. You have to jump through a lot of hoops to use it as a controller, but the multitouch continuous surface is more important to me than it's ability to run software. As a housing for virtual stuff, it's not as powerful as my computer. But it is far more portable. And the controls that we simulate are a pale shadow of their tangible brethren, but they can be reconfigured in front of you much faster, with no additional storage or transport concerns. So it's kind of a self-contained world of compromise.

    Anyway, I don't think of it as a computer or a tablet. As a category, I'd call them all touch screens.

    ...which still feels more "interface" than "controller" to me. I think because the raw touch data has been abstracted and transformed so much by the time it reaches my software.

    But, back in the day, the iPad would have been labeled a "sampler synth", no questions asked.

  • (and in the interim day, it would have been a "workstation" because it generates audio AND has a sequencer)

    (god, I'm old)

  • one more for the "interface" label:

  • it might never happen in our lifetime but I'd be interested to see if the piano makes through the next couple hundred years in it's current form, mainly because I would like to live for a couple hundred years, boom!

    It's hard to think it would happen but if I may....

    Movies are heading toward HD/3D/120FPS or whatever frame rates. To me higher frame rates = soap operas(29.97/30). Lower frame rates = classy ass film(24). I refuse to believe on some levels people would want to see anything other than classy ass film look. I hate the motion smoothing most TV's have now it completely fucks the image for me... but someone who is 10yrs old has no frame of reference and the more "realisitc" 3d/hd/ high frame rate shit will be the norm. They are saying this is happening with the new Hobbit film. High frame rate, High Def, 3d... but people are put off because of the "soap opera" look. To a kid who watches mostly High Def TV compared to old Hitchcock films there will be nothing "wrong." What I'm getting at is that as pianos lead way to mostly digital pianos, all of the reasons for a digital piano "feeling" and sounding like a piano will get hazy. Like a giant game of whisper down the lane. Maybe XY sensitivity will replace the weighted feel... maybe fuck... who knows. This is not a rant against pianos or anything just curious how future tech will take the physical tradition and mutate it. Maybe it's not the piano maybe its the guitar... ramble... Max/MSP/Digital things/Controllers... these systems are wide open to be re-written with none of the physical limitations of large wood amplified stringed instruments.

  • electronic instruments have none of the limitations of large wood amplified string instruments, but also none of the underlying complexities which make them interesting sources of music. Moving beyond simplistic models into more lushly rendered electronic instrumentation is tricky to do, because so much of what can be produced is just noise, and there is a need to be able to effectively constrain the 'unmusical' possibilities, while producing a broad enough range of sounds to remain interesting. Electronic instruments need to be able to consistently express and shape the minutia of complexity in order to be useful, balancing that against the need for an elegant interface to allow a live performer to produce intentional music and avoid unintended noise. We're not there yet ;] but i'm looking forward to the futures...

  • I think the 'virtual, intangible' stuff is still very much in its infancy, and the legacy of 'tangibility' will take some time to dispel and 'intangebility' to be fully embraced. Take the Theremin for instance, it does not have many virtuoso performers due to many reasons, but I think if you started playing one as a youngster instead of guitar then by the time you are an adult you could gain that same intimacy of control as you would with the guitar. Intangability relies very much more on internal personal feedback then upon external haptic feedback.
    The same thing with the iPad; look to what the youth of today will be doing in 20 years with this and all the other stuff, Kinnects, Video, full-body interfaces etc

    As to the Monome being the 'epitome' of controllers - I'm sorry but I would have to disagree; It's quantisation/lack of continuos control is a major issue imho; the pressure sensitive rgb monome versions would outrank the standard issue monome and even then it still lacks in some fundamental expressiveness. I would like to have velocity as well as pressure, and also x/y control on each button.

    One thing that is often overlooked in the rush for new controllers is the old ones, and there potential for re-purposing into modern controllers, Miller Puckette is on to this. For me, as a guitar player it interests me and I now have a guitar with several additional CC controls and switches, as well as a ribbon controller, breath controller and soon an IR distance sensor. all accessable from an instrument i am very intimate with. If only i could have pressure sensitivity from the frets. I play mostly 'virtually' rather than 'acoustically' and am able to map control to sound in many different ways.

    Not sure where I was going with all this . . .

  • the monome, at this juncture, is the epitome of open and accessible hardware interfaces. Or at least the progenitor. There are some incredible devices out now or on the imminent horizon, but the monome stands as the modern case study from which they have all grown out of, from what i can see. Not the end, but a shining example of how to do it right.

    As for continuous control, i avidly expect great things out of the soundplane, but i am very much looking forward to getting my quneo up and running right. Velocity, pressure, xy, all coupled with feedback (which is where i feel the theremin just falls flat, imo. A good instrument should not rely on you hearing the effect to know what effect you are causing ;)

    and the quneo folks seems to have it right, when it comes to flexibility. Plug and play by default, with an external editor to control how the midi and led feedback is sorted, but with the option to open up the raw sensor feed for more complicated fiddling under the hood. It seems a nice balance between ease of introduction and depth of prolonged ownership...

    @macciza, are you saying you have a breath controller hooked into your guitar? Thats really cool...

  • Yeah,
    Waiting on my Quneo - Have had the SoftStep since introduction . ..
    Though they have never quite got there OSC right imho
    Soundplane looks quite interesting - can see see some alternate build possibilities there as the pre-built is out of my price range . . .

    I use a Roland VG99 and have 'broken out' some of the features of it and run a second 8core cable to my guitar for a few switches, an assignable continuos-controller and also the assignable ribbon controller. As mentioned the VG also has a dual IR sensor which I have been been to place on the guitar as well. All these actually hook directly into the VG hardware - I blew my warranty!

    The breath controller is used directly into a VL70 Virtual Modelling Synth though eventually it will be plugged to the guitar itself and sent down a new multicore.
    The VL gets note and velocity info from the VG, the BC(breath control) ordinarily drives the sound production but can control lots of different things sonically.

    This is a somewhat dodgy demo of one thing the ribbon can do . . .
    Really must do a Sax-Guitar video - I know, I know, I will soon . . .
    Ok Here's something I prepared earlier . . .