One of the most interesting panels the Decibel Festival Conference had to offer so far was the New Interfaces Of Musical Performance with Tim Thompson, Roger Linn, Moldover and Randy Jones.
Electronic music has gained a lot of popularity over the years. However, partly due to the limitation of controllers, it has been very hard for performers to get a natural sound out of a synthesizer. IE, a guitar sound might sound good on a synthesizer by itself, but if a musician were to actually play a guitar piece with the keyboard, it would be very hard to make it believable to sound like a true guitar.
Today Roger Linn and Randy Jones showed new interfaces in which playing an electronic instrument sounds at least as good as playing an acoustic instrument. Both interfaces had a so called 3 dimensional XYZ design. The X & Y values have to be seen as point values on for instance an iPad. But what an iPad lacks is an extra dimension. If you press hard at a certain point on an iPad, nothing extra will happen as opposed to these new controllers with the Z factor which add pressure sensitivity. Roger Linn showed this example of him playing a piece of Bach:
The goal of these interfaces is to make physical virtuosity less important and put more emphasis on musical virtuosity where the learning curve of mastering an instrument is way faster. If you master any of these controllers, you could virtually play any kind of sound with it in a natural sounding way.
Tim Thompson had arguably the most geeky, but also most coolest instrument. He built it using the functionality of the Microsoft Kinect. He uses movement of his body in the empty spaces to trigger different kind of sounds. The space where he moves his arms has direct influence on rhythm and tonality. It’s very interesting and it sounded remarkably musical.
See video below of an earlier recording:
Moldover was definitely the rockstar of all four. Demonstrating several of his own designs which included a prototype guitar midi controller; a drum machine like midi controller called the Mojo and an enhanced microphone. Using all these three together he manipulated his guitar play, his voice as if it were a complete band. Sometimes even singing in harmony with himself. The sound was impressive and his creations would give an array of possibilities to other talented musicians the world round.
If you are in the Seattle area, you should definitely check out the conference. There is free cover for the conference part at Broadway Perfomance Hall all week.
Broadway Performance Hall (Will Call, dB Conference, dB Films and OPTICAL 3 and 4 : all-ages) 1625 Broadway