Want some evidence that the future of expressive digital instruments and MPE is bright? Look to Haken’s ContinuuMini, which emerged over last year, bringing greater portability and a US$899 price to the out-there controller.
Forget anything else, and listen to this gorgeous video (using a clever setup with an Onde acoustic resonator*:
Why does the ContinuuMini matter?
Expression really is a combination of sound and physical control. Say what you will about piano keyboards (and some electronic musicians who hate them certainly do) – the reason an acoustic piano is still expressive has to do with the sound of a piano.
So when we talk about MPE, a scheme for allowing polyphonic expression through MIDI, we’re really talking about allow greater depth in the connection of physical gestures and sound.
If this is going to catch on, it’ll require more than one vendor. I think it’s wrong to assume MPE’s future, then, is tied solely to ROLI as a vendor. From the start, MPE was an initiative of a range of people, from major software developers (Apple, Steinberg) to hardware inventors (ROLI, but also Roger Linn and Randy Jones of Madrona Labs, for instance).
And Haken Audio has been a boutique maker pushing new ways of playing for years – including with MPE on their Continuum. The Continuum may look arcane in photos, but feeling it is a unique experience. The ribbon feels luxurious – it’s actually soft fabric. And the degree of control is something special. But it’s also enormous and expensive – and that means a lot of people can’t buy it, or can’t tour with it since it won’t fit in an overhead.
I believe that what makes an instrument is really finding that handful of people to do stuff even the creators didn’t expect, so if you can lower those barriers for even a run of a few hundred units, you could have a small revolution on your hand.
That’s what Haken have done with ContinuuMini, which closed crowd sourcing late last year and has started shipping of the first hardware.
Here’s what sets it apart:
It’s a Continuum. Well, first, nothing else feels like a Continuum. That feeling may not be for everyone, but it’s still significant as a choice.
It’s continuous. Because you aren’t limited by frets or keys, there’s a continuous range of sound. This is a controller you’ll want to practice, finding intonation with muscle memory and your ear. And there are artists who will want that subtlety.
It has internal sound. Like its larger sibling the ContinuuMini has an internal sound engine. That means that it’s not just a controller. Haken have conceived control and sound in a single, unified design. You can play it without connecting other stuff. And the builders have worked on both the physical and aural experience of what they’ve made. I think that’s significant to anyone making an investment, particularly in an age in which abstract controller hardware tends to stack in our closets.
It’s 8-voice polyphonic, as well. The ContinuuMini isn’t just a controller: it’s a complete, gorgeous polysynth and a controller, for this one price.
It connects to other gear, without software. Bidirectional digital control – MIDI, with MPE, MPE+ – and bidirectional control voltage analog (with converter) are possible. That means you can play the ContinuuMini with gear and software (like recording MIDI and MPE in your DAW for playback), and likewise the ContinuuMini can control your software and gear. There are also two pedal inputs so your feet can get in on the action.
It’s only a quarter kilogram. 9 oz. You can tote the bigger ones with a case but – the ContinuuMini is incredibly portable.
* Synthtopia has a great, in-depth interview on the Onde and Pyramid, acoustic resonators that make an electronic instrument feel more like an instrument and less like “something disconnected that produces sound through speakers” as with conventional monitors:
Some initial details via the Abstrakt Instruments Kickstarter:
“This is your chance to help fund and procure parts for the iconic LinnDrum (LM-2) Drum Machine. This is the second in our series of meticulously designed replacement parts projects for vintage synths & drum machines. This project follows up the completion of the Oberheim OB-X Parts Project [posted here]. We’ve established a low
– Monophonic wavetable synthesiser
– 8 oscillators in total with 2 selectable waveforms and mixer stage
– 40 unique waveforms available split into 8 banks of 5 morphable waveform sets
– VA, digital and generative waves are available along with
Kids today. First, they want synth modules with the power of computers but the faceplate of vintage hardware – and get just that. Next, they take for granted the flexibility of patching that virtual systems in software have. Well, enter TUNNELS: “infinite multiple” for your Eurorack.
TUNNELS is a set of modules that doesn’t do anything on its own. It’s just a clever patch bay for your modular system. But with the IN and OUT modules, what you get is the ability to duplicate signals (so a signal from one patch cord can go multiple places), and then route signals anywhere you like.
“Infinite” is maybe a bit hyperbolic. (Well, I suppose what you might do with this is potentially, uh, infinite.) It’s really a bus for signals. And maybe not surprisingly, this freer, ‘virtual’ way of thinking about signal comes from people with some software background on one side, and the more flexible Buchla patching methodology on the other. TUNNELS is being launched by Olympia Modular, a collaboration between Patterning developer Ben Kamen and Buchla Development Engineer Charles Seeholzer.
There are two module types. TUNNEL IN just takes a signal and duplicates it to multiple outs. In signal to out signal, that’s 1:6, 2:3 (each signal gets three duplicates, for two signals), or 3:2 (each signal gets two duplicates, for three signals).
You might be fine with just IN, but you can also add one or more OUT modules. That connects via a signal link cable, but duplicates the outputs from the IN module. (Cool!) So as you add more OUT modules, this can get a lot fancier, if you so desire. It means some patches that were impossible before become possible, and other patches that were messy tangles of spaghetti become clean and efficient.
Actually, I’m comparing to software (think Reaktor, Pd, Max), but even some dataflow software could use some utility modules like this just to clean things up. (Most dataflow software does let you connect as many outputs from a patch point as you want. Code environments like SuperCollider also make it really easy to work with virtual ‘buses’ for signal… but then hardware has the advantage of making the results visible.)
Tunnels is on Kickstarter, with a module for as little as US$75 (limited supply). But, come on, spring for the t-shirt, right?
TUNNEL IN: buffered multiple, duplicate input across multiple outputs
TUNNEL OUT: add additional outputs at another location – chain infinitely for massive multiple banks, or use as sends for signals like clock and 1v/oct
Add more OUTs, and you get a big bank of multiples.
I’d say it’s like send and receive objects in Max/Pd, but… that’ll only make sense to Max/Pd people, huh? But yeah, like that.
Synthesizer sind überall und werden immer kleiner. Natürlich gibts auch Apps und dennoch keine Uhr, die in der Vergangenheit oder jetzt wirklich Synthesizer war. Das will Audioweld ändern – mit einer Synthesizer-Uhr!
Wearable heißen sie heute, die Uhren und alles was man anziehen kann. Wieso denn nicht einfach mal einen Synthesizer mit vorerst 200 Sounds anbieten und eine Oktave Klaviatur direkt an und über die Uhr?
Es gibt eine speziell geformte 12-Ton-Klaviatur, die per Fingernagel-Spiel erreichbar ist und immer am Handgelenk verweilt. Das Gerät scheint absolut selbstgebaut zu sein, vielleicht sogar 3D-gedruckt, denn Teile der Uhr machen diesen Eindruck.
Das Video zur Synthesizer-Uhr wurde allerdings aus YouTube bereits entfernt. Man könnte also auch etwas zweifeln. Die Uhr selbst scheint aber auch eher eine Art Controller mit WIFI und per USB zu sein, denn der Sequencer und die Klangerzeugung scheinen am Ende doch in einer App stattzufinden. Nach deren Aussage ist es aber wirklich eine Klangerzeugung direkt in der Uhr. Frei nach Jens Spahn: Krass, Cool…
Nicht verschwunden ist die Kickstarter-Kampagne, in der die Videos alle noch zu sehen sind. Hier wird alles erklärt. Die Italiener aus Perugia haben einen hübschen Imagefilm gemacht, in dem lässig auf dem Platz im Ort gesessen wird und die Uhr macht Sounds, unterwegs und immer. So ist der Traum. Digital natürlich.
Musikant mit Uhr an der Hand
Die Uhr soll 550,– Euro kosten, was sicher nicht so günstig ist. Exklusivität kostet, und das ist natürlich auch sehr viel Aufwand. Aber so bekloppt zu sein verdient Respekt und ein sehr glückliches Nerdgrinsen. Als Fernziel gibt es auch noch eine App dazu, wenn dieses erreicht würde.
“The Synthwatch is a portable synthesizer that allows you to express yourself in every moment of your life.”
“Since ancient times music has been part of human life, being a method of self expression and communication. Rooted in instincts, music allows people to forget about their daily routine and connect themselves with the