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Conceiving a MIDI controller

MIDI is the magical ~38 year-old protocol that allows us to convert anything into a musical instrument.

My understanding of music comes from 10 years of classical piano and a lot of experiments with digital instruments.

Through continuous experimentation, I've recently learned that the instrument, or interface, dictates the shape of the music. For example, a piano is always going to produce music in discrete tone intervals while the violin can produce inexact and more playful frequencies. A piano lets you play more than 10-12 notes at the same time, the violin doesn't.

Musical interfaces are important because they allow us different ways of manipulating sound in unique ways.

I've been thinking about the interface I want to explore for this assignment. Below are some ideas that I'd like to discuss to further clarify their implementation and feasibility.


Roll of paper (or paper trails)

Imagine a receipt paper roll advancing from tube A to tube B (~25cm apart from each other) and exposing a stretch of paper where users can draw on. When the drawings reach a playhead, the colors are translated into MIDI parameters and sent to a DAW.

The idea here is to let people compose music with a common interface (pencil) and maintain their composition in a tangible record (the roll of paper).


Imagine a 4x12 grid of LED-buttons that allows users compose a mini-sequence for any chord to be arpeggiated over. All of the mappings would be relative to the chord or root note being played. A secondary linear slider would allow to add more than 4 notes to the arpeggio.

The idea here is to allow musicians make arpeggios in a very tangible and visual way.

Synthetic Ball (thinking of doing this one)

Imagine a stress-ball-looking device that tracks its position in space and translates it to music. By picking up the ball and squeezing it, a specific pitch is played. Users can move the ball in all 3 axises.

X axis - modulates volume

Y axis - modulates pitch (continuous, like on a synthesizer or theremin)

Z axis - modulates lowpass filter cutoff frequency (or something else that makes a more interesting experience).

Communication would be wireless, ideally.

More parameters can be added and mapped to other physical properties. For example, angular rotation in the 3 axises could be mapped to pitch bends, modulation, panning, detunes, etc. By creating a second ball, users can manipulate a 2-oscillator synthesizer with their hands

The idea here is give people a very tangible and natural way of playing with sound.

Looking to discuss these ideas in class tomorrow.

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