With all this talk of experimental touchscreens for controlling music, don’t overlook a much cheaper and more mature technology: the graphics tablet. One of the gems that has appeared on the recently-overhauled Cycling ’74 site is a vide o interview with Matt Wright of the CNMAT research center at University of California Berkeley. Wright is one of a number of people who have applied this graphics interface, the ubiquitous Wacom tablet, to controlling sound. They’re extremely precise and readily available (US$100 could buy you a decent model).


I’ve decided to break down and buy one myself; my inclination would be to use it in very different ways than Wright does in the video. It interfaces easily with Max/MSP and (I think) Pd, as well — more on that soon. Stay tuned, CDMskateers. And since some of you are graphic designers, feel free to give me a holler if you’re interested in working on this, too.

  • vortx21

    A few years ago I worked with Perry Cook / Trueman / Bahn and a bunch of students (like me) at RPI on a project with the hemispherical speakers mentioned earlier here. I used a Wacom tablet for input and it worked great – we had 16 of the hemispheres suspended in a grid above the audience with one central computer receiving sound and spatial data from all the performers (all running Max/MSP). So with the tablet, it was easy to place a sound anywhere in the room, and control it with the pressure and other functions of the Wacom.

  • richardl

    You might want to check this out. It's a work in progress.
    http://www.livelab.dk/tablet2midi.php

    I tried building some control surfaces optimized for TabletPC input using Reaktor. It was pretty simple to do what I needed.

  • admin

    Thanks for those! I'd love to chat more about these two projects over email, if you like, peter (at) createdigitalmusic (dot) com.

    I guess I should concede, the Lemur has a slight edge on the spatial project, since you can control more than one position, though I might actually prefer tighter control of one item at a time. And you can't beat the price ($200 for a big tablet, $2500 for a Lemur). You could also map pressure, presumably . . . and then recycle the tablet for use in Photoshop CS. ;-)

    I know there have been interesting experiments in gestural control, too.

    My feeling is, you can never have enough experimentation. It's not like someone said, "well, that's it. You've figured out what to do with a piano. The novelty's done."

  • triage

    As a visual artist who tries to be musically wacky within the limitations of GarageBand, I am certainly interested. Will get a Wacom tablet soon (any sites to suggest that might help me choose the best one?) and would like to make it a sonic controller.

  • http://www.nicolasfournel.com Nicolas Fournel

    I just uploaded two small (and free) applications to make sound/music with graphic tablets on my web site. The first one is Wmidi and the second one is Theremin. There is also stuff to do audio with a mouse, glove, and touch screens. Enjoy!
    http://www.nicolasfournel.com