Afters years in development, the closely-watched TENORI-ON instrument from Toshio Iwai was officially launched in London by Yamaha last night. Noted game and film composer Gary Kibler was there, and he’s back with lots of juicy details, from the origin of the instrument’s conception to details on its launch and even a link to a PDF manual.. He’s also put loads of videos up for us on YouTube. -Ed.
Yamaha hosted an event last night in the heart of London’s Soho district to celebrate their official launch in the UK of what’s been described as a "revolutionary hands-on instrument that seamlessly fuses lights, sounds and music". The TENORI-ON is a unique handheld performance controller designed by Toshio Iwai, an established interactive media artist and designer, that has taken a full six years to go from initial concept to final production. Its basic makeup is a 16×16 matrix of LED buttons that not only provide the control interface to its 16 layers, 256 preset tones, and 6 sequence/loop modes, but also displays in lights what is often a stunning visual feedback loop on whatever is being output by the device. The device is planned only to be sold in the UK presently with a list price of £599 (approx. $1200 USD)
The highlight of the stage presentations was this first solo performance by Toshio:
Below is a short video interview with Toshio (he begins with signing my "Electroplankton"
DS game that he had designed earlier for Nintendo).
Peter Peck, the Marketing Manager for Yamaha, got up on stage just before the performance segment to make a few announcements, including some official details on the launch of the product:
- The price point is 599 UK pounds and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.
- There is currently no set date for an international or US release of the product.
- Yamaha will be displaying these through nearly a dozen retail record outlets throughout the UK. This list is available here.
The evening featured discussions and performances by Toshio himself as well as some guest artists who had been given prior access to the device during its development. One such artist was Robert Lippok, who is well-known in Berlin’s electronic music scene with his noted band "To Rococo Rot". I counted seven or eight demo stations where people could try out the device for themselves, most equipped with headphones but some with powered monitors (Yamaha, of course). Like most people who have only been able to watch demo videos of others playing this device, it doesn’t necessarily appear intuitive, but I personally found that after about 15-20 minutes spent with it in combination with a quick read of the quick-start guide that it all begins to make sense to the point you’re able to produce something fairly quickly and effortlessly. I found myself drawn in and after 45 minutes that appeared more to me like ten, I had to be dragged away kicking and screaming.
Gary shot loads of video for CDM over the course of the evening; take it away, YouTube!
A personal demo: Peter Peck from Yamaha gives a full demo of the Tenori-On for Gary and CDM.
The inspirational music box that started it all:
Robert Lippok’s soundcheck and a 360 shot of the basement under Phonica Records:
Gary’s first-ever TENORI-ON composition, part of his hands-on time with the new instrument:
And a second masterpiece. Gary: “Just because I understand a bit better what I’m doing doesn’t necessarily translate into producing better results. That may be the beauty in this beast.”
Further experimentation, shortly before the “dragged kicking and screaming” moment. “Not only did I have just one hand available to me due to my holding the camera with the other, but I couldn’t hear a thing because I needed to have the headphone resting on the camera mic. Not as satisfying a result as when I was using two hands and could hear, but a tribute to the device that blindly allows you construct something halfway listenable, without even listening!”
Thanks again to Peter and CDM for allowing me to cover this event for them. I had a great time. I have some definite impressions after having some direct experience with the device, as well as after speaking with Toshio and the other interested parties attending this event. I’ll write up these comments in the next day or two. I’d like to see some additional discussion started among CDM readers as a result of some of my comments.
For more in-depth info on the TENORI-ON, be sure to visit Yamaha’s Official Tenori-on site.
Gary Kibler is a game and film composer who most recently worked for Sony Pictures in their Games Studio in Culver City. He recently relocated to the UK just outside London where he is now working on several new projects.