Moldover at the Maker Faire from The Amazing Rolo on Vimeo.

Yann Seznec aka The Amazing Rolo brings CDM his coverage of music tech at the Maker Faire in three episodes today.

Our friend Matt Moldover is a mad scientist of controllers. Stock Novation and M-Audio keyboards enter, and wind up coming out as live musical control monsters. You know that kid who mashes up toys in the first Toy Story movie? It’s like that, only musically productive.

Moldover has been steadily perfecting what was originally the Octamasher, a set of M-Audio keyboards connected to a central Ableton Live brain. The basic concept is a powerful one: instead of one person, one set of secret mappings even the performer (cough) sometimes forgets (yeah, that’s me), and one computer behind which he can hide, get a bunch of people jamming and remixing live – even if they’re new to computer music.

The Syncomasher is the latest iteration, and it’s looking utterly beautiful. It can be an installation toy or a serious performer instrument – or both at once. Check out the new custom body – which still retains that whimsical Moldoverism.


Check out this controller modification how-to, as well, from last year:

  • aaron

    You could've picked a better modified controller video. Many ppl ridicule that "mod" for good reason.. (simply removing a couple keys and applying pads to the top of the keys and lines for visual queues is laughable. it basically says 'im bad with my controller so i had to butcher it to have less function and more obviousness for visual queueing'). Nothing against "controllerism", just a common knock @ this video that's been mocked all over the interwebs.

  • aaron

    btw.. reason it's mocked is it gives "controllerism" a bad rap. there are many more examples out there that are actually impressive and not ridiculous.

  • aaron

    that's also not a knock @ moldover himself, he does plenty good.. that vid was just a wash. suprised its still online, i would've removed it if i were in his shoes.

  • Ryan


    i think the point is that it's a simple tutorial for beginners to try out which doesn't require advanced knowledge of modification.

    it probably is good in the sense that it gets people who otherwise wouldn't be doing this kind of thing inspired to try it themselves, and potentially take it to the next level.

  • quantize

    THAT is on MTV?

    move some keys around and stick some rubber on them?

    gah…how depressing..

  • Zane

    @quantize – Better than what they usually run.

  • Peter Kirn

    Okay, folks.

    Note the two videos. Top video is a new video. And yeah, it's a huge leap forward from the simple modification (hacking something up and removing keys). Moldover has been iterating through a basic idea, some proof-of-concept hacks, to something that looks more polished. That's what we're all about. A lot of the time early attempts – or what you'd try to teach to others just getting started – are primitive. If you constantly try to START (or have others) start with something sophisticated, you can wind up getting nowhere, just freezing up.

    I was unaware this video was being mocked. But at the rate people are trolling on the Web, I tend not to take that too seriously.

  • Machines

    @aaron –

    I've seen the bottom video a few times and also don't see the point, but I would be grateful if you could point me in the direction of the other, "better" videos you mention. I'd be very interested to see other takes on controller-ism. Between this and the Trackmate stuff I'm still trying to figure out, there's a lot to do!

  • Mark

    So by "trolls" you mean rational people that perceive the "transformation" of a near useless maudio controller to an even more useless form to be a laughable waste of time.

  • jonnyfive

    I don't get it why be so negative? This video is great for beginners; isn't the whole point of blogs like this to engage people with the technology they use, or to encourage them to engage more fully when they don't because its intimidating, or something they perceive to be beyond their ability? This vid is awesome, it gives people an easy entry point into the world of DIY controller hackery. Your first project doesn't need to be building a monome clone from spare parts…

    Also, if you've never seen this guy play he doesn't touch his computer (hardly) ever, and plays with a lot of musicianship. Isn't that the point of controlerism? Making your amalgamation of electronics into an instrument, personalizing etc. This vid clearly illustrates its not an insurmountable task.

    Finally: You can't before you can.

  • Mark

    Because musical beginners should learn to play a musical instrument. This approach, which primarily rewards the creation of auditory farts and squawks, is a waste of time. He plays with "musicianship"? I think I've finally decided to not come around here ever again.

  • Machines


    "Musical beginners should learn to play a musical instrument", huh?

    So does the fact that my one-year-old daughter can find a musical beat in the theme to the news, groove the loops she triggers on her many toys or the sound she makes when she blows air over an empty bottle mean her enjoyment of those "farts and squawks" is a waste of time? I think not.

    There is no right or wrong way to create or enjoy music. Music is primarily about discovery, not a set of rules. Welcome to the 21st century :)

  • Mark

    Don't be such a smug father, you once did what she now does. Your daughter is exploring the order of tones and rhythm. She is likely already sensitive and preferential to the western major scale. Contrary to your position, music is about rules, and the subtle stretching of those rules gives it flavor. I didn't realize the 21st century was about molesting the works of others with cheesy bandpass filters and bad delay. Please enlighten me.

  • twilight_fish


    So tell me enlightened one, of what rules do you speak? That has to be the silliest statement I've heard since I was told that people who use sequencers are not really musicians.

    Technology moved so far in such a short time in relation to the "music" making process that the possibilities for performance and composition are vast and expanding.

    "I didn’t realize the 21st century was about molesting the works of others with cheesy bandpass filters and bad delay"

    You have heard about this thing called sampling right? didn't know there were rules to that too…

    Why are you posting here?

  • Mark

    Not the academic rules you imply. Don't be a twat. Rules are made to be broken, and without rules to be broken, you end up with unlistenable noise. There are rules to sampling. #1 is; Don't make a musical shite stew that sounds like it came from a Cop using fruity loops. "Vast and expanding technology" does not equate to palatable noise worth putting in your ears. So in reply, there is a rule. Make music worth listening to. Stop masturbating over the crappy wal-mart tech' behind it, and make some good music. I repeat, stop slobbering over crappy technology.

  • Mark

    Oh, and if you want to know why I'm so grumpy…#1, well, because I'm right and you're some suckling college age musical dilettante. #2 because my marriage is falling apart and I'm over it #3 I have no children and I'm going to whack myself so I figure I may as well give you whatever knowledge I feel you need to hear. Make sense? You don't need theory, but at least learn how to play the fucking guitar for christ's sake.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Well, Mark, thanks for helping us all to understand why you took the "troll" comment so personally, anyway.

  • wasili

    MORE PLEASE!!!!!!!!!

    i'm really excited about this,Peter.exactly what i needed.

    Moldover is a GENIUS!!!!!!

  • tiago morgado

    music is changing, everything is changing. the world is changing.. but there are things that never change..

    and I grant you all that with the developments we are seeing in the modern world, I am surely going to make all my efforts so that, one day, if I have children, they will have a completely different music education that the one I did (although I won't obviously obly them to be musicians)

  • rhowaldt

    @Mark: please, PLEASE do not encourage even more people to learn and play a guitar. its the only instrument everybody ever seems to play, and most suck at it. my wife has no idea how to play the guitar, yet i want to give it to her all the time as she uses it to create the strangest sounds, sounds i wish i could get out of that thing. the only reason she has this power is because she approaches this instrument completely naïeve.

    now, your opinion might be, when you hear above example, that it is a bunch of crap. to my ears however, it is a refreshing way of using a terribly cliché instrument. she breaks the rules simply because she is not aware of the rules. why would that be bad?

    more importantly: why do you care? why do you care enough to keep posting comments? because you believe you are right? you seem like an educated person with an argumented view, but you should have realised somewhere along your education that there is no such thing as wrong or right, as it differs per person, per situation and per everything, hence, it does not exist. its simply a rule we live by to make life easier. break the rule.

    i'm right, and all of you know it.

  • BARF

    Mark is just another troll getting angry on the internet. Ignore him and maybe he will actually "not come around here ever again."

  • Keats' Handwrit

    Wow… I've never seen such negativity on this site.

    I really enjoyed Moldover's video and wanted to see more so I watched some of his other videos. It seems that some people get really angry about Moldover's videos.

    I feel like it takes a very good teacher, to make the complex seem easy. So many people criticize before understanding.

    Also, @rhowaldt- thank you. Everyone plays guitar (including me) and it's so boring.

    Contra, Mark I love this site – thanks everyone for making a great and (except for Mark) positive place to hang out.


  • Mark

    Psychology of a troll:

    1. Personal issues.

    2. Drunk.

    3. Well, that was me.

    I'm sorry for being such a a negative idiot. Please forgive me for polluting this great post.

  • Tyler

    The second video is great. Take the specifics of the controller out of it and you can see what he is really talking about. It is the spirit of controllerism. The controller is not becoming useless but more functional and specialized. It's the principle of the thing. How detailed can you get in 3 minutes on MTV. It's enough time to inspire and motivate to be sure. Thanks Matt. And thank you Peter for the post.