Owing to a tradition that goes back to the first samplers and hip-hop pioneers, sampling and digital performance have become a kind of instrumental technique. You might play well, you might play poorly, but even working with samples, you can actually play.
You can look at the simple design of the monome as the hardware embodiment of digital, a reflection of an array of pixels. You can see it as an extension of Roger Linn’s MPC and other drum machine concepts. It’s probably both those things. But since the monome itself makes no sound, it’s been software that has made that design musically relevant. While the original vision of the monome was as a blank canvas that could perform any function, ultimately a community of musicians focused their efforts on expanding a single patch, creator Brian Crabtree’s original mlr. Talk to these monome players, and they’ll very likely tell you about some little modification they made last night to use in a set they’re playing tonight, because they wanted some feature or another, or a little subpatcher they borrowed from a friend to solve a problem. Add up all those little hacks, and you get evolution.
Now, descendant mlrv has evolved into a live music-making environment of its own, and not just for the monome. Version 2.0, released this week, supports monome-like controllers such as the Novation Launchpad, Akai APC, and Livid Ohm/Block, but also conventional MPC-style grids like the Akai MPD.
The word the creators use to describe the playing technique: “hypersampling.”
mlrv is built in Max/MSP, so if you have a Mac or Windows and version 5 of the software (or Ableton’s Max for Live), you can edit the patch. Otherwise, you can download a free runtime and use the patch itself for free. Pay US$18, and you get your name on the startup screen and special email news and downloads. Pay US$80, and you get limited edition vinyl from artists galapagoose and ‘%’.
The project is the work of Trent Gill, Michael Felix, and parallelogram; check out developer galapagoose playing with it live in the video at top. (I will say, though, even as I am writing on a Website, you get more out of being in the same room with a live performance.) All the details:
The software will be available February 1, with a release party that evening for the software and music. Also, while we’ll have details tomorrow, Handmade Music will host performances by galapagoose, %, and other monome artists (alongside chip music, MeeBlippery, and laptopism) on Saturday February 5. Both events happen in New York City at Culturefix.
On February 5 with CDM, you can come at 3pm and check out an open lab to get your hands on mlrv and talk to its developers. Then stay for the party Saturday night – US$20 buys you admission, supports the artists, and nets you a two hour open bar of beer and wine recently celebrated by the NY Times’ drink critic, Frank Bruni. Full details coming in a separate post, or in the meantime, RSVP on Facebook.
Tuesday night launch party details, NYC
http://bit.ly/hmfeb5 = Handmade Music party Saturday night, complete with hands-on during the day, more live performances at night!
Finally, here’s the obligatory, somewhat amusing, preview vid: