Grids and roots – a close look at the monome 128. Photo (CC-BY) bm.iphone.

They’re not great in number – only a handful of producers have monome hardware, scattered across the globe. And their obsession is unique, the boutique grid (and now encoder) creations of Brian Crabtree and partner Kelli Cain. But in the latest signs of how committed this community of artists is to using these hardware interfaces for DIY software and to doing it with one another, the monome community has been busy. They have a new compilation, the first experiments (via monome maestro stretta) with the new arc, and now a festival planned for New Mexico in May.

arc Sounds

Let’s skip straight to the news of the arc. stretta, who created many of the most popular patches and music with the original monome, now gets his hands on the two encoders of the arc. (As seen on Synthtopia.) Previously:
Arc: New Music Controller in Video, Detailed Q+A with monome Creator Brian Crabtree

While I’m intrigued by the arc, I do have to sympathize with the skepticism we’ve heard around it, too. The monome’s grid brought a clear compositional paradigm, and, especially in kit form, was accessible for musicians. The arc is pricey, hard to acquire (in extremely short runs), and seems more a companion to the monome than a complete control paradigm on its own. It’s so minimal – with two or four high-resolution encoders ringed by lights – that it lacks some of the self-contained cleverness of its monome predecessor. For those who do love it, though, I’ve been anticipating for a while how the force of their faith in this design might translate to actual music. As I pointed out before, an automobile is controlled with just two pedals and one very big wheel. (Well, at least in the automatic-transmission United States.)

stretta does some beautiful design with it and a granular patch, dialing in both rich textures and rhythmic beats.

More details at his blog:
http://stretta.blogspot.com/

The software here – as has always been the case with the monome – is an essential part of the equation. What the hardware does is to provide a way of touching that digital realm. stretta describes his work with Grainstorm, the patch he produced for the arc, and something I imagine might inspire some of you even if the arc itself does not. He writes:

I like to work with my hands. This is one reason why I enjoy working on the modular. The monome arc advances the ideal of touching sound, to be able to meaningfully improvise with audio in real-time, to sculpt like clay.

He also writes:

I have a bit of trepidation about something monome related appearing on music technology blogs because the reactions I’ve seen recently have gone non-linear. In other words, there are people that are not capable of judging something monome-related on its merits, rather, they are reacting out of existing prejudice. Of course, this isn’t the exclusive domain of monome, some people will have something against ANYTHING out there, whether it comes from Avid, Behringer or myself, but the problem seems particularly acute with the monome.

What? Music technology blogs? Where? Quick, duck!

Oh.

Actually, I think the key line is the last one. The problem isn’t acute at all with the monome. The difference is, whereas traditional forums have covered technologies from vendors like Avid, most of the heated discussion gets funneled through, well, for monome at least, this site.

I could simply refuse to post the above video. I also have the power to turn off comments on this post. I don’t think either is appropriate. For whatever powers of overexposure the Internet may have, it also affords its readers near-infinite abilities – barring direct censorship – to look at anything else they choose. And as for comments, I still have faith in the open forum, even if it isn’t always pretty.

So, please, stretta, don’t quit the Internet, and don’t let the turkeys get you down. Critics, criticism is a worthwhile activity – put it in terms that let people consider your actual criticism rather than just get defensive.

A Community Compilation and Festival

In other news, the monomists have put together both a community-built, eclectic compilation, and plans for a festival in New Mexico.

The compilation is available free on Bandcamp, featuring artists Gaubie, Ghosts of the Field, Lokey, Watson, noiseflowr, 01100010b, CizreK, and Kristoffer Lislegaard. As noted in comments, this is a quickie, free compilation produced for the RPM challenge. (We covered that earlier – the idea was to make an album in 28 days). It’s quite nice, especially given the time allotment, and more is on its way:

And the gang is planning for Gridfest, an all-monome festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico, planned for the first weekend in May. They’ve got a Kickstarter out looking for funds, which can net you CDs or even a track or “monome flower” made just for you, among other prizes.

Gridfest at Kickstarter

http://gridfestival.com/

In other words, even if The Internet sometimes rises up to criticize the monome movement, it’s also the medium through which a disparate, loosely-knit group of artists spanning hemispheres has been able to connect. It has probably made what would have been an isolated oddity into something bigger. Earlier in the Web revolution, we saw ever-more-select genres. Now, we’re seeing friendships form around specific technologies, paradoxically often spanning genres instead of narrowing them.

So, my main question isn’t for the monome community at all. It is, simply, what’s next? What other design — if any — might have a similar impact? And will lovers of other specific technologies come together in the same way?

  • http://noisepages.com/members/nosuchtim/ Tim Thompson

    > what’s next?

    I imagine it'll be Kinect-based instruments.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, not necessarily. The question I had is whether people will identify with a community around the things – maybe they will with Kinect, or maybe it's too much about the novelty. And note that the monome, even as it came out, was something of a throwback – tangible buttons, no velocity, monochrome light, even as the Lemur was first coming out (let alone the stuff that's happened since). So there's a correspondence that is, as stretta says, "non-linear."

  • http://noisepages.com/members/nosuchtim/ Tim Thompson

    The monome became popular partially due to the availability of software apps like MLR.  The Kinect will need something similar to help a community evolve around it.

  • http://www.gridfestival.com TheAlphaNerd

    Peter,

    Thanks for the write up!

  • loopstationzebra

    Why do so many monome users feel the need to sit cross-legged on the floor? Honestly, it's like a drum circle for nerds. Whoops! Did I just react out of existing prejudice? lol.

    While I'm a big fan of the monome and arc, I've never, ever seen a group of people who treat a simple set of controllers as though they were life chaning devices. Honestly… When monome users ramble and prattle on about how rubber buttons and super milled aluminum lets them really FEEL the music, I want to eat my face off. You want a way to FEEL the music? Learn the cello.

  • Peter Kirn

    @loopstationzebra: Uh-huh. Consider, just for a moment, whether how people sit or eating your own face off might add to detract from the relevance of a perfectly reasonable point concerning the cello.

  • http://www.synthtopia.com James Lewin

    Great post. 

    It sometimes seems that people can only judge MIDI controllers as computer hardware, rather than as musical instruments. 

    For more and more musicians, though, MIDI controllers ARE their instruments, and they want instruments that are gorgeous, handcrafted and made to last.

    We're fortunate that there's a market for both cheap mass-market controllers and boutique ones like the monome family. 

    One other comment is that the monome community – and the indie electronic instrument community in general – is probably disproportionately represented online. People that are into making their own music apps and devices are more likely to make blog posts and video to share, too.

    Because of this – I wonder if some musicians, who are expressing themselves in other ways, may feel like there's not much discussion of the types of things that they are doing. 

  • DIY LOTHARIO

    hate to be the meathead here, but do you anticipate any women? this looks like it will be a sausage fest.

  • http://www.edisonsdemo.tumblr.com edison

    there is no sausage in buttons….

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zeroreference

    @James Lewin

    A kazoo is an instrument too….I readily acknowledge that midi controllers, in combination with sound sources and maybe software, can be instruments. Which is to say, a computer system can be an instrument. BUT not all instruments are created equal. As someone who grew up playing trumpet, much as I'd love to get my hands on a monome, and as much as I love Ableton with my MPD, the degree of 'instrumentality,' or qualities we associate with instruments, is not the same. Part of it is training – the more time I spent w/digital gear then the more the machine and I would meld, undoubtedly. But, in my amateur opinion, the monome isn't there yet – but it's getting close. Monome + Arc is a huuuge step forward…..

    @Peter: Bravo. Don't let those digital divas push you around ;) Flames, kitchen, etc.

  • griotspeak

    @zeroreference – That is a tough comparison. A trumpet, no matter how creative you want to get with what you consider  as 'playing' can only be played in a very limited number of ways. That simplifies the evaluation of 'play.' Most instruments have this constraint. It is not a drawback, but it skews comparison to a controller as abstracted as a monome or arc. Something like a BCF2000 is focused in purpose even without a definite purpose. It makes strong assumptions about what it is for. The reason we prattle on about the tactile nature of the monome is that it assumes nothing. It is a tactile interface that makes as few assumptions about its use as it can. So how do you play that? Depends on the software. 

    None of that is to dissuade from evaluating players, or the monome, but I challenge you to really consider these points when you talk about 'qualities you associate with instruments.'

    Another point to consider is the history most 'accepted' instruments have. a trumpet is a legitimate instrument because LOOK AT HOW MUCH MUSIC WE HAVE FOR IT!

    bah, it isn't really that serious, but it is.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/nosuchtim/ Tim Thompson

    > You want a way to FEEL the music? Learn the cello.

    Or any instrument that makes use of pressure, velocity, position, striking force, or some easily-controlled analog value.  It seems rare for something to be considered an instrument (in the long run) without that.  The harpsichord comes to mind, and it's relative popularity is, I think, related to its lack of expression.  I'm interested in and cautiously optimistic about Kinect-driven instruments because of all the analog values that can be used for instruments based on it.  I'm also interested, of course, because the Kinect is new, a completely unexplored space (:-), and really really cheap.  That last attribute (cost) is one of the reasons why the Lemur didn't attract a bigger community.  The iPad is a cheaper Lemur that incorporates more sensors and has sound-making ability, making it a complete instrument, or rather, a platform for a whole collection of complete instruments.  It's a real shame that Apple hasn't yet exposed the finger-area-detection feature that originally existed in the Fingerworks technology they purchased.  If/when they do, the expressiveness of instruments based on the iPad will skyrocket.

    One of the disadvantages of using the Kinect to control an instrument is the lack of something physical to push against or serve as a position reference.  Within this disadvantage there are many opportunities, both in providing reference points as well as relishing the lack of them.

    As you might be able to guess, I'm experimenting with the Kinect, and intend to show the initial results at the upcoming DIY Musical Instrument Tailgate Party at Stanford on April 10 (see http://livelyarts.stanford.edu/event.php?code=TRI… ).  

  • http://noisepages.com/members/nosuchtim/ Tim Thompson

    "As a performance platform, Kinect’s killer app will have to be one that allows the musician to face their audience without relying on a screen for visual feedback."

    Yes, though in my particular niche – installations at public events like burning man – the audience and performer are one and the same, and the output generated is both musical and visual (projected).  So, I get to take advantage of visual feedback to the performer/audience.  Performers willing to stand with their back to the audience would also benefit.

  • brianw

    Hi Peter,
    Thanks for plugging the Miximal 2011 album as well. To be clear, though, the free Miximal album available on bandcamp was created just for the RPM challenge (create an album in the 28 days of Feb). The true compilation album for gridfest will be released to donors and contain exclusive tracks from the artists performing as well as other members of the monome community. Cheers!

  • http://noisepages.com/members/birdsusestars/ BirdsUseStars

    Seems to me that sometimes you can be an instrumentalist and try to master an established instrument, but other times you can play with new things that aren't completely thought out yet. Basically, back in the day, you have a bunch of guys practicing their crumhorn licks, the ancestors of your modern trombone players. A few streets over, however, the electronic musicians ancestors are cutting holes in their crumhorns and banging them around which leads eventually to (among other things) trombones getting invented. I, personally, fit the monome in the later category. 

    Now, there isn't a thing wrong with either approach. We are all just focusing on what inspires us, but I think it's unfortunate to fault one approach for lacking the graces of the other.  

  • http://noisepages.com/members/eatyone/ Guillaume LECTEZ

    @LoopStationZeb: i alwayz doing music on the floor, the biggest workspace i found @ home…and the coolest/easiest way of organise ur workspace area depending of ur feeling :)  

  • GreaterThanZero

    As a performance platform, Kinect’s killer app will have to be one that allows the musician to face their audience without relying on a screen for visual feedback.  You’re designing for literally no interface.  I think that’ll be liberating for the performer, but for app designers, it probably takes “blank canvas syndrome” to the next level.

    Personally, I see it more as a component or a powerful accessory than a self-contained instrument.  But really, that’s true of all our gear these days.  If you show me a new device that won’t communicate with the rest of my stuff, I’ll ask why you wasted my time with it…

    Jumping back a few messages, though… I’d argue that the kazoo is not an instrument.  It’s an analog distortion box; a vocal effect processor.

  • loopstationzebra

    Well, the crosslegged floor thing is really a mondo bizarro attempt at some sort of neo earthy hippy drum circle nonsense. I mean, if you REALLY like sitting on the floor, that's one thing. But… *shrug* It's just another example why many in the monome community are so despised. There's a massive amount of pretentiousness going on over what is nothing more than a (well designed and well built) controller. I can't think of a single musical movement, short of drum circles (kill me now) in which so many performers I've seen in person or on Vimeo or YouTube are sitting on the friggin floor.

    1. It's disgusting. Do you have any idea what LIVES down there? lol. 2. All of the above.

  • loopstationzebra

    Please don't get me wrong: I love the sounds that stretta is getting. I LOVE that he's able to sit down on an actual piano and incorporate his monome and arc into the mix in a creative and inspiring way. What I don't understand, what I will NEVER understand, is the propensity of so many electronic artists to sit around and analyze/intellectualize their work. Just once…ONCE…I'd like to hear from someone who's created an amazing granular MAX patch (or whatever) that didn't try and throw out all sorts of 'feel the music' mumbo jumbo and just stated "Hey, I thought that this patch sounded wicked so I went with it. Coolness." lol. Is that too much to ask? Must we always be subjected to nonstop intellectualizing of this shit? honestly.

  • loopstationzebra

    @Tim Thompson. Sounds cool. But I'm begging you. BEGGING YOU. Show up at that Stanford event with an old AC/DC tshirt on and resist ALL urges to intellectualize your efforts. :) Use words like 'fun', 'exciting', 'cool', and 'sweet'.

    Do NOT use words like 'meaningfully', 'boundaries', 'linear', 'non-linear', or 'divergent'. I'm beggin you. :)

  • aidan

    loops you hateful troll! go for a walk outside or something. relaaax.

    "stop intellectualizing music" what kind of a charlie sheenism is this? is it wrong to think about and discuss art and technology?

  • loopstationzebra

    lol. I didn't say stop intellectualizing music. But do you not agree that the electronic music culture is rife with borderline pseudo-intellectual nonsense? C'mon. Honestly. It's never more prevalent than in the Max/MSP/monome community. It's what happens, I suppose, when you get people writing code and THINKING that's music, lol.

    I know I'm a hateful troll, but SOMEBODY has to bring a bit of down to Earth reality to this place, eh?

    One last thought: If the music and the effort cannot stand on it's own merits, if you feel it needs to be explained ad nauseum in uber complicated terms to fuel one's desire to be

    recognized as an uber geek genius who happens to dabble in blips and bleeps, then it's a FAIL. More Miles Davis (who despised the over-intellectualizing of jazz and music in general), less Robert Fripp please. Tnx!

  • http://www.gridfestival.com TheAlphaNerd

    Sounds like you have got a serious "hate-on" for intellectuals… it also seems like your emotions are getting in the way of having an intelligent (which is not necessarily the same as intellectual) discourse (which is a word I'm using just to bug you).

    Maybe there are many in the monome community that you despise… but other than the CDM threads involving the Arc, I have not really seen much dislike for the monome community.

    I think what you are failing to see is that for many of the monome users music is as much about the final product as it is about the process. I can play the piano, the synth, the gutiar, and the clarinet… all of which are expressive instruments in their own unique ways. The monome on the other hand offers me the ability to express my musical ideas in any way I can image. It allows me to toss away the constraints of other instruments, hard code the theory, and compose based solely on patterns (for example).

    Bah… not worth arguing, maybe you should just spend more time working on things you like, and stop hating on people for caring :D

  • loopstationzebra

    @AlphaNerd You honestly think I'm not presenting my thoughts in an intelligent manner? Oooookay. If you don't understand the message I'm delivering then…. I'm simply an individual who believes in more emotional gut motives and responses to the arts – be it fine art, architecture, product design, or music – as opposed to this fantastical ego-driven need to friggin EXPLAIN everything to death. This need is truly a product of our times and only gets worse with every passing year. "My thoughts! My thoughts! My thoughts! They're so important! Oh, yeah, here's the music as well…

    Listen as quickly as possible so that we can get back to discussing it…" LOL.

  • GreaterThanZero

    >>

    Well, the crosslegged floor thing is really a mondo bizarro attempt at some sort of neo earthy hippy drum circle nonsense.

    <<

    As evidenced by…?

    I think you're attributing reason to something largely irrational.  ie, most people do it because they saw someone else do it.  They thought it looked comfortable, so they went with it.

    I get that you're annoyed at pretensious explanations, but I've yet to hear anyone try to sell me on the wonderfulness of sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Without hearing them intellectualize it, I sort of have to assume they haven't.

    Much of what you're saying is a valid explanation for where the prejudice comes from.  This part is just the prejudice speaking.

    As for me, I'm still fighting off the urge to write a 30 page essay titled "why I have to intellectualize everything" in response to your post.  Short version: it's a personality disorder.

  • loopstationzebra

    @Greater, lol. The last paragraph made me laugh.

  • http://www.inoutfest.org Flplsx

    re: the sitting thing. I mostly see the monome sitting on a table and occasionally on a laptop stand. There's that one popular youtube vid of Brian sitting down at some school presentation (with the neon green floor), and then there's this, but they seem to be an exception.

    And yes, Gridfest will be a complete sausage festival, like in Vienna. I think at the NYC party we had the entire female monome community in the same place, all two of them.

    Wish I could make it to Santa Fe, looks like a blast!

  • http://www.edisonsdemo.tumblr.com edison

    man,

    very stoked to play santa fe!

    everytime i've gotten together with some/lots of the monome crew, all around the world, i've learned ish, drank beers, had tons of fun and been astonished with great music…

    we just had a big night here in SF this past weekend…

    all monome line up… it was incredible!

    packed the house from 9 – 2… no one ever ever said "divergent" at me…

    stretta is consistently on some next level shit…

    that stuttering drum app is sick!

    and the piano vs. grain buffers is beautiful…

    very inspiring… i wish i could afford some arc love…

    looks like a very satisfying piece of gear…

    and once again, stretta apps looking game changing…

    using the anonymity of the internet, to hate things is my biggest personal pet peeve…

    it's a strict formula, negativity is never congruent with musical contribution…

    im pretty positive, none of those people sitting on the floor, geeking out on monomes would EVER down talk angus young…

    bring out yer buttons!

  • rotoscoping

    to me, what differentiates an instrument from a controller is that what the controller is sending its zeroes and ones to is arbitrary. on the other hand, the sound of an instrument is a direct product of all the minute details lying in both the instrument’s construction, its handling by the instrumentalist, and the environment – how slow the tree grew, the size of the chamber of resonance, how long you’ve been using your strings, your angle of attack, the humidity of the room, whether you use the thumb, the index finger, or a pick, whatever. a particular kind of material may make a controller better looking or more durable, but it won’t affect its sound. you can use a controller in an instrumental way, but it’s not an instrument, and that is not a matter of practice and subsequent command. i think that labeling controllers as instruments is an act of wanting them to be accepted (i could be wrong, of course).

    well, all that only if you agree with the premise, naturally ;)

    all this is not a value judgment. both instruments and controllers have their advantages. there is value in mastering a harmonica, there is value in mastering a pipe organ, there is value in mastering a monome in conjunction with mlr.

    it’s the same with digital painting – you’re not painting, you’re not pushing pigment around. it’s probably called digital painting because painting is what it resembles the most and it’s more convenient to say. well, i suppose we could settle with digital mark-making.

  • http://www.edisonsdemo.tumblr.com edison

    @roto…

    yea but in the end, the digital mark making is art… as the controllerist's music is just that, music… so why differentiate?

    in the end, it's musical conservatism…

  • http://lokeymassive.net lokey

    yeah, as someone who actively participates in the monome community, i really don't see excess amounts of pseudo-intellectual blathering. I see a huge collection of weird and talented people, keenly interested in making music. And if that requires learning convoluted max processing tech so as to accomplish whatever mad idea

  • http://lokeymassive.net lokey

    sorry, hit return there ;]

    …whatever mad idea has sprund to mind, then all the better. Remember, the monome by itself is not an instrument. It's a control surface, and the task is to roll your own instrumentation, using that surface. Interesting and stimulating. Haters are going to hate, but there is nothing but win going on here. I would go so far as to say that the monome community is at this point, the best example of a collective, creative and collaborative online culture. Setting the bar high, thankfully.

    I for one am really interested in attending gridfest, it'll be a great chance to meet physically the people i have come to appreciate through text and sound.

  • Peter Kirn

    There are definitely other female monome players, just FYI. ;) Hopefully boys and girls alike will be drawn out to more events. I imagine some of the females – and many people in general – avoid our troll-infested comment waters, but they're out there.

  • rotoscoping

    @edison:

    i just think the distinction is useful – it’s a technical one that has nothing to do with any kind of perceived value. you can make good and bad music using both, no argument there.

  • http://www.jeremyabel.com Jeremy Abel

    Gonna have to agree with loopman here. Someone's trollmeter is pretty out of whack, as all his arguments seemed pretty sound in my book.

  • http://www.edisonsdemo.tumblr.com edison

    @roto…

    absolutely, i feel ya…

    ive just seen people use the distinction to mostly marginalize…

    ive also seen people give virtuosic and spectacular performances on a garbage can…

    once saw a band SHRED on a banjo, a chunk of sheet metal and a kaoss pad…

    it's just all so relative…

  • rotoscoping

    @edison:

    true that…

    haha, that sounds awesome.

  • http://www.gridfestival.com TheAlphaNerd
  • http://institutfatima.org pepezabala

    While everyone here is talking about interfaces, little has been said about the community aspect. I don't know too much about the monome community, but I have been at one of their monome-tour-concerts here and the people were nice. The forum is nice. They seem to support each other and are actually doing things, like organizing those tours or festivals or compilations.

    While the monome is an instrument that is actually not an instrument but only an interface, the next step musta community built around an interface that is actually not an interface but a … composition approach? musical theory? webforum writing chord changes and max patches?

  • loopstationzebra

    I'm not saying the monome community isn't nice. I'm not saying I don't like the controllers or their creators. I've heard a ton of monome/Max driven music that's fantastic. But I can list dozens of articles written in the past 2 years in which the monome performer/artist is just blathering on and on – almost in METAPHYSICAL terms – about what is, at the end of the day, absolutely nothing more than a very nice controller. :) Now, I don't hate on those people, but I do find many of the comments to be tedious and downright mind-numbing. I'm an iPad fanboy. I GET what it means to be incredibly excited about a device, lol. But Lordy, isn't it just all a bit over-the-top at times?

    I mean, some of the performances I've attended it was pretty much de rigueur to be sitting down cross-legged (because the performer was doing so….), LOL. The whole thing starts to get a very 'Maharishi Mahesh Yogi' religious vibe that's downright creepy in it's seriousness. Just sayin'..

  • Jonah

    @loopstationzeb Please list articles. It sounds inspiring.

    Really cool ideas about the 360 Kinect, but I feel like we would become like dancers or martial artists. On the other hand it would be nice to get your physical activity for the day by playing a Kinect instrument for an hour or so. :)

    I lay on my stomach to make music all the time both on the floor and in bed. It's comfortable and absolutely improves my music! If I ever get an ipad I think I'll try to mount it so I can lay on my back. Plus quality chairs are expensive and you just bought a Monome. :)

    The Monome community is a breeding ground for interesting ideas that get translated to other hardware. Other hardware that isn't as easy to roll your own system for mind you. Why care why they justify what they do? We all come up with our own reasons. It's human nature. It's also an overall positive sign for the Monome in my opinion. Tools tied to culture and tribes can be a good thing. I'm not a part of the Monome culture, but I absolutely value what they do!

    A random idea for the future would be to come up with an open source,free and simple(and I don't mean pd :p) way to design your own control schemes and instruments for the Monome  family. 

    Also to echo what's been said it might be interesting to bundle the hardware with some specific sound generating tools to turn it into the more classic definition of an instrument. Ever swung a hose around over your head? It's a simple, but rather beautiful sound and I think it would suit the Arc rather well. You could pair it with a Monome to do something like start a loop recording and change layers. 

    As a tangent, spinning is an interesting control paradigm. I think turntables and records have tied it pretty strongly to pitch and even as we move to digital tools the idea remains. It's funny how things like that work. There are also things like the glass harmonica and singing crystal…..

    The Monome itself would be interesting for granular control, but not in the way I've seen it used. What If it broke your sample down into 64 chunks that you could turn on or off and then use the Arc to control for example pitch and repeats of the selected chunks? That would be appealing, to me at least ;) .

  • http://www.gridfestival.com TheAlphaNerd

    Hey jonah… seems like you need to get yourself a monome and an arc and start developing :p

  • digid

    It's a shame 95% of all the music I hear coming out of the monome community is terribly, terribly boring. The only artist I can think of right now that is original with the monome is Flying Lotus, but that's more (I think!) because of the sounds he uses and his original compression techniques than anything else.

    I am always way more excited by, say, software that does something new (Soundhack, fscape, Cecilia 4.2) than I am with performance controllers like the monome, because it all ends up sounding so static. Sorry, wish I could be more excited.

  • http://www.jeremyabel.com Jeremy Abel

    @digid: I feel like it lends itself to a certain kind of style, mostly because it's used by programmers who are also musicians. Furthermore, I think the percentage really good musicians who are also competant programmers is very low. Aphex Twin, Autechre, and maybe a few others are all that I can think of at the moment. The lack of any built-in software also makes it rather difficult to jump into, thus leading to acceptance by only the more "intellectual" types of musicians. I think it's the same case with the folks who buy the Eigenharp or those hexagon-button keyboard things or any of the other boutique alternative controllers. The kind of person who is drawn to these usually-expensive items seems, to me at least, seems to be the musical equivilant of the 40-year-old who buys a ferrari to hang with the cool young kids. It also doesn't help that most of these items are outside the pricerange of many young musicians, especially the budget-concious Pitchfork-popular musician. I think more interesting music comes out those kind of people due to budget constraints, because you're forced to work with what you have.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Jeremy: Interesting theories, there, son.

    What would you describe as a budget setup, then?

    One thing I've seen: someone buys a $250 monome kit, does their own case, attaches it to pre-built Max patch (free) or Pd patch (free). Or someone buys the $400 model. I'm not sure how that's so different from other options, cost-wise (the 128 being another story). I also find it interesting that a monome user might be subject to this complaint, but not someone who spends thousands on analog modulars.

    I'm budget-constrained and a poor programmer, so this could mean my music should be fantastic. I'd better keep practicing. ;)

  • http://www.edisonsdemo.tumblr.com edison

    "It’s a shame 95% of all the music I hear coming out of the monome community is terribly, terribly boring."

    "The kind of person who is drawn to these usually-expensive items seems, to me at least, seems to be the musical equivilant of the 40-year-old who buys a ferrari to hang with the cool young kids."

    being there are thousands of monomes in existence, several being in the hands of some very prominent artists…. these are broad, over generalized statements of uninformed non-sense… there are musicians on all levels of exposure, covering almost every genre using monomes… to further correct you, not all monome users actively participate in the community… so anything we are or are not doing, isn't a consistent thing within any regard…

  • http://www.gridfestival.com TheAlphaNerd

    Famous People With different styles:

    Trent Reznor: Monome User

    Imogen Heep: Monome User

    Dead Mau5: Monome User

    Not as famous people with different styles (Including Tracks!!!):

    Edison: http://soundcloud.com/edison/sets/not-what-ship-a

    Darkseeker:
    http://soundcloud.com/darkseeker/master-blaster

    the Cigarette Opérahouse:
    http://soundcloud.com/cigarette-operahouse/double

    Making The Noise:
    http://soundcloud.com/making-the-noise/making-the

    The Sweaty Caps:
    http://thesweatycaps.bandcamp.com/album/sl-ep

    TheAlphaNerd (me): http://soundcloud.com/thealphanerd/a-new-dity-rou

    Thought I would mention all of these artists are going to be playing gridfest…

  • http://www.jeremyabel.com Jeremy Abel

    II mean, budget is relative. It depends on what you want to sound like. If you're going for the lo-fi sound, you can get away with a cheap 4-track recorder and whatever instruments you can get from your local thrift store. Hell, I make do with several 80's casio toy keyboards and a Juno-106 my old college was throwing out for some unknown reason. Not that I've produced any kind of song in the past year, but still…

    I guess it comes down to what people find inspiring. If you're not "feeling it" while playing a traditional instrument, then you're probably better off looking at one of these alternative solutions. It's just that I think the monome's price is a bit overblown, and like loop said, it's sorta presented like an elitist item, almost like it could serve the same purpose that piece of high-end modern furniture does. Like you'd be able to put it in your coffee table and it would speak volumes about your opinions on the current state of the music industry.

    Girl: "oh what's that thing on your desk?"

    Guy: "oh that's my monome"

    Girl: "what's it for?"

    Guy: "it's for making music. I didn't really find the guitar very inspiring, so I got this"

    Girl: "what kind of music do you make with it?"

    Guy: "oh, you know, it's kinda abstract…"

    As for the arc, I think $500 for two knobs is rediculous. I'd be a buyer, based on that stretta video, at $250, and that'd be my limit. Hell, after I saw that video I was like "oh man I want one of these things", but when I saw the price I forgot about it real quick.

    Here, here's an encoder with 20000 clicks per revolution, and it's half the price of one of the arc knobs:
    http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Avago-Technol

    Sure, it may not be "handmade in a mountain shack" or "designer", but neither was the juno-106, or the jupiter 8, or the TR-808. These people feel they need special equipment to make music that maybe 10 people will buy, while most everyone else has made music with "normal" equipment, used in a very creative way, and make music we now consider classic.

    I guess it also comes down to what makes people happy. If this stuff makes you happy, then go for it. If their music makes other people happy, fantastic. I think it's all down to the creative potential of the user. If you need boutique designer hardware to craft your songs, then go for it. As for me, I find people like Diego Stocco, who can make an engaging song from a damn tree, way more inspiring.

    And believe me, I've got my own complaints about people who spend thousands on modulars, but only produce either songs that consist of random knob-twiddling / filter sweeps / slow s+h routed to oscillator pitch, or songs that sound like they're from the 70's, ala ELP or that Popcorn tune. ;)

  • http://www.gridfestival.com TheAlphaNerd

    I thought I'd clarify that Reznor, Imogen, and Mau5 are not playing gridfest… oopsie!

    As for the controller… one thing that I think most people forget is that both the monome and the arc are OSC native… and the drivers, and protocol are all openly available. As well the developer tehn(Brian) is easily accessible, and handles customer service himself, when the community can't answer a question.

    There is added value in this, at least I believe. I just have a really hard time thinking of a less expensive hardware controller that gives this degree of flexibility to both the Developers and the Users… or better yet, how many controllers have a development community at all?

  • griotspeak

    @TheAlphaNerd I was genuinely confused for a minute like, "wait, reznor, heap AND deadmau5? How did they manage that?" 

  • Jonah

    @TheAlphaNerd I'm slowly learning programing because I think I might be able to make a living from that compared to music. :) :( When I have the skills I'll be sure to cook something up for the Arc.  

    I was just looking on ebay and saw a monome clone(with 4 knobs!) in a bliptronic body for under $200. Pretty cool! Search Blipnome under completed items. Soldering and me don't mix unfortunately.

    Anyway. Let's rag on the condescending vintage gear snobs that send money to try to sound like their heroes. I think we can all agree they deserve mockery. :)

  • http://lokeymassive.net lokey

    lets not spend time ragging on anyone. Let's celebrate that we live in an age that so many people have the luxury of making weird noises ;]

  • http://www.yahoo.com/ Beatrice

    Frankly I think that's ablsoteuly good stuff.