Speaking of futuristic instrumental design, the Eigenharp – an instrument that looks like the bassoon was redesigned by Vulcans – brings two big developments with its appearance this week in the Bay Area of California. First off, if you’ve doubted its utility in musical practice and you’re a fan of American minimalism, we’re treated to it covering the music of Philip Glass’ landmark Koyaanisqatsi. Geert Bevin, Eigenlabs’ Senior Software Developer, explains how he did it:

I’m using SonicCouture’s Glass/Works Kontakt instrument in a four-part multi-timbral setup in Native Instruments Kontakt. Each key individually controls pitch, velocity and the resonance of the convolution filter cut-off frequency (which creates a faint scraping-like sound).

The vocals are done through the DPA microphone that’s clipped onto the breath pipe and plugged into the Eigenharp Alpha. It uses the built-in Eigenharp Alpha pre-amp and is routed through a series of Audio Unit effects in EigenD for pitch shifting, stereo spreading, EQ and
compression. I’m monitoring directly from the headphone output of the Eigenharp Alpha with my Etymotic ER-4P earphones.

The single instrument cables carries all the information, data and audio, in both directions.

Geert has good news for those who hope to modify the software, or see it become a platform on which other instrumental innovation can happen. As originally promised, key components of the software are now covered by the GPLv3. It’s not the whole software stack, but I think it’s the stuff that most matters. Full details:

http://www.eigenlabs.com/wiki/Developers/

I can imagine this will open up some new possibilities for the Eigenharp’s dedicated band of players to mod the instrument for their own needs. But players, I’d love to hear from you – does the GPL here matter to you? Will you be able to dig into the code, or know someone who could? (Or want to try to motivate developers to do so?)

  • http://www.billthompson.org Bill Thompson

    Isn't Eigenharp mac only? Fail. Also, didn't it only use soundfonts? I LOVE the way it looks and it's design, but seems closed to one OS…

  • http://www.eigenzone.org Geert Bevin

    No, it supports Mac and Windows. Currently only the Pico is activated in the published releases for Windows but Alpha and Tau support is coming very soon. The last pieces there that we're working on is support for the built-in headphone output and mic pre-amp. More even, a lot of the software actually runs already on Linux and if there's enough demand it's not that much of an effort to implement the last bits and pieces for that. Open source could actually help with that.

    The Eigenharp can use sound fonts, but it can also use Audio Units, VSTs, MIDI out and in, and OSC out and in for control. We're working on extended hi-res OSC support for musical notes and will be working with other instrument creators (like Roger Linn) to finally specify a general standard for playing musical notes over OSC.

    Hope this helps.

  • http://soundcloud.com/wodgod/sets Gogmagog

    I would really like to see the software implemented on Linux. *If* it was implemented well, that could very well be the thing that pushes me to purchase a Tau. Otherwise I'm not willing to purchase another computer just to play a new instrument.

  • KBSoundSmith

    Hi everyone, this is my first post here. I've been ghost-reading here for about two years — Peter, love the site, keep up the good work. Anyway, about the eigenharp. So it only kind of supports Windows — and it's been that way since release, well over a year ago. This makes no business sense, frankly: Windows has around 80% global market share, Apple about 1.7%. I actually was going to buy a Tau at one point, but Windows support hasn't really come. Also, another reason I didn't buy is that it's difficult to see Eigenlabs strange behavior toward their products–the pico is "entry level" and the Alpha is "professional" (this makes no sense. Is a cello more professional than a violin because it's larger? And to be frank, the Tau just looks more appealing than the Alpha, which appears awkward and bloated). It's clear they don't take the Tau seriously. Look at the Eigenlabs website; in the forum, there is still no section dedicated to the Tau. In addition to that, if you look at the pages giving more detailed information about the instruments, you can find plenty on the pico and the Alpha, but nothing on the Tau. I think the eigenharps look like fun instruments to play and I would still not mind getting one, but given the way the business has handled things, I'm not going to drop thousands of dollars on an instrument I haven't played, especially when it's hard to imagine that eigenlabs will survive. Sorry to appear so negative, Geert, I appreciate you coming on to write about an instrument you clearly care a lot about.

  • http://eigenzone.org Geert Bevin

    @KBSoundSmith I hear all the points you're making, many things there are just a matter of prioritization and not rushing things. The Eigenharp was only released 18 months ago to the public and you can ask any existing player, they all agree that the software is moving at an impressive rate. The fact of the matter is that with live gigging musicians, Macs are about as popular if not more so than Windows machines. Also, there are additional complexities to the Windows version that we didn't want to delay the Mac version for. It's just a matter of time and we make it pretty clear that *right now* only the Pico works on Windows, the Tau and Alpha support is very imminent now though, but like with anything we don't want to make false promises as software development can take longer than anticipated.

    A lot of what I read in your comment is very personal, it's great that the Tau appeals to you so much, I personally like the Alpha better since it's got a microphone input and a rounded surface, but I like the Pico as much as the Alpha. The missing Tau section on the forums was frankly an oversight and this has been fixed a few weeks ago. We treat each instrument with as much attention. The reality is though that we've been working very hard on finding the right suppliers for the Tau and that has taken up a lot of time, meaning that we haven't shipped as many as of the other instruments. This results in a less vibrant community around the Tau, finally resulting is less information on the forums and the wiki about the Tau. The rest of the information actually applies to all the instruments, Pico, Tau and Alpha as they all run the same software package.

    I totally understand that you don't want to spend thousands of dollars before trying out an instrument. You might want to reach out to customerservices@eigenlabs.com to see if there's a dealer or a Tau player near you were you could try the instrument out. I personally took a trip to London to try out the Alpha before buying it.

  • Jon Starr

    I'm happy to hear you guys are working on formalized note data over OSC. The only practical way I can get it working now is with Expert Sleepers Silent Way. I would love to see Roger's Max patch for the Linnstrument. The most important part (in my mind) is the section that calculates the initial rounding to a set pitch and the transition into finer manual control. That seems like a big feature on the Continuum too, but in a Max patch I could rig it to my Wacom tablet or a Lemur or any number of other options.