A look at the keys of a new instrument, now embraced as such by a community of players. Alpha image (CC-BY) Ross Elliott.

Amidst the general-purpose computing platforms (laptop, iPad), and latest iterations of the conventional synthesizer (keyboard, knobs), the quest to build something genuinely specific, self-contained, and unique drives on. These creations are strange breeds, evolutionary singularities that aim to embody something the more generic instruments of our age lack: personality and soul. They’re the kind of object you might want to practice for years, to treat in their digital, “post-mechanical” form the way you would a violin or piano. They have a feel, more than the smooth surface of a trackpad or plane of multitouch glass, something that pushes back when you push it.

And while many such creations have shown up in proof-of-concept demos and academic conferences, the Eigenharp is an instrument a small but growing community of players are embracing in the long haul.

Musician and Eigen advocate Geert Bevin is back with the latest round of updates as those players hone their chops and try to really master their Eigen playing. And if you want to get involved yourself, there’s even a regular, Web-based clubhouse, thanks to Google’s fledgling “Hangout” technology on Google+. Geert tells us:

Independently from Eigenlabs, Eigenharp players are now organizing a clubhouse, twice a week, on opposite times to allow everyone to join at one point or another. This happens on Monday at 4PM CEST (Europe) and Wednesday 4PM CDT (US), using Google+ Hangouts. I’m hosting the European one and it’s streamed and recorded on Livestream
People that interested in the Eigenharp are invited to join one of the hangouts and circle me or Larry Heilman on Google+ to get access.

Our guide, Geert, joins pioneering instrument inventors Roger Linn and David Wessel. From a symposium provocatively-titled “The Eigenharp, SLABS and LinnStrument: Hands-on with three new musical instruments for the post-mechanical age,” at the University of California Berkeley. Photo (CC-BY) Thomas Bonte (who is, incidentally, creator of the free and open source notation software MuseScore).

Now, some of the artists videos, in a wide survey Geert has put together that spans genres.

António Machado (Portugal) used his Eigenharp Alpha during the INCastelo open-air show with dancers in a medieval castle.

Here is what António has to say about this performance: “I compose music and take care of sound design for most of the dance shows from DançArte and we were in the two final shows of the cycle ‘In/Out’ focusing on local architecture and their surroundings. The ‘In’ part in August, outdoors and the ‘Out’ part inside a traditional theatre. Planning ten months ahead, August 2011 would bring us to Palmela´s medieval Castle built in the year 1150, to get inspired by and ultimately create “In Castelo”. Again the choice of performing with the Alpha suited me perfectly. It is visually stunning, so I was able to connect with the audience through the lights, using the “Arranger” and was free to interact with the surroundings, the dancers and their choreography. I have a very high degree of control over each sound/sample/AU or iVST and effects used, right from the instrument, so I don’t need to look at the computer screen while performing”

http://www.youtube.com/user/palaires

BangStrokeBlow (UK) live with an original instrumental:

BangStrokeBlow is a London-based duo of Eigenharpists; they make infectious, dance floor-oriented, experimental music. They retain many of the sensibilities of modern electronica but through the Eigenharp, have developed a much more expressive and human way of performing this music live. Expect anything from Hip Hop to Breakbeat to Trance; every single note will eat away at your internal organs, in a fuzzy, buzzy, rapturous way.

http://www.youtube.com/user/BangStrokeBlow
http://www.myspace.com/bangstrokeblow
https://www.facebook.com/bangstrokeblow
http://soundcloud.com/bangstrokeblow

Dino Soldo (UK) has used the Eigenharp for the 2010 world tour of Leonard Cohen:

Here’s what he had to say during an interview: “I can be onstage just with this, the computer on the side and my horns. That’s my fantasy. The visual is everything… Being on stage is a fantasy and this contributes to that fantasy. I wanna get rid of my keyboards. I wanna have a whole side of my stage disappear. Make the stage a little cleaner. There’s enough buttons for me to get everything I wanna have happen, happen. Really all you have to do is get your brain situated around the Eigenharp, then the Eigenharp is ready to go… The possibilities are truly endless. It really allows me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do with a solo instrument.”

http://www.dinosoldo.com
http://twitter.com/dinosoldo
http://www.myspace.com/dinosoldo
http://www.facebook.com/DinoSoldo

Flytecase (Belgium) live with an original song, “Same Place Again”:

Flytecase is a Belgian alternative pop-rock band, they used the Eigenharp Alpha for most synth arrangements on their debut album ‘Speaker Mind’ and are now preparing a new live show that uses the Eigenharp on stage. This is one of the finished songs, written on the Eigenharp and performed live in Charleroi, Belgium during the Fêtes de Wallonie Festival.

http://www.flytecase.be
http://www.facebook.com/flytecase
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B56CEC9C692B36B2
http://twitter.com/flytecase

Ian and Paul Harriman (UK) using AudioCubes and Eigenharp at Electro-Music 2011 festival:

Ian and Paul Harriman using AudioCubes and Eigenharp at Electro-Music 2011 festival [Percussa (AudioCubes) blog]

Paul Harriman has played the Eigenharp Alpha for two years in a row at the Electro-Music festival and performed a piece together with his son on Audiocubes this year. As well as playing leads and pads live on the Alpha, all the backing tracks are also triggered and controlled by the Eigenharp.

http://www.harriman4.com

Kayla Kavanagh (UK) live with an original song, “Take me home”:

Kayla is a Yorkshire-based singer-songwriter who plays nine instruments. She started a year and a half ago with the Eigenharp Pico and has since then moved on to the Eigenharp Alpha. Her last album is one of the world’s first to feature the Eigenharp. Kayla played at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival with her first original song on the Eigenharp Alpha.

http://www.kaylakavanagh.com
http://www.youtube.com/kaylakavanagh
http://twitter.com/KaylaKavanagh
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kayla-Kavanagh/22032129016

Thanks for this, Geert! This covers quite a range; it seems that you’re bound to find something that sparks interest. If others would like to do a similar round-up for an alternative instrument/controller, I’m all ears.

  • david

    I'm sorry to say that I still have yet to see anything that really impressed me. Everything seems like just another attempt to prove a controller is an instrument, and the harder they try, the more obvious it becomes that a controller is precisely that. Kayla actually looks like she's checking her email.

    No harm done, but I feel if people would stop their futile attemps trying to prove it's an instrument, they might actually produce some worthwhile music on it, i.e. music that doesn't sound like a tech demo (On a side note, I'll never understand why they built a sequencer/looper into a controller that needs a laptop to make a sound. If there's one thing we never missed makeing electronic music it was the ability to loop/sequence).

    The botton like is, nothing – I mean nothing – I have heard so far was blind-test  reconizable as an eigenharp. That kind of says it all to me.

  • KarlPopper

    I think just about everyone watching these videos is thinking the same thing: there is nothing being done here that could not be done more practically (and more cheaply) with 'conventional' controllers. I would like to see a video that make evident the unique ergonomics of the eigenharp and it related benefits.

    That being said, I still think there is great potential here. From the perspective of a guitar player, it looks comfortable to play. Man, there's a million cool ways I can think of to map those controls. Can't wait to see what the future holds for this instrument.

    PS> I wonder why no one in these videos is giving the bass keys any love.

  • http://about.me/gluggergames @gluggergames

    If you hold an Eigenharp and start playing, you feel the difference to other controllers. But the instrument is just at the beginning, it is around a year old now and we all, who have one, are still learning how to use it, how to play it, its possibilities and how to harness its power. But no other controller and I tried a lot of them, reacts like an Eigenharp to the slightest touch, to a brush of the hand, the only exception may be a Theremin. But the Eigenharp Alpha has 120 keys that react this way and you can fine-tune them. This is a good because it allows expressive play, it is bad because people like me, who haven't played an instrument for a long time need time to get the micro-control in their fingers again to play an Eigenharp, any of them.

    By the way if you are in Berlin these next days, I try to organize a demo one evening with my Eigenharp Pico, the small one. Drop by on twitter or any other channel if you want to try an Eigenharp.

    By the way I do not work for them, I just have the instruments, first the Pico now also the Alpha, because I like them.

  • Paul

    The eigenharp makes me think of an organ manual; it is a human interface completely separated from the sound generation. In fact, that would be an interesting project: hook an eigen-system up to a world-class pipe organ. With this control technology the musician would face different possibilities and different limitations than the keyboards, stops, and foot pedals of today's instrument. But the auditory range of the instrument is well understood, so perhaps the expressive advantages/disadvantages of this system would be more readily apparent to the listener.

  • http://www.zerocrossing.net Zerocrossing

    It seems like most of these controllers are trying to fix a problem that we really don't have.  A standard keyboard controller with aftertouch (it would be awesome if multi-aftertouch was the standard) an x/y pad,  a few knobs, pads and expression pedal (I'm thinking Novation Remote SL) in is a whole lot of avenues for expressive playing and can be had for very little money compared to an Eigenharp.   I think, more than anything else, people who buy these controllers do it because they want to look different on stage, not because they're trying to sound different. 

  • Chris Thorpe

    @gluggergame – I hope this question comes across in the sincere spirit I intend it. You mention that you are still learning it, and that there is a very high degree of configuration. Also, the Eigenharp can be connected to control any MIDI sound source. That means it's unlikely that any two Eigenharps will be alike in the relationship between gesture and sound. So, my question – can the Eigenharp be taught?

  • GreaterThanZero

    That whole line of arguments is fairly silly.  

    (Why master one tool when a different tool can be cludged to achieve similar results?  What are you trying to prove?  Why sequence when you can input your score with the mouse and print out parts?  And why even do that if the ensemble is only going to play the music you wrote?  It's a waste of their time; live performance is just a glorified means of pressing play on your iPod, and your iPod is just a glorified cassette player.)

    Anyway…  Multi-aftertouch isn't the standard, and per-note pitch-bend is all but unheard of (but a standard tool of guitar soloists everywhere).  I am hearing things in some of these videos that I can't do with my keyboard, but they're subtle (as one would expect from an instrument).

    The other side of that…  Eigenharp gives you tools that nobody supports, and a handful of sounds that make use of those tools.  I can't think of much reason to stray from those sounds.  

    So logically, if nobody veers from the limited pool of resources that ship with a product, I'm not sure you can call that product a controller.  The word doesn't feel right.

    And of course, if everyone's using the same sounds, blind-test recognizing an Eigenharp should be pretty damn easy.

    Again, the potential's in those patches which actually support the tools.  So, yes.  As a controller, this will never be an instrument.  But I would also argue that as an instrument, it will never be a controller.

    *shrug*

  • vance

    Come ON people! These new instruments/controllers/devices (WHATEVER you want to call them) are VERY new.

    It is going to take some serious time for people to learn how to really PLAY them. Exploring the creative potential of these devices is going to take some WORK.

    And they exist in a space in time in which there is a tendency to look for the simple route to creating music rather than exploring the creative potential latent in these new tools.

    And; these new controllers are attempting to provide a level of nuanced control to devices (synths/softsynths/samplers etc) which are not necessarily 'ready' for the type and level of control provided by this new round of controllers. (exceptions abound – many electronic sound generators do accept a very significant level of control).

    My point is that we are VERY early on in the development of electronic sound generation and manipulation and we need some TIME to get past the early learning stage.

    Yes, yes, electronic instruments have existed since the middle of the 20th century…but let's get realistic about when these became commonly available: less than 50 years ago, for sure.

    And, during that time, I would argue that there has been a period of retarded development in nuanced control in which simple "button pushing" of basic MIDI keyboards was the norm.

    How long does it take to learn to play a violin, sax or any other nuanced instrument? You can generate sound on them pretty quickly. But it takes a really long time to get some creative nuance into your playing. AND, very importantly, the player is not asked to essentially define the relationship between physical gesture and sound creation with acoustic instruments, as one is essentially required to do with these new breed of controllers.

    We need some brave and dedicated souls to take on the sizable challenge of creating a new language for electronic controllers. And, fortunately, in many spaces we have those people… (they even exist within the realm of devices like Turntables and the MPC as there are some players who have really embraced these seemingly limited control interfaces and really made them into expressive instruments.)

    I say let's cut these folks a break and encourage their efforts.

    And if you believe that you can seriously create the engaging expressive music you want to create by using a standard MIDI keyboard and a footpedal, Go To It! I know I've heard some beautiful sounds come out of this combination.

    I say "more encouragement for more music and beauty in the world".

  • John Morley

    It always amazes me the vehemence people have to the keyboard paradigm.  The reason an Eigenharp is unique is that each key is a controller and those keys can be setup in a variety of ways.

    There are any number of controllers that can be mapped to MIDI CCs but no controllers where each key is a controller.

    What an instrument creates is a unique feedback between sound and feel.  The Eigenharp does this.  Does it connect in a specific way the sound and the controller? No.  The Korg Wavedrum actually does this and no one is saying much about is.

    Bottom line – Time is perhaps the best judge.

  • http://www.billthompson.org prof_lofi

    Great potential as yet to be realized?…everything so far demonstrated seems to be of the 'old wine in new bottles' variety.

  • http://www.studioimaginaire.com Nathanaël L&eac

    For the people saying you can do the same thing with a cheap keyboard controller:  you really need to try an eigenharp.

    I've been a keyboard player for several years and always tried finding an instrument where I could connect more.  I tried several "alternative" controllers like the Continuum Fingerboard but was nevery fully convinced.  When I bought the Pico I was convinced right away.  The sensibility you get from those keys is incredible.  It may not seem obvious in the videos but each key responds to 3 axis as well as velocity.  The breath pipe really helps also.  The downside for me is the current state of the software.  It's getting better but I find it overcomplicated.  I've been a Max/MSP programmer for years so digging into logic and code is not a problem, but the language they created to control the instrument (belcanto) is not intuitive at all for me.  I'm pretty sure this will eventually be fixed as the software evolves though.  

  • http://noisepages.com/members/gbevin/ Geert Bevin

    Hmmm, since when are instruments judged by the capability to create music that's never been created before? This gets into the realm of genius and 'once in a decade' musicians, there are not even that many people that have created truly new things on traditional instruments. So this is a catch 22 situation, when someone demonstrates the features of the Eigenharp, people criticize it because it's just a demo, when someone plays music on it without being a genius, people say that they can't hear anything new. Does everyone suddenly have to be novel and an innovator to be taken seriously as a musician? Everyone (including me) in these videos has picked up a new instrument without teacher, learned how to play it, composed new music on it, rehearsed it, and actually played it live, for real, in front on an audience … in only a year and a half or less … this is what you can see in these videos. For me this validates that the Eigenharp is an inspiring instrument that people want to step out in front of an audience with. If this doesn't seem interesting to you, I'm seriously wondering what music is about then?

    For me, as a musician, the Eigenharp has opened up a world that I couldn't access before, except through a lousy MIDI guitar interface. Playing live is what's important to me, while walking around on stage and having contact with the audience and the other band members. All this when holding an instrument that's close to me, that is physically situated in my private personal space so that I can emotionally and physically embrace it. Combined with the amazing keys of the Eigenharp, I'm personally even satisfied when playing with a piano sound, but I'm no genius, just a regular musician. In the meantime however, me and others are venturing into other directions to try to find new and unique sound palettes that we feel comfortable with on the Eigenharp. I've seen and experienced several demos that are promising, but still in their infancy. The real trouble, from my point of view, is that there are almost no electronic sounds that offer truly multi-timbral expression, but work is ongoing there.

    Yes, there's great potential, this is still just the beginning and it will be like that for the next few years. If you're really interested in experiments that have been done with the Eigenharp, look around a bit on YouTube and Vimeo, but these are indeed not intended to be played live on stage for a general audience as they're more tech demos that fully mastered musical performances.

  • syzygywell

    I truly believe this is a phenomenal interface. One of the downsides to being a keyboardist/synthesist is that one can be stuck behind a wall of keys. At a minimum this allows a much more immediate sense of connecting with the performer for the audience not to mention connecting with the other performers on stage. And people love lights. I know I do. It is also a beautifully built controller. The quality is exceptional as it should be for its price point. And that is one reason why we haven't seen it being used more frequently.

    I don't care personally if it does look like an oboe. I love my synths but I love the build of many of the old wind and string instruments. Other than the price I can see no downside to this. It may not be for you personally I know if I had 5-6000 to spend it most likely wouldn't be on an eigenharp but really if someone gave me one I'd be thrilled. It's like a monome on steroids and monomes aren't inexpensive either.

  • Kns

    Instruments for the rich.

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zeroreference

    I wanna see someone pounding on an Eigenharp like this, but in their own way:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqWPl0AexnA

    Don't wanna hear complaints about how keyboards (synths or high-end controllers) lack that crucial 'performance' and 'interaction with the audience.'

  • Ryan

    It's too bad that they still require software to do anything at all. (Also Mac Only ATM)

    Give them midi/OSC out, and then you'll have my attention.

  • Ryan

    They do have an iOS version coming out soon, so I suppose that's more promising.

  • http://www.studioimaginaire.com Nathanaël L&eac

    @Ryan The Windows version has been out for a while now… couple of months.

  • Ryan

    @Nathanaël, I guess I didn't look long enough on the site.

    Cool beans…

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

    it's a funny thing…

    no matter what the genre, performance or skills…

    dudes get mad when you mess with their guitars and keyboards…

    nathanael and geert's points are valid…

    this thing will evolve with the users…

    or, lose steam and vanish…

    why get in a huff when someone's trying something new…. ?

    in the 70's guys invented that chapman stick tapping guitar thingy…

    last year there was this dude who played one out on the street corner like 3 times a week for change, on my block…

    obscure, but how folk is that?

    dude was hella good on it too….

    @kns i'd think that an oboe or a violin or anything of that nature could fall in the same category….

    people all over the world could say the same shit about any of your cheap gear…

    if you're performing on a laptop, you're making rich folks music too… right?

    but in the end, it's all irrelevant…

    why would cost and practicality make any difference??

    im sure a nice ass les paul wouldn't offend anyone here….

    i don't know…

    i just can't see why people get so negative on these things…

    it's just noise…

    make some….

  • http://www.humblesound.com humblesound

    @Kns

    Right?

    I was trying to figure out why nearly every eigenharp article I've seen features weird boojie white guys and studio musicians who take themselves way too seriously.

    Then I remembered the cost of entry.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tim-roberts-sound Tim

    Oh man. So I'm a saxophonist, and then whatever else I can get my hands on, musician and producer. About a month ago I bought a pico, and I'm loving it. I must also say that I built a midi wind controller (Sax finger) to let me play synths easier than my limited but improving keyboard skills. In regards to the instruments for rich people train of thought, the Eigenharp pico, in Australia, is approximately $800. I paid more than that for the sub that I mix with, or the computer I use, or the audio interface. Heck I even payed more for 2 channels of Sound Devices Mix pre. When it comes to musical instruments, $800 isn't a lot. Beginner Saxophones are more than that. The Tau is about $4k (equivalent to a semi-professional saxophone) with the Alpha in the $10k rage depending on the customisation. The way I look at it is that you don't buy a Stradivarius when you are a beginner. After playing Sax for more than a decade, I can certain see myself continuing to play an eigenharp in 10 or more years time.

    I think one place that I've found to really enjoy playing it, funnily enough, is with a band. Yes it can do the sequencing, but a launchpad will give you more compositional opportunities. Links, DIY sax photos, http://www.flickr.com/photos/37718515@N05/sets/72… , and a first attempt at using the internal sequencer, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq-qlTOJXGU

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zeroreference

    Furthermore, I want an electronic instrument or controller that requires physical suffering to become a virtuoso at – that's part of what makes a 'real' instrument powerful and expressive . The tactility of sore lips or callused hands from woodshedding.

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zeroreference

    Coolest Eigenharp performance yet, in my book:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA1TldCElCI&fe

  • KarlPopper

    What distinguishes the Eigenharp from other controller devices is the 'multi-axis' sensitivity of the keys and the oboe-like layout. LED's are nothing new, buttons are nothing new, breath controllers are nothing new. The question is: what are the advantages of this setup? Given that one thing can be done many different ways using many different systems, why choose this system? Clearly the answer cannot be, 'because its cost effective.'

    I imagine the answer would go something like this, ' Karl, when you use the breath controller to control volume, the main keys to control pitch and vibrato, and the bass keys to send various cc data to modify the timbre, you have an incredibly expressive instrument that rivals acoustic devices and justifies its own price. The sequencing and such is just the icing on the cake.' I want to see a video which makes this point evident. As it stands, it seems like all Eigenharp demonstrators I've seen would be better off with an APC40 and a cheap, knobby, aftertouch capable keyboard.

  • experimentaldog

    Close your eyes…What do you hear?…Music?Is this the point? Composition and musical concepts and content over image?  Granted, many electronic computer musicians like myself sometimes, like to, or feel the need to approach electronic music performances in the same old way as a traditional acoustic or electric instrumentalists. There are research conferences such as&nbsp ;http://www.nime.org/ every year that are on this very notion.  But why does it matter for so many to have electronic music presented, re-presented or performed in such a standard concert setting?  The laptop is a well known object, enough so that an audience may associate it more with email and work than with musical performance.  An Eigenharp probably has as much to do with an audience as my trombone, but why does that matter?  I'm confused as to why there is such a fascination or romanticization with recreating virtuosity for acceptance.  Why do many people worry so much about making electronic music look like an older elite practice?  I don't know if this is good or bad, but why are so many concerned with obsolete high vs. low art distinctions.  Virtuosity to me, is another tool in a  compositional toolkit to bring out the potential timbres of an instrument.  Bach wrote Fugues for the timbre of the organ.  Paganini used virtuosity in his compositions to explore the timbre of the violin.  Hendrix used virtuosity to explore the sound of his strat.  But what happens when you switch the instrumentation to explore the compositions with new timbres…you get Switched On Bach.  Although, I'm not sure if Walter/Wendy may have had to play the classical elite game a bit at that point in order to explore timbre, but innovations were made nonetheless.  Not live, but in studio.  The Eigenharp has potential in performance, but how do you write for the thing?  If it's timbres are based on synthesis or samples it comes down what you hear, does it not?  Can I tell the difference between a midi keyboard player and an Eigenharp performance if were to I close my eyes?  I'm not too sure if it creates it's own unique timbral qualities or not.  A theremin sure does, but thats bloody hard to write for and perform in an ensemble with, but can be interesting if the music for it is written well.  If you invest in new, old or DIY gear, make sure you look at the musical potential of the instrument and use it with new purpose rather than buying it for aesthetic reasons.  For those that have or will get an Eigenharp, good on ya if that's what you want to work on.  Just use it to make some great "sounding" music not so much great "looking" music.

  • vance

    @experimentaldo: I do agree that creating pleasing sounding music is one primary concern. But I wouldn't assert that the sound that comes out of the instrument is the only consideration when choosing or evaluating them ("close your eyes"). I also take into consideration the 'fun' or engagement of playing the instrument – the visceral aspects of playing it. The physicality of playing the guitar is a good bit of what attracts me to that particular instrument – I feel engaged by the vibration of the strings under my fingers, "hearing" the instrument through bone conduction, etc. I could imagine someone saying that the Eigenharp and other new musical interfaces provide this for them.

    Then there is the fact that each instrument encourages/enables different sets of notes to be played together or in sequence. There is no doubt that it's easy to tell a guitar chord voicing from a piano chord voicing, and some intervals are easier to play on the sax than they are on the guitar (and vice versa). So, here is a case where the instrument or controller layout actually matters quite a lot.

    In some cases, I'd even take into consideration the way and instrument/controller looks when it's being played. in some cases the entire "show"of playing IS part of the performance experience. Some people feel like they need to put a visual show of it for the audience. While I don't personally need to do that myself – I would say that it's a legitimate assertion. I think there have been quite a number of people who have stated that people "playing laptops" make for a very boring concert. Yet, they might be making really beautiful music.

    I'm just saying that the Timber that is produced may not be the only consideration.

    ALL of that said, and looping in some of the other comments above: I really look forward to synthesis engines which can respond well to the subtleties of these new 'controllers' and actually create sounds unique to their physical characteristics. Yep, some exists – but generally speaking- these are the exception to the rule. Once this happens, we might have a good chance of really hearing some of these new controllers create their own voice….which I think is what many here are looking for.

  • NaN

    “Instrument for the rich”
    Did you check the piano prices lately? What does a car cost, how much cheaper would a car have been that “still drives”? What much do many people pay for going to holidays over the years? What does a house cost?
    Not opting for the fatter car leaves room for other options, it’s all a matter of priorities…
    If people are proud of what they achieved – even in small steps which might seem “unworthy” to others – which satisfaction does it bring to slam them down? That’s the best way to prevent to get “worthy” results at some point. Remember this is a new instrument, would you judge the possibilities of a violin by listening to first graders?

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zeroreference

    I think a lot of this is a question of design choices – on the USER’s part. For instance, I’d argue that intuitively, ergonomically, and historically, it is more expressive, musically efficient, and performative to use MIDI drum pads of some sort or another to control/perform rhythms live and in the studio than an Eigenharp – we like making larger physical motions for percussion, and the Eigenharp keys are small (if expressive).

    For triggering beats/patterns, something roughly like a mixer seems good – that’s what they’re for, to provide overall sonic structure and control, and sort of a conductor’s perspective.

    The Eigenharp seems like it could shine as a controller for a melodic voice. It even looks like and has the ergonomics of a wind instrument. But its true potential remains undiscovered until people use it to do something they _couldn’t_ before, instead of using it to replace something else and do the same thing. Plus, as always, if you’re not a compelling performer behind a piano, you won’t be behind an Eigenharp either. 

  • leakeg

    I think visually, performance this instrument would be much more aesthetically pleasing if it was put on a stand like a keyboard.

  • funkyfx

    @Vance. You are in the right way, and everything you say just hit the point. Things are moving, and Eigenlabs, nevermind poeple like or not their instruments, are creating a future. Eigenlabs are the first, but they're not alone. As designers of new instrument/controller, we know that it will still takes 10 years before mentality move. Thanks to all people that are openminded, we might survive that time. But this is another point of view, and the most important things is that it's gonna happen, whatever poeple are open to accept it or not. The time is not to complain and compare with "real" instrument (you mean basically acoustic?), but to prepare yourself to it.

  • experimentaldog

    @Vance.  Yeah know what you're saying.  What's a challenge is that there is still tendency for many to lump recorded and edited music into the same category as live unedited music performance.  What I mean is, if I were to listen to a recording of a song that happened to have used an Eigenharp in the production process, I may not be able to distinguish it's timbral characteristics from other sampled instruments.  Or distinguish it from other controllers such as an ewi, midi keyboard or midi guitar etc.  I would probably have to know that the performer was implicitly using one.  Now, in a live performance things are obviously different.  I can see the Eigenharp being played and it has potential to be played well, but I guess it depends on the music and the performer.  As a controller, one could easily map a full chord to one button or a whole melodic phrase like on any keyboard, but that comes down to performance practice. The options and possibilities can become so varied and vast that one could get overwhelmed by it also.  You mentioned the electric guitar. It has its physical limitations as an instrument which brings on a whole set of problem solving performance practice approaches which is as you mentioned, makes things interesting for a performer and audience. Other newer guitar's such as the Moog guitar have different and newer possibilities and limitations.  Maybe I shouldn't be looking at the Eigenharp as such an instrument or even call it an instrument.  The limitations and potentials are for the performer or composer to decide.  Even for collective approaches to performance in an ensemble setting.  What is important to me is seeing and hearing that potential used well in a live setting.  I guess for myself it comes down to I don't want to pay to see: bad cheesy shredding, a performer that doesn't takes risks or challenge themselves in the music they are performing/making or a pseudo demo for gear fetishists in which the performer presents it as a the new solution to all the woes of the electronic music performer.  The Eigenharp much like other devices has potential to be used to create "Good" (being a bit subjective here) Digital Music and performances.

  • http://i5music.net Jim Aikin

    I guess I'm curious why they didn't just skip writing their own software and have the instrument transmit OSC to Max/MSP. That would have been cross-platform out of the box, and it would probably have saved them a lot of development time.

    With an instrument as expensive as the Alpha, I would need to try playing it before buying it.

  • bar|none

    @Jim Aikin

    Yeah you should try playing it. Although, I don't think it will disappoint especially regarding the feel and sensitivity of the keys. Almost universally I think people's expectations are exceeded in that area by a fair margin. The hardware is quite impeccable and way beyond the standards of almost anything I can compare it to.

    Ironically re OSC and MAX, that has happened in the Open Source development branch already. It is a fantastic avenue for experimentation and access for us hackers. I posted a vid of using this OSC connection to send CV to a modular at very high resolution.

    Even though I have no problem dealing with that type of setup, I will admit that EigenD as a vision is a worthy one so that players can be musicians and performers instead of programmers. The idea is that you can create a very rich setup or setups for the instrument that you can control Live without computer interaction.

    I really feel like in the last year, this company has delivered on all their promises. I truly hope that people consider trying it out. The pico is small but no flyweight, you can do a lot with this instrument.

    But make no mistake, this is not a millionizer. High resolution feel requires practice and time. It's so worth it though.

    For the future of music, I truly hope that people are willing to make time investments necessary to become masters at their craft. Without that, we are lost.

  • HoBubbaFett

    I've so got to get me this sample pack. &nbsp ;http://www.hangdrumsandhandpans.com/2011/12/panart-hang-meets-eigenharp-alpha.html

    Not sure it'll be as effective on the Pico, but even so, it has to be tried.  :D

  • Sly Ostinato

    This is a very nifty instrument but really is only for musicians that have money to blow on novelty things. And I don’t know many non-mainstream musicians who are not struggling from paycheck to paycheck to really be able to afford this. It costs over $5000 and that doesn’t include an amp or laptop to run it. There’s another $1500 easily. There is no instruction or how-to guide on how to play it. When I spoke to EigenLabs about that, I basically got…just play with it and figure out what works for you. Really?!?! How many musicians are going to go out and plunk down that kind of money on an instrument they don’t know how to play or one that doesn’t even come with a standard way to play it? A beginner?? Not likely…I mean, if I went out and bought a new instrument that is out of my musical background, such as a ukulele, at least I can watch some instructional videos or buy a dummies guide to get basic instructions on the rudiments of playing it; but not so with the Eigenharp. Anyway, it is a cool instrument but impractical since there is no standard way of playing it and no one has come up with a methodology to play it effectively.