Resonations from bar|none on Vimeo.

Digital instruments have the extraordinary potential to sound like anything – really, absolutely anything.

Delivering on that potential, though, is another matter, a complex dance between physical input and sonic output. The Soundplane from Madrona is unique in that it provides highly-precise touch input across not one but three dimensions – pressure-based input across the X and Y axes, with multiple touch points. (See also: Haken Continuum.)

Back to the dancing bit – you have to then use that input musically. Here, we see one possible application, using the insanely-powerful KYMA sound design environment. Description from creator and CDM reader bar|none:

Soundplane + KYMA playing a model of a resonating string instrument. What instrument? Something unknown but wonderful and expressive.
Imaginary instruments are the world that is KYMA.
The sound is a resonation synth that models initial attack and picking of a string + the resonations and feedback associated with a resonating instrument body. More pressure means more feedback and energy into the resonations.
Spent some time with this sound to make it respond properly with the soundplane.
Faster hits and you hear the picking. Vibrato and you hear the scraping on the strings.
I can’t tell you how this feels to play but I can say that you forget this is a controller and it feels like playing something tactile like a real instrument.
This uses the Madronalabs Soundplane to send OSC to KYMA directly via ethernet, no MIDI here. The soundplane client supports zeroconf discovery of OSC capable devices, so KYMA pacarana appears as an OSC destination and that is all required to connect the two. Symbolic Sound helped with the integration.
The result is very high resolution control of the sound that you can feel as you play the Soundplane.

Compelling stuff; I’d love to see – and hear – more. And it definitely looks like something you’d practice in the way you would a traditional, virtuoso instrument.

Expressive Soundplane Touch Instrument: Decibel Video, Preorder, Tour, Images

A Glimpse of the Soundplane Controller, Innovative Tactile Multi-Touch, in the Lab; Call to Action

And, vitally, an interview with the creator:
Madrona’s Randy Jones on Aalto Soft Synth, Designing a New Instrument, Small Makers

  • Rucyl

    looks like it’s fun to play

  • Tim Roberts

    Quite cool to see where this instrument has ended up. Just a pity the signal gets a little hot in the mid range.  On a side note, I’d love to get at a KYMA with an Eigenharp.  My Pico would be nice, but imagine an Alpha.

  • owltopus

    i want one!  Where can i get?  Hopefully doesn’t cost the exact insane price of the Haaken.

  • Konrad

    I thought the Continuum had X, Y, and Z tracking for each finger too(?)

  • Keith Handy

    Love the instrument, but I wish the sound wasn’t clipping in the video.

    • wingo shackleford

       Is it clipping, or is there just saturation built into the sound?  I’d like to think that someone with obvious sound design chops that is skilled with KYMA would be monitoring the levels going into the recording or at least re-do it if it came out sounding off. Heavy saturation/overdrive or just general fuzziness around the edges is kind of a thing these days, afterall.

    • bar|none

       Thx Wingo, but guilty on this one.

      Actually it’s not clipping on the recording, it’s clipping either in the patch (lots of feedback which is part of the sound) or in the digital line between KYMA and my soundcard.

      Basically, I had the option to capture the moment, or spend a bunch of time trying to find the issue and I just default to capture the moment.

      I’m bummed, but I still have this sound to fine tune later.

    • Tim Roberts

       Try running it through iZotope De-clipper.  I was put onto it for film post production, but I’d be surprised if it couldn’t remove the clips.

  • Edmund Eagan

    Just to set the record straight, the Continuum is not just a really long expressive ribbon controller. First, like the SoundPlane (which I love BTW!) the Continuum is polyphonic (16 simultaneous notes external, up to 32 with the internal sound engine). All the ribbon controllers I can think of are mono or duophonic. Also, the Continuum responds to and sends out Midi data for all THREE dimensions of finger interactions with the playing surface. It is incredibly expressive and an absolute joy to play. And, as an owner of a Kyma system myself I would agree with Peter that Kyma is insanely powerful! Kyma plays well with the Continuum. There is very tight integration between the two systems when they are connected together. So, while the SoundPlane is beautiful, I would not say that is 3 dimensionally unique.

    • gbevin

      I second what Edmund says about the Continuum here, in terms of features it’s very similar to the Soundplane (or vice versa actually). Also, without Kyma, the built in sound engine of the Continuum has instruments that behave and sound almost exactly as what you can here in this video. I think they were even designed by Edmund and they play wonderfully well. Personally I prefer playing an instrument that’s closer to me and where my hands are not horizontal but vertical, which is why I favor the Eigenharp, but otherwise the Continuum would be just as near to my heart.

    • barnone

       Edmund, first of all. I am a huge fan of yours. Really the whole inspiration for me to work with these next gen controllers and try to get sounds to respond properly came from your work. I would encourage others to check out the performances you have done both of the twelfthroot dot com site and also the haken continuum site.

      I am also in debt to the work you have done and shared in KYMA. Really I’m sure that every sound I have made with KYMA is built upon your foundations.

      As for the differences between continuum and soundplane surface detection there are actually a few significant differences that may not be apparent right away to readers.

      The Continuum detects X,Y,Z dimensions of finger presses and does this across multiple touches, however, it cannot detect more than one touch at the same X location. This means that it’s not practical to arrange the surface into a tone grid. Usually pitch is mapped as a continuum of values in the X dimension, but only one finger will interact at each X location. Is this fair to say? From what I understand it is extremely accurate and the software is very mature at this point.

      The soundplane can detect multiple presses, even multiple at the same X location, which makes it work well for a grid controller which is the way it was mapped in the video. Initial strike rounds pitch to the key, then sliding of finger interacts with pitch as a continuous value.

      The soundplane has a different limitation. It cannot detect the different between touches that are placed too close together. For example on adjacent keys. So there is a limitation but it is different than the continuums. Both devices are easy to work around the limitations.

      I’ve been a fan of grids probably because Ive never been a keyboardist, so stretching to capture note ranges and octaves is difficult for me and a grid like the guitar, monome, whatever makes sense to me.

      Also soundplane currently has two modes. grid and continuous surface. The grid is a grid of tones, however, there is still detection of movements after initial strike in all dimensions. The continuous surface interacts more like a continuum, pitches are arranged on X scale and Y dimension maps to something else. In the context of the KYMA integration, X maps to pitch, Z to continuous !KeyVelocity and y to !KeyTimbre which is exactly the same as the continuum integration with KYMA I believe. Soundplane sends this information to Kyma via OSC over ethernet. The integration is seamless as well and KYMA destination is detected via a zeroconf network discovery mechanism.

    • Edmund Eagan

      barnone, thanks for your kind words! Your observations about the Continuum are all correct. I would add that there is a limitation on the Continuum as well in how close two notes can be. This has to do with the way each distinct finger is recognized. It’s basically parabolic recognition of the displacement of the surface.  Wonderful because a “finger” can be a pencil point or a fist (size doesn’t matter), but still the parabolic shapes have to be distinct at a certain point it just can’t differentiate between two fingers really close. 

      I’m glad that Randy is producing the Soundplane. And thanks for posting this demo!

    • Martin Wheeler

      I’m thrilled to see this, been following it for a while …

      Haven’t had the opportunity to actually touch one yet, but if it is as responive as it seems then my dream performance instrument * seems to now be very much within grasping reach.

      Only thing that makes me a bit nervous is your comment that you can’t play two adjacent notes ?? WTF ?? thats my favorite interval.

      * dream performance instrument : Soundplane or similar -> custom Max/Msp patch to define areas of the surface, response type per area, routing and destination for x,y,z data -> ( in parallel, natch ) 
      1. big ass Eurorack modular via Expert Sleepers ( alteady got this :-) )
      2. custom Max/Msp granular synthesis patch adapted and tweaked for the surface ( needs tweaking, but got that covered too :-) )
      3. ( would be the icing on the cake – as I don’t actually have it yet ;-(    ) … Kyma ! )

      Even without the Kyma, the thought that something as powerful, playable, customisable and, to use a word that I usually frown upon, _awesome_ as this is right here right now, and at a price that, while significanf, is not completely out of reach … is just thrilling.

  • Stij

    Man I want to try a Soundplane so badly. Roger Linn’s Linnstrument (a similar concept) looks really cool too.

    I’ve been fascinated by the idea of a truly playable continuous X+Y controller for years, since as a keyboardist I’ve always felt like I’m less “expressive” than a string or wind instrument player. Sure you can use pitch+mod wheels and aftertouch to get some expression, but it’s not the same. Plus the idea of alternative note layouts (like the isomorphic grid of the Linnstrument) is cool.   

    I’m not saying one of these things could ever replace a traditional piano keyboard, but they would certainly be awesome additions!

  • Matt

    KMI QuNeo does x, y, and z per pad… looks a bit less pro, but @200$ its a pretty cool thing…

  • Salire

    I believe your comment about the Haken Continuum is in error. The Continuum Fingerboard is controllable in three axes.

  • Salire

    Sorry for commenting before I saw that my comment was already irrelevant. Thanks for the clarifications below.