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It’s a beautiful, sunny day in London. A velveteen grassy green field calls out under pure blue skies and lazy clouds. And… you can’t see your laptop in the glare, you’re out of battery, and your music studio is underground. Not only will you be miserable, you’ll be playing alone.

So, kudos to Striso, the Italian-dubbed (but Dutch-built) squeezebox, evolved digitally. And it’s an electronic instrument that you can still don to serenade your friends in a picnic.

Looking a lot like a free-reed instrument such as the bandoneon or concertina (or, yes, accordion), it’s in fact a purely digital instrument. Battery powered, there’s a digital microcontroller inside calculating the sound and piping it to internal speakers. But thanks to low power consumption, all of that runs easily on batteries, and the built-in speakers are loud enough you don’t need an amp. As a result, this is an instrument you can play anywhere; you can even busk with it.

Oh, fine, you say – but then I could just use an accordion, right? Well, that digital soul inside gives you some other advantages. For one, this could sound like anything you want. The instrumental code is open source, built in the rapid coding library for sound, Faust. That allows the Striso’s sound itself to be tailored to the control interface. Van der Toren says he will keep this a self-contained instrument, but the code itself could be used to produce other instruments with other sounds. Second, the gumdrop-like buttons are impressively expressive, able to put nuances of sound right beneath your fingertips in a way even the conventional instruments couldn’t.

The Striso is also a compelling exploration of key layout, working with the surprisingly intuitive DCompose layout. That arrangement strikes a nice balance between finding the key you’re in and deviating from it. It’ll take practice to learn as will any layout, but it’s nice both to easily find fourths and fifths and still work out where the scale is.

I met creator Piers Titus van der Torren at STEIM in Amsterdam late last month; now, he’s at the NIME conference in London (at Goldsmiths). He gives us a full tour of how this works.

More:
http://www.striso.org

  • Michael L

    This is outstanding! I am a button-box player and synth enthusiast, and have long wondered how to apply the simplicity of a diatonic button layout and the expressiveness of wind/reed/keys to control a synth. Looking forward to trying one myself!

  • James Yasha Cunningham

    The touch-sensitive buttons & accelerometer are cool, but it’s missing the parallel to human breathing — the inhale and exhale — that’s a key feature of acoustic squeezeboxes.

    • James Yasha Cunningham

      Okay, so it’s not an accordion… Still, it’s a wonderful electronic folk instrument. Self-contained and portable, and you can sing along with it.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, I thought about whether I should even describe it thusly … but this is my comparison, not his. I still think it’s relevant that you have two manuals in that configuration and that form factor.

      Now, what’s interesting at the same time is that you get different amounts of pressure for different notes directly.

    • Michael L

      Accelerometer does a good breath imitation.

  • Klemens

    I would love to know how to make those pressure/bend buttons.. any hints?

  • Ben

    This remind me of the dualo, too: http://en.dualo.org/

    • Jason

      Totally – hard to imagine they aren’t aware of the similarity….Dualo may have a patent pending as well.

    • Piers Titus van der Torren

      Indeed, we definitely have a lot in common, both have a new intuitive
      note layout (yet different) and are portable, but the Striso is an
      almost acoustic instrument with a single sound which can be played in
      many different ways to change the sound, while the Dualo has many
      different sounds to choose from and an internal sequencer.