Percussa micro super signal processor

Sometimes in technology, the design of a product can have an impact beyond just the tool itself, and that’s easily the case with the Akai MPC. Even if you aren’t part of the device’s cult-like following, you’ve likely worked with software influenced by its approach to musical interaction. While we await the coming of creator Roger Linn’s new collaboration with Dave Smith, the LinnDrum II, it’s great to look back at the MPC itself, and the artists who stretched it to its musical limits, from hip-hop to classical. Current TV has a short documentary they’ve just sent us.

Current’s Parisa Vahdatinia describes it thusly:

I’d like to share with you a short piece we recently produced here at Current TV all about the MPC–a brief history, how it was created by Roger Linn, and how it’s effected contemporary music, followed with some interviews with Damu The Fudgemunk, P-Fritz, K-Murdock who share their sentiments on how the MPC has shaped their music.

I’m just going to have to imagine how great this piece is as I’m stuck on a train with only phone-as-modem access, so you get to sort of scoop me. As I wait, there are some great comments up there already, haiku-like:

“I mistook them for drum machines….”

“mpc is the hip hop guitar!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. But it raises the question, given the endless variety of even pre-digital musical instruments, what’s next? That’s a question I know Roger cares about, which is why he helped us judge a design challenge last spring. I’m personally excited by the idea that some designs are already here, and more are likely to come out of someone’s studio, without the major product maker label on it.

Okay, now I’ve seen it. Good to be back off the train and able to download videos. It does come off strangely as an ad for Akai, but there’s another way to look at it — as an executive summary of how MPC users describe their axe. Talk to any MPC user, and you get a case study in why the design of integrated hardware matters to people. I believe those principles are absolutely applicable to the design of software, as well. And the immediacy of the monome is entirely related, as a computer-based instrument, to the MPC as a hardware instrument. It’s easy to get hung up on the philosophy of instruments, but what really matters to people is (surprise) sound and how they manipulate it.