pauk on pages from Pauk on Vimeo.

Part of what sets apart the open source monome controller instrument (cdm tag | site) is that, despite its minimalist grid of pads, it really behaves like an extension of software. That grid can be thought of as touch-ready pixels. Using Pages, an app developed by phortran that allows you to overlay different, switchable functions on the same controls, you can navigate through different capabilities or move through the structure of a composition.

Pauk has put together a video showing what this feature is all about. He’s got quite a bag of tricks taking advantage of Pages, including:

  • Skipping clips in Ableton Live
  • Sequencer controlling effects
  • Sequencer controlling a RhythmBox, with two levels of velocity, a la vintage Roland gear
  • As a MIDI keyboard controlling effects or a soft synth instrument
  • Running external applications, including a Tenori-On-inspired “Boing” app

So, that’s the technology involved. But watching the video got me thinking – what is he really doing? That’s a deeper question raised by a lot of what’s going on in computer music. In some ways, there’s a parallel to DJing, in that he’s manipulating music at a large scale. But, of course, the musical result is different, because of the array of techniques – well beyond what most DJs would use. It’s sort of like live composition, at a higher level. It is a performance, but it’s not a performance at the level traditionally associated with playing an instrument – we’re controlling more elements at once, by making them as a set of interactive compositions.

In other words, this is “interactive music,” the term most associated with game music.

Food for thought. (Hey, people did beg for something to take their mind off that demo video.)

For more monome video goodness, here’s the awesome Edison:


damn hoss from edison on Vimeo.

64 buttons…..
63 sounds….
1 stop button……
no quantize……
no loops…….


  • congratulations, tom !!

  • Want one monome. WANT. WANNNNNNNNNNT.

    I love it. But the price not so much !

  • Wow…those videos are mind-blowing. I agree with you that it's something different from DJing, or traditional instruments. It's not at a lower level of musicianship or DJing, it's its own thing. It combines the free-styling nature of DJing, with the musicianship of a very flexible keyboard. Very cool, I dig it.

  • Well, Fred, I'm all about higher levels of performance, and I think we're all trying to learn to be better musicianships — even while adopting new techniques. That can mean starting over on some level — I sure feel that some of the time, having come from a classical piano and composition background.

    In other words: if you can do better, if you see someone doing better, by all means, let's see it! (And I'm sure some people can. So send it my way.)

  • karl d

    Agreed – 2 more mind numbingly boring Monome videos. Having light up buttons is great, but what's the point if all you're going to do is glitch around an utterly banal "jazzy" IDM loop? And that's what ALL of these Monome demos do!

  • Well, the point to me is that you can change the function of the device to do different things — what you actually do with those function is up to you. The Tenori-On has a similar ability with different pages, but you're limited to the choices that ship with the device.

    I'm all for seeing new applications … and if you can't get hold of a monome or build an arduinome, etc., it's possible to apply the basic ideas elsewhere. So bring it on.

  • phortran

    thanks for posting the videos peter!

    i don't really get the animosity. had the point of the pages video been to show off musicianship then maybe fred and karl's comments would make sense. the pages video was simply a technology demonstration.

    i think edison is a virtuoso on the monome, he's one of the best imho. i've found his latest few videos (like the one linked above) to be incredible, especially when you know how he's doing it. he's basically got the monome configured to send clip play commands through to ableton live, and each pad is mapped to a 1-shot sample. he's doing that with no quantization, no pre-recorded backing tracks, etc. he's quite literally playing it like you would play any instrument. the fact that both fred and karl seemed to think that he was using pre-recorded material/loops is further evidence of his talent (if they were referring to his video in their comments).

    but i'm with you peter, if you guys got the goods, let's see it!

  • bliss

    Perhaps, Fred has misunderstood the terminology. (Or maybe I misunderstood fred. Anyway, here goes.) Higher level does not refer to better musicianship. Lower level does not refer to worse musicianship. What is referred to is the amount of information that is controlled by a musician.

    A trumpet player controls less information in the context of a single composition than someone who presses buttons to play different loops that are in themselves compositions. Therefore, the trumpet player performs at a lower level, whereas the Monome player performs at a higher level.

    If you think of a conductor versus the orchestra, the conductor performs at a higher level than the members of the orchestra. The conductor is aware of the nuances of an entire composition that is to be performed, and it is her or his duty to rehearse the members of the orchestra so that they understand what is required of them at a lower level of performance. That is, the members of the orchestra are responsible for performing the details, whereas the conductor is responsible for knowing of all the details of a piece as they relate to the whole. During performance, the conductor conducts the entire piece and the members play the piece; each member responsible solely for the details of her or his part.

    Theoretically, a Monome musician can play hundreds of complete pieces within the context of a single piece. And as seen in the first video, the capability to perform some parts at a low level can also be done. So high level and low level performance are possible with a Monome. And a trumpet player can do the same through solo performance; though, much less information would be controlled than a conductor of an orchestra.

    Of course, the composer of an orchestral piece works at the absolute lowest level. that's the person who has to write the music note by note. Parallel to software programmers. Musicians who play a piece perform at a higher level than the composer, with a conductor performing at the highest level. Users of software work at a higher level than the programmers who design and maintain the software users use.

    Hope this makes sense.

  • bliss

    Or a simpler explanation: A drummer performs at a lower level than someone who triggers drum samples.

    (One always has to work it out in order to get to the simplest explanations.)

  • Hi everyone!
    I made the video just to show how pages works and what you can do with this amazing app, maybe i'm a bad musician but that's not the point here, i just wanted to show everyone how great is the monome as a controller or/and instrument.
    If somebody wants to check my music:
    thanks :/

  • Fred and Karl- I maybe can see your critique on the first video, but surely not the second. Competent finger drumming on a 64 button pad? If anything, that is what you've been asking for. You do realize what is going on there… right?

    Also Fred, you say,

    "a new great instrument is NOT GREAT until someone can play it or use it well. do you think anyone would have had the patience back in the 18th c. to watch a video of someone fumbling around on a piano just because it was new?"

    So even though the piano hasn't changed at all after someone touches it- it somehow becomes "better" objectively when someone does. Even thought it's the same piano. You see, some of us can see the "potential" in these devices- despite the fact that no one in the community has become a virtuoso yet.

    Maybe in five years, when some whiz kid comes out and wows everyone- you'll come onto our side. đŸ™‚

  • obEno: A great instrument has qualities that the body can learn, but the mind cannot.

    jeez, i hope i got that attribution correct. anyway, its the reason why jone's work on his passive audio signal+copper capacitance multitouch surface has the makings of a great instrument, and monome/tenori-on/etc. have the makings of a great control surface.

    thanks to bliss for confirming one of my thoughts about the comparing the role of many modern day computer/laptop/dj-ish artists with conductors (although its also the case that *most* conductors have substantial individual instrumental skills as well).

    btw: software developers are not like composers. we're the instrument builders, mostly.

  • howdy….
    first off, id just like to give tons of props to peter…
    im super stoked to be included in CDM….!
    its an honor to me…
    thank you thank you…

    i think that sometimes, people are turned off by things they arent capable of trying themselves…
    i cant speak for pauk, as i dont know his processes, training….ect…
    i would like to say that his track is dope, and i wish i could figure out how to get pages working… looks like tons of fun….
    keep up the good work homie!
    im not shure how these videos are "dumb"
    there are thousands and thousands of videos of people playing any type of instrument you can find on the planet, all over the internet….
    if it aint your thing then, dont watch hoss…
    but ive been a musician for alomst 22 years now,
    i create as much of my material from scratch as possible, and the monome is my perferred performance medium…
    if i needed to play guitar, or rhodes or sing or something else, to be considered a "high level musician" i could…..
    but pleasing others is never the goal…
    its my camera, instruments, voice and song….
    through the monome, i can play all the instruments i own, chop em up, and then play them all at once….on a handy buttoned surface…
    which i have been figuring out and practicing on for the past 2 years, everyday….
    and i definately dont make anything that could be called IDM……..
    so i think that until you are able to try monome….you shouldnt be turned off….or be down playing anything anyone does….
    dont talk bad about people…..just let everything inspire you to do your things better….
    the monome community is the most positive and supportive folks this side of the internet….
    maybe you cats should go hang out over there for a minute….

  • …and thank you everyone for the positives!

  • theau

    Many thanks Pauk for your demo of pages. It's really instructive.

    I'm in the process of building an arduinome, and can't wait to try this app. And big up to Eddy and the monome community. This instrument is more than a control surface.

    Reading "…represents a lower level of musicianship…" and "…something that sounds competent…" makes me smile…