Finally, we’ve got a digital instrument you can squeeze.
Arrays of buttons may be digital in character, but they’re not a recent invention. Combining the organic, physical gesture with precise control over pitch via some sort of actuator is part of the tradition of musical instrument design. So, strange as it may be, this hybrid monome-concertina is a perfectly natural combination.
Inventor and musician Esper Sommer Eide writes with more:
I have just finished a new instrument that might interest you (and your readers!). It has been over half a year in the making, so I am quite happy to finally finish it and I did a couple of concerts now this summer as “phonophani” to demonstrate and test it in action. This is a video from one of them, together with some explanation and video material from “the making of…” [Espen’s video is from a concert in Bergen, Norway. -Ed.]
Hope you enjoy it! It is basically a concertino accordion (famous from Tango music) I got on eBay and refurbished one side of it into a monome clone. It runs on an Arduino Mega microcontroller and connects to a Maxmsp patch on my computer via USB. For various reasons it was not possible to use the excellent arduinome programming, so I had to do the programming from scratch myself. But the best part was adding a pressure sensor to the mix, so that I can use the air pumping action of the accordion to control various parameters. In the video it is the direction of the sample playback (in addition to volume) to give a kind of tape loop scratching effect. Highly entertaining to play, and also visually the bellows look like an audio wave being pulled and pushed. Electronic tango?
I was curious specifically about the reeds, and got this follow-up answer:
Yes, one side still has accordion reeds though I do not use them in the tune on the video. But you can hear them briefly during the end credits. Kind of like a hybrid post-digital instrument. I guess a natural development would be recording the reeds on one hand and manipulating them digitally with the other hand 🙂
For the record, the concertina and its South American breed, the bandoneon, are free-reed instruments, just like the accordion. Technically, a concertina is not an accordion, though it can use accordion reeds. And I’m going to stop there, because I just don’t know a whole lot beyond that, though I will note that a major research institute happens to be housed at the university where I’ve done all my graduate work and am now finishing my doctorate.
Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments [The Graduate Center, The City University of New York]
They’ve never had a high-tech instrument, to my knowledge, but it’s never too late.
Espen has creating whimsical, wonderful inventions before. Last year, we saw a crank-powered, iPod-driven, Hurdy-Gury-inspired soundmaker: