Every so often, I’m reminded of a simple fact: the greatest machine on the planet remains the human machine. So, yes, it may seem strange to one of the uninitiated to imagine strapping an iPhone to your wrist. And yes, musicianship in the digital age is partly about triggering, not just playing (though Onyx can really blow on his Akai wind controller.) But the bottom line is, the precision of movement and the genius of human musical creativity wins out. However unusual the technological solution, it can still tap into that power.

In the video above, our friend Onyx Ashanti shows off his proof-of-concept work-in-progress as he assembles a new musical rig. Open source patching software Pure Data (Mac/Windows/Linux) is the sound source, proof that you can substitute free software at the center. The controller is an iPhone running TouchOSC (though this makes me want to revisit ultra-portable, open, embedded hardware with sensors). And yes, that’s a Yamaha WX5 wind controller, a digital input tool of choice for those with a wind background. Onyx says this is only to be one of two iPhones.

Expect craziness to come, but I like watching things in progress, too – so I couldn’t resist sharing.


Correction: Instead of looking closely at what Onyx was playing, I relied on my memory, and egregiously called the WX5 an Akai EWI. Thanks to commenters for spotting that.

  • i like this because i think it could lend itself well to good interaction with a crowd. that looks like reason on the screen – also kind of sounds like it with the sharp filter.

  • ericdano

    Actually, that is a Yamaha WX 5 I believe. Still cool stuff though.

  • Wow…

    a man who shares exactly the same interests as me… multi-touch/accelerometer wireless gadget as UI used by a midi sax player?!

    thanks, Peter, just seeing someone else doing this made my entire month

  • Ignorato

    It is definitely a Yamaha WX5, possibly attached to a Yamaha VL70m (small green lcd at the bottom right). How about attaching an accelerometer to the wind contoller?

  • Jez

    I used to see Onyx playing out in Astor Place with his wind controller and a laptop. Awesome stuff. (I think I still have a CD and a business card lying around somewhere.) This demo is brilliant and inspiring. First thing next week I'm strapping my iPhone to my forehead for filter control on my Handsonic — way better than giving up a hand for the DBeam!

    What's the best way to attach an iPhone to a forehead? I don't think I've seen those accessories at the Apple store.

  • Peter

    Yes, this is a WX5 and a VL70-M. I have both, and I loved seeing what Onyx is doing with these tools!

  • Winnie Norton

    I hope breath controllers like WX5 and EWi will support OSC in near future. I think standart MIDI has not enough resolution for accurate breath controlling.

  • Jim Aikin

    Is he doing anything that I couldn't do with my old Peavey 1600 slider box? I'm not just being dismissive — I'd really like to know.

    I've tried using free-hand input devices (Roland D-Beam and Buchla Lightning, for instance), and my impression is that while they may look spiffy onstage, they're not actually very good at precise control over gesture.

  • Semore Hhace

    That would be awesome while Frying.


  • wow!! jim aikin! yeeee!

    to answer your question. no…a peavey slider box would just as if not more functional,but i play (a) techno/house/brokenbeat parties where i need to have access to controls at my fingertips because i am fully wireless and usually grooving fromwithin the crowd. before the iphone, it was an ipaq running a remote client thru wifi, butthe addition of an accelerometer means i can experiment more with gestural controls in addition to simple volume controls and patch changes.

    and (b) wind controllers are jealous. they want your hands on them continuously. iused to use an alesis air fx, trigger finger, korg kontrol, dula joypad gamcontroller…all required meto takemy hands awayfrom the horn AND look at the screen. an iphone on the back of my hand requires none of that. when creating beatjazz-which is live looping, jazz improvisation, and sound design-keeping the flow going is super important and time used to twiddle a knob is 2-3 loop repetitions that might destroy the narrative flow, so gestural control is of supreme importance.

    the only problem with the xlrmtr data is that it is TOO precise. i actually have to slow it down and condition it to make the data less jumpy,but when you do, a point in space is the same each time you go there, so it is practicable. at 1:16 i turn my hand over a coupleof times. that is because i made the extreme position of the z axis an on off switch. in the vid it didnt "latch" because it was triggering the swtich 5-6 times a sec. once i slowed it down with a [delay]object,it worked perfectly.

    oh, @ignorato, i used the iphone because touchOSC allows me to condense allmy controls in one place AND it has an accelerometer as well.




  • Jim Aikin

    Thanks for the clarification, Onyx. What you're saying makes perfect sense.

  • Art Simon

    Check out Onyx Ashanti's set at Y2K9, I was there and I was impressed: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2383064

  • Art Simon
  • gameday22

    o.O all I can say is WoW…nice !!

    I like it when people really go all out trying something that a product was never intended to do and actually making it in this case sound really cool.

    I expect another funky track by next Friday please !! get to work..rofl.

  • I have to say thanks to this video I think I am finally coming around to the idea that robot implants might be a great idea…

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