five twelve portable sunsets from tehn on Vimeo.

A 512-button monome may be well out of reach of mortals, but as the Bugatti Veyron is to lovers of supercars and automobile design, so is this expansive array of buttons to fans of digital instruments. I mentioned the monome 512, now up for bidding in an extremely limited run, as a reminder that reality can be better than April Fools’. (Not that anything can top the KFC Double Down.)

The 512 is real. It’s also a source of real inspiration. To make use of this dense assortment of buttons, Peter Segerstrom created special software, entitled redisco:

Brian just wrote me and mentioned that he sent the video we made with the 512 to you. I figured I’d send a little note about the software as I have no idea whether it’s intuitive to an observer or not. I’ve been calling it redisco, and basically it does density control of up to 32 audio files that are dynamically reordered using a sort of random beat pattern algorithm for each sound. Along with this there’s a page that allows you to control 32 separate bandpass filters for each sound (the one that looks like a big stripe) and then a global parameters page. Ya, any ways that about sums it up!

Peter also adds, in response to certain recent themes on this site, “Standards HO!” Indeed. Thanks to the monome applications’ use of control standards, you could find a touchscreen or chain together some QWERTYs and emulate the same functionality.

Dealing with this many buttons is itself an interesting problem – or opportunity. One of the notions iPad application UI designers have mentioned is “flattening” – placing multiple functions on the same page. To use the paper metaphor, musicians will often tape together parts so they can see more of the music without turning the page. Even if you’re not pondering bidding on the 512 (hmmm… too bad I don’t have a VW Microbus to sell), I think that concept could lead in many directions.

I was reflecting on flatness in design, and lo and behold, I see the name of Peter’s artist site:

For more monome-y goodness, here’s the recent grayscale edition, making the soothing ambient sounds that can come from Brian Crabtree’s imagination and looking like lovely musical artwork.

grayscale one twenty eight from tehn on Vimeo.

  • jsph

    I do want a grayscale 128 but it always seems when the monomes are released i have no money. Maybe lividinstruments would be so kind to build a custom 128. I don't think the livid DIY board can handle 128 buttons much less 64. Thanks for posting the 512 video. 🙂

  • stettler

    I can make the same elektrobeeps on my free ReBirth with just the ascii keyboard.
    Bopping my head in front of the computer is as much interesting as bopping this guy in front of some lighted keys.
    What is the point of 64, 128 or 512 lighted keys, if it is always the same beeps?

  • Bipolart

    sound bad…

  • In this size device, multi-colored LED's would have been really beneficial in that you could visually split up sections of the Monome with different colored areas. Looks very nice though…

  • The Veyron comparison is apposite, since the monome 512 appears at the driver level as a mated pair of monome 256s.

    I don't know at what level Peter's application drives the device, but since the current MonomeSerial bridge (OSC USB serial) only goes up to 16×16, I feel that I might in some way offer my most humble services in the matter of providing access the 512 as a single addressable grid via something called fireflash:

    (which Brian, Michael, Peter et. al. have heard me go about at a little length already). It was designed to allow current monome apps to share a virtual monome grid spanning multiple devices, but it's my belief, not having a 512 sitting here, that it would actually support it transparently, just using a wider range of row and column indices.

    There's a longer-term push to a driver and configuration environment for multiple apps and devices – with folks working at the serial end as well – I've merely pushed forward with a bit of reference middleware.

  • @stettler No: the monome is simply a generic control surface, capable of doing whatever programmers and artists can invent for it. Whether or not it's too minimal is a matter of taste.

    This is my in-print take on the original:

  • leMel

    I've come to the conclusion that tablet-like computers are the end of the road for the golden age of novel hardware controllers (or silver age depending on how you date it). The array of LEDs on this monster 512 monome seem now nothing more than a very low res clatch of tactile pixels at a premium price – a little chunk of jumbotron viewed too closely. Yes, novel surface controllers will persist and be relevant, but the end of their preeminence-by-fiat is nigh.

  • @leMel: Come on. Running fingers along an undifferentiated piece of glass will replace *all novel hardware*? I seriously doubt that.

    Knobs, faders, and encoders remain useful. There are more-sophisticated gestural controllers. There's still tons to be done with different video input (as seen on the upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 products). There is more-sophisticated hardware multitouch that can provide tactile feedback (like using a mesh).

    And, talk about "novel" – people are constantly coming up with completely bizarre things like using a vacuum cleaner as a musical controller.

    The monome does start to become more display-like when you add this many buttons, but they're making literally single digits quantities. The appeal of the smaller monomes I think remains the same.

    And anyway, the bottom line is – musical instruments offer tactile feedback. Touch interfaces, while terrific for some applications, don't. So they change nothing.

    Don't buy all the iPad hype. The idea that that's the Future of Everything I think is probably a little optimistic.

  • rhowaldt

    @Peter Kirn: Nothing is the Future of Everything!

    (oh, that means i agree with you. nice write-up, am going to look into this or Monomes with smaller grid)

  • @rhowaldt: HA!

    I think I know what's going on our t-shirts.

  • Such a lot of button mashing for so little effect in that first video… at least when you are not looking.

  • salamanderanagram

    i'm still having trouble finding something to do with the 64+ buttons on my livid block (i currently use 32 of them), i can't imagine needing or wanting something like this….

    as for the ipad replacing real, tangible controllers, all i can do is laugh…

  • leMel

    @Peter Kirn: Apologies that my comment came across as hype. Novel surface controllers will persist and be relevant. But I would counter that your statement "So they [touch interfaces] change nothing" is equally overly-expansive (unless you were parodying me – Poe's Law!)

  • lematt

    i finished my diy monome. and i'm about to sell it.

    i guess i prefer real knobs and analog synths. building the monome was fun though.

  • That controller looks like a beast! I think the toughest thing with something like that is the sheer amount of work it would be to write software for using it, because so few monomes on that scale exist. Looks really fun… I pity the guy trying to figure out "shit, where is the button 26 rows over and 11 down" though.

    I'm starting to feel like the most important link in all of this stuff is the software. that giant monome could be really incredibly great if someone wrote some sort of killer app for it. I have a novation launchpad and didn't really like it until Jim at Five12 (author of numerology) added launchpad support to his program. I had a monome, but gave up on it because I didn't have the skills to really write my own software.

    Anyway, I think as far as options go, and different kinds of controllers, the more the better!

  • pillowtalk

    this reminds me to the response people have to someone using a $20000 buchla, few people could use it to its full worth, but so what if some guy has one in his basement and makes random bloops and bleeps on it if that's what he wants to do.

  • Emu

    @pillowtalk because it is a reminder that you're putting the cart before the horse 😛

  • i'm just going to hold out for the 1024

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  • Edward

    Is the music playing over the video even tied to the operation of the monome?

  • Just FYI, this is the first video shot with the new 512. I know there are more on the way. I wouldn't worry about being overly judgmental about this vid — this is the sort of "let's open it up and try the software" video.

  • Maggie

    Have a Monome 512 limited edition, my son bought it on my credit card without permission, never used, paid about 4 grand, will let go for $3200