After years of somewhat similar wheels and pads and keys that wiggle, we’re finally seeing the ability to get physically expressive with sound in new ways. The Expressive E Touché is one of the most compelling cases of that – but to understand, you have to watch, and listen.
So the French company and its fearless young leader Arthur Bouflet have cleverly taken Moogfest as a chance to do just that.
You’ll spot the wooden paddle-looking device beneath Arthur’s hand. It’s something that looks simultaneously vintage and historical and futuristic – a design object whose origin and time can’t quite be placed. And your first reaction, probably, is some skepticism – until you watch just how sensitive and intuitively gestural it is. You may or may not be taken with Arthur’s musical sensibilities – hey, I find it rather cheery and groovy, myself – but pay close attention to the gestures that are possible with it, and I think you’ll be impressed.
There’s more than one connection here to Moogfest, the festival-cum-technology meetup coming to North Carolina this week. There’s the custom, limited edition overlay for festival goers, yes, and the fact that Expressive E are going to the festival themselves. But the company have also made great effort to make custom presets for loads of gear, Moog’s equipment included. So that includes apps (Moog Model D for iOS), and hardware (DFAM, Subsequent 37, just to name two in the video).
It’d be hard to demo an expression or sustain pedal, but there’s no need. And it’s easy enough to map those two inputs to any synth. Open-ended, gestural expression is something else – there’s some prep work involved. Hats off, then, to Expressive E for both making an exhaustive library of presets and producing lovely-looking video demos to show why this all matters. (They’ve even mapped our MeeBlip synth.)
With USB, CV, and, MIDI connections, there are all sorts of possibilities for connecting to instruments – hardware and software, digital and analog. And all of these connect to the high-resolution sensing data from the Touché.
I’ll do a full review of this hardware soon, with some advice for DIYers and musicians. But in the meanwhile, these videos really get the point across.
In the age of MIDI Polyphonic Expression, you’ll see a lot of new controllers adding dimension to the inputs they read. And that makes it clearer than ever that part of what was holding back more expressive electronic musicianship was simply the common standard to describe a wider range of human performance.
But this particular hardware is special, in that it suddenly opens up sound where it had once been static. Uh… well, the name fits. Touché.
Let’s watch some more, featuring Dave Smith and Ableton and Mutable and Novation and more: