Thanks to readers asger, Fer, and Joel/Warpedeye, who send us the latest experimentation in musical instrument controllers. They don’t quite look like the Next Big Thing — but sometimes oddities are just as interesting.
First up is The (Untitled) Box which “should theoretically eliminate the keyboard and mouse dance party” for running audio and video. What is it? A giant grid of buttons that light up. In fact, we covered the same box in April, though it seems to have evolved a little. The most interesting thing about it is the way it was configured, with each row as a different sample and the position along those rows as sample position for dicing up loops. As a generic interface controller, it’s less promising, because it’s just a simple grid with lights.
Even stranger is the KEE, which looks like a large, solid wooden cymbal. Basically, you turn it on and move it around. You know, for kids. The creators have an odd page that compares it to what’s cool about a trumpet, and what’s uncool about a large video mixer, though to me each of those devices is quite unlike this — and I think the trumpet and video mixer are more useful. But if you like wheeling big wooden things around while you dance, they can’t substitute for this, I suppose.
Maybe it’s time to stand up for the keyboard, mouse, and MIDI keyboard. I’m all for experimentation, but why does every new project have to claim it’s superior to the traditional interfaces — when it often isn’t? Many of these devices are actually the same device in a different skin: if you’ve just got a lot of buttons, essentially what you have is a QWERTY keyboard or music keyboard. At least the music keyboard is velocity-sensitive. I do think we’ll have a generation of instruments that lets us do things that were never possible with the traditional input devices. But stop beating up on my QWERTY, okay? Odds are, it’ll outlive your project — and if anything is proof that the occasional oddity can survive, that is.