Tenori-on Meets Kyma from Nomad Cinema on Vimeo.

US distributor Keyfax NewMedia reports that it has Yamaha’s Tenori-On in stock and shipping out now. (Pre-orders began at the beginning of May, but this is apparently the first the US unit has made it to our shows — unless you happened to win one from createdigitalmusic.com, that is, in April, in which case you know who you are.)

Every time I mention Tenori-On, despite the awe and lust it inspires in some musicians, someone raises the point of its somewhat retro-styled, simple sound bank. Fair enough: the minimal sounds are fantastic in the hands of creator Toshio Iwai and were specifically programmed and voiced to match his aesthetic. Other people, perhaps, not so much. So it’s interesting that reader Steven aka Nomad Cinema sends along this video (seen at top) of the Tenori-On paired with the absurdly deep luxury modular synth Kyma, along with a couple of beloved new analog synths. He writes:

In order to tap the real power of Yamaha’s new Tenori-on, it helps to pair it with external equipment capable of producing more satisfying sounds than the somewhat lackluster soundset included with the Tenori-on itself. In this video, no internal Tenori-on sounds were used whatsoever. Tenori-on is functioning purely as a sequencer with external equipment, including advanced sound-shaping from Kyma and analog synthesis from Alesis Andromeda and Dave Smith’s Prophet ’08. Sequencer data coming from Tenori-on is processed in Ableton Live (utilizing midi scale and chord filters, as well as injecting some generative randomness) before reaching Kyma, Andromeda, and Prophet ’08.

That to me remains the Tenori-On’s unique strength: to me it’s really an alternative step sequencer, exploded into an array of flashing lights and animated with game-like motion. This is to me also another way in which it isn’t a Monome, which feels more like an intelligent, programmable set of pads an an extension of your software, in comparison to the Tenori-On which seems to be re-imagining a giant pixel as a controller. I will be getting around to showing off some hands-on applications very soon, at long last.