Unboxing the Lemur, (CC) Bjarke Bech.

Before the iPhone, before HP computers and Windows 7 touch features and Apple trackpad gestures, the Jazz Mutant Lemur multi-touch interface was ahead of its time. Today, it’s still unique, in that it’s one of the few commercially-available devices to support OpenSoundControl, it’s a luxuriously-large multi-touch screen, and it has exceptional precision and low latency with its tracking. Of course, it has also been subject to two primary complaints: one, that the software options for creating onscreen interfaces is two simple, and two, that it costs too much.

Well, the Lemur and its more conventional DAW-controlling Dexter sibling address each of those. The Lemur has gotten a significant software upgrade, and both have gotten a steep price cut.

First, Lemur V2 is the biggest set of improvements since the Lemur’s unveiling. New in the upgraded firmware:

  • Tabs for containers
  • Breakpoint object for envelopes
  • Alias controllers to save memory and (your) time
  • Control the mouse cursor or keyboard shortcuts directly (that’s actually a huge deal right there)
  • Pinch, rotate, trace gestures
  • Pop-up menu object
  • New JazzEditor, scripting powers, and instant Ableton Live reactivity – yep, doing stuff even the new Akai APC can’t.

The only bad news is, even with price drops, these devices aren’t cheap, though arguably they can make up for that with longevity. The Dexter has undergone a permanent price drop to a much more competitive US$1519. The Lemur has temporarily dropped to US$1769 for a 60-day promotion. No official word yet on what happens after that offer expires mid-March; stay tuned.

I do think this makes a pretty significant adjustment on value. I’m a big fan of the iPhone/iPod touch apps, but the input area is extremely small; there’s no real comparison.

Lemur V2
Jazz Mutant

And even if you decide not to get a Lemur yourself or can’t afford them, they remain a compelling example of what’s possible in the future of music hardware – and how powerful OSC can be. Look for a hands-on with Lemur V2 and more on OSC in other applications (many completely free) over the coming months.

To close out, here’s a nice, if simple, video demo of a Max/MSP step sequencer controller with the Lemur. What’s lovely about this is that it shows how building both software and hardware interface from the ground up can really give you control over how you’re playing. (Meaning, even if you hate this, you can go create something for youself that’s exactly what you love.)

this is a sequencer i programmed in max using the lemur as a control interface. it sends midi info to whatever program you use. i also forgot to mention that each track can have independent timings, so varitions can span longer than just 1 bar of music.

lemur users can download it off the jazzmutant website. user name – Andrew Graham

Got Lemur creations of your own? We’d love to see them. (I really appreciated seeing the amazing work Bryant Place was doing with LemurV2 and Ableton Live while I was out in LA.)