StepPolyArp for iPad controlling an Oberheim FVS from Logan Mannstrane on Vimeo.

Logan Mannstrane sends in this lovely video combining an iPad MIDI step sequencer — with an Oberheim FVS. It’s a striking intersection of analog and digital technology. But I wanted to ask Logan to explain why he’d use the iPad in this case instead of other MIDI tools — why crossing this generational gap mattered. He responds:

That fact that I can interface a synth from the 70’s to new device in 2010 is pretty amazing by iteself. I can have the sequencer in my hands and pull a chair up the window while laying back with my feet up it is very inspiring and a comfortable workflow. Also, for people that have multiple analogue synths scattered around, it is very nice to sequence the synth when you are right next to it. In a world full of DJ applications, rompler sequence programs, it sure does feel
good to have something fun and musical to try out. For a version 1 of the software, it is very neat. I heard more Midi apps are coming to the iPad in the future so this is a great beginning to wireless MIDI.

While TouchOSC is great, there are many people that want to start making music without having to spend a week of building an interface to talk with hardware and software alike. The StepPolyArp software was well thought-out and cleanly executed with a elegant interface. With Analogue synths you have instant control and feedback for designing the sound, and now you can step away from the mouse and chair to sequence. It doesn’t get better than that.

If you like the looks of this software and have an iPad, here it is:

It uses the free DS MIDI WiFi, a project born – as the name implies – on Nintendo DS. Viva open source.

There’s no question in my mind that MIDI remains lingua franca for interconnecting devices across the previous decades. Of course, that to me also suggests we need to make more progress on standardizing the way network MIDI protocols work.

Through the grapevine, I’m hearing the iOS SDK will incorporate network MIDI capabilities, but I think there are still some challenges there. Apple’s protoco,l while thoroughly standards-based and still essentially MIDI, is nonetheless for now specific to them. I’d also like to see some solid numbers on performance. New gear may want to investigate Bluetooth and not just WiFi, as Bluetooth could work nicely for embedded hardware, DIY synths, and the like. But it’s certainly an interesting time.

As a counterpoint, here’s Logan with a Pro One – no iPad in sight, just physical knobs. I think there’s something to be learned from the interaction design of each, and something unmistakably wonderful about the connection of hardware like this to sound and experience.

The infamous white faced Pro One from Logan Mannstrane on Vimeo.

For more Oberheim goodness, gaze into the glossy ads the company produced in 1981 and 1982 for Keyboard, and dream of the day when we enjoy electronic music ads again: Retro Synth Ads: Oberheim, at one of my new favorite sites.