monome – the iconic grid and the project that produced it – are having a nice summer. Hardware is being assembled. And even if you’ve got zero money, you can give monome tools a try in the free VCV Rack grid, including on-screen grids, the powerfully programmable teletype module, and more.

monome + VCV

First, VCV Rack gives you a chance to try out what this monome stuff is all about directly, for free, in a free host. That’s especially significant with the teletype module – a generative scripting platform and sequencing toolkit built around the QWERTY keyboard. (Yes, it only supports the US layout, but – you’re already running multiple layouts on your computer keyboard, no? Just me?)

There are quite a few different free monome modules to try out in Rack, and if you slept on them before, they got a big documentation update in June (along with some fixes). That makes now a great time to learn them, alongside a bunch of video tutorials and jams they’ve accumulated since release.

Available modules:

  • grid 256
  • grid 64
  • grid 128
  • ansible: a sequencer and voltage generator (which pairs with grid)
  • meadowphysics: grid-enabled “rhyzomatic cascading counter” (uh, basically an interesting sequencer)
  • earthsea: grid-enabled “shape-memory pattern instrument” (pattern maker)
  • white whale: grid-enabled probabilistic step sequencer
  • and yes, a complete teletype

Check them out in the VCV Library:

And do read through the documentation, which is eminently approachable:

Having those virtual grids allows you to run all the modules. But most importantly, the documentation comes with a series of quick-start examples for teletype, complete with patching notes with VCV’s Free Collection.

news from monome

So it seems the word from tehn is that Brian and Kelli are back to assembly monome grids! The classic 16×16 (zero) and 16×8 (one) models, now with USB-C, are due in September.

And we get this nice video, plus a sort of poetic update by tehn:

so we made a new thing
but really an old thing
from over a decade ago
and so there was this impulse that we had to
somehow make the new thing actually new
with a fancy new application or something
but i guess we decided not to do that
this light pattern is an experiment we made a few months ago
with a demoscene-era plasma technique
the important stuff all happens in one line of code
which we wanted to mention simply to spread the concept of
permacomputing and also
despite the grid fundamentally being interactive
sometimes a visual or sound can powerfully stand on its own
like when nine inch nails had this same new thing on stage
just visualizing and hell they are still cooler than us
but really the point is
the grid hasn’t meaningfully changed for two decades
still doing nothing yet
containing endless horizons to explore new instrument design
a vehicle for new skills and
perhaps making new friends
but we guess everyone knows that by now
so it’s new and it’s the same
and that’s mostly why there’s not really a new killer app
lesser reasons include
us opening an art store and
still tending a farm and finding time to make music
such as this forthcoming softbits you’re hearing now
but we are glad to be building these again
and look forward to seeing what comes next

Speaking from a platform that’s also from around 2005, I can relate.

While you’re waiting on the hardware, though, you can dig in:

monome + teletype + VCV tutorials and examples

I absolutely recommend starting with the manual now that it’s been updated from its previous state, but then it’s worth watching some of the tutorials folks have made!

Here’s a nice example on hardware (using my favorite case from Intellijel!) – but just as applicable to the free Rack modules:

お化け学// Obakegaku has some gorgeous ambient demos with this software rig – as twinkly and sparkly as you would expect!

Here’s Dave Phillips having a play – I think that’s the Dave Phillips of Linux audio fame!

Ben Buchanan has some tranquil and wonderful demos up, too, showing off a hybrid setup – Rack in software, physical monome controller in The Real World. (Someone should actually try and make a photorealistic skin for the monome grid modules!)

Enjoy! Send us what you make!