- Jun 2017
Anyone working with the latest generation of MIDI musical instruments – like the Eigenharp, LinnStrument, ROLI Seaboard, Haken Continuum and the Madrona Soundplane – has probably encountered the work of Belgium-based programmer & electronic musician Geert Bevin.
My thoughts exactly.
And it carries over to much of the world of expressiveness in electronic music, centred around the emerging MPE standard: Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression.
Let me geek out a minute. ;)
Coming late to this MPE game, been really taken by the fact that Bevin’s name is everywhere. Given his work with many manufacturers, it’s no exaggeration to say that this type of musical expressiveness wouldn’t have expanded the way it did if it weren’t for Geert Bevin. Of course, MPE isn’t that mainstream, yet. You could even say that it’s a bit of a niche, in terms of the already peculiar world of electronic music. Besides, it’s just an implementation of some things which have been in the MIDI specifications from the start, over 30 years ago. But there’s more than smoke, here.
A few days ago, ROLI has announced the Seaboard Block, which might be the most affordable MPE device as of yet. It’s also the missing piece of the puzzle in ROLI’s lineup, linking the Seaboard line of highly expressive keyboards with the Blocks line of modular controllers. Some have been saying that the Seaboard Block is the point at which the Blocks line starts to make sense. Both there are more dots to connect. One is that ROLI also owns JUCE, which is fast becoming the tool of choice to develop music apps on multiple platforms, including mobile. Not sure how sophisticated JUCE’s MPE support is, but it does have some MPE-specific classes. Another point, mentioned in the comments on this interview, is that Bevin was instrumental in the MPE support in Moog’s Model 15 and Animoog synths on iOS. As these apps are quite influential, their continued development can have a big impact on the iOS part of the MPE scene.
Speaking of iOS, the fact that the latest version of Audiobus can route MIDI could open up interesting possibilities. Jesse Chappell, developer of two MPE-savvy iOS apps (ThumbJam and DrumJam) has been teasing a forthcoming app which would somehow deal with MPE in a thorough way.
And there’s a broader context for all of this. Hardware and software devices for electronic music (controllers, synthesizers, loopers, etc.) have been integrating into complete solutions. Several manufacturers have been doing both hardware and software. There aren’t that many hardware solutions for the sound output from MPE, but it’d only take a fairly simple box (maybe Arduino-based?) to allow much of the hardware synth world to receive MPE in an appropriate way (something which is already possible in software).
So it really is a fascinating time to be getting into musical expressiveness through digital means.