Oakland-based Visionary Instruments presented their new guitar-based MIDI controller at NAMM. Guitar-controllers are nothing new, but one is quite advanced, going beyond simple conversion of basic guitar fingering to include a wide variety of modern controls, including accelerometers and pressure sensitive pads in addition to an array of knobs, sliders and buttons.
Here we see Moldover demonstrating the basic version of the guitar. (We have reviewed Moldover’s performances in San Francisco in past articles.) You can see a little bit of the guitar in action in this video:
There was also a model with twelve strings and a more traditional finish. That one also had a built-in “e-bow”, which was a nice feature.
In addition to the controller, Visionary Instruments makes “video guitars” with embedded video screens. The main model has a stylized, curving shape, but I particularly liked this metallic retro model:
For those who look at such details, the video is Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap.
In addition to the quality of the instruments, it nice to see an innovative company from the Bay Area (and Oakland in particular) represented here.
Last Wednesday I attended Control Freq at the Hotel Utah here in San Francisco. Of course, that is a fantastic name for a show, being a play on words for electronic music controllers, audio signal processing, and the tendency of many of us to be in fact “control freaks.” The overall theme among the three groups who performed was use of Ableton Live! with various controllers.
The evening opened with Celeste Lear (guitar, vocals, electronics) and her band, including Adam Willis (drums) and Ian Montgomery (bass).
Lear has quite a pedigree in music and audio, and her music and band is quite technologically sophisticated (I did see the iPhone as a controller on the bassist’s strap). Nonetheless, they manage to combine technology with popular music idioms. I heard various funk, house, and reggae influences in her music – I had a soft spot for the final song which sounded like a classic house/disco track in a minor key. Though most of the music was very rhythmic, there were some free-form moments as well with guitar effects, etc. For much of the set, they were joined by trumpeter John Gibbons.
Celeste Lear was followed by Nonagon [along with guests]. The group had an impressive array of gear, arranged as multiple stations with laptops and controllers, including offerings from Akai and Albeton+Novation and of course a Monome. There were also two glowing globes in between the performers that emitted an ever changing color of light. Musically, the set began with complex ambient sounds, quite different of the Celeste Lear Band. Gradually, beats and recognizable chords emerged, with the beats eventually becoming quite strong and pronounced. Over the course of the set, they seamlessly moved through various beat-based soundscapes, with various resonances, vocal pads, pianos and other sounds filling in.
Moldover concluded the evening with a very impressive, high-paced and virtuosic performance with his Mojo controller, guitar and voice. We had last seem Moldover at LoveTech.
His performance on the controller was strong and rhythmically tight and fun to watch. He played the various buttons and sliders as if he was playing guitar or drums. Even though the Mojo was being used to bring in out various loops, recordings and processed sounds, the end result were new rhythms, chords and even melodies. This can be best seen in a video clip rather than in words:
We present a few photos and notes from the LoveTech SF 1st Anniversary “Epictacular”, which I attended on Saturday. LoveTech is a “Collaborative Music Technology Party & Interactive Multimedia Art Salon” here in San Francisco, and a group I definitely should try and be more involved in during its second year.
Our friend Tim Thompson, together with Michael Broxton, performed live improvised music along with generative visuals (i.e., the graphics are generated live):
Tim’s setup features a Launchpad/Mimo/Keyboard interface. This music featured tonal improvisations (lots of jazz chords and lines) with fast lines and rhythms, a structure that allowed one to shift focus between the music and visuals. The visual software was Broxton’s PhosphorEssence. You can see some clips from the performance on this video:
In addition to live performances, there were also technical demonstrations. Here we see Moldover presenting the MOJO, a newly released music controller which features touch-sensitive strips, game-controller-style buttons and a rather sturdy looking case.
There was also a “jam lounge”. Here we see a duo of *bernadette* (left) and Pamela Parker performing a delightfully noisy and inharmonic electronic improvisation with guitars and effects (including a Moogerfooger).
They also had a theremin as part of their set. Note the porcelain cat figurine on the theremin.
The video below features a demonstration by Komega of his custom sound and light instruments, including the Kromatron, Komegatone, and the Breadman.