Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Dream of Iceland

I spent the day yesterday a prisoner in my house. We had a nasty layer of solid ice on everything. The bamboo in the yard looked like an ice sculpture. Winters here are the impetus for a lot of creative endeavors that we're too busy in the summer to make time for.

This was a perfect time followup my recent review of the Eigenharp Alpha with a video performance. I've only had it for a very short time so actually playing it with skill is going to take awhile. In my head I was imagining myself as Pat Metheny playing midi guitar back in the day, but of course I'm not and will never be.

The benefits of using the monome with the eigenharp should be apparent in this video. While you can control a lot from the eigenharp itself, or at least that is the promise, the monome is still king in that area. The eigenharp is the king of expression. Sounds that you may have thought seemed stagnant come alive.

One thing that should not be overlooked is how amazing it is to be able to play different scales on a grid. I've known this from monome apps like SevenUpLive but when you add an expressive controller like the Eigenharp in the equation, I feel that the possibilities are quite amazing. The difference is that rather than using years of muscle memory to play within a scale on a chromatic instrument, you are instead able to make the connection between where you want to go and getting there faster. I'm sure this can be debated. You can change the scales and tonic on the fly. So if you now how things will sound going from one to the other, the sonic connections I think can happen faster than what we've been used to doing which is learning scales for years on end.

I'm sure watching this video will not convince you of that. There was a lot going on and I hamfisted it a bunch. I still believe it to be true and I think we will see some amazing things come out of this instrument. Stay tuned.

A Dream of Iceland from bar|none on Vimeo.


  1. Very well done.
    As I write I am awaiting delivery of my Alpha from UPS. Excited is an understatement!
    As a software developer I hope you will contribute to the refinement of EigenD once it goes open source!
    Apparently Eigenlabs is announcing a new Eigenharp at NAMM in a couple days .. I hope my Alpha isn't obsolete before I receive it!

  2. Congratulations!! I hope to contribute to the code. Let's make sure they keep their open source promises. As far as the rumors. I hope they do announce another model. It would make sense and bring in new users. Now that I've made the investment in the Alpha, I am happy to have the high end. It's quite stunning.

  3. Agreed .. I just opened it. Very impressive .. very Apple-esque as far as packaging and branding go. I shot the unboxing so perhaps I will put that up on YouTube at some point. It is a bit smaller than I had anticipated, which is actually a good thing.

    Next I will install the software and hook it all up .. hopefully it will work!

  4. I'm about to crack and order an Alpha .. even thought I entered the competition :-)

    I'm in a band with my girlfriend, so if I should win the competition then we'd be able to play two Eigenharps on stage! If not, I'd have an Alpha sooner and get started on songs for it.

  5. I have always been amazed by most controllers in that they impress me as being little more than toys, far below the quality of an actual musical instrument. I suppose part of that comes from the culture of the computer generation. Controllers are not instruments but a collection of keys tied to a computer program.

    I recently bought a Pico and what first impressed me before even playing it was that it did feel like a musical instrument. I was especially impressed by the keys that moved back and forth. Part of the magic for me of playing a music instrument is how it responds to you. There is a kind of two way feeback loop between listening to what you sound like and the feel of the instrument. This is what I experience with the Pico. It's a positive sign that things are changing in the musical world and that instrument should be instruments and not extensions of computer keyboards.