The Sormina – A New Wireless Instrument From Finland

The Sormina is a new electronic instrument, designed by Juhani Räisänen, that combines traditional materials with wireless support.:

The purpose was to create a new instrument that would be as nuanced, and as easy to hold, as the violin. At the same time we wanted to have a modern instrument with electronic sounds and also visual output. Design and usability issues were of equal importance.

Sormina consists of eight keys that are rolled by fingers of left hand and right hand. The sensory data of the keys is transferred wirelessly to the computer in the form of MIDI controller messages. The keys control the parameters of the sound software and video software that are created specifically for Sormina.

Here’s a short video that offers a demonstration of the Sormina:

The Sormina consists of three parts: a tangible interface, computer software, and a wireless connection to the computer. It was created as part of Räisänen’s doctoral dissertation project.

via reader Petteri Mäkiniemi, who notes “sormi is finger in Finnish.”

17 thoughts on “The Sormina – A New Wireless Instrument From Finland

  1. Here we go with another mutant controller. Is it a fresh new way to control sound, or just another oddity that defies convention with an approach few will even comprehend? I choose to play sounds with very elastic envelopes and timbral shifts at times, but IMO, without SOME traditional footing, these exploratory leaps lose a meaningful portion of their lifeline to familiarity. Just because you make sound with a musically-aimed device doesn’t automatically make it valid. The tool is pretty clever, but I can already make that sound with a keyboard synth, a mod wheel and a sweep pedal. Add enough stages to the envelopes and you can drop the pedal. So was this item needed to solve a musical problem? Would enough people take it up to yield a few virtuosos who would add anything new to the performance lexicon? I’d almost call it lazy, except that it does its intended job well, no question. I’m just dubious about why it does it by putting big feathered wings on top of a Kia. Where’s the musical gain?

    1. Well put. It looks beautifully crafted, but since it’s not geared to any especial function there’s nothing dictating the form. Acoustic instruments don’t just look that way because they’re pretty, but because they’re efficient -examine a trumpet, for example. This new device seems aspirational; it’s a basic knob controller trying to look like a serious instrument.

      1. While I empathize with the sentiments, I feel that criticizing a hardware interface simply from the perspective that it doesn’t do anything as completely groundbreaking as, to use the above example, the valve trumpet is a bit pedantic. The beauty of the current age of freer hardware development is not as contingent on the continual reinvention of the musical wheel as it is on the potential to make a wheel that someone somewhere will find more expressive than the one he or she has already. If you’re perfectly happy with your set up, then fret not, keyboards will be around probably as long as music itself, but try to keep in mind that others may not share your skill, musical intuition, comfort on the keys, etc and may just want to turn some wheels.

  2. How would you turn all the knobs the same way at the same time? Seems like it would flip over and be the end of a performance.. It doesn’t seem to be very beneficial/needed from a performance perspective. A novelty, yes, but not very useful from the droning example.

  3. I think the arrangement of the knobs is ergonomically clever compared to just a bunch of knobs. It is basically giving you the ability to adjust eight knobs at once which would be difficult or impossible with traditional knobs.

  4. Cool design!
    Yes it is an 8-knob controller, with excellent ergonomics including the wireless feature!
    I think the limits of this controller are a strength, rather than a weakness.
    It could easily play melodies with one or more knobs mapped to pitch..
    I’m thrilled that people are building things like this!

  5. I think I’ll take one step back from my critique, because I use a NanoPad and fiddle with synth parameters which I automate. Even piano playing has multiple angles of approach. If someone was using this as part of an arsenal because it suited aspects of their style, then that would simply be another means of making the palette interesting. I tend to look at things like this from a soloing perspective, but that’s not the only test for usefulness. I’m dubious, because its pretty quirky, but I can still see it as musical, so its not a flop, just an oddity.

  6. So are we going to see a band in which some broad jumps around banging on her ruffled skirt while some hipster-douche plays mind numbing drones on this damn thing? Let’s add some spoken word over that and we’ll officially have the lamest band in the world.

  7. I really have to make a distinction here between a controller and a musical instrument.

    For me, and i’m sure people can disagree, an musical instrument is something that makes sound. An interface is something which allows you to control something.

    i keep seeing new controllers introduced as though they’re going to revolutionise music. Most people involved with this sort of thing are more than aware that you can control pretty much any sound generating aparatus with almsot any “thing”. Imagination really is the only limit.

    And although i applaud anyone making alternative controllers, and opening up the keyboard dominated world of synthesis to new performance possibilities, i can’t help but think that calling a half featured MIDI controller an istrument is pushing it a bit.. / / /

    Also- i just tried to accomplish a similar performance with (The good, and free) TAL noisemaker, my MPK49 and a couple of effects, and i had no problem- 8 fingers and all.

    i do think this is important work- and i’m very interested in it myself, but often when i watch these concepts/products i find myself wondering;

    “What’s the point?”


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