The History Of Expressive Alternate Controllers

At ContinuuCon 2019, held May 30 – June 1 in Asheville, North Carolina, developer Geert Bevin (Moog Music) shared his personal take on The History Of Expressive Alternate Controllers.

Bevin has been involved, as both a user and developer, with a wide variety of expressive MIDI controllers, and helped pioneer the MIDI MPE specification.

In this presentation from ContinuuCon, Bevin discusses a wide variety of expressive electronic instruments/controllers, including the Eigenharp, LinnStrument, Continuum, applications and more.

5 thoughts on “The History Of Expressive Alternate Controllers

  1. failed title
    its just recent history of expressive controllers (read MPE)
    he is missing buchla 223e – multidimensional kinesthetic input controller and the tactile input port …

    1. You’re confusing expressive instruments with alternate controllers.

      Buchla’s controllers are a completely different category of device than these instruments.

      Buchla wasn’t very interested in making expressive instruments or even making instruments that could be used for traditional music. I have yet to see anybody playing expressively with a Buchla or even to see anybody attempt to perform any traditional music with a Buchla controller.

      1. I don’t understand why you think the Buchla 223e isn’t expressive.

        Your “standard” that unless someone has attempted to perform “traditional music” on one, then it doesn’t count is ridiculous.

        1. stub

          How can an instrument be considered expressive if it can’t be used to do the things that proven expressive instruments can do?

          It’s not about playing ‘classical’ or ‘traditional’ music; it’s a question of whether an instrument can be used in the roles that expressive instruments are used.

          Buchlas are not really proven in those roles, and musicians really don’t try to use them in those roles.

          I’m not saying that Buchla’s instruments aren’t important or interesting creative tools – but they are something very different than the expressive controllers discussed in this video.

          Not sure why anyone would think that a controversial statement – it should be self-evident from what you see in practice.

          1. I think an expressive instrument will provide several things: ability to control the attack of the sound, provide realtime control over the ongoing sustain of the sound, and control the release of the sound.

            It can be a fair point if the instrument is too difficult to play, or if the means of control is not very effective. And perhaps that is true of the Buchla. I don’t know. It just seemed like you were dismissing it for unfair reasons.

            I get your point about comparing it to the things you can do with “proven expressive instruments”– but it sounds like you are imposing some other criteria that aren’t necessarily on-topic.

            I’ve heard a number of alternative controllers that are “expressive” but don’t even come close to the beauty of an acoustic instrument in the hands of a master. That doesn’t mean they aren’t expressive. It might just say more about the learning curve, and the amount of time to build a pedagogy and culture around that instrument. Or perhaps it is more appropriate for ambient sound manipulation and not “culturally specific” music.

            I like using a keyboard and a breath controller, I still can’t make it do what I can do on a real trombone, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t expressive.

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