SOMA Intros FLUX, A New Expressive Synthesizer That Reimagines The Theremin

SOMA Laboratory has introduced FLUX, a new synthesizer instrument that reimagines the theremin using modern technology, to offer precise expressive control over timbre.

Like the theremin, the FLUX is played gesturally, using your hands to control pitch and volume. The FLUX uses magnetic ‘bows’ and a sensor strip, though, which allows for much more precise and repeatable control over pitch, while still supporting continuous expressive control, like the theremin.

The FLUX also allows for additional dimensions of expression, going beyond the theremin’s capabilities. This means that it gives you continuous express control over not just pitch and volume, but also over timbre.

FLUX works in monophonic, duophonic and polyphonic modes. Staccato-enabling and quantization modes are available. The quantization function has an adjustment parameter for vibrato.

Here’s what SOMA has to say about the FLUX:

“Unlike the Theremin which works by virtue of the capacitive coupling of hands and antennae, FLUX is based on magnetic principles. Two magnetic bows are pressed between your fingers, and the interface is a multipolar magnetic sensor, registering the bows’ positions and movements.

The X coordinate of the artist’s right-hand bow controls the note’s pitch, while the Z coordinate controls volume. The left-hand bow’s X, Y and Z coordinates control the various synthesis parameters.

Since a magnet has two poles, FLUX not only detects the bows’ spatial coordinates, but also the bows’ angle. This means that flipping the right-hand bow on the Y-axis changes the octave, which allows a range of six continuous octaves without transposing the keyboard. With transposition you can get a range from sub-bass all the way to ultrasonic. The left-right tilting of the right-hand bow on the X-axis controls two independent modulation parameters.

The left-hand bow controls the timbres. The timbral sensor, placed in the left part, has six poles, and independently registers positive and negative magnetic fields. This lets you change which parameters you control by flipping the bow, allowing you to control up to twelve independent sound parameters. Together with the pitch, volume and two additional tilt parameters on the right-hand bow, you have access to a total of sixteen sonic controls that you can use during performance, without ever touching the surface of the instrument.

Summing up the concept of FLUX: the most direct and immediate way to play with a large number of synthesis parameters in a musical way, creating a dynamic timbre composition. Different synthesis algorithms (engines) will be created as complete musical instruments for direct timbral control. All engines will be available in a single firmware and any engine can be launched in a fraction of a second. Presets will allow the user to save and recall the entire state of the synth including engine and all tunings.

We developed FLUX with the aim to create a modern instrument for academic music, offering powerful sonic tools such as distortion, complex FM and physical modelling of non-existent, surrealistic musical instruments. We invite modern performers and composers to use FLUX in their work.”

SOMA Laboratory was founded by designer Vlad Kreimer in 2016. Since then, the company has established a reputation for creating uniquely original electronic music instrument designs, including the LYRA-8 “organismic synthesizer”, the PULSAR-23 drum machine and The Pipe voice/breath-controlled instrument.

With the FLUX, Kreimer and SOMA are aiming high, with an instrument that offers the expressive gestural control of the theremin, but with better control over pitch and with entirely new capabilities for controlling synthesis.

FLUX is under development. Details are to come at the SOMA site.

11 thoughts on “SOMA Intros FLUX, A New Expressive Synthesizer That Reimagines The Theremin

  1. Awesome – but would be fantabulous if they worked out polyphony with those bows/marshmallows, perhaps as the Marimba Lumina, designed by Don Buchla, does with each of its 4 mallets being tuned to a different inductive frequency. Not only can it do chords, it can do 4 simultaneous voices. Although it might be impossible to position those bows correctly. Perhaps they’d be better as finger caps? Anyway, fun looking instrument!

  2. It would be great if we could wear the magnetic bows like a ring. Pressed between your fingers kinda hinder finger movements which are essential for quick note changes. Otherwise it looks very interesting and promising.

  3. It is elegant and beautiful and it works.

    The only problem is the length of the playing surface and the fact that you have a switch octaves. Within a distance of 18-20 inches a theremin can address a 7 octave range – without switching octaves.
    The length makes accurate play easier and more precise while the theremin just requires precision and steadiness.

    Be sure to order extra magnets.

    This is perfect for those who find the theremin too damned hard to play. So is the Osmose.

    Make it the same price or cheaper than the Osmose – I haven’t played a theremin since I got the Osmose – it does that job as well.

    Kudos for the design and thought behind the FLUX.

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