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We usually don’t cover prototypes, but the guys at Madrona Labs seem to be onto something…
The Soundplane A is, in their words. “a force-sensitive surface for intimate control of electronic music. What is intimate control? Instruments like the violin and hand drums give the player a very responsive connection to sound through their physical construction. In a state of creative flow, we stop thinking about these instruments as separate devices and speak directly through them. In a very real sense they become part of us.”
The playing surface is “a flexible sheet of hardwood veneer bonded to a plastic backing for strength. The case is milled out of alder, a sustainably harvested Northwest hardwood”. The hardware includes a DSP unit, the software is in progress, and there’s a good chance that the device will be able to run off USB power.
It’s good to see some potential competition in the “multi-touch controllers” field, where the Haken Continuum is until now the lonely king.
Randy Jones (one third of Madrona’s team) could be right in saying that “touch-sensitive surfaces may well become the piano for the 21st century”. Despite its fame (and price) I did not find the Continuum so exciting or rewarding to play, though. The materials used for the surface simply didn’t give me good feelings. But maybe I’m too 20th century (or maybe I just spent too little time on it!), who knows?
That said, I’ll keep an eye on this project. I like the approach behind it (and the Pierre Schaeffer quote) and I’m sure many would love to have an expressive controller with a decent price tag.
Madrona Labs is a small company, and the parts and the developement are quite expensive, so the Soundplane A won’t be cheap. But they’re trying to make it as affordable as they can, so let’s cross our fingers.
Their forum is open, so if you’d like to suggest a new feature, or you’d like to support the project in some way, join the other potential users and let the project grow up!