Monome Arc Rhythm Generator

Instruments Category: 

The practice of developing custom hardware and software for music is blurring line between engineer and musician, but the trappings of bringing forth parameters out of engineering still exist. Revealing all parameters may seem the most flexible, but this often becomes bewildering. Not all parameters are of equal importance.

Bringing thought, gesture and possibility into alignment takes practice. Musicians are well aware of the technique of enhancing creativity by limiting options and the same can be said of interface design. The arc presents a limited set of controls: four high resolution encoders — but how many encoders can you move at one time?

I’ve often thought about adapting a playable drum machine to the arc interface. The monome grid is an ideal interface for programming specific patterns visually. ‘Playing’ this interface is somewhat less rewarding.

The Arc Rhythm generator is a stab at making a playable drum machine. There are four ‘voices’ — one per knob. Each knob can edit phasor rate, phasor phase and pattern density.

Ableton Live’s key or MIDI map fuction can be used to map keys to changing knob mode. When designing grid software, often a control row is split out to provide mode or function keys, leaving an odd number of keys for the playfield. Dedicated grid devices like the Ableton Push have a symmetrical playfield and dedicated function buttons. These days I prefer to leave function mapping up to the user and leave a symmetrical playfield.

The Gridlab Arc Rhythm Generator isn’t really a euclidian rhythm generator (although it looks like one) as the spaces between the wheel ‘spokes’ are not equidistant, but it may be thought of as a close cousin. This is the first of several devices planned using this technique. You may remember Electric Dharma Wheels. I plan an melodic version based around diatonic note pool probabilities using harmonic interchange notation. Electric Dharama Wheels relied on the button on the first generation arc to navigate between notepools. Instead, you’ll use Live’s key/MIDI mapping to accomplish the same thing.