INTERVIEW VICE/MOTHERBOARD FULL TEXT
- So this isn't a stand-alone instrument, right? Like, my own controller has a set, static array of inputs, while this seems infinitely (or feeling like it) flexible.
Indeed, it is not a stand-alone instrument (yet). This app is an Active MIDI Instrument.
« Active » because objects can interact with each others (this feature is called... 'BEHAVIOURS', and will be explained in a future video, which you can already preview here: https://vimeo.com/38974664 (pw: beatsurf)). This makes the instrument very flexible, multiplying the available MIDI notes on the surface. As you can arrange all the objects on the surface exactly how you want (x,y and z: you can use layers of objects).
And « instrument » 'cause it's not a sequencer : it's designed to be played in real time, with a direct result. It helps to develop an innovative approach of composition and interpretation... With a great deal of fun !
The application is designed to produce a real time MIDI flow. The MIDI output is the instantaneous result of the confrontation of 3 things :
- 1 The architecture of the scene (geometry)
- 2 the rules you fix between objects (systemic, cybernetic)
- 3 the way you surf along screen (time, space, interpretation)
As with the main part of the iPad music apps, you still can play by hitting objects on the screen, but here it's more appropriate to slide over them with your fingers. Actually that's why we call it « beatsurfing ». : you can easily play a complete piece of music guided by your feelings and intuition, and reinterpret it in many ways.
Ipad is not accurate as a percussion instrument. If you want to play by hitting any type of interface, you should really prefer hitting pads or drums. But developing a piece of music by surfing your fingers on the screen and putting your sounds and controllers anywhere on the screen at the same time as you build your track is something really fresh. When objects can interact with each others, it becomes an organic environment. Surfing along the screen to generate music with great freedom is the main idea here.
- What all does it work with, just anything with MIDI functionality?
Yes indeed. Eventhough it’s been developed for music production and performance, you control anything that is MIDI enabled, digital and analog devices: synths, vj softwares, lightning systems... you name it.
- How does it map to a DAW?
Just like you would map any MIDI controller or instrument, in a second. But it's much more than a 'passive' remote controller (again, the Behaviours play a big role in this). You can for instance design your own interface and map it to Ableton live or whatever, then modulate it along the creative process.
The EDIT and PLAY mode can be toggled at the tap of a finger.
- What's the target user for this? It looks and, I imagine, feels very, well, "appy." But if we're mapping to Ableton or whatever, that's a whole different story.
It's aimed at any producer, beatmaker or live performer.
Thoses who come from sequenced music will find a way to use their knowledge of sequenced music in a real time environment.
But also all those coming from real time music. Like a keyboard player, a MPC drummer, a guitarist, an MC. They will find new ways to use the skills they learned with their instrument.
Not to forget the people who will be stimulated by the « appy » side you mention , and who will quickly surprize themselves with the direct musical result they can produce. The notion of pleasure is here very important. When we put the app in a 10 year old child’s hands recently, his mother, quite terrified, asked us if he would ‘get back to normal again’ :) He did. But he sure looked very much into it.
The fact that it can control any MIDI enabled device makes for a very large variety of uses, lots of which we probably still haven't discovered ourselves yet. We're really looking very much forward to seeing how the users will make this app theirs.
- Do you see a fundamental problem with how we do electronic music now, particularly in a performance setting? In other words, what are you seeking a solution to with Beatsurfing?
We don't think there's a fundamental problem with how electronic music is produced nowadays. It is part of the electronic culture to focus more on the sequencing, coding and controlling side than direct interpretation. It just lacks a bit of 'humanity'. We aim to bring this bit of human expressivity back into composition and performance. The "organic"topology and the natural swipe gestures allow this.
We don't think of Beatsurfing as a 'solution' to a problem, but as an 'evolution' for intuitive music composition and performance.
- How do you wean a producer away from a performance interface they're very used to and comfortable with to using something new?
We think the unique features of Beatsurfing will complement a setup more than replacing anything. It can get 'on top' of a setup and control all the devices if they are MIDI enabled. It's more about putting back the human touch to a setup than changing its components. AS we were developing the app, we played an awful lot with it, and it didn’t replace any of our other MIDI devices: it integrated into the setup.
- Can you talk a bit about the development of Beatsurfing? Where the idea came from and some of the challenges?
The idea came from lots of different devices we developed since we started using only real-time music, banning all sequenced material. The Beatfader MAXforLive device, may be one of the closest concepts to Beatsurfing. It was already using human movement in a creative way to produce music.
The biggest challenge was cramming all the ideas we came up with in one application and make it fun and easy to operate. Technically, it was critical to render the ‘surfing’ movement totally seamless. This took a lot of time and head-scratching.
- Do you see this as something with the potential to affect how we do electronic music on a more fundamental level? What is that affect?
The fundamental change is in the ‘surf’, the ‘slide’ of the fingers on the iPad. Until now, most of the production is made in a ‘sequential’ (TR-808, Piano Roll,..), generative (MAX/MSP, Arpegiattors...) or ‘percussive’ (Keyboards, MPC) manner. Beatsurfing opens the realm of ‘Sliding’, ‘Surfing’, which can really change the way musicians think their composition and performance. And, well, it’s really fun.
Thanks! The beta is open at vlek.tumblr.com
The release will occur sometimes in may/june 2012.