The Monome, a fresh new music interface, is in production. A programmable grid of of 64 buttons, it’s a smallbrew device. That is, the piece of hardware is neither a mass-produced corporate item nor a homebrew bit of weekend-invention happenstance. It’s a proper commercial release, albeit on a small scale. Half a grand will get you the Monome itself, which made strong impressions at the recent Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, as well as entry into the open-source community of musician-programmers who are devising software for the controller.
There’s enticing footage of the machine in action at the Monome website (monome.org), but while we wait for Monome-nurtured music to make its way online (and elsewhere), we can give a listen to music by the people who developed the Monome in the first place. Take Brian Crabtree, at whose nnnnnnnn.org is an expert, eight-track set, tomorrowperhaps, which features contributions by Monome staffers Peter Segerstrom and Kelli Cain, as well as by Corey Fogel. Crabtree records under the name tehn.
All the pieces are sample-laden and brief. With one exception, they’re all under two and a half minutes, and one is barely 45 seconds. The set opens with a mesh of haze and nonsense vocals (“Sixth and Market,” MP3), the soft vowels given shape with sharp cuts and stuttered edits. The entries are varied, from long, mellow tones to twinkling child’s play, but throughout there’s an emphasis on melding composition and field recordings, as on the mix of somnolent melodies and distant bird calls on “Article” (MP3) and the street noise leavened with bell tones on “Endof” (MP3). The full album is available for free download, and a “physical” edition is for sale (cheap: $5!) at flatflat.org.