Of Jamboxes and Liquid Harps

photoThe frontier of the digital music-making space is an interesting place.

At an event last night in The Mission, I got to muck about with a bunch of unusual digital musical instruments.

One of my favorites was The Jambox (pictured left with my friend Nat demonstrating) which is a console covered in postage stamp-sized rubber squares which you can push in different sequences to create bass lines, melodies and rhythm parts. It’s best played by two people as it’s hard to keep all the different lines going with one pair of hands.

Another fun gadget was a computerized harp — I think it was called Liquid Harp but it might also have been tagged Air Harp or Aero Harp or some such. You wave your hand in front of a screen showing vertical strings and sensors pick up you moti0n and make the strings “vibrate” and produce sound. It’s incredibly soothing and sweet.

The amount of technical expertise you need to play these things seems minimal. The low barrier to entry aspect is one of the advantages of these gadgets. But I wonder if spending longer amounts of time and concentration with digital instruments like the harp and Jambox might yield results that go beyond the instantaneous pleasure one gets from waving one’s hand or pressing a button to make a satisfying sound? Maybe there’s a way to really work at these things and take the sound to a more complex level…?

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