Making music in the round
Published 2 July 2012
A University of Brighton graduate has created a spherical keyboard covered in tactile pods which could revolutionise the way musicians play the instrument.
Place, who graduated in 2009, has now taken AlphaSphere into production with his Bristol-based company Nu Desine, which consists of a team of musicians, engineers, and developers.
AlphaSphere has 48 tactile pods arranged on a modular sphere, a radical move away from the traditional linear keyboard. Place believes that this shape allows musicians to produce electronic music in a more expressive way. Place said: "Whilst studying at Brighton, I was looking at music production software and realised that a conventional electronic keyboard was a limited interface for electronic music production, as it was actually based on the design of a piano – i.e. felt hammers hitting steel strings. Developments in music production software, especially softsynths, drum patterns and samples lent itself much more to tactile pads. I hypothesised that the sphere would be a fun and ergonomic shape to play.
"Despite Brighton's generally amazing nightlife, I was underwhelmed by the hipster DJs downloading poorly-compressed MP3s and playing them on their laptops in nightclubs and felt that the club music experience could be pushed so much further. As a musician I wanted to play an instrument, and though computer software had come so far, the hardware was still based on seventeenth century designs, and anything much newer seemed to be designed for its technical features rather than musical features.
"Whilst at Brighton I was offered a scholarship to study at Nagoya University of Arts, Japan and despite being amazed by the technical ability of a lot of the musicians there, was surprised that the Western tradition of music was so pervasive. This cemented my resolve to create a tool which had the ability to cross musical traditions. In Japan, the spirit of craftsmanship was very much alive. Guitar shops had components for making guitars, and novel electronics design was everywhere. Being in Nagoya, only a stone’s throw from the headquarters of Yamaha, Roland and a number of other pro-audio brands, the idea of building an international brand selling musical instruments seemed possible, and the idea of Nu Desine was born."
Place now expects the Japanese to become early adopters of the technology when AlphaSphere launches later this year. It is expected to retail at up to £600. Although initially aimed at the music instrument industry, Place also envisages it being developed for a broader consumer electronics market.
Read more news...
Contact: Marketing and Communications, University of Brighton, 01273 643022