- Title: ROLI's touch-responsive tech presents a new level of musical expression
- Date: 4th November 2016
- Summary: WIDE OF JACK AND MARCO PARISI, AND LAMB DISCUSSING BLOCKS CLOSE OF JACK AND MARCO PARISI WIDE OF LAMB EXPLAINING HOW BLOCKS DISPLAYS WHAT SCALE THE MUSICIAN IS PLAYING PARISI PLAYING A MAJOR SCALE BY FOLLOWING THE GRID OF LIGHTS ON BLOCKS WIDE OF PARISI PLAYING MINOR SCALE ON BLOCKS
- Embargoed: 19th November 2016 12:56
- Keywords: ROLI Roli Blocks Seaboard music musician Grimes synthesiser piano
- Location: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK
- City: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Arts/Culture/Entertainment,Music
- Reuters ID: LVA0075714YFV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The black and white keys on a traditional piano keyboard have remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years. But a piano-style synthesiser called Seaboard replaces the keys with a continuous touch-responsive surface to open up a new world of musical expression.
Seaboard inventor Roland Lamb said the instrument stemmed from his own frustrations as a jazz pianist.
"I wanted to be able to express more from the keyboard and create the kind of sounds and modulations that people could create on a bass or a guitar or a saxophone," said Lamb, founder of London-based company ROLI.
"I was sitting at the piano and thinking 'why can't I strike a note and then glide it and slide it and move it?' And I could sing like what I wanted to be able to hear, but I couldn't do that."
The Seaboard, first launched in 2013, was his solution. The futuristic keyboard uses a soft, springy material for the keys which are continually responsive wherever the user presses. Like a normal synthesiser it has a library of sounds in its data banks, giving the musician the expressive capabilities of many instruments. ROLI says it lets 'music-makers shape sound through five dimensions of touch'.
The Seaboard is available in two models; the RISE which starts at £649 ($794 USD), and the GRAND starting at £1,599 ($1,958 USD).
Classically-trained pianist Marco Parisi demonstrated the unique musicality of the Seaboard using the sounds of different instruments, including a pitch-perfect rendition of a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. Parisi said that every time he plays the Seaboard he discovers something new.
"This is the most expressive instrument I ever played. And to be able to use my piano technique and make that expressive changed my world. I don't play piano any more - I play only the Seaboard, only the Seaboard," he told Reuters.
Lamb also said it would be hard to return to traditional instruments: "I love acoustic instruments and I love the simplicity of them and I love the depth of them. But now that I know the possibilities that one can access through new technologies and new sounds. And you can still have a depth of expression and simplicity, but you can access a while world of possibilities. It would be very, very difficult to go back."
The music technology start-up has so far raised more than $50 million in investment to accelerate the growth of its devices.
On November 1, ROLI debuted its latest musical innovation: a modular synthesiser system called Blocks. Each device is small enough to fit in a coat pocket, but is packed with innovative music-making technology, including a tactile and touch-responsive pressure pad that is designed to help anyone created a layered and professional sounding track.
A single Blocks device costs £169.95 in the UK and $179 in the U.S. But Lamb envisions musicians building a multi-piece kit; with Blocks clicking together using magnetic connectors to build a customised mini music studio.
"What's exciting about Blocks is that you both have that depth of expression with every touch but it's completely open-ended because it's modular. So you can piece together a kit or a set that's just right for you. And traditionally for a lot of musicians it's like you go to the store or you go online and then you choose from a bunch of different options but you have a limited set of choices. But with Blocks it's really unlimited - you can really piece it together and create whatever you want out of that system. And I think that's really exciting, especially for artists," said Lamb.
At the London launch event for Blocks, Canadian electronic music artist Grimes was excited to get her hands on Blocks. "I love the multi timbral aspect, like I love that you can just play with all the aspects, it's not just like you're pushing on something and it's clinical; it really has that vibe," said Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher.
"My grandma really likes it and my brother, who doesn't play music, really likes it. That's one of the things that really got me excited about it; is that I think you don't need a lot of musical experience to make stuff that sounds good or professional with it," she added.
Blocks is available via ROLI's website and is being rolled out at Apple stores around the world in time for Christmas.
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