I'm passionate about enhanced musical expression - especially when using electronic / digital devices. As a result, I am a great fan of products such as the Linnstrument, Eigenharp and Seaboard Rise which all facilitate huge amounts of musical expression and have opened up whole new worlds of possibilities for composers, producers and performers. However, there is still a gap that I believe needs to be filled.
For me, it’s essential that during a performance the audience understand what the musician is doing. There has to be an obvious visual link between what is done and what is heard.
ZOOM may well have just taken the first practical ‘mass-market’ step.
The ZOOM ARQ, launched at this year’s NAMM show is a drum machine, sequencer, synthesizer, looper, and MIDI controller. Looking like something out of Close Encounters, the central control unit sits on the desk, surrounded by a ring of flashing lights. The surprise comes when you realise that the ring can be detached and played as a kind of futuristic tambourine. Built-in accelerometers provide plenty of scope for musical expression by allowing you to control different functions and parameters such as resonance etc.
I’m hoping that I will get a hands-on with it soon (Zoom UK distributor please take note!). From what I have seen so far, it looks as though it could offer a great mix of studio functionality and live improvisation, together with that all important visual element that goes beyond the heads down, button twiddling behaviour often associated with electronic rhythm and bass performances.
It’s a difficult call to get the balance right - too many coloured flashing lights and it could become toy-like; too few and you compromise feedback and usability. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts.