Whether its electronic or acoustic, the music you’re listening to right now wouldn’t have existed without the essential – instruments. The electronic music scene as we know it has been created by ones making, collecting and operating various machinery; – the magic word we’ll call upon over and over – hardware!
Perhaps more music nowadays is created with the use of computer, even by the apparently simple process of pointing and clicking. The sound coming from your firewire port doesn’t have to be less valuable or of lesser quality, but it is often stemming from a different process. One that doesn’t involve so much of your body movement and tactile sensitivity – and perhaps – a process that is simply less fun.
To define word fun in the world of patch cables, oscillators and sequencers we better look up at KOMA Elektronik – a young and innovative company coming straight from beating heart of Berlin.
Dedicated to hardware and the tradition of modular synthesis, they create machines that connect modern design and versatility with the spirit of analog circuitry. Founded in 2011 by Christian Zollner and Wouter Jaspers, they grow steadily from their Neukoln base into an internationally recognized brand.
Taking the first easy step into that fast oscillating world, we’ll take a glance at one of their already renowned products – KOMMANDER.
The small unassuming box covered with simplistic graphics reminiscent of sacred geometry is hiding what could be the central point of revolutions in your studio. Actually, even two points.
For the Kommander is equipped with two infrared sensors that allow you to control any parameter of your modular system as simply as a with a gesture of your hand. Both of the sensors are capable of sending separete control voltage messages as well as gate signals. If you please to patch your CV outputs to the pitch and velocity of your mono synth, then with the use of gate you can chuck away your keyboard – and that still leaves you with one hand free to help yourself to your beer or coffee!
While distinguishing between beer and coffee, in case of Kommander it is obvious that beer comes first – it seems to be a perfect tool for your live performance. Not only suitably portable, it can give your live show an extremely potent visual element. If you always wanted to operate a Theremin, but never got to accept its limited sound capabilities and unexplainable bulkiness, then here you go! Also the aluminium case should survive even with the most expressive performances and long-lasting club nights. To furthermore justify the beer over coffee ratio, infrared sensors means that no stage light or busy visual environment of the club will interfere with your music-making. Also, if you’re still playing on sunny afternoon somewhere at the river, sun won’t be a problem either!
While drinks and electronic music equipment don’t go well together, you can keep your hands busy with your other gear, while Kommander sits hidden under the table operated by your foot. The sensor acts upon catching the reflection of the IR signal – porous sole of your shoe might not work well, but as the manual instructs, a slice of gaffer tape will suffice for easy foot-control. KOMA also invites us to experiment with the surfaces you use to obtain more precise control or completely random results.
For those of us that don’t necesarily have a wall of a modular system in our living room, or not even one simple analog filter, you can still find your way around to access your digital hardware or a DAW. KOMA Elektronik products may appeal more to those who see pure voltage oscillations as an only way to produce elektronic music, but if you still fancy the black analog box from Germany, all you need to make it speak to your computers is a simple CV-to-MIDI interface. Now you can reimagine the workflow in your studio, as you can record and overdub freely all your MIDI messages by the gestures of your hand.
KOMA Elektronik is also holding a feature that none of your old analog gear can handle, but what makes their machines unique and forward-thinking. Instead of standard 0-5 Volts range of your CV control, KOMA has introduced a greater range of up to 8 Volts. This means greater precision and more possibilites. However, if you already do have some analog equipment, there are 4 little holes on the back of the unit that allow you to attenuate the voltage exclusively for each CV/Gate signal. With the use of a small screwdriver you can select a range from 8, 5 to 3 Volts, making it a versatile all-fit controller.
While Kommander itself does not produce any sound and is not an instrument on its own, it will make your machines feel like a real instrument more than ever. Whether it’s your own body expression or some intricate experimental design you’ve constructed, the means to control your studio or live perfomance have just opened up. The best news is that it’s just back in stock on KOMA Elektronik’s website and it costs mere £55. The only thing that could sweeten up the deal would be an included 9V DC power supply. Fortunately, Kommander uses a standard 500 mA, negative tip power cable, same as the most of guitar pedals, so you might already have a few waiting in your drawers.
You may need a modular system, an analog synthesizer or at least a CV/MIDI interface to make any use out of it, but in case you don’t have any of those, yet you’re still tempted, here is an idea: tested and approved by KOMA Elektronik, 2012.
(there were only 25 copies produced of these not-functioning, but shining Kommanders, so you might be a bit late.. unless you have some golden spray at home.)
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