By Gregory Han
The video begins deliberately slow – a delicate two-finger melody by electronic musician Senbei. The notes blossom eventually into an expressive full-bodied performance with the deft and expressive precision of turntablism, composed to celebrate the arrival of sakura flowers. Written to showcase the expansive capabilities of Joué, a modular MIDI controller with a polyphonic pressure sensor platform engineered to work with an array of color-coded modules, the song and video are a convincing example of the potential of composing music guided by touch and color.
Born out of a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding phase, the Joué is now represented by a more refined industrial design constructed of wood and metal. The modular MIDI instrument works with graphically-coded and pressure sensitive soft touch elastic “magic” modules, each designed to be quickly switched on and off as needed, replicating an array of instruments, like keyboards, guitar strings, drums pads, or in the case of Senbei, the Japanese koto.
The $600 Joué MIDI Class Compliant platform connects with smartphones, tablets, or computers via USB cable, and is compatible with popular audio iOS apps like GarageBand and iSynth, alongside music applications produced by the likes of Ableton Live, Apple Logic, BitWig Studio, and Native Instruments.
Joué founder Pascal Joguet cites a strong affinity for “expressivity” and also as an impetus for designing a MIDI system incorporating “soft and deformable shapes instead of buttons, slides and knobs” – a textural interface between musician and instrument that even makes this non-musician believe in the creative possibilities of exploring music guided by the device’s novel and inviting interface.