EDM created live? Spectrum made it possible
Ray and Mike are Spectrum, an EDM duo of musical composers based in Las Vegas, NV. Today, they quietly published a video showcasing their original, live instrument for EDM, the SoundSpace V.3 interactive gloves.
The gloves incorporate 3D-printed components, LED lights, original programming and more to allow digital music composers to not only play their music at events, but to actually perform and improvise it live onstage.
“The human emotion which once inspired music has become out of focus, obscured by a curtain of transistors and circuits,” a narrator states in their new video, “A Journey Through Time.” The narrator notes that one side-effect of digital music has been to degrade musical performances from “displays of passion to DJs whose primary instrument is a play button.”
Spectrum’s solution was to create what they call SoundSpace gloves (just a working name) to “re-inject the human spirit into an electronic world.”
Music before invention
Spectrum emphasize that they’re interested in making music with their creation much more than making the invention available to the world. That means that, for now at least, interested parties will need to seek out Spectrum performances live or online to get a taste of what SoundSpace can do.
It’s a good thing, too, because these composers work under artistic principles which compel them in ways that will intrigue even the most casual music fan.
“We weren’t so much inspired by the fact that DJs don’t play their music live onstage,” Spectrum write. “These guys have spent hours refining and crafting sounds. It’s exactly because their sounds are so complex that it’s hard to actually perform them live onstage … We were inspired by our frustration that we couldn’t control sounds like we wanted to.”
Which begs the question, for precisely what kind of sonic control were they looking?
“We figured we needed an instrument designed from the ground up to play modulation, i.e. craft the timbre and sound quality of what we’re playing in addition to just playing the notes. Since there wasn’t an instrument available to do this, we made it ourselves, simple_smile.”
Physically performing EDM is a game-changer
With the addition of physically performed digital instrumentation (!) to Spectrum’s music, public reception has been boiling hot.
“We’ve been performing a lot in Las Vegas where we’re based,” Spectrum write. “Our performances have been received amazingly! People are coming up to us afterwards and telling us their minds were blown. We’re really excited by the reaction.”
But if you haven’t heard of Spectrum yet, the Cornell-educated crew expect as much.
“We’re still such a young act,” they say. “We’ve only been at this as an official duo for a few months. We’re growing our fan base fast, but we need to keep growing it faster so we can start drawing in crowds at larger events.”
As the crowds deepen and widen, so do the questions. Was it hard to make? (Mike spends interminable hours just debugging the program). How much does it cost? (Somewhere between several hundreds and several thousands). Can you play air guitar?
“I get pretty frustrated when people ask to see air piano and air guitar and air drums,” Ray says. “Why would we want to do that? Here we have the power to control sounds in ways that have never been done before, and people are asking to see air guitar? Our gloves can play sounds in ways you can’t on a piano, a guitar, or any controller out there. We can literally shape and mold a bass wobble in thin air — controlling every detail of the sound.”
His point hints at a common mistake made by amateur composers: writing parts for virtual instruments the same as they would for the analog versions.
“The question to me is like asking the Wright brothers how fast their airplane can drive down the highway. An airplane would make a sh-tty car. But it can fly.”
Indeed; so how do Spectrum’s gloves change the way their music sounds?
“What’s been fun about creating SoundSpace is that we have literally been designing instruments,” write Spectrum. “We design how those instruments sound and how they are played in the air. And we use those instruments in our music.”
Live, innovative EDM collaboration without pressing ‘play’
It’s important to note that Mike and Ray perform together with their gloves onstage, complimenting one another’s live performance moment-to-moment, a 21st-century take on “Dueling Banjos.”
“That’s one of the keys to our sound and our writing process: we’re able to compose through improvisation. Mike can be shaping the bass line on one side, and I’ll be right next to him playing a synth lead on top of it. It’s a blast and it’s expanded our creativity!”
“Thank you. So much. For helping us create this vision and for believing in us.”
— Ray and Mike, Spectrum
The first official release by Spectrum composed through SoundSpace is expected to drop December 2017.
You can support them at their official Patreon here.
Spectrum developed their early prototypes of SoundSpace with a grant from the Cornell Council for the Arts, funding from their ECE Innovation Award win, and with a generous donation from Ascension Tech.
— Sean McCauley