Looping and layering melodies in real-time

A Maker by the name of Jonathan Sparks has created a musical instrument using color and gesture that will surely change the way producers and artists interact with MIDI boards. Using a combination of Atmel-based Arduino, Max/MSP and Ableton Live, “Nomis” has turned loop-based music into an expressive and visual art form.


“Sounds are selected and displayed through the first light tower, each being represented by a different color. Those sounds are then available to be performed and displayed with the polyphonic octagonal interface in the middle. These performances are stored and looped by spinning the whole octagonal interface. The loops are then displayed through the last tower where they each can individually be turned off and on again to create a dynamic composition from the loops created live,” explains Sparks, who is currently a graduate student at NYU’s Interactive Telecomunications Program.


“Loop based music is a powerful way for an individual musician to create a complex, multi-voiced composition by looping and layering melodies in real time. The devices that make it possible to achieve this are powerful, but often lack the expressiveness and clarity that make for compelling live performances. Nomis is an attempt to get that looping capability up off of the floor, out from behind the laptop, and feature it in an instructive and stimulating way.”

To show off how the Arduino-powered project works, Sparks teamed up with a fellow New York City-based artist, Tanya Phattiyakula, to shoot and edit a video showing the musical instrument in action.

Like this project? Then you’ll love some other creations that have got us rocking out!

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