question from Bryan

question from Bryan

Bryan asked this on my myspace site:

Hi Richard,

I’ve enjoyed all your cuts that include the Lightning. You are right, there isn’t much out there about the Lightning. Could you help me with a couple of questions?

1. I don’t quite understand. Are you using an external synth? Can it work with the synth that comes with it?

2. I understand the freeform nature of the music this thing makes. But is the instrument built and designed well enough that there isn’t too much missing movement?



Hi Bryan

Glad you enjoyed the rather random selection of clipsThe synth built into the Lightning II and forthcoming Lightning III is just a general midi voicecard, a daughterboard from Kurzweil or Yahama I think, and more or less there as afterthought. Its useful for trying out ideas but the sounds are not really editable and you can’t modulate things like timbre or attack from the rod positions. For what it is it sounds good and I do actually use those sound from time to time (I managed to use a lot of the onboard clarinet, guitar and quasi chamber ensemble sounds on a forthcoming CD with the group Grutronic on PSI Records). But the amount of control, varaition and expression possible with the Lightning as a midi controller far exceed what the onboard synth can do. It really intended to feed an external synth, sampler or software midi environment.

I am not sure exactly what you mean by “too much missing movement”. It does a pretty good job of getting general gist of the movement and in ideal circumstances, if the distance is correctly setup and there is not too much shit in the way, like tables or other musicians it works pretty well. I’d say its not as fast as it could be and sometimes really complex fast combinations of movement don’t sound quite as expected. But with practise and proper programming very detailed and precise music is possible. For the time it was conceived and made the design is pretty remarkable and robust. I think the Lightning II is better than the original 1988 model in this regard, and according to Don Buchla the Lightning III will be significantly faster and smoother to use… IF he ever actually releases it, that is. Its long overdue: its been “a few weeks” away for the last two years as far as I can tell. With the advent of the Wii technology I wonder if there is really a market for a two thousand dollar infrared controller…

do ask away if you have any more questions.



One Response to “question from Bryan”

  1. Bryan Says:

    Thanks Richard. I appreciate the answers. I have a SonarAxe that is fun, but it doesn’t responded very accurately to hand movement. More hit or miss. Sounds like the Lightning is at least a bit better.

    You can see my SOnarAxe here…

    and on some other clips on YouTube.



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