It was thrilling to be in touch yesterday with xenharmonic composer and LinnStrument owner, Carlo Serafini, who made me aware that the issue of the row offset interval on the LinnStrument had already been addressed, then have Roger Linn himself drop by to comment and clarify about this new functionality in the recent Xen-Arts article on the topic. The row offset interval has now been greatly expanded (although it is not documented as of this writing), from 0 to 16 MIDI Notes.
A most impressive virtuoso performance by Jeremy Cubert on the LinnStrument
Obviously this is very good news for xen-micro musicians and composers who might wish to map some larger equal temperaments with 4ths and 5ths between the key rows. With this increased row offset interval range, a maximum row offset value of 16 would accommodate 4ths up to ED2-39 (39 tone equal temperament) and 5ths up to ED2-28 (28 tone equal temperament).
Thinking more deeply – with some diagonal logic – about how various equal temperaments would map onto the LinnStrument keys, I wanted to see what would be the optimal row offset intervals for a small selection of ED2 microtunings (equal divisions of harmonic 2) that would enable the most ergonomic fingering of the available varieties of 7th chords, with the strict criteria of being able to have access to all of these intervals when playing across four adjacent key rows.
Let’s take a look at some of the the results found with my handy LinnStrument ergonomic ED2 microtuning mapping calculator. I think they are a rather interesting and inspiring glimpse into the possibilities of how the LinnStrument would work for microtonal and xenharmonic music performance.
On the first four rows I’ve used colors to indicate where the intervals (given in cents) would fall under the fingers for ED2-13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22 and 23:
1/1 and 2/1 = Orange
3rds = Blue
5ths = Yellow
7ths = Green
So, as we can see, where the criteria is being able to ergonomically play the intervals of a variety of different microtonal 7th chords on any four contiguous rows of the LinnStrument (rather than configuring 4ths and 5ths between them), there is actually quite a lot of territory that can be covered with smaller row offset intervals after all, and in the above cases, optimal ergonomic fingerings of 7th chords are achieved with row offset intervals between 2 and 4 MIDI Notes. Obviously, due to the isomorphic nature of this controller, these very same finger patterns can be transposed anywhere on the keyboard without having to change hand positions in the manner one must when performing on a Halberstadt keyboard.
It’s particularly encouraging to see how easy it would be to play these chords for ED2-17, 18 and 19, which would appear to be doable with one hand, while ED2-22 and 23 would require a stretch of 10 and 11 horizontal keys respectively, where one might need to get two hands involved.
Now I’m really interested in getting one!
In other exciting Roger Linn Design news, recently they’ve added the LinnStrument 128 to their line, and as the name would infer, it is a 128 note version of the controller. For what it may be worth though, like xenharmonicist, Carlo Serafini, I’m thinking that I would prefer the 200 key version, and especially considering that I routinely do a lot of split-keyboard MIDI configurations with different timbres on separate channels, this would essentially provide two adjacent 100 MIDI note controllers.
Being an owner of the now discontinued Axis-64 from C-Thru Music, which, as we know had 192 keys, the LinnStrument not only provides more MIDI Notes, but also features deeper MIDI Continuous Controller expression possibilities with its MPE implementation. The degree to which MPE has been implemented by developers of virtual instruments who also support full-keyboard microtuning remains an important question for the future of this new technology relative to its broad adoption by practicing xenharmonic and microtonal musicians and composers. It’s my hope that there will be many more to come in times ahead, however, by all reports, the LinnStrument works just fine with non-MPE virtual instrument plugins as well.
I’m very encouraged by what I’ve learned about all this over the past few days and especially about the customer support ethic at Roger Linn Design. In contrast, about three years ago, being that I was seriously considering contributing for a Terpstra keyboard, which are now being used for a looped playback perpetual performance of John Cage’s 4’33” (apparently they found a way to Silence those clicky keys), I’m glad I saved my dough, which I will very likely use for picking up a LinnStrument instead from the visionary developers and engineers at Roger Linn Design, who clearly have what it takes to bring their controllers into real-world play for xenharmonic and microtonal musicians and composers.