Expressive E is attempting to change the game with an elegant looking synthesizer instrument that hopes to offer an unparalleled playing experience where every note can express itself in three dimensions.
They say it’s the result of more than seven years of intense research and development. The idea is to offer the MPE style of expressive control but while retaining the form and function of a traditional piano keyboard. The result is that you don’t have to learn a whole other instrument; you already know how to play it. “It does this while not only respecting, but also enhancing the player’s existing keyboard skills.”
The mechanism present on each and every note delivers three dimensions of control. They are calling it Augmented Keyboard Action or AKA.
There’s “Tap” which is the initial contact with the key that seems to me like velocity but it’s undoubtedly more complicated than that. Then there’s “Press” which is the continuing down motion on the key – it’s not aftertouch as such because you haven’t reached the full motion of the key yet – it’s that space in between. “Press and Tap” is a combined gesture that can be used for swelling notes or for anything you want. “Pitch” is in the wobble from side to side for vibrato and pitch bend. And you’re not wobbling your finger on a surface you are moving the actual key. “Aftertouch” is a bit more familiar and it’s polyphonic and “ultra-dynamic”. “Shake” is a new one where you vibrate your finger very quickly to add articulations. “Strum” turns each note into a sort of arpeggiator where it strums a number of notes. Check out this video for examples of how this plays out.
EaganMatrix Sound Engine
Of course none of this matters without a sound source capable of interpreting the gestures. That’s where Haken Audio comes in. The EaganMatrix comes from the Haken Continuum Fingerboard and is designed from the ground up as an expressive synthesizer instrument. It includes many types of digital synthesis, including physical modelling, additive, subtractive, FM, virtual analogue, granular and spectral synthesis. The whole library has been tweaked to make the fullest use of the AKA technology.
Osmose can also be an MPE controller for other compatible instruments and software. Looks like the perfect companion to the Black Corporation Deckard’s Dream! It doesn’t need a computer, it can all be configured from the control panel.
Osmose should be available next summer for a retail price of €1799. Expressive E is taking preorders up until the end of the year at a 40% discount of €1079 with a deposit of €299. There’s not going to be many so get your name down quick if this interests you. Personally I think it looks like a work of art and is the closest thing to a workably expressive keyboard that I’ve seen. And you don’t have to sacrifice all the useful things about a regular keyboard to do it.