The reacTable, a new instrument that lets musicians manipulate sounds by moving glowing blocks on a round, transparent table, is wowing festival audiences after it was hand-picked by Björk for use on the singer’s summer tour.
The modular synthesizer mashes up shades of Tron, laser hockey and classic Moogs using open-source reacTivision software and an under-the-hood camera to track blocks that, when added, rotated or moved, combine to produce beeps, whoops and soaring synth lines.
The reacTable‘s developers say it is the latest in an emerging wave of “tangible music interfaces,” but to the touring musicians who play the thing, it’s merely “cool.”
Each block has a different function — like changing a sound wave’s amplitude or acting as a metronome — that is denoted by a unique hieroglyph. Players move, rotate and flip the blocks, run their fingertips over the tabletop’s surface and alter the blocks’ proximity to each other to control the music produced by the machine. Pulsing visuals that light up the tabletop come courtesy of a projector beneath the reacTable’s translucent Perspex surface, making the instrument interesting to the eyes as well as the ears.
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