The Ventana is a New Interface for Musical Expression (NIME).

It’s a lamellophone with vents and light. The vents have contact mics and photoresistors that modulate the sound processing based on how much light gets through. Each vent serves a different purpose. For example, the red vent controls polyrhythmic thumb piano loops, while the sides control comb filters that buzz like sympathetic strings. At the Knitting Factory performance below, the yellow vent controls feedback, but that was not my intention!

Thank you Greg Shakar, Andy Sigler, David Rios, Ryan Bartley, and everyone involved with the crew that helped shoot video from various angles.

Rehearsal performance — this was a fun one!

Venterra – One Week Sketch

This one week sketch got me thinking about the ventana. I have always loved the sound of heating grates, and in this performance I mic it with a piezo + preamp, and strum the grate with a variety of plectra.

Thumb Piano

A video posted by Jason Sigal (@therewasaguy) on

My original idea was to develop a Mechanical Thumb Piano. Mechanical thumbs would play back a human pattern, and I would embrace their margin for error as an aspect of the music. I would have one “controller” piano that I would strap around my neck, and another much more spacious mechanical thumb piano that would repeat my patterns, modify, and loop. I experimented with this a little bit, using various types of motors, gears and plectra. After some prototyping, I was left with many unknowns and not much time, so I decided that I could go in a more musically expressive direction if I embrace the dexterity of human thumbs over machine thumbs. I’m still interested in pursuing this idea.

Another idea, inspired by research I did for a radio series about the Player Piano, was that each tine could act as a “switch,” turning a dynamic expressive instrument into a sort of digital instrument. I could theoretically take this a step further to detect “velocity,” much like the “reproducing” player pianos. Each tine is conductive, but the paint is not, so I used them as switches, prototyping with the MaKey MaKey. Then I attempted to recreate the Makey Makey circuit myself and experimented with capacitive sensing, so that I would not need to be touching ground. I would up incorporating an element of this idea into the Knitting Factory performance, but it was obscured by feedback at the venue, and I would like to return to this idea to give it more focus.