A New Instrument That Lets You See Inside Loop-Based Music

Musiciansuse loops to create compositions that are incredibly complex. To manipulate the sounds, they use loop pedals, software, and MIDI controllers — powerful tools, but they’re not so interesting to watch in performance. But Brooklyn-based artist and musicianJonathan Sparkshas created a musical instrument that gets looping “up off of the floor, out from behind the laptop,” allowing audiences to experience it “in an instructive and stimulating way.”

The instrument, which he calls “Nomis,” consists of two towers of multicolored lights, witha octagonal interface between them— like a high-tech steering wheel embedded with sensors that respond to his touch. The musician uses one tower to load the MIDI notes they’ll want available. Then, using the octagonal interface, the musician plays notes and creates the loop. Spinning the octagon counterclockwise recordsthe loop and transfers it to the second tower, where loops are stored and can be turned on or off. The whole thing lights up in a colorful display indicating what’s being built, loop by loop.

In action, the instrument looks like something between a game and a light show, while allowing viewers inside the creative process. And it’s way more fun than watching someone gently tap a pedal.

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