If you caught Bjork on tour this year, then you might have seen the ReacTable, a tactile synth developed by four PhD students in Spain. Moving, flipping and rotating the blocks on the perspex surface creates the music, while a projector beneath the table provides the visuals. It's thrilling and spooky stuff, and its intuitive nature means it can be used by both professional musicians and novices alike.
Each block controls a component of sound (such as tempo or sound wave amplitude) and is marked 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 change the music produced by the machine. A camera beneath the table constantly analyses the movements going on above, while the visuals on the surface represent the music that is being created.
Although it was invented two years ago by music technology researchers at Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra University, it is only now that the ReacTable is getting public exposure, after the Icelandic singer decided she wanted to play with it on tour after seeing it on YouTube.
Synth player Damian Taylor, currently on tour with Bjork, is more than enamored of the ReacTable, seeing it as more than just a synth. "They designed it so you draw your finger across the board, but I just wound up picking stuff up and banging it on the table and playing it more like rock 'n' roll power chords. We had to replace the bottoms of each of the blocks because I was wearing away the patterns."
[Wired and Arun Productions' on Flickr]