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Touch-Sensitive Instrument Turns Music Loops Into Expressive Light Sequences

Jonathan Sparks' haptic instrument, Nomis, turns multi-layered MIDI performances into stunning illuminations.

Nomis is a music instrument that aims to make loop-based music "more expressive and transparent" through gesture and light. Created by Jonathan Sparks, an artist and musician pursuing a master's degree at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, the instrument processes MIDI sounds and turns them into illuminations that are displayed through three polyphonic interfaces. In other words, Nomis turns electronic beats into vibrant lights, both which can be manipulated at the touch of a finger. 

"MIDI sounds are selected, played, and looped, being passed across the instrument as a way of illustrating how melodies are created and how they fit into a larger composition," explains Sparks. The instrument set-up includes one light tower where MIDI sounds are represented by different colors. These sounds can then be performed and displayed with an octagonal interface in the middle of the Nomis display. By spinning the octagon, the sounds can be stored and looped before they are sent to the last tower, where each loop can be turned on or off, creating an audio-visual composition. 

"The devices that make it possible to achieve [a multi-layered, looped composition] are powerful, but often lack the expressiveness and clarity that make for compelling live performances," writes Sparks. "Nomis is an attempt to get that looping capability up off of the floor, out from behind the laptop, and feature it in an instructive and stimulating way."

The video trailer is impressive enough, but our ears (and eyes) are dying to see what a electronic guru like Flying Lotus or Daedelus could do with this awesome instrument. 

For more information on the project, visit Sparks' website here.

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