Another gem from the lower floor of the convention this: the Continuum Fingerboard from Haken Audio is a MIDI note and controller interface using FireWire as it’s communication. It’s probably best described as a fretless keyboard, there are no actual keys, only visual divisions on the soft playing surface which allows for velocity, X (L-R pitch),Y (front-back controller) and Z (pressure).
The performer must place fingers accurately to play in tune and can slide or rock fingers for glissando and vibrato. A surface guide pattern assists the player in accurately playing a desired equal tempered pitch. In this guide pattern each “D” note has a circular mark for added visual reference. Any alternate tuning is at the performer’s disposal by varying away from this equal tempered reference.
The z (pressure) position of each finger provides dynamic control. The performer produces tremolo by changing the amount of finger pressure. An experienced performer may simultaneously play a crescendo and diminuendo on different notes.
The y (front-to-back) position of each finger provides additional timbre control for each note in a chord. By sliding fingers in the y direction while notes are sounding, the performer can create timbre glides. Depending upon the capabilities of the synthesizer used with the Continuum Fingerboard, the y position can have a variety of effects. One possibility is to let the y position on the Continuum Fingerboard correspond to the bowing position on a string instrument, where bowing far from the bridge produces a mellower sound and bowing near the bridge produces a brighter sound. Another possibility is to let y morph between timbres of different acoustic instruments. In either case, the performer can bring out certain notes in a chord not only by playing them more loudly, as on a piano, but also by playing them with a different timbre quality.
We saw a fascinating demo of the Continuum fingerboard in action under the skilled control of Ed Eagan, a sound designer interfaced with the Kyma system.