Electronic musical instruments, and synthesizers in particular, have a fascinating history dating back to the late 1800s. Through the last century, the synthesizer's evolution in terms of technology, design, and usage yields more opportunities for artists and producers to create music that tests the limits of imagination, and animates the soundtracks of so many lives both past and present.
In the 1920s, artists and audiences experienced the invisible interface and mysterious voice of the Russian-made Theremin, and witnessed the unusual technique and sounds that only the French-designed Ondes Martenot could produce. These instruments inspired the innovators who followed; in particular, the Ondes Martenot captured the imagination of a group of friends from France who formed Expressive E just about a decade ago.
Since its inception, Expressive E has experimented with new designs, such as their Touché, that would help musicians control an array of synth parameters at any given time through simple gestures that travel on multiple planes. Their latest experiment is named Osmose: a synth built around one of the most expressive (pun always intended) interfaces the world has ever seen. Through MIDI Polyphonic Expression (or MPE), each key captures an artist's gestures on various dimensions, and these gestures can trigger the built-in EaganMatrix synthesizer developed by Haken Audio, or it can control other external synthesizers via MIDI. Lateral movements, aftertouch, attack and release velocity, and more can be used to affect a particular sound on a per-key basis. The Expressive E Osmose marks a paradigm shift in how the worlds of art and music view the traditional black-and-white keyboard: it goes from a series of on/off switches to presenting the player with deeply expressive keys where every movement matters.
At NAMM, we interviewed Christopher Hans of Expressive E in order to learn more about the Osmose's origins, the company's history, and other key facts. Did you know that the Osmose was designed to be easily serviceable and that, as of this writing, it contains a majority of recyclable parts? Please watch our interview and enjoy learning more about a truly special instrument and the people who made it possible.