A British company backed by Universal Music Group has unveiled a new instrument – and Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer thinks it can take musicians “beyond the boundaries of the keyboard”.
ROLI, based in East London, has created the Seaboard RISE (pictured) as a ‘universally accessible music-making device’, tackling what it calls the ‘frustratingly limited’ range of the traditional keyboard.
Musicians can use the Seaboard’s sensor-covered interface to modulate sound simply by moving their fingers, accurately ‘shaping’ the pitch of notes. (Technically speaking, it allows for polyphonic pitch bend, vibrato, and per-note dynamic changes.)
Roland Lamb, ROLI’s CEO and inventor of the Seaboard, explained, “For the first time, musicians will have at their fingertips an affordable and accessible tool that lets them create authentic instrumental simulations in real time.
“Combined with its strengths in creating fresh new sound interactions, the Seaboard RISE is truly a breakthrough for both musical performance and production.”
UMG made a strategic investment in ROLI back in October 2014. The company formed part of a four-way investment cartel that also included Balderton Capital, FirstMark Capital and Index Ventures.
Combined, the parties invested US $3.7m in ROLI.
“THE SEABOARD IS POISED TO BE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVOLUTION OF A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT IN THE LAST 300 YEARS.”
JORDAN RUDESS, ROLI
That money has helped aid production of the Seaboard RISE, which has garnered some heavyweight fans across the music-making community.
The RISE builds on the technologies of the award-winning Seaboard GRAND , which CNN called “the piano of the future”.
The GRAND has since been used by artists including luminaries such as Jamie xx , Jamie Cullum , and A. R. Rahman.
Zimmer, who has scored movies including The Dark Knight trilogy, Pirates Of The Caribbean and Gladiator, said: “Having the Seaboard in front of me is inspiring.
“It has a sensual touch which feels intuitive and very human.
“The Seaboard shows us how to get beyond the boundaries of the keyboard, a technology that was invented hundreds of years ago. Many people have tried and failed to do this.
“Roland Lamb and his team are actually much closer than anyone else has ever come to doing so and thereby establishing a new, truly expressive digital instrument.”
ROLI thinks the Seaboard RISE goes one better than the GRAND. It’s selling the device, which is designed to be portable for $799 (£599).
Jordan Rudess, Grammy-nominated keyboard virtuoso and Head of Music Experience at ROLI, commented, “The Seaboard is not only making waves in the music industry.
“It is poised to be the most significant evolution of a musical instrument in the last 300 years.
“I’m personally excited about the release of the Seaboard RISE, and beyond my own obvious passion I expect to see it fully embraced by music makers everywhere.”
A. R. Rahman , Oscar and Grammy-award winning composer and producer, said of his experiences with the Seaboard: “Growing up with South Indian classical music, I was sometimes frustrated with the keyboard because of its rigid pitching, which was great for harmonies and western classical compositions but limited for expressing microtonal nuances in solos and tunes.
“The Seaboard is an instrument that opens it all up.”