The last time most of us heard of Roger Linn, it was when he put his name to the revolutionary Linn LM1 drum machine that became such an integral part of the sound of 1980s pop music – it was used on so many #1 hits that you’ll recognize its signature sound straight away. Now, Linn has come up with a new and equally novel tool for musicians – a digital music interface that uses a pressure-sensitive multitouch pad and a layout that combines a piano keyboard with a guitar fretboard. The LinnStrument is one of the most expressive, evocative and enticing new musical instruments we’ve seen, and its potential is enormous – but it seems this innovative device might be prevented from coming to the market due to unfortunate IP squabbling in the multitouch sector.
Back in the 1980s, the Linn drum machine reigned supreme – the first drum sequencing machine to use real, digitally sampled drum sounds not analogue synthesis. You’d recognize its unique sound instantly – remember the frenetic drum groove behind Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, or Prince’s 1999, or WHAM!’s Wake Me Up, Before You Go, Go? In fact, for a time there, it seemed like every second #1 hit song on the charts was using Roger Linn’s clever sequencing machine – this one invention is inextricably linked with the music of that era.
Compared to the sterile-sounding analogue drum machines of the time, the Linn LM-1 was light years ahead. Certainly, it never felt like a real drummer, but it had a far more natural and human feel to it than anything that had come before it.
And it’s this concept of “humanizing” a sound produced by machines that makes Roger Linn’s most recent project, the LinnStrument, so fascinating.
The Linnstrument digital music interface
The LinnStrument is more or less just a digital music interface to replace the keyboard – but it makes use of some pretty advanced multitouch technology to make it one of the most interesting and expressive devices we’ve seen.