Collaboration and Connectivity

  • by Kim Bjørn

Many of the finer things in life are more fun when shared with others. This certainly applies to electronic music creation and performance – and both have their own special requirements once you go “multiplayer”. Let’s get the ball rolling by looking at two different approaches to collaboration

The two types of teamwork

Distributed collaboration
With this approach, each person plays an instrument and the results are mixed together. This can happen in real time, as in a live performance, or over a longer timespan – for example, a multitrack recording or working on projects remotely.

This is the most common way to collaborate with fellow musicians, be it 80 symphony players following sheet music or a three-piece rock act jamming out.

Here, the Danish Kopenhagen Laptop Orchestra explain how they set up their band structure in an electronic environment:



Centralized collaboration

Here, collaborators gather around a central instrument and perform on it simultaneously – the instrument may be designed for this purpose or not. This is less common, but several instruments and concepts have arisen from the idea that jamming or playing the same instrument at the same time results in a lot of fun.

Here are some examples of collaborative instruments:

The Reactable, famously used by Björk on her Volta world tour back in 2008, was one of the first collaborative instruments with a tabletop multitouch interface. Several simultaneous performers share control over the instrument by moving and rotating physical objects on an illuminated circular surface. Through interaction with objects representing components of a classic modular synthesizer, users can create complex and dynamic sonic topologies comprising generators, filters, and modulators. Today, the Reactable is available as an iOS app.



The Dato Duo is a recent boutique collaborative instrument with a sequencer on one side and a synthesizer on the other side – for kids of all ages:



Elektron’s first keyboard synth, 2003’s Monomachine SFX6, had a limited production run of just 500 units. The special ‘split’ design was intended to be played by two people: one on the knobs ‘n’ buttons, and one on the keys. It later continued as a standalone product without the keyboard attached, but using the same digital synthesis engine and control section. 



Several collaborative iPad apps exist for musicians. Playground is a fascinating experience with a somewhat abstract interface — it offers fun interaction and a highly musical outcome.

Collaboration is arguably one of the most important concepts in music making. Fresh perspectives, finding the groove, and community are necessary tools when it comes to eliminating stagnation in the creative process. For more thoughts on collaboration, check out PUSH TURN MOVE.

Up next, 9 fast routes into collaboration!

This article was part of a blog-series originally appearing at https://blog.native-instruments.com who kindly allowed us to repurpose Kim's articles again – here in a version edited by Collin Russel.

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