A Multi-Touch Interface for Ableton Live, with the New Lemur Firmware
If you haven´t seen this great article already!
If you could control your music with all of your digits, and get interactive feedback on a display, what would your setup look like? Expert Lemur user and software engineer Bryant Place has one such answer. It shows off just how much the Lemur’s software has evolved over a series of revisions, and reveals a bit of what can go into performing with Ableton Live.
Side note: for a look at live touch interfaces with Native Instruments’ Reaktor, see our story for our NI minisite. To really understand how touch is impacting live playing, I think it’s helpful to see what’s going on with different software platforms.
Multi-touch, Lemur, and Going Live
Part of the appeal of Ableton Live is that it behaves as a hybrid between arrangement software and musical instrument. Early versions even carried the tagline “Sequencing Instrument,” but that sums up the problem: instruments generally aren’t sequencers, and visa versa. To “play” your sequencer live is challenging enough, but added to that is the fundamental mouse-pointer interface that’s been in the marketplace for over twenty years. To really control live, you need more direct access.
The Lemur multi-touch hardware promised just such control when unveiled. In an early review, I saw this as promising but cautioned that the custom software the Lemur runs was overly rigid. Since then, firmware updates have gradually added more custom features.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I got to watch as Bryant showed off a set of templates he’s been developing that exploit these features for deeper, more interactive control of Ableton Live. Bryant’s session was brief enough that you could blink and miss it, but an awed crowd of assembled Live gurus revealed that he’d showed something really special. It’s a dream multi-touch setup. He’s using the new v2 firmware for Lemur, which we see in a screenshot from Jazz Mutant has also been used in their own template for Live. Not all the features come from v2 firmware, but those tabs make a big difference, and I can imagine continuing to go hog-wild with envelopes and such.
The basic idea: set up effects for live performance and make them readily accessible from the futuristic-looking, multi-touch, colored Lemur control surface. With a few compact screens, and interface elements that respond dynamically to what’s happening in software, it’s possible to use touch gestures to control elaborate effects arrangements in ways that would be very different than the results you could get from conventional knobs and faders.