Modular Diary – 007

Some general thoughts on interfaces today: A few months ago Dianne Verdonk, at a Frankenstein’s Lab session, mentioned her dislike for the knob as an interface mechanism. While that dissatisfaction prompted her to create her own quite fantastic instruments, I was left thinking that, from my own point of view, the knob is perhaps the ideal control form.

Dianne’s objection was centered around the fact that minor changes of a knob can effect huge changes in sound, and that this resulted in a disconnect between the movements of the performer and the sound produced. Seen from another perspective, the closed position of the hand while turning a knob involves the least possible tension in terms of musculature. Even with the fingers slightly streched out for longer periods of time, as when typing or playing a keyboard, or swiping on an iPad screen for that matter, the hand begins to be stressed.1 In that way modular hardware knobs might be seen as a perfectly suited to humans, even though the visual clarity offered by sliders also certainly makes sense for certain functions – see Darwin Grosse’s discussion with Scott Jaeger in the latest episode of Art Music Technology.

  1. John Siracusa discussed this on one of the ATP episodes a while back.