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electric dharma wheels

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Hardware: monome arc4. Software: electric dharma wheels. More about the monome arc4 can be found at Please go to for more information, including how to buy.

I received a production-run arc4 with the final firmware on Friday. This signaled a mad scramble to update my work for that and the latest serialosc with arc support so it’ll be ready when people start receiving their units in a few days. So what do I do on Saturday? Make a new app, of course. Sure, that totally sounds like the responsible thing to do.

After receiving the arc4, I thought it might be a good idea to produce an example that demonstrates a ‘bank’ of encoder values that you can switch between. That gave birth to an application idea involving triggering modal notes from a pool of probabilities across three octaves of scale degrees. There is a separate bank of pitches depending on clockwise or counterclockwise rotation so you can shift the harmony with a simple gesture. The weighting of scale degrees is programmable and editable in real time on screen or with a MIDI controller. This allows for a more controlled structuring of compositional development over longer periods of time. The speed of the rotation determines how often a note is triggered, and can also be used as a modulation parameter for the FM synthesis engine.

Relevant synthesis parameters are also editable on the arc as the notes are triggered. The state of these parameters is overlaid on the LEDs, so interesting patterns emerge when this mode is engaged. There was a really awesome bug where switching editing modes also transposed the output modally, so I built in a score feature that allows you to advance a programmed chord progression with a button push.

A sit-the-arc-in-your-lap-and-doodle app has been on my mind a lot and I have at least three good starts in this area, but other priorities have often pushed these out of the way. The prototype arc2 I had lacked the mounting bracket for the USB cable and the logic board was floating free inside the enclosure, so I always had to use it (carefully) on a stationary, flat surface. It is really nice to have an arc that can be moved around or used in the lap. My cat disagrees.

I recorded this video, holocene, as a demonstration of this app, which I’m calling electric dharma wheels. This is the raw output from the electric dharma wheels, with some Eos reverb added after the fact.

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