Happy MIDI Month: The first musical sequencer and the evolution of MIDI

At FloVerse we are celebrating MIDI Month by paying homage to our Artist Scientist predecessors. Before the invention of synthesizers, MIDI, and electricity, the Banu Musa brothers created the first musical sequencer in 850 AD.  The Banu Musa collective were three Muslim brothers. There was Jafar the Astronomer, al-Hasan the mathematician, and Ahmad the mechanical engineer. At a young age, the brothers were recognized for their aptitude in science and philosophy and were invited to study at the House of Wisdom. Located in the city of Baghdad, the House of Wisdom was built by the Harun al-Rashid the ruler of the Islam empire in the 9th century. Harun invited all cultures and intellectual disciplines to his court to exchange ideas and further the studies of science and philosophy. At the House of Wisdom, the Banu Musa brothers translated books from around the world into Arabic and they would also conduct their own experiments. This led to the brothers inventing over 100 mechanical devices that are well documented in their Book of Ingenious Devices. 

The First Programmable Musical Sequencer – The Automated Flute 

One of the Banu Musa inventions was the automated flute, which is the first programmable musical sequencer.  This mechanical device has a drive wheel which operates a rotating drum that is powered by water. The rotating drum lifts levellers and mimics fingers by going up and down on the flute tone holes. The airflow came from a steady stream of steam power. After you finished adjusting the levellers for the tone holes and turned on the steam power, you had an automated flute that played music to entertain your party guests.

1980-1983 The invention of MIDI

The concept of notes being on or off from the mechanical musical sequencer eventually led to the binary version where 1’s equalled on and 0’s equalled off. So we went from human fingers to mechanical levellers, and eventually digital fingers. The digital synthesizers of the early 80s were rad, but they had a compatibility problem because each manufacturer had different connectors. The solution was the creation of an Universal Synthesizer Interface. In 1983, Dave Smith, founder of Sequential Circuits and Ikutaru Kakehashi, founder of Roland Corporation unveiled the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) at the Los Angeles NAMM show. This 5-pin MIDI connector standardized manufacturing by having one common connector on all MIDI devices.

The Evolution of MIDI

The first common MIDI language allowed programmers to send basic instructions to synthesizers, such as what notes to play and the output volume. Eventually, new messages emerged to enable greater control of synthesizers, other recording gear, and even stage lighting. During the 90s, the 5-pin MIDI connector evolved to include USB, FireWire, and WIFI. This opened more avenues for MIDI to be incorporated into additional musical instruments, video games, like the Nintendo Wii, and mobile phone Apps, such as Midimo. 

FloVerse thanks our MIDI predecessors for their curiosity and paving the way for new MIDI inventions. 

To celebrate MIDI month, enjoy our free Mobile App ‘Midimo’ (MIDI + Motion) from the Apple Store

Happy MIDI Month!

Work Cited

Banu Masu. (n.d.). wikipedia. Retrieved May, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ban%C5%AB_M%C5%ABs%C4%81

Mac Tutor. (n.d.). https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Banu_Musa/. https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Banu_Musa/

The MIDI Association. (n.d.). MIDI History:Chapter 6-MIDI Is Born 1980-1983. The MIDI Association. https://www.midi.org/midi-articles/midi-history-chapter-6-midi-is-born-1980-1983

MIDI History: Chapter 1- 850 AD to 1850 AD. (n.d.). The MIDI Association. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.midi.org/articles/midi-history-chapter-1

FloVerse Inc. launches Midimo, a Free Mobile iOS App that provides MIDI Control with 3D motion

Today we proudly announce that we have officially launched our first product – an iOS App called Midimo (MIDI + motion).  This free Mobile App enables users to add expressive 3D motion MIDI control to their music creation process. 

How does it work?

The Midimo App is a wireless MIDI controller that uses real-time motion data from your mobile iOS device to control sound parameters using three expressive motions – roll, tilt and pan. This simple and visual interface connects to MIDI compatible software or hardware via Bluetooth, USB, or Wifi. There is no extra software or hardware required when connecting to iOS devices. Midimo is compatible with all major music production software such as Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Reason, Cubase and more.  Midimo also works with non-musical software (eg. Resolume and Isadora) that support control via MIDI CC.

What could you experience with Midimo? 

Imagine being fully immersed in your creative process, whether it’s on a stage, in a studio, or in a jam space, and the music is flowing through you. When the moment calls, you pick up your phone to guide your spatial soundscape for the universe to hear. Simply by moving your phone side to side you can control your echo delay knobs, or tilt up and down to adjust your reverb sliders, or pan by rotating right and left to manipulate a filter effect. You can map any MIDI parameter to any (or all!) of the three motion expressions of Midimo, the possibilities are endless – just like the universe. 

Are you ready to merge MIDI controls with expressive motion?  Download the free Midimo Mobile App from the Apple App Store today!

For more information visit our Product or Support Page.

About FloVerse Inc. 

FloVerse is a diverse community of Artists and Scientists who are enthusiastic about creating innovative music and technology for the future. We invite you to join our Discord Community or follow our journey on Social Media. IG @official_floverse FB@officialfloverse Twitter @thefloverse

We can’t wait to see what you make with Midimo! Please share your creations on social media and tag #madewithmidimo #artistscientist

Sam Davidson, the EWI playing Artist Scientist

Feel your stress sail away by listening to the soothing sounds of the EWI, performed by FloVerse Artist Scientist Sam Davidson. The EWI (pronounced EE-wee) stands for Electronic Wind Instrument, a wind synthesizer that uses breath to control MIDI. In the words of Sam’s idol, Michael Brecker, the EWI Master describes the EWI as being capable of “playing every part of a symphony from Venus”.  You simply use your breath and fingers like a saxophone. But you connect your electric saxophone to a computer program like Ableton to build the sonic layers with MIDI patch sounds. To hear the EWI, hop on this inter-galactic spaceship know as Brasstronaut. The critically acclaimed indie-rock band that Sam Davidson is a member of. Or take a listen to his solo project, Skim Milk, which is rooted in the love of exploring old music and mixing it with a unique brand of instrumental hip-hop. 

Sam Davidson’s band
Sam Davidson’s solo project