protman in chicago reader / game controller hiijacking
New Ways to Play
Better at video games than piano? It could be your ticket to a career in music.
By Miles Raymer
April 17, 2008
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Local electronic musician Protman, aka Joe Hahn, might not be making music at all if he hadn’t moved past traditional instruments. “Most computer musicians I know employ a piano-based MIDI controller, which also employs a few knobs, pads, sliders, et cetera,” he explains via e-mail. “I’ve probably gone through a couple thousand dollars’ worth of these trying to find something that encourages me to use it and make more music with it, but they always wind up collecting dust.”
What Hahn does instead is adapt controllers from video-game consoles—Nintendo NES, Xbox 360—so that they can interact with composition software. For him, it’s a matter of ergonomics. The problem with piano-style controllers, he says, is that “you can maybe control two or three parameters simultaneously depending on the interface, and they often require such exaggerated, sloppy motions to get anything interesting done with them. Game controllers are designed to maximize ergonomics and perform with great immediacy. Punch now! Kick now! Tweak now! Transpose now! Throw that snare drum into the delay chain now! Swap between your choice of random toy-instrument samples now!”