This project was inspired by the works of TicTicElectro.

I have collected MPE controllers for several years, and few are more interesting than the ROLI blocks. I had been using the Seaboard BLOCK and the Lightpad BLOCK M for a time, though in my mind, they had a fundamental drawback: the dependency on software.

The ROLI blocks send out MPE data over bluetooth in order to link to ROLI’s sound generator known as NOISE, but do not produce any sound themselves. To rectify this, I set out to create a piece of hardware that could operate independently of a laptop that would take in the MPE data from the blocks and generate sounds.

The Axoloti platform excels at projects like this with several pre-constructed objects built by its user community specifically to handle MPE data. I initially utilized design aspects of the TicTic build, yet diverged when it came to building the enclosure. My needs when using the blocks vary from use to use, so I settled on a slightly more modular approach to physical controls: a breadboard. The Axoloti Core microcontroller fits perfectly on a full size breadboard, and contains power and ground rails with sufficient power to run any controls I need for a given setup: knobs, switches, faders, etc…

The Axoloti patch itself is simple, though it took some digging to understand the exact way in which the patcher handles polyphony. This is unlike Max/MSP in that a subpatch for an individual “voice” must be created, followed by marking a setting within the subpatch marking it for MPE use. This creates the option on the main patch of selecting how many voices to create.

This project was constructed at the Oberlin Conservatory TIMARA MakerSpace. More photos and sound demos will be up soon!