The Ambient Machine Is a Very Pretty Music Sequencer Controller
Aesthetics always matter. That is especially true for many creatives, who do their best work in spaces and with tools that reflect their preferences. Writers like myself often prefer to work in quiet, secluded places that project tranquility and that allow us to focus. Musicians enjoy instruments and systems that fit their own vibe, but most digital music production tools lack style. They tend to look more like computer peripherals than anything else. Yuri Suzuki's The Ambient Machine is different. It is a music sequencer controller that is very pretty.
Sequencers come in a variety of form factors. Dedicated hardware sequencers are growing less popular and are being replaced by software sequencers built into DAWs (digital audio workstations). Using a software sequencer can look as mundane as clicking a mouse or pressing a key on a computer keyboard, but purpose-built sequencer controllers can streamline the work. The Ambient Machine is a bit of a mix between a hardware sequencer and a software sequencer controller. An onboard computer stores and plays pre-composed music segments that the user can control using toggle switches. Additional switches activate a variety of effects to apply to the playing music segments.
The Ambient Machine has a charming design, with a minimalist wood enclosure and a simple front panel hosting a matrix of toggle switches. Inside is a Banana Pi single-board computer running Python code to sequence the pre-composed music segments according to the switch positions. That Python code uses the SuperCollider library to process the effects. The sequences audio pumps out through an amplifier and then a speaker on the back of The Ambient Machine.
There are 32 switches in total that connect to the Banana Pi through MCP23017 chips. Each of the eight switches on the top row controls one of the eight pre-composed music segments. The 24 switches on the other three rows control the effects.
Suzuki displayed The Ambient Machine at an exhibition in Japan, quickly selling all 20 unites of the initial production run. The current production run still has units available for ¥143,000 (about $975 USD) on the E&Y online store.