The ‘Expressive MIDI’ Proposal and Animoog

Animoog and modern alternative controllers push the MIDI standard beyond its current capabilities — not surprising considering it’s a protocol devised in 1983! A few major stakeholders including Apple, ROLI and Moog Music are working on an extension to the MIDI standard, currently named Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression specification. You guessed right, Animoog would directly benefit from this new specification.

For the past two years I’ve been looking for an iPad app that would properly record Animoog in MIDI. By properly I mean that the replay from the MIDI app to Animoog sounds exactly like the initial Animoog take. Apps I tried fail to record Animoog‘s MIDI properly for fast polypressure changes / legato and all the crucial subtleties that Animoog does. I asked around to no avail. One of the Animoog developers at Moog publicly confirmed there is no such app yet. I badly want this, full MIDI support was even at the top of my initial wish list for Animoog in March 2014.

So, what is this Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression specification? From the specification’s Executive Summary:

“The goal of this specification is to provide an agreed method for hardware and software manufacturers to communicate multidimensional data between controllers, synthesizers, workstations, and other products. The proposed extensions define rules for using MIDI channels to represent one note each, and to use per-channel control parameters to represent note changes in three or more dimensions.”

Multidimensional expression… funny that launched in early 2014 with the following subtitle (still in use!) ‘an other dimension of music’! If the MIDI Manufacturers Association accepts this proposal, which I hope they will, the final name for the specification might become ‘Expressive MIDI’.

To demonstrate that I’m not extrapolating or fabulating a bit too much, Animoog is actually mentioned as an example right in the technical specification document:

“Sentences like ‘Linnstrument is an Expressive MIDI [compatible] controller’ and ‘Animoog is an Expressive MIDI [compatible] sound engine’ are easy to formulate correctly, and provide a clear sense of the value proposition.”

The specification is still considered Draft and its supporters hope to have a final version by the end of 2015. A link to the Expressive MIDI specification was publicly shared at least last April. To access it yourself, follow this link to Google Docs. Revision 1.25 is only three weeks old.

I’m no MIDI expert myself, but that doesn’t stop me from rejoicing at specifications that will allow me to further enjoy Animoog! As usual, don’t hesitate to share additional info in the comments section below. Cheers! — Alex / Satri

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