Joystick Man

This is not even as amazing as the joystick really was!

On Wednesday, Dr. Allison and I went to an Unconference talk (random talks about nonconference stuff people want to discuss) that was primarily based around laptop ensembles (or, as they should probably now be called, mobile ensembles). As the topics were sorting them out, one man in particular (I don’t know his name and should probably not repeat it anyway) had a very exciting idea to propose. This man was excited because he could perform music with joysticks. Not just any joystick, but this super awesome joystick that had multiple buttons, rollers, sliders, and a D-pad like device that we always call a “nipple.”

As quoted by him (not really, but this is similar to something he might have said), “You can take it and move it around, this way and that. You can take it side to side, push the buttons here, roll the wheel, move the sliders forward and back. It does everything!”

His excitement was that here was finally an instrument that was clearly gesture-driven (I will have a post about that coming soon) that could do EVERYTHING HE NEEDED! Why wouldn’t you be excited by that? In that lecture, he said the same statement (more or less) at least three times.

What was weird (and quite amusing to me), was that he was dismissive of everything else. “The mouse and trackpad — complete rubbish.” All previous instruments (e.g. cello and whatnot), “rubbish.” He had found his Holy Grail, and wanted to extoll its praises to the masses. I suppose that is noble, but picture an old man with a long white beard and thick glasses, extolling the joystick and its superiority to every other musical device built in the history of man in a squeaky high British/slightly Scottish (I think) accent. Also keep in mind that many people were there, including Meg Schedel, a very good cellist, and others who have no doubt written pieces for many other instruments and meta-instruments. This guy loved his joystick.

At the end of the lecture, I couldn’t take it anymore, and said, “Every gesture you make on that is an extreme gesture!” The joystick is problematic in that small minute gestures make no more motion than a mouse. Everything with the joystick has to be extreme or it is no different than any other HID (human interface device). He merely explained the mapping procedure of the joystick, which I know well, having mapped things onto it myself.

Afterward, I approached him, saying, “that really is an awesome joystick.” He then proceeded to, on the spot, compose an epic poem about the amazingness of the joystick. I listened, bemused (maybe even slightly impressed) at the billion options on his massive joystick.

Today, at a gesture lecture at the conference, he politely raised his hand to ask a question. The presenter tried to ignore him, but no one else asked a question. First thing out of his mouth, “I think the joystick is an amazing device that can do anything one would want to do musically. You can turn it this way and that, move it around (paraphrase).” The lecturer agreed, stating that it was a fantastic gestural device, one of many. The man then continued (without a mic, now shouting). “The joystick is an amazing device. Can you explain why people are so detrimental about it? No one seems to use the joystick. Do you know why there is such a negative stigma about the joystick?” The guy thanked him and moved on.

Lastly (and I am leaving out his crazy rant in the ICMA meeting), at the end of Dr. Beck’s GRENDL lecture (GRid Enabled Distribution for Laptop Ensembles), he seemed completely befuddled by Dr. Beck’s lecture. “Why would you want the computers to play when you can easily play your own music?” Dr. Beck explained multiple times, even using the joystick reference (having figured out who he was), but the guy could not comprehend, and finally an exasperated Dr. Beck told him he would explain it later. It was awesome.

I apologize for not explaining the awesomeness of this man more thoroughly. It is something you have to experience to believe.


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