It's a regrettable truth: sometimes it's difficult to recognize genius even when it's staring you straight in the face. In some ways that was the downfall of many a great thinker, and many a great idea—sometimes, things are simply too far ahead of their time to be appreciated. Years, or perhaps even decades go by...and eventually, what was once overlooked can become the nexus for something truly great.
This has happened time and time again in the world of electronic musical instruments. Look at musicians like DJ Pierre and Juan Atkins rediscovering the Roland TR-808 and TB-303. What about modern experimental musicians rediscovering the Casio SK-1? What about the world of synthesis altogether rediscovering and embracing the design ideas of once-obscure, now-iconic instrument designer Don Buchla?
What is successful in the moment isn't always important in the long run. In the long run, some of the best ideas are the wild ones, but wait: I have a good feeling that another unsung instrument is about to spin your head right round.
Next Thing You Know, It's Beamz by Flo
Beamz—the revolutionary music performance tool by Beamz Interactive—is that device. Originally derided by the greater music community, Beamz is an experimental gestural controller in the vein of Jean Michel Jarre's Laser Harp, the iconic D-Beam, and Don Buchla's Lightning. But do you know what Beamz has that Jean Michel Jarre and Don Buchla didn't? Flo Rida.
Originally an independent product for revolutionary live DJ performance, Beamz ultimately sought endorsement from dance-floor-anthem progenitor Flo Rida, whose hit "Laser Light Show" and its music video were in no small part inspired by this laser-fueled collaboration. Together, they produced Beamz by Flo: a rebranded version of their Beamz Home Edition—setting the stage for the future of music-making. Maybe. That future hasn't happened yet.
But what does Beamz do? Well, Beamz originally came bundled with a proprietary software for triggering pre-made loops and one-shot samples. Sets of samples could be navigated using onboard buttons and—more importantly—individual samples are triggered by waving your hands through a series of on-board lasers. That's right, Beamz uses lasers as an input structure, allowing for a high degree of precision and seamless triggering of its software's built-in samples. This made it such that you could, with a simple flick of the wrist, perform some of the most important music of our time: including Flo Rida's "Good Feeling," Flo Rida's "Hangover," Flo Rida's "I Cry," Flo Rida's "In My Mind," Flo Rida's "R.O.O.T.S.," Flo Rida's "Let it Roll," Flo Rida's "Right Around," Flo Rida's "Wild Ones," and even U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Oh and Flo Rida's "Sugar."
But as you've seen above, we recently tracked down the vanishingly rare Beamz Professional Edition—the original controller that predated the Beamz by Flo. Unlike the four-laser Beamz by Flo, the Professional Edition features an unprecedented six lasers: allowing for 1.5 times the expressivity and artistic potential of its smaller sibling. And while some say that it's easy to lose control by the laser light, laser light, laser light show, this couldn't be farther from the truth: Beamz is about precision, finesse, nuance, mystique, and musical intrigue. Control is key, and Beamz Professional Edition delivers it in droves. You've never triggered an airhorn sample like this.
We know what you're asking: "It's 2022...sure, Beamz made sense in the golden age of music—a time where we all hit the floor and got low. But what can it do now, when the world seems so different?" Well, lucky for you—Mr. Rida's work is timeless.
But What Was Beamz Really For?
The other thing about Beamz that is truly worth noting, though—all of our jokes and sarcasm aside—is that it actually wasn't necessarily designed to be a tool for professional music-making. Really, the Flo Rida endorsement is one of the funniest and most absurd/peculiar things about it...but aside from that, it's actually a pretty interesting device.
Beamz was always meant to be a way of having fun engaging with music...either as a non-musician, or as a person for whom playing more traditional musical instruments was not a possibility. In this way, a comparison with Buchla's Lightning is actually fairly apt: while Lightning was designed to be a professional tool for music making, much of its brilliance and appeal was its simplicity. Once correctly set up, all you have to do is wave the wands around in the air in order to make mystifying, compelling, and unexpected waves of sound emerge. Unlike Lightning, though, Beamz was celebrated outside the world of professional music-makers specifically for this purpose: it was a therapeutic tool by which people who otherwise could not play an instrument could suddenly engage in creative processes in a way that was intuitive and natural for their own bodies.
Joke as we may, this touches on a significant and often-overlooked aspect of the world of electronic music-making. Working in the professional corner of the electronic music industry, it's easy for us to look at a device like Beamz and immediately write it off as a gimmick, the same way that many look at '90s ROMplers with a certain amount of disdain. After all, are you even making music if your tools are getting you that close to a "completed product" right out the gate?
Absolutely yes. Over-emphasizing the importance of originality and full authorship in music-making is a peculiarly elitist attitude that all-too-often reaches out from the world of professional music-making and into a realm where people are simply trying to have fun, and to maintain a spirit of enjoyment in their lives. Especially in the realm of electronic music production and electronic musical instrument design—where musical instruments aren't bound by the rules of traditional instruments, and can work however we want—we have the ability to create tools that make music accessible to more people than ever before. What might at first seem like a gimmick to someone in the "professional" sphere well might be something that enables another person to express themselves or simply to have a good time...and while we've had fun prodding at Beamz, frankly, it has provided us with some of the most fun we've had playing with music gear in a long time: no joke. You can trigger an airhorn sample with a laser. No matter how old I get, that is always going to be awesome.
Today, Beamz Interactive continues to produce technologies designed for education and music therapy, providing the opportunity for people of all ages, physical conditions, and cognitive conditions to enrich their lives through the process of music-making. And we think that's just about as awesome a thing as you could possibly do.
Oh, and by the way—happy April Fools Day. Have fun making music :)