Estrada had promised a demonstration of a remarkable new instrument, one that had changed the whole way he made music. Two walls of the room were dedicated to racks of synthesizers — row after row of buttons and knobs and unwieldy wiring, a veritable museum of advanced technology spanning decades and costing thousands of dollars. Estrada ignored all of it. Instead, he plucked a small device from the spot where it was hanging from a hook. It looked like the exploded innards of a calculator, with a splat of knobs and buttons. There was no keyboard. Estrada plugged it into a set of speakers, held it in both hands and hunched over it slightly, as if handling a phone while texting, and began to play.
He punched the buttons, and a rapid-fire sequence of clicks began to repeat. Then he twisted one of the knobs, and the clicks deepened into a more hollow sound, like that of a kick drum. More button punches, more knob twists, more sounds: a spacey high-hat, a background static roar, a tonal burst that altered slightly and quickly became a repeated phrase. Suddenly there was more than a beat; there was a little song.
Technology changes and democratises in more ways than one, and no industry is safe from its effects. What a fascinating story and device.