Approaching: norns

Depends on the shop, but I work in a machine shop environment and I know that any / all valuable (Alum. included) is collected and recycled. Milled aluminum enclosures like this probably start from a cast piece vs. a solid block. “Near net” is the term. That cuts down on material waste, machine time, among other things.


ok i’ve got to ask because I feel like I’m missing something here. Is this just a minimal computer that is meant just for running super collider? if it brings more people to the super collider ecosystem this is pretty exciting, but I’m having a hard time seeing how this will be used when you still have to use a computer to write the code? Perhaps there is something more with how this will tie into the monome ecosystem?

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hmm, im intrigued, Ive got a number of projects that could possibly be great on norns.

comparison with Organelle…
performance : well CM3 is a quad core a53, same as the rPI3, so thats cool IF applications are properly multi threaded (unlike say Pure Data :wink: ) , so should be a bit better for supercollider
BUT you can upgrade the SOM on the Organelle to a quad core too!

price : interesting, both small companies, actually i think the CM3 is cheaper that the iMX6 solution used by C&G - its a good choice, the housing looks more expensive, and additional hardware - but not sure that can justify the $600-900 some are talking about. (imho) … however, perhaps the ‘included’ software is the value-add?
Im sure being from Monome this will be something that the whole exceeds the sum of its parts.

what OS? I wonder if it will use something like Xenomai, like Bela which has a RT mode, but you have to adapt applications to use this properly (to avoid them mode switching).
(Ive been having a lot of fun with this on Bela this week :slight_smile: )

not really too interested in LUA, but if its open to other possibilities then thats ok.

UI, hard to say without seeing the software, display looks nice, but not very high resolution … 3 encoders + 3keys, that I doubt is enough.
(having struggled with limited UI space on organelle, designing for limited controls gets tiring after a while, and heavy on menu diving)

I like the fact its on battery

USB, cool, but I really hope they are not relying on the BCM2837 chipset (used in PI3) - Ive had no end of problems with that, when trying to get it working with isosynchonous transfers. this could be a showstopper for me.


colour me interested, but concerned that the price tag will put me off… which would be a shame, as Ive quite a few things id be interested to release on it.
(including some new stuff, being announced/released next week :wink: )


I was wondering if you were going to chime in, and pleased to see you did!

Is this definitely making an appearance at SuperBooth?


I’ll show you what Ive been up to this week at SB, but the announce/release is probably the Friday after (to give some others time to prep videos :slight_smile: )


is that at all ameliorated by the easy expansion of control surfaces via usb?

having easy expansion to grids/arcs/knobby-things/sliding-things would offer a large degree of flexibility for control surfaces, I think.

the only concern is whether that flexibility re-introduces similar issues that were presented back when there were multiple grid/arc sizes. if you’re building a tool for users that relies on them having a grid, an arc, and (let’s say) a faderbank, then all your users have to have those, or you have to make the experience work even if controllers are missing, or your users have to understand how to modify it to make it work for themselves. I’m game to learn lua and try to understand bits of sc, but I think many potential users will simply use tools provided by monome and the larger community.

In an ideal world, grid-based apps running on norns could automatically do something useful with an arc, if you plugged one in, while still working without its presence. I think that same logic could be applied for some range of non-monome control surfaces, albeit not a big range.

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A few questions burning in my mind…

  1. So let’s say I have a non-varibright 128 grid. Can I easily go into the lua control script for any given application and modify things quickly to change varibright functionality to non-varibright (for example, instead of a half-dimmed light, it’s off)? Or even better, does norns do this out-of-box for non-varibright grids? I don’t mind editing a lua script, just a question of whether it’s a simple 5-10 minute thing or I’ll have to spend a few hours figuring out a script to modify it.

  2. Can you connect a USB keyboard for livecoding on the box itself, Teletype style? I don’t think this is the case from the description of working through the browser-based IDE and updating in real-time / livecoding there, but maybe I’m wrong.

  3. Does norns talk to an ES-8 out of the box? I still don’t have an idea of what “CV devices (more on this later)” means from a practical/technical angle for talking to my eurorack setup.

  4. Price, of course. If it’s $700 or less it’s probably an instant purchase, but anything over and I’ll have to figure out how to sell some gear or think about whether I really want it. For comparison, I recently bought a used Organelle for $250, which I think is a steal. There’s no way I’d expect anything south of $500 for Norns, but getting around the price point of a new Organelle would be sweet indeed. (I don’t mean to suggest that I’ll be complaining about any price point - agree 100% with above posts on people tending to underprice boutique gear and undervalue many aspects of design/conception)

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exactly, you start writing applications that have to assume extra controllers/hardware.
then what do you assume? a grid? a midi keyboard? faders? a foot pedal? how many of each? whats their layout (for an intuitive UI)

about the only solution is to have midi learn, but we all know how much fun setting up midi controls (even via learn) is… we have to do this with VSTs/DAWs , and i find it pretty tedious.

so yeah, is this basically only for monome grid owners? in which case, that reduces the number of developers who are interested… due to the high costs.

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2 quick things.

  1. yes it runs supercollider but that’s not the central feature. the machine is a repository for standalone instruments, with a simple scripting engine (lua) to encourage customization. the dsp backend could be switched for something else, included DSP written in C. supercollider is a good option, however-- even new programmers can make DSP-things quickly with existing bits.

  2. lots of comparisons to the organelle and that’s fine. like i’ve said about every other grid controller on the market— they’re all good for specific uses. the push is perfect for ableton. the organelle is great if you want 25 wooden keys. various linux eurorack modules exist if you want a computer in your rack. let’s celebrate the options. and yes in the end they’re all computers, but they’re designed perhaps to have quite different interactions, to be different things. norns is a different thing.

and of course more tomorrow.


add that to the list.


If controller interactions are primarily written in Lua and sound generation is largely relegated to Engine design (correct me if I’m wrong), might there be an emergence of common controller paradigms for each controller that emerges?
Not to unnecessarily limit an open platform, but like if a contingent of people are interested in using a Push controller, it might behoove that contingent to work with a common controller mapping for the push.
This separation of sound engine and control interface might make it easier to design in a modular way.

yea, this is where i’d not be too quick to dismiss lua. it makes an excellent format for configuration files and control adapter layers (hence popularity for such tasks in e.g. game development world).

with a little care in design i think applications can be made to be pretty flexible in this regard. in particular i’d encourage development of a transparent boilerplate adapter between monome grids and midi grids. (the monome grid kinda represents a common denominator of functionality - one color, no screens, no knobs - so this seems pretty reasonable.)

and you’re right, flexibility has downsides. it’s a universal problem for performance software (no computer is immune, certainly not laptops.) i actually think organelle solution is nice - a good number of buttons always exist. norns solution is the minimal extreme, closer to a stompbox by default. (i will miss aleph’s front-side footswitch jacks, but thems the breaks.)

the main point is that it should be as easy as possible for user to customize control surface interaction layer. (this is not just philosophical but pragmatic - the reality is that electronic music performance encompasses a vast myriad of personalized approaches to gesture interpretation. everyone uses different stuff.) in this respect i think the norns platform is unsurpassed even in its embryonic state. time will tell…


This mostly depends on which holes you anticipate wanting to fill.

If you learn Lua, you can create new interfaces for other people’s SuperCollider work.

If you learn Supercollider, you can tack new audio processes onto other people’s interface work.

If you’re an interface guy, you should learn Lua.
If you’re an audio guy, you should learn SuperCollider.

It’s really that simple.




I just feel the need to state my excitement this! Norns will make a great teammate, as well as a great teacher I assume. Loving these daily reveals into what Norns is @tehn


Digging the possibilities… the no branding minimal thing is a nice compliment to the holographic type nature of the box…

Im so ready to be a part of this experiment. I really havent used my push much in recent months, might use it to pre buff the old paypal account.

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I haven’t either, but my mind went the opposite direction; I thought mapping out that interface might be a good Lua project.


20 characters of hmmmmmm

can we collectively pause and take a moment to appreciate this venture?

I don’t believe I would follow any other company who was doing this style of slow reveal with bated breath.

with what seems like a collective culture of gimme gimme gimme I find it refreshing that we are having incremental bits of knowledge given to us to digest and discuss.

wild speculation with the monome/lines forum folk is some of the best fun I’ve had on the internet

thank you to the monome family


Fun and games? Or next generation ideation for the newer new thing?

I mean, the ideas I’ve lovingly crafted here (okay, spouted randomly) are worth… well… okay, never mind.

I for one have welcomed my new thing obsession, and will welcome the newer thing obsession, and…

I could argue that it is because messing with Lua will be fun, but that’s not really it.

It is that the ecosystem that is evolving here, intersecting with other vendors of similar depth of thought, is just so interesting. I want to pack a box of stuff and go live on an island for a year or two and just explore. And inspired by people here I’d be sampling natural sounds, challenging myself in a Disquiet way, reading all kinds of interesting books, having all kinds of intense conversations that never turn to rancor, and all the other things that this community nurtures.