The Sequential Drum is a controller for the 4C digital signal processor. It was developed by Max Mathews and Curtis Abbott in the early Eighties.

Where and when – The Sequential Drum is an external controller designed as a device for the 4C DSP developed by Italian physicist Giuseppe Di Giugno at Ircam in the late Seventies. This device was designed by computer music pioneer Max Mathews in collaboration with Curtis Abbott around in 1980.

Real Time/Deferred Time – Although designed to be interfaced with a real time processor, the Sequential Drum could be used even with software for composing music in deferred time, such as Music V and Music 10, both available at Ircam in those years.

Technical Features – As device, the Sequential Drum was a board that the user could beat with two sticks or with hands, as a traditional drum. Four output channels linked the Sequential Drum to the 4C processor, so every gesture on the board could be converted in a signal with an amplitude proportional to the beat energy (likewise the Velocity with the modern Midi device). The four lines transmitted even the XY position of the stricken area.

How signals could be used – The signals generated with the Sequential Drum, could be used in several ways. The most common use was to start a sound event or to transmit his amplitude. The two-dimensional movement on this device, instead, could be used to spatialization management (if the synthesizer was provided with many output channels), to manipulate timbre and amplitude, to control the execution speed or to underline musical accents.[1]

4Ced – MMax Mathews designed the Sequential Drum during the research of Curtis Abbott for the 4Ced. For this, both are very integrated. Communication between the Sequential Drum, 4Ced and the 4C occurred through the previous four channels, but replaced with four knobs. Certainly the Sequential Drum had many limits, but the possibility of integrate it with other controllers, make it a very interesting instrument.[1]

Legacy – Although the Sequential Drum needed of further improvements, it was adopted both at Ircam and Bell Labs. We also remember that this controller could be considered the ancestor of another device developed later by Max Mathews and named Radio Baton Drum.[2]


[1] Max Mathews, Curtis Abbott, The Sequential Drum, Computer Music Journal, Vol. 4 [4], 1980.
[2] Miller Puckette, Something Digital, Computer Music Journal, Vol. 15 [4], 1991.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.