What does the music from Star Wars sound like when played on an MPE keyboard controller? Something like this

It’s right there in the name: expression. MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE), to be precise, the technology that enables keyboardists to adjust the timbre, pitch and amplitude of individual notes as they’re playing, resulting in a more dynamic performance.

With its Seaboard controllers, ROLI has had skin in the MPE game for years now, and in it’s latest attempt to showcase what it can do, it’s enlisted Gerald Peters to play some of the most memorable themes from the Star Wars saga using not only a Seaboard Rise 2, but also a Lumi Keys Studio Edition, which gives players a taste of what MPE can do from a more traditional keyboard action.

As well as the Star Wars main theme and finale, plus the obligatory Imperial March and Force Theme, you’ll hear snippets of John Williams’ scores for Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace, two of George Lucas’s prequels.

Of course, what we’re watching isn’t completely live - there are clearly multiple tracks playing - but the on-the-fly modulation capabilities of the Seaboard Rise 2 do help to add a certain something to the performance, particularly when they’re being used to play emulations of acoustic instruments.

That said, the controller’s usefulness to you will depend on the kind of music you’re making and how willing and able you are to adapt to a different way of playing. If you’re looking for MPE support in a more traditional keyboard form factor, Expressive E’s Osmose could be a better (though considerably more expensive) fit.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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