Zorx Electronics
Misha - Eventide

Misha - Eventide

by Jason Czyeryk

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the Eventide board meeting when Misha, their generative Eurorack sequencer was first brought up. Having dealt with mainly effects units, nothing in the company’s illustrious history would have suggested that they would ever produce something like this.
Inspired by, and based on, Leon Gruenbaum’s Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee (most call it Samchillian for short), a MIDI interface that uses a spread-out split PC computer keyboard, like a modern day digital accordion (sans the squeezing) and implementing Austrian Josef Matthias Hauer’s tone row technique (yes, Arnold Schoenberg is mostly credited with developing this system, but according to extensive and exhaustive research [exhaustive because I was tired when I looked it up] Hauer developed this technique a little before Schoenberg) where the notes of a scale are fixed in a certain order and each note of the scale is used only once before the tone row (either user definable, or not) is repeated, Misha is indeed a unique sequencer.
While the Samchillian also uses the tone row technique, Gruenbaum's is a bit of a home brew affair, and this is where Misha takes the baton and runs with it, because Misha is streamlined and mainstream-ish; anything but a DIY type of affair. I watched a few videos of Gruenbaum performing with the Samchillian as I always find it interesting to see inventors playing their own instruments, and it clearly shows the mastery he has over his controller, though it’s hard to imagine it being utilized by many, the same way Misha probably will and/or can be. Misha is a special sequencer and Gruenbaum’s layout and playing approach and Hauer’s melodic design translate perfectly, and to modular synthesis as well.
Being a CV/MIDI controller, Misha makes no sound of its own other than a basic tone at its audio output, so like the Samchillian it’s how it controls melodies that sets it apart from other CV/MIDI controlling devices. Really, any sort of controller could work in implementing this interval-based generative tone row approach, and while Misha takes a bit of inspiration from the Samchillian with its split symmetrical layout, and does offer the opportunity to sport a QWERTY USB keyboard to control it with—a nice homage to the Samchillian—it’s much more playable and economically sized—a necessity if it’s going to be housed in a Eurorack setup.
Misha’s layout—nine numbered light up push buttons [-4 to +4 with a 0 center point] that form a “V” under a multi-color LCD screen—sounds the alarm that traditional keyboard playing will not be happening here. Each of the push buttons represents movement from the note that’s currently being played. For example, pressing +1 moves the current note one forward, +3 moves the current note three notes forward, -2 moves the note two notes backward, and 0 means the same note is played; no melodic movement. Granted, the notes played are dependent on what scale is selected (Misha comes with plenty of pre-loaded scales, and you can save and load others as well, with 200 slots available), but it’s a pretty intuitive melodic approach to grasp, if not one that’s immediately easy to master.
There are a couple of pushbutton encoders [Key and Scale] that flank both sides of the screen, and this is where the menu diving starts, though you can circumvent the need for going to the main menu by using two Shift buttons found at the bottom of Misha that will scroll through and display the more commonly used functions and parameters. Tempo, scale, key, octave, global stuff…all of the things you’d expect to find in a sequencer are user configurable, and the screen itself is nicely sized and easily legible. Menu selection isn’t too painful and is more for setup type stuff, and for the most part maneuvering through it is easy and sensible.
There is a Record/Stop button, Play/Pause, four User buttons for user-defined functions that amount to programmable shortcuts, the previously mentioned two Shift buttons [Up and Down] at each lower corner for quickly moving through screens, and an Undo button. At the top of the module are MIDI In and Out, a mini USB input for firmware updates and to control Misha with an external device, and three identical channels [X,Y, and Z] each containing CV In with a user configurable input range, CV Out, and T/G [Trigger/Gate] In and Out. There is also a main Clock In, Audio Out, and a MicroSD slot to save and recall presets and store other information. Misha can use MIDI, CV, or its internal waveform (the only sound it makes by itself, mostly used as a reference) to make sound. I primarily used it in my rack with CV.
Misha is really a performance-oriented machine and with that in mind, it’s how I’m basing my perception of it as a whole. For the most part, any sequencer can be programmed with any combination of sequences/notes, so really it’s how Misha gets to its melodic output that really sets it apart. Overall the layout works pretty well as there’s enough room to move around, plenty of quick, easy options for changing things up on the fly, and a somewhat intuitive approach. There are some button combos that need to be committed to memory, lest you need to go into the menu during a performance, but that’s par for the course. While I think of Misha as an alternative way to play scales, had I no background in music, I would probably see it as an easy way to play (potentially) interesting musical-sounding scales and melodies, and Misha works just as well—and is [probably] just as fun—for musically well-seasoned synthesists as those who are not. You can have no idea whatsoever what you’re doing, and get something nice and musical out of Misha. Music school grads might scoff at this, but it’s pretty enabling, and it makes it easy to jam with other musicians. If you throw some CV into Misha you can bring a lot of variation to the intervals, thereby creating moving, generative patterns (again, in key) and freeing you up to mess around with other modules in your patch. While that can be said for many modules and sequencers out there already, the way Misha does it is surprisingly fresh. I do wish that the three channels of Misha could be sequenced with different scales/tempos/etc., so that you could maybe play Channel X live, have Channel Y running a bassline, and Channel Z some kind of ambient pad at different tempos and scales or something. With the three channels, Misha really seems primed for polyphony, and since Misha probably wouldn’t be the only sequencer in your rack, you can get that other stuff from more traditional sequencer modules or devices.
Using Misha for chords is a good exploratory experience and you can select from many included scales and chords. It can be very interesting to mix up the routing of the three channels and by using a few switchers and mults you can send the CV outputs for each of Misha’s channels into various VCOs or other sound sources and switch up the root/3rd/5th of a typical triad to keep the chording consistent while the sound for each note/chord changes. Misha makes it quite easy to use and create chords in your patch and potentially offers up easy ways to do so that really only exist in modular. The Klang by Elektrofon (though Klang is four-voice) comes to mind when I think of quick and intuitive ways to create chords with this kind of flexibility, so that’s a pretty compelling feature for Misha to have in-house.
In terms of using Misha as a controlling instrument to play melodies in real time, it wasn’t easy. Not that I was hoping to use this to play Rachmanioff or anything, but still, something as simple as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” took a good solid fifteen minutes to play once through, and I was only successful when I cheated and played it off of the chart in Misha’s manual. Other songs were much more tedious. “Axel F.”? “Hey Ya!” by Outkast? “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics? Forget about it! Like I said, this isn’t your traditional keyboard, so this was no surprise and isn't the point of Misha, but still I thought I’d give it a shot.
After decades of playing Western-scaled melodies on traditional keyboard-based instruments, I found Misha to be great at breaking out of old melodic tendencies and habits, discovering new territories, and changing things up in unexpected ways. Mostly this was because my processing speed would not allow me to reconfigure to Misha’s method of playing and I simply could not just play songs on it well. Thankfully. Altering keys, scales, note length, tempo, etc., in combination with the idiosyncratic (to my conditioned, Western-scaled brain) melodic functioning of Misha on the fly, can crack the code, can open your mind. It’s strange; its methodology is simple in concept, if not merely novel, and yet its newness won over my old ingrained tendencies. Again, it’s because I couldn’t play it as I was used to playing a keyboard-based instrument that set me free, but whatever the case, the price of admission any time you can see, experience, or become something new is invaluable. Dare I say that Misha can be a growth experience.
I even like Misha’s name. It reminds me of an old friend, one that would give you a homemade loaf of rye bread and some fermented something or other every time you visited. There’s love there…and true passion. While Misha is great for jamming and experimenting—and I view it equally as a controller and a sequencer—it does have its shortcomings and I wouldn’t want it as my only sequencer or controller. The buttons aren’t velocity sensitive, so there’s a limit to the expression one can have with Misha as a controller, and the difficulty in learning its scaling for playing it as a known instrument would be a real commitment, there’s no question about its uniqueness to any musical landscape and worth as an instrument. A tip tip tip of the cap to Eventide for taking a chance and hitting a bullseye with Misha.

28 HP +12v 105mA -12v 5mA
Price: $599