News February 22 2017

ROLI’s Seaboard Grand became the musical instrument star of La La Land

To say La La Land has taken the globe by storm would be an understatement. Not only has it proved that musicals are still big business, but it has brought the world of jazz to a brand new audience.

The movie, which stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, has already received five BAFTAs, seven Golden Globes and is up for 14 Oscars.

To put that in perspective, that number of Oscar nominations ties the record with the likes of 1997’s Titanic and 1950’s All About Eve.

In the film, Gosling plays a jazz pianist who dreams of opening his own club, and has received a lot of praise for his impressive piano skills.
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The scene where Gosling’s character, Sebastian, performs on stage with John Legend has caught the eye of many musical fans – in particular, the part where he plays a futuristic looking keyboard. With lots of people wondering “what is that thing and where can I get one?”, we spoke to its makers, ROLI, to find out how the keyboard made its way into what’s likely to be the biggest film of the decade.

What you saw in the film was the Seaboard Grand, a musical instrument developed by London-based music technology company ROLI. It “reimagines the piano keyboard as a soft, continuous surface and allows musicians to freely express sound using their fingertips”.

Marius de Vries, who served as the executive music producer for the film, chose the Seaboard Grand for this scene, praising it as “the pinnacle of cutting edge music technology”

ROLI reveals that even Ryan Gosling became a “firm Seaboard aficionado” after his experience in filming with the product.

The Seaboard was requested by de Vries over a year before the film screened. He has longstanding ties with ROLI and was very familiar with the Seaboard Grand and Seaboard Rise. He thought that the Seaboard Grand would be a great representation of a futuristic musical instrument that a classic jazz pianist – Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian – would play.

“The Seaboard Grand has a pretty diverse fan base, but it’s especially popular with jazz keyboardists who love being able to play piano, bass, and sax sounds on one surface,” said the firm.

So, did the instrument makers have any idea how big La La Land would be and how much attention its futuristic keyboard would get? MI Pro asked Will McNamara, head of communications at ROLI: “The whole ROLI team has been delighted to see the critical and box office success of La La Land, which we didn’t anticipate when we first collaborated on the film. The Seaboard Grand is almost a character in the film! It’s a marvellous way for hundreds of thousands of people to see and hear Seaboard technology for the first time.

“We were especially impressed to see Ryan Gosling play with such panache. We hope his playing is an inspiration to any real-life jazz musician who wants a next-generation keyboard instrument.”