Frustrated with the lack of decent keyboard stands on the market, Mikael Jorgensen began sketching ideas for a stylish lightweight touring stand some ten years ago—as lead pianist and keyboardist for the band Wilco, he'd spent the better much of that time on the road—but with no background in design or fabrication, he didn't really know how to proceed. He had given up hope until years later, when friend and producer Allen Farmelo, who showed him a mixing console that collapses for traveling, designed and built by François Chambard of UM Project. After an introduction from Farmelo, Jorgensen met with Chambard at his Greenpoint studio and immediately connected with his design sensibility and craftsmanship.
The stand breaks down to fit perfectly into a standard keyboard case for touring and can easily be configured to function as a desk for laptops; executed in Chambard's signature style with a matching bench, the UMJ-1 looks like nothing else on the market. I stopped by UM Project's studio to get a hands-on demo before the distinctive stand's debut at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Chambard enthusiastically assembled the unit before my eyes, explaining the thought process behind it, as the storage room next door was being set up for the photo shoot.
Jorgensen's brief for the two-tiered stand was simple—like all existing stands, it had to be easy to assemble and height-adjustable—but what he really wanted was the ability to fine tune the height and angles for each type of performance. The biggest innovation he requested was the ability to angle the bottom keyboard up, which is particularly suited to shows where his playing style and posture can change. Chambard and Jorgensen worked closely over the summer of 2012, reviewing design concepts, observing set-ups, sound checks, performances, packing and unpacking. The designer developed two prototypes before they arrived at the final design, which employs pins, simple mechanical linkages and industrial collar shafts to adjust the unit.
After the Solid Sound Festival, Jorgensen was thrilled with the UMJ-1's performance and is already planning ideas for the electronic gear in his studio. Chambard and Jorgensen consider this first collaboration as the beginning of something new, reinventing a whole category of products that have been overlooked. Wilco have just kicked off a tour supporting Bob Dylan, and we share Chambard's hope that the major exposure in the industry might lead to more custom commissions from musicians.
The bench top is upholstered with the Interface FLOR tile.
The stand converts into a small desk, perfect for laptops.
Chambard demonstrating various mechanical solutions explored in the first prototype.
Chambard and Jorgensen setting up day one of the Solid Sound Festival.
Assembling the bench.
Jorgensen's technician making some final tweaks.
The UMJ-1 stand's debut at opening night of the Solid Sound Festival.
Product and festival photos by Francis Dzikowski/Esto, studio visit photos by Glen Jackson Taylor