Jun 282017
 

Attack

Took a random clock signal from Ultra Random Analog into Pamela’s New Workout that was clocking the Stillson Hammer and the Eloquencer. The Stillson was driving the Mutant Bassdrum, BD9, Snare, and Hihat while the Eloquencer ran the 808 Maraca, 909 Clap, DuKRPLS, and Basimilus Iteritas Alter. The percussion was mixed on a couple of Levit8’s and fed into the Expert Sleepers ES-8 on its way to Bitwig where I added a tiny bit of reverb from the Fabfilter Pro-R.

Jun 172017
 

Makenoise Pressure Points Sequencer

Recently there was a post on The Muff Wigglers (the Facebook version of Muffwiggler) that asked the community of modular synthesizer enthusiasts, “Since the explosion of modular and boutique clones and the like why does most of the music simply suck? For example: bing, poop, dong dong, cling, sample and hold, shudder shudder, rumble, bong, derp derp, twang. Thoughts?”

The person asking this opened a firestorm of protest for generalizing that this type of music is somehow inferior or that it inherently sucks. The problem is that there are amazing examples of modular synth music out there that are now considered classics and contemporary musicians that are inspiring tens of thousands of us. On the other hand there has been a relative explosion of interest in the tools that are available for Eurorack and learning this craft. With this recent uptake in the field there are a lot more people who are exploring how these instruments work. This is where the problem rears its head.

Learning how to make sound is the first step in approaching any idea of some day making music with one of these complex configurations of synthesis modules. Many of us are approaching this endeavor with absolutely no musical training and that’s okay as this has always been the path of rock and roll and DIY culture. This guy who challenged a community to respond ultimately drew more than 1000 comments with the majority condemning him for using such heavy handed draconian language that was mostly interpreted as being flaming troll bait.

For anybody who has been close to the music industry or aspired to be a serious musician they know that most people are not born aficionados at picking up an instrument and owning it’s breadth of potential. Nor can we humans practice or exist in a vacuum and so we must make ourselves vulnerable by asking others for their input. Most synthesists will be the first to admit that their experimentation approaches the sound of blaring car alarms or cat’s meowing in various states of pain and ecstasy. While this may well be true it doesn’t do anyone any good to listen to or read abject cruelty. This kind of bullying does not inspire people to perform better or learn more, but it does often encourage people towards avoidance. Not to say that anyone should be treated like a snowflake and yes I can admit that we all benefit from criticism, but it’s a measure of civility and patience to offer valid critiques and constructive observations to help the novice find their way.

At 54 years old I don’t really give a squat whether people hate what I’m posting here, I’ll probably cringe when I listen to it in some months or years into the future myself. A big difference is this will never have anything to do with my career as it’s nothing more than a hobby, for others it’s part of a dream. Maybe there was a benefit in the 1960’s of practicing the electric guitar in the basement alone because no one else could here our hammering the instrument to death, but that was then and we are now living in the age of social media where content can be shared across disparate networks in a moment. Tolerance might be a skill that some of us should focus on acquiring more of rather than whipping an acid tongue of loathing against the unsuspecting.

Today’s patch of Bing Dong Dong was constructed using the following modules: Ultra Random Analog by Steady State Fate (SSF), Makenoise Pressure Points, Brains, Wogglebug, and Tempi, the Intellijel Planar, Varigate 8+ by Malekko, a Synthtech E950/951 combo, Spectrum and Aperture from WMD, an Ultrafold from WMD and SSF, Levit8 from Erogenous Tones, and finally the Dual Looping Delay from 4MS.

 

Jun 102017
 

Orthogonal Devices ER-101

It started with the ER-301 Sound Computer/Sampler on the way to dinner last year. I’d read about it and how Brian from Orthogonal Devices is known for incredibly well thought out modules. When I got my ER-301 a month later with no manual and one rapid-fire demo video from the creator himself, it was nearly incomprehensible. What was clear was the craftsmanship and attention to detail. Becoming more and more familiar with my modules I knew that I’d want another sequencer or two, or three to help round out my rig. The problem was that the ER-101 Sequencer from Orthogonal had been sold out for months.

Then just a few weeks ago somebody on Muffwiggler posted he was eager to sell his ER-101/102 combo for an incredible price, I snatched them up right away. It’s now two weeks since I received them in excellent shape, I updated the firmware and waited for a moment to either find a great tutorial or finally give in and read the combined 64 pages of documentation. A familiar name showed up “Daisuk” he shared the following video a few years ago and it was super helpful: https://vimeo.com/101873468 

So after a very busy day testing various levels in my company’s VR product titled Hypatia that we released to some lucky people yesterday who are getting a sneak peek before we put it up for sale next week, I almost reluctantly got to it so I could do my best in keeping up with the “Patch Of The Day!” Tonight’s entry features my first ever work with the ER-101 sending a gate signal to the Mutable Instruments Elements, a control voltage feeding the 1V/Oct jack and then another five CV’s modulating various parameters on the Elements.

Jun 092017
 

Orgone Accumulator

I can sense I’m on the verge of losing some of the naivety that has kept modular synthesis a mystery to me. There has been many a moment of absolute frustration that the language of control voltages and audio signals are something that has come to us from a parallel universe inhabited by a higher order of beings that are steeped in complexity.

There are mixed emotions that come with knowledge, even if it is yet a weak bit of knowing that you can identify that you are on the tip of the iceberg. It’s the place in the journey you start to understand that if you keep on the path, you just might arrive at that point off in the distance. The previously impossible is becoming a possibility.

I’ve tried committing to creating some small patch as a morning exercise so that I should start my day making new connections. I’d almost given up on that idea today, as I was running out of time before I had to leave for the office.

With just minutes to spare and the wife pressing me to finish getting ready, I powered on the rig and grabbed a few patch cables. Which voice to start with? It’s got to be quick. Ah, I haven’t touched the Orgone Accumulator in a minute.

First step was patching this oscillator to the Levit8 mixer and then get the signal moving. I’ve been relying on the Eloquencer a lot lately so I opt to patch into the CV out of the Varigate 8+. Pitch is now jumping around through the 1V/Oct jack. What next? Out of the Tides I send the Unipolar signal into the Orgone Accumulator quickly followed by signals from the Batumi and Mini Slew. I have an interesting sound going so I take the patch cable from the Levit8 and jam it into the Three Sisters filter but I know I can spice this up too. Out of the Spectrum oscillator I go for the saw out and patch it into the FM jack on the Three sisters. One last step by plugging the Sloth into the 1V/Oct jack of the Spectrum so I add a little more movement to the FM signal.

Patch is done, got to go. Then I have the realization on my way out the door, I understood enough to build this still primitive audio fragment in less than five minutes. It’s not great, it’s not even good, but mere months ago I could hardly get a signal out of even the most basic module. Naivety is being muscled out of the way by the developing strength of constant exercise.

 

Jun 072017
 

Mangrove Doodle

Today I am embarking on a new year long project to post a daily “Patch Of The Day.” A little more than a year ago I revived a 35 year dormant interest in playing with synthesizers. I’d been exploring making music with Bitwig for nearly a year when a 2016 trip to Moogfest in Durham, North Carolina reignited my curiosity about twisting knobs again.

Today I have a Monster rig with more than 1,500hp of Eurorack synthesizer equipment and as anyone can tell you I have a learning curve ahead of me that can only be seen as extraordinarily monumental – emphasis on mental.

The idea here is to post audio and/or video snippets of patches I explore on a day-to-day basis as frequently as being in town allows. Then after a year of bumbling through this I hope to be able to look back to this day and see an improvement on what I’m able to create. I’m well aware that what will be presented here for some time to come will be devoid of musical quality. This is an experiment of me trying to force a creative process that no matter how poor the quality, I’ll share the results in order to document how a 54 year-old man with no musical training or experience explores a complex process found in modular synthesis.

This is patch #1. To create it I installed two new Mannequins Mangrove formant oscillators that just arrived today. I’m only using one of the Mangroves here and it’s being modulated by a Just Friends also from Mannequins, Tides from Mutable Instruments, a Mini Slew from WMD. In addition there is some sound mixed in from a Skorn da Bask from TouellSkouarn being modulated by the Tides, Just Friends, and a Lightstrip from Soundmachines.