Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Point Of Meetups

I get a chance to talk to a lot of people about synths, software, music gear, DAWs and other goodies. Most of this 'talk' actually happens virtually - via email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. But I'm also blessed to now live in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota), and we have a great meetup that occurs now-and-again. This meetup (the Twin Cities Synth Meet) is a great time to check out other gear, but mostly too meet - or catch up with - musician friends both new and old.

For example, that picture above is with Logan Erickson, a great local figure in the synth scene, and a person I interviewed for my podcast long ago. He's become a friend, and brought his new Chang-model Serge system to give some hands-on time for the locals. I always look forward to the Synth Meet to crawl out of my basement and spend a little time chatting with him - and checking out whatever craziness he brings to bear.

But it's not always about old friend - sometimes you get to meet new people, too. Bill Henson had a killer modular rig that looked largely DIY-oriented, and got my mind spinning with options from places like Befaco and AI Synthesis. Beautiful stuff, and Bill was more than happy to fill me in on any questions I had.

Conversely, sometimes you get to help out someone as well. Max Otto was wondering about the Monome Grid and modular, so I made up a little system to do a show-and-tell. Turns out he brought his system, and it was rocking that Supercell module. Took a closer look, and am starting to fall in 'humina-humina'.

Does any of this happen if I just sit around the house? Not a chance. Man, I love meeting my synth friend in meat-space, and I'm making a strong suggestion that you do the same!


Monday, December 10, 2018

OP-1 Take a Left Turn

Well, now that it appears that Teenage Engineering won't be producing OP-1's anytime soon (and the OP-Z isn't the right kind of replacement), it's Crazy Time. Given the limited production and massive desire for this product, I guess this was going to happen.

I remember the land grab for TB-303's. It started with people loving the thing. Then it continued with people buying them up an flipping them as the Crazy Money started flying. My wife, Kristin, was in Japan at the time, and during a visit there I picked up a used 303 with the CV/Gate mods professionally done (Thanks Five G!). It was great fun - but then a good friend started bugging me about wanting to buy it, and he decided he was willing to thrown Crazy Money at it, and I decided to let 'er rip.

Since then, I've picked up a TT-303 (whose sequencer is a few generations better while properly retaining the original's charm) for about 20% of what I got for the TB-303, and had a nice time with it. But I didn't regret selling the original. Not sure why, but I didn't. I guess I don't like being a participant in Crazy Time - nor being a holder of the Crazy Thing. I wonder what that means for the future of my OP-1...

I know so many people that will never sell something once they buy it. Maybe I'm unsentimental, and maybe I should be more careful about hanging onto my instruments. But I don't know - I'm not into it when the collectors start making it rain: that's normally my signal to move along...


Friday, December 7, 2018

Oh Hell's Bells

I got slurped into something this evening that I really regret. Someone called me out in a lines community page, and I made the mistake of responding. Why did I go there?

It was all about how useless visual programming tools like Max and Pd are because they are hostile to Git. I suggested that, because of their nature, they might always be hostile to Git. Then I realized something: I could have used that time to try out the new LFO I just installed in my modular. Or done another sample-mapping run with the MPC. Or figured out another one of the synth engines of the OP-1.

Instead, I jumped into some discussion about Git. Is there anything in the world that could feel less creative to me than doing that? The answer is "no". I'm going to go set up a patch now.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

In Honor of Focus

I've been playing with this for a while (I took it to North Adams this week as my only hardware instrument), and decided to treat learning this machine like I learned my modular: pick a thing, learn it deeply, then pick the next thing. I started with the Cluster synth engine, then the Delay effect - and so on.

I've come to really respect the decisions that Teenage Engineering made - and stuck with. I'm sure that the temptation to make Shift-Click and triple-key combos was overwhelming, but once you learn a few things, you really can get up to speed quickly with other. Once I got the idea behind a couple of the synth engines, they all started making intuitive sense. I wish the LFO architecture was a little more flexible, but there is enough there to be super-creative (LFOs have the kind of constraint that push your creativity). I've got plenty more to learn - I've just started cracking the Sequences, and need to spend time on learning that Tape and Album systems, but I feel like I've got a great start.

Oh, and the color-to-screen mapping? Brilliant in a way very few other devices have been even close to matching.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Scoring resources - crowdsourced!

(image from this great Smithsonian article: 

I'm prepping for a series of classes at St. Olaf College, and I'm going to be introducing graphical scoring to the class. This is going to be a mix of music and non-music students, and using graphical scoring allows us to even the playing field for those that aren't heavily embedded into the world of written compositional scoring.

Thanks to the lines community, I found a great source of info:

This thread is a great way to see both current and historically important scoring and compositional techniques for this sort of thing. A great resource, and a positively perfect example of how this community goes beyond supportive - and enters the realm of downright educational. Luckily, they don't hold it over my head!

Combining some of these resources with some of Pauline Oliveros' text scores puts me in the position to help people understand how to do composition organization without having to buy into standard notation (especially when we are going to be spending a lot of time on timbre as a compositional tool).

I'm sure there are plenty of people that will consider this A Great Big Mistake. But the thread on lines certainly shows that this isn't just a flippant area of academic study.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Review Done Right!

OK - maybe not exactly right, but certainly enjoyably. In this little ditty, YouTuber Tantacrul eviscerates Avid/Sibelius in a step-by-step beatdown of their UI. Now, frankly, I'd hope that he would never do anything similar to Max, but until then I'm going to be watching his channel for the same kind of entertainment that my kids get from VSauce.

And now I have to check out Dorico!


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Dang (Stay-cation Overdrive)

I'm on a two week 'stay-cation' (a vacation where I just stay at home and amuse myself), and on Day Two I get a missive from my friend Dino J. A. Deane - with a link to the above video.

I've been playing with the MPC a lot lately, and was just about to do some play-around with it and the new modular setup when this comes down the pike. At first, I though "Oh, this is gonna goof up my modular time!", then I see the section about the new autosampler. I'd actually done something similar for Max, but seeing this embedded in the MPC hardware just gave me a whole new idea for how I'm going to be spending the next two weeks: make weird modular patches and auto-sample them.

So I'm busy now. Bu-bye!


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Little(r) Change

A lot of travel, and some performing options, are causing me to have to reduce size - again. So I picked up a Pittsburgh EP-208, loaded it up with the smallest possible series of modules that I think I can live with, and lit it up.

Looking pretty cool!

I've having to clean out the storage bin - including a bunch of great stuff that I just can no longer keep on the sideline. Starting on FB, let's see where this takes me. In the meantime, looking pretty cool...


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Well now - that's interesting

One of the coolest things I saw at the Loop 2018 conference was the result of a lot of work between Cycling '74 (my co-workers and friends) and the Google Magenta project. This has led to Magenta Studio - a set of Max for Live devices that implement some of the Magenta machine learning (Tensorflow) tools for in-Live production. The demo that Jesse Engel and Adam Roberts were showing did some remarkable things, including extending a melody, humanizing drum patterns and interpolating between phrases.

They did simple but pointed demos, and did that great presentation thing where they imply a lot more than they told. They also gave you moments to remember, which is always a valuable thing to pull off.

Cheers to everyone involved, and I suggest you give their demos a try!


Monday, October 29, 2018

Sam Hit a Homer

Sam Tarakajian (who doubles as my very first podcast interview...) was a recent participant at NodeJS Interactive, giving a quick overview keynote about the Max 8 "Node for Max" project. It's a flyby on the material, but it might give you a sense of the thinking behind it - and why it might matter for projects that you are involved in.

I know that, for myself, most of the large-scale work I've done in the last few years has involved Node in one way or another. I often had to cobble up interfaces to get things talking; now, the whole game has been formalized, and it is so much easier to bring these projects home.

Thanks to Sam for bringing Max into the bright lights of the JS world!


Saturday, October 27, 2018

OK - Someone Owes Me an Explanation!

How is it that nobody told me about The Rambler - a blog about "the music that others won't tell you about"? You know I depend on you people to help me out!

What a great resource. This morning, I learned about the passing of Chris Mann (and why it is important to care...), got to think about variations on Minimalism, became entranced by David Burge's writing and remotely fell in love with Cafe Oto. This all happens on a Saturday morning. How cool is that?


Friday, October 26, 2018

3/4 of a Cent

OK, so he's a drummer. Which means he has a lot fewer modules to BuySellTrade, and probably gets a lot more people checking out that mattress on the floor. In any case, some of the Real True Tales Of Musicianship right there...


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Talking 'bout that Paul...

Paul Schreiber has alway been a great interview: he's insightful, he's opinionated - and he's willing to share. The Art + Music + Technology podcast today provides an interview with him, but to really get the Full Schreiber Effect, you really need to hit the 90-minute version of our chat...

... and worth every penny!


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Back to the Woodshed...

You know, on the surface this looks like the simplest possible implementation of a joystick. But somehow I'm having a hell of a time wrapping my head around it. As with the Intellijel Planar before it, it seems fine if you just want to hook up the outputs to a filter cutoff and jiggle it around for a nice wobble.

But if I want to know exactly what is going to happen, it seems like mysteries abound. I'm positive it's not hard to figure out - I'm a reasonably intelligent dude. But why I can't get a simple scale/offset/stick combo to give me the values I'd expect when I set things up - I may never know.

What it really means is that I'm going to have to go into the woodshed with the Choices, the ES-8 and the computer, and start mapping the hell out of the thing until The Way It Works somehow matches The Way I Think It Works.



Monday, October 8, 2018

Oh Dear - What's This?

Well, I posted this on Instagram and Facebook on Sunday, and got a pretty nice response. Of course, there were a few questions about "What that hell...?", so I thought I'd post a few bullet points about this:

  1. I've got a long history with Kurzweil/V.A.S.T. synthesis - going back to my tutorials on the very early version of the Internet. You can still find them if you Google around - this is a link for one example.
  2. I kind of hate most of the keybeds out there: they either are mushy junk or lack any substance at all. The Kurzweil keybed (I'm sure it is an OEM, but I've not really found another like it) is substantive, but klacky in a good way. I like it.
  3. I've got a long history with electro-mechanical keyboard, and all of it is bad. Terrible Rhodes, an out-of-tune Clavinet, a Wurli that wouldn't keep its legs on - and only crap spinet pianos. But I've always loved the sounds of 'em, and I've got limited space in a relatively small house. So a good ROMpler is in order - especially one with good recordings of the above.
  4. But hey, why limit myself to a ROMpler? The primary answer is the immediacy of it. But what if I want to add some goodies - like some Single Sample Waveforms, or maybe some fart noises from my modular? The new Kurz's not only allow you to add samples, it will store them on-device during power cycles. That should be good, right?
I'm not leaving behind anything else (well, except for ... nevermind), but I'm adding this to the pile. The synth engine it pretty powerful, and I'm hoping I can have some fun with the sound design aspects without getting sucked into playing My Tribute To Toto's Africa for hours and hours...


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Exposure: Just This

Yes, I'm a fan of Scanner. But more than than, I love that he is willing to put idiots onto the public record. If you haven't already encountered his 'Exposure' railings, here's the best way to present it:

Couldn't be more perfectly said...


Monday, September 24, 2018

A Retrospective: In Real Time

My friend, co-Masters student and collaborator Kimberly Zahler did a great write-up of a dance/media/music piece we did called In Real Time. It was the pinnacle of my (late life) student work, and an incredible experience. It is also the first time that I worked with a dancer (in this case, Katie Elliott from 3rd Law Dance), and was the start of a collaboration with the late, great Jim LaVita.

Kim was amazing to work with; her talents were different-but-compatible with mine, and we were both focused and hard-working. The end result was a wild piece where "who is leading, who is following" is constantly questioned, and the whole thing is quite an eyeful.

That was the kickoff of a lot of great things that I've done. Alas, Kim and I aren't in contact anymore (my fault...), and I've moved far away from 3rd Law, so I'm not working with them, either. But I still have my board:

It's on the shelf in my living room as a constant reminder of great things we do in collaboration that could never have been done by oneself.


Monday, September 10, 2018

A Tasty EBay Snag

For my 'mini' system, I like using miniature keyboards - things like the KeyStep, QuNexus and the like. But I also like keyboards that have real pitch and mod wheels. Most of those only have USB connection, and I'm not up for buying an old creaky Oxygen 8 or something. So it was time to do a little ebay dumpster dive for something to help.

And, alas, I found someone selling a bare MIDI host board for cheap-ish, and with a Make Offer option. Made a low (but fair...) offer and won it. Got it on Friday, and screwed it into the table this morning.

Works like a champ. Doesn't work with my Korg, because it has a built-in USB hub. But for my Worlde and MIDIPlus MIDI devices, no problemo. Winner, and no extra boxes sitting on the damned desk!

It's the guts out of this:

Available here:

Happy as a clam...


Monday, September 3, 2018

Oh Dear: Uncovered after all this time...

image: 20091105 Belfort (0013).jpg by Donar Reiskoffer

This is a nightmare scenario for me: I did a podcast interview, about a topic that was going to be timely, and with a person that I came to really like. It was in the middle of a storm of other interviews, and I dropped the ball - I forgot to properly name the file, so it was in a big stack of time-stamped file names. When it came time to edit for production, I couldn't find it anywhere and I assumed it had been lost.

Well, this weekend, I was cleaning up the drive on the system and came across a weird little folder with a few time-stamped files in it. A quick listen and - what do you know! - there's the missing file!

I'm hoping it isn't going to sound horribly out of date, but I'm on it, and am hoping to get this up very soon!


Sunday, August 26, 2018

And again ... the Best Octatrack Tutorial is ...

... Thavius Beck's "Elektron 203" tutorial on I watched this before my OT Mk2 came it and it helped me get ready, but I took the time this weekend to run through it again. A "beginner's mind" approach, you dig? And it hit me again - for all of the YouTube surfing I'd done to try to become more comfortable about this box, it's this MPV video that works for me.

Thavius Beck, the longtime Ableton Live and Bitwig demo dude, combines his natural laid-back delivery with a beautifully-organized walk-through of the device - and of making it work for a reasonably experienced producer-type of person. He never talks down, always enlightens and really drew me in as a fan with this tutorial. Working with the OT is part of my 'daily practice' (which some of you might have heard about on my recent Podular Modcast episode), having something like this MPV video as a learning tool is a fantastic resource.

Thanks Thavius! (Ooh - I need to get him on the podcast, right?)


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Why The Norns?

So - it's not really modular, it's not an MPC, why get into the norns world? It is a pretty easy choice for me - because of a few things that were done brilliantly in this device:

  • Despite being a Raspberry Pi in sheep's clothing, it doesn't feel like a Pi - or anything else that would be draped in big, primary-color educational world. It feels like an electronic music instrument, and that changes my approach to the thing. It feels right - like everything that comes out of the monome labs.
  • It's got just enough, and not too much. Three encoders, three buttons. A 128x64 screen. Two inputs and two outputs. But four USB jacks means it can be extended to hell-and-back (but doesn't need to be), and the included USB networking nub means that I can attack it from anywhere.
  • It's battery-powered, which is becoming more important to me at each turn. It can be played on the back porch, charged up on the iPod station in the living room, and ready to go when I have to do that darned Wisconsin run.
  • The scripting programming language (Lua) is extended with some smart libraries by the monome crew, and many of the subtle edge cases all seem to be done right. I spent a little time this morning (woke up at 4am, so I had some personal time...) working with MIDI, and it had a minimal library that just worked to plan. I love it when that happens.
  • The backing engine is all Supercollider, which sounds a lot different than any of the instruments I'm currently using. A nice addition to my system.
All these things lead me to a system I not only love, but I look forward to working on. I'm enjoying Lua (in fact, it got me to fire up the implementation for some Max experimentation, and to buy a nice little book on Lua. Not everyone is going to look as a scripting language as a anchorpoint for fun, but it is for me.

I'm loving it, and finding myself already making some music with it - one week in. I have yet to dive into MLR very much; I'm hoping to do so this weekend. In any case, there's my view of it; I hope it can help inform you!


Thursday, August 16, 2018

One Simple - but intriguing - Voice

I don't always need the biggest voice possible - sometimes I just need a thing to follow along with the Teletype's burblings, or a third voice for squeaky noises, or just a simple melody line. I recently got an ALM MUM M8 filter, and ran across a good deal on a Braids - and was trying to wedge them into my system. I was mapping things out on Modular Grid when, low and behold, I realized that (with the built-in VCA) I had the better part of a synth voice with these two modules.

Given that I could situate them near a Maths, it was a no-brainer to give it a try - and what success! The MUM is based off the digital filters of Akai samplers, and it's a really appropriate match for the digital voicing of the Braids. This is especially true when I use some of the weirder voices of the MI oscillator (like the RING, FOLD or VOSM voicings) as well as with the FM implementations. The bright and raw sound of the M8 matches perfectly, and I'm finding myself using it as more than my 'third leg' - instead, it's becoming a peculiar (but useful) primary voicing choice.

So there you go - sorta the opposite of the analog purity of a modular, and more like the digital inevitability that I was going to succumb to! Yet another sweet+sour corner of my system. Whee!


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Getting swing/shuffle from a Maths (alone)

My friend/colleague Ben Casey asked a question on Facebook about getting a little swing out of his Maths. At first, I thought that it would need some external switching and stuff, then I realized that it could all be done internal to one Maths.

We will be doing a little wiring:

We'll be using both envelopes of the Maths to pull this off, with the EOC output of the channel 4 (the second envelope) providing the swinging clock source we need. Here's the walk-through (starting off un-wired):

1. Turn on the Cycle mode of channel 4 to ON (cycling), and use the EOC output to trigger something that you can hear.

2. Set the Rise time of channel 4 to zero, and use the fall time to set the interval for your trigger output. Find something that ticks along at a speed that you like.

3. Turn off the Cycle mode of channel 1 (if it happened to be on...).

4. Take the unity output of the channel 4 envelope and run it to the trigger input of channel 1. Channel 1 should now be ticking along in parallel with channel 4.

4. Set channel 1's fall time to zero, and set the rise time to be longer than one of the channel 4 cycles. You should see the channel 1 output LED blinking at half the rate of channel 4 (i.e., every other cycle).

5. Patch the channel 1's EOR output into the channel 4 fall CV input. You shouldn't hear much difference.

6. Now slowly bring up the channel 1 fall time control until you start hearing some swing. You might need to play around with channel 1's rise time to get things just right - but if you've got it together, you should here it start loping along...

Here you can hear me go from straight time, to swung time - to something even odder...

How does this work? We are using the fact that a Maths won't recycle during the rise period to act as a clock divider, so we treat every other cycle differently. We then take advantage of the pulse-wave-like output of the EOR output of channel one to make one of the clock ticks have a long fall time, and the other have a shorter fall time. With a little tweaking, it can give us all kinds of different timing functions (for example, in the audio above, I start extending the channel 1 rise time until it is dividing the clock by 3, 4 and more - then tweaking the channel 1 fall time until I get something interesting).

Hope you find this useful!


Sunday, July 22, 2018

New case update

Popped a regulator in the ol' Tiptop Station 252 again last weekend, and was really depressed. Jumped on Modular Grid and put my system up, turns out I was trying to power 1.5A of modules with a 1.2A power system. The 252 was obviously designed for a different era of modules, and my digital bombers, scopes, multi-envelopes and noise makers seemed to be too much for it.

So I had to make a different move than just fixing it, and I've really liked the mini Pittsburgh case I have for the work-modular, so I popped for the Structure EP-270 case. It was a little bigger than the 252, but had this Arp 2600 vibe that looked good, and it had plenty of juice to power the pile-o-modules.

Got it in last week, made up a new layout and loaded it up. Loving it so far: everything works perfectly, it's attractive and fits easily into my smallish studio space. But I'm surprised at how well the upright/tilted layout is working for me. First of all, it makes for a good work environment for dealing with the Monome Teletype; I can set the keyboard in front of it, and it make programming super-simple. But the whole layout also seems to put everything in front of my face, and I'm finding that I'm patching differently from what I was doing with the 252.

I didn't expect that, but maybe I should have. Layout matters, as does accessibility. Not nearly as portable as the 252 (I'm not even gonna thing about airlifting this anywhere...), but certainly a great fit for me, and I couldn't be happier!


Friday, July 20, 2018

... and Think Of The Queen ...

I'd gone through and eliminated all of the Adobe from my life - or so I thought. Alas, on the Mac, there is simply nothing as good as Adobe Audition for the kind of dialog editing that is a major part of my life. The cut-crossfades are impeccable, the hard limiter is brutally perfect, and the editing tools work exactly the way my hand wants to work.

On Windows, Sound Forge does this for me. But on the Mac, it's got to be Audition. But I really wish I could just buy it.

Anyway - I'm back to it after playing around with Sound Forge/Mac, WaveEdit, Acoustica and almost anything else I could try out. But here you also get to see my everyday tools for audio work. Do those icons look familiar? Can you name the "Big Nine" that get the most attention from me?


Friday, July 13, 2018

Did I Already Mention This?

Not sure if I mentioned this before, so I'll yap-it-up. I've been diving into waveshaping lately, using the shapers in the Make Noise DPO, and also using this new module: the Origami waveshaper by Delta Sound Labs. Ricky Graham turned me onto this, and apparently it is based off the kind of waveshaping that Easel people would understand.

I've been having a great time CV controlling the single control: the simplicity of the module belies its the complexity of sound. I've been pounding attenuated S&H randoms into the control, and it brings everything alive in a beautiful way (and is especially useful with the Pittsburgh oscillator sitting beside it).

It's reasonably priced at a buck-twenty ($120), and is probably the easiest way to enter the waveshaping game that I can imagine. Cheers!


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Modular at the Cellular Level

This week's AMT podcast is with Guy Ben-Ary, a dude that is working at SymbioticA (at the University of Western Australia) - an art-research lab that is focused on biological art. In Guy's case, this means working with biology to create sonic art pieces, his most recent being the cellF project.

One of the things that I found fascinating during our discussion was that he is using a custom-built modular synth system that is created by Perth-based Andrew Fitch, creator of the Nonlinear Circuits modular devices. His work has always been fascinating to me (and to others - there is a long thread about it on the Lines community board right now), and it seems like he put together some wicked tools for Guy's cellF project.

But the other thing that I took away from my interview was that - against all expectations - this system is not 'computer-managed'. I assumed that a computer would gather cellular data and massage it into some sort of artistic result. Rather, through some basic electrical amplification, the cellular activity is directly influencing the modular synth, without any kind of digital manipulation. As Guy described in the podcast: cell systems work similar to modular synths, so why not directly interface the two?!?

This was a fascinating talk, and I came away with an education. Thanks to Guy for opening such an incredible door for us all!


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Third Time's a Charm?

Those who know me know my rule of three: before something becomes embedded in my rig - or gets tossed away forever - it gets bought and sold three times. My modular is almost completely that way, and I've done that with the MPC. Well, this is Elektron Octatrack #3 (this time in the new Mk II outfit), and it is so-far going well.

What's different? Maybe it's that I'm still using the MPC (daily), so I'm not trying to shoehorn the OT into the MPC territory. Maybe because I don't have a gig staring me in the face, so I can work with it at my leisure. Certainly it's that the highly-illuminated trigger buttons, much-improved labeling and nicer graphics make it easier to approach.

Right now, it's the mixer and effects processor for my modular (in-studio), although this week is "more work on flex machines" week. I'm hoping that I'll be gig-ready by the end of the summer, and that I won't have freaked out on it like I have in the past.



Monday, May 28, 2018

Dino Live Sampling System

My friend Dino J.A. Deane (interviewed here) has been working on a method for live sampling with the Akai MPC Live. People that know me know that - in addition to an obsession with "AllThingsModular", I'm also a huge MPC-head. I also like live sampling, so this is perfect fodder for me.

Check out his walk-through on his blog, and check out the results here:


Friday, May 25, 2018

Even More Happy!

You know what this means? Yup, power supply all fixed up. Huge thanks to Gur (at Tiptop) for getting me the DC1200 needed for the repair, and for Joe Novak (of Midwest Modular) for adding it to an order and getting it to me in a hurry - and not charging for any of the shipping! Also thanks to everyone out there that jumped in to help; it was gratifying to get so much help and support.

Back into it again!


Monday, May 21, 2018

My Turntable is Going To Be So Happy...

Alas, this came in the mail today. It's my support reward for backing the Indiegogo campaign behind Subotnick: Portrait of an Electronic Music Pioneer. I really know what I'm going to be doing this evening...


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sign up, now...

So, if you haven't been auto-signed to Suit's newsletter, you are really missing out. I got auto-signed by having bought modules from him in the past; I would normally take issue, but these things are pure gold. The most recent talks about innovative uses of the Novation Circuit, a deal on some modular gear, a shout-out to Chicago artist Wesley Groves and a look back on a live show from 2012.

It was exactly what I needed to see on a overly-hot Portland day. You might be able to sign up at the bottom of his page (; I'm guessing that's the same thing - and if it is, you won't regret it.

Thanks Suit - and great work!


Friday, May 11, 2018


There is no worse feeling than looking at your power bus and seeing the 12V line down on the Station 252's power backplane. Now I have $4K of modules sitting in a box, phone calls to everyone I know that might be able to help, and a sinking feeling that I'm going to be spending some money.

That'll teach me to be hacking around with my performance modular. Dammit.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Getting IRritated...

Dafna Naphtali just posted a question about an affordable IR reverb that would be less pricey than Altiverb. I agree with many of the posters that stated that Altiverb is worth every penny - it's an amazing piece of software. But I've needed to do the budget IR thing in the past, and also sometimes want a lighter-weight plug-in that still gives me decent flexibility.

For that, I turn to Liquidsonics' Reverberate2 (shown above). This is a sweet little IR reverb with tons of controls, but is relatively light-weight on my MacBook, integrates with all of my software equally well, and is very accepting of even my weirdest IR files (thanks, Spirit Canyon - wherever you are!). This actually has a nice place in a few of my Max-based performance rigs, and is a great alternative to overuse of the Valhalla reverb - something I could easily be accused of doing.

Give it a try!


Friday, May 4, 2018

A New Playground

I've been playing around with a groovy new playground - the V3 Snyderphonics Manta, and the MantaMate. I've just started working with this, and am having a blast. I've always been a fan of the Manta, but the new V3 is beautiful, feels great and is solid as a rock.

But it's the MantaMate that is the shocker. I'm just starting to scratch the surface, but I can lose hours with this thing. I mounted it in the mini-modular that I use for work, and it works really nicely as a front-end for the Pittsburgh Lifeforms SV-1. The built-in sequencer is really fun, and it works great as a hosting interface for my Arturia KeyStep. 

Listen this weekend for a chat with Jeff Snyder about the development of these things! OK - I've got to get back into it.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Six Months Ago...

Today, I was paging through some old photo-SD card, and ran across a set of images from six months ago. I was in Europe post-Loop Conference, and spent a few days (with my friend and co-worker Gregory Taylor) in Paris. While there, I met up with another co-worker, Manuel Poletti, for a tour around IRCAM. It was an amazing experience.

I mean, for people like me, this is the equivalent of returning to ones homeland; so many of the tools I user for my personal sonic expression either came from IRCAM, was made useful there, or was first provided on affordable computers by technicians there. It was amazing to walk through the halls, peek into the anechoic chamber (pano view above...), check out the under-construction concert hall or sit in the 60-speaker mixing system. I came away with a major bit of inspiration with the work that they are all doing.

I'm looking forward to my next visit, but in the meantime, I can still bask off the glow of that visit. Just thinking about it makes me want to fire up Modalys...


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cleaning House (sales venues...)

So, the ol' corner-of-the-room that is my studio has been getting a little swamped with gear, and it was time to let the second-stringers move to new homes. I have to admit: I'm not much for 'extra gear'; when I have it, it seems to give me a level of stress that isn't useful at all. So I'm shooting off a few things for sale, and I thought I'm describe my experience with the three major places to see (at the moment).

Facebook Marketplace: This is the friendliest place to sell, and generally when I post something up for sale, I get a lot of likes, thumbs-up and smilies. What I don't get is many sales. It seems like, unless I'm promoting a fire-sale, it takes forever for something to move via Facebook. And it never sells without a lowball offer starting the discussion. The only good side? I can limit the sales to locals (my Twin Cities Synth Meet group), so at least a friend will get the bargain. Grade: C+ Kind of the new kid on the block, a lot of people are pretty happy with this one. I just started using it, and it is pretty seamless. So far, I've sold two things, and have yet to see my money - they don't pay until the package has been deemed delivered, which kind of makes you a little concerned unless you buy the shipping label from them. The listing and sell-through process was pretty painless, although the process had its opaque moments. The jury is still out, but so far, it gets a... Grade: B You know it, you probably don't love it, but it works - eBay is where stuff moves. It's gotten so much easier to list, the tracking information during the sale period (views, follows) is great, and when something sells, you get paid right away. Downsides? You'll get attempted scammers: most often it will look like "Hey, that thing doesn't work..." - hoping you'll say "Ugh, just keep it, and I'll refund the money." I found that if you ask people to ship the item back, you'll generally get a message that says "Ooh! It started working again! Nevermind!"

Oh, and the fees. <sigh>

One key on eBay: don't do a "Best Offer" option, 'cuz you'll never get your price. Just set a price and forget about it - it will eventually sell. Do take advantage of the Worldwide Shipping thing (where you send it to a drop spot, and they send it on from there) - half of my sales sell through that process. Generally, a great place to sell, but painful to deal with the kinds of sellers that live there. All-in-all... Grade: B-

And... what about Muffwiggler BST? Lots of sellers, very few buyers unless you are in fire-sale mode. Also, they stopped auto-pruning the listings, so don't be surprised if you occasionally get that "Hey, do you still have that Vermona QMI?" message about something you sold three years ago. I don't even bother to sell there anymore, and only go fishing as a buyer if I really want to bargain hunt. Grade: D

So there you have it - a graded scorecard. That's fun, right? And such good clickbait...


Sunday, April 22, 2018

OMG - Repairing The Boomerang!

In the different approaches I tried for recording w/o computing, I gave the ol' Zoom R16 a try. It didn't really work for me, mainly because it had no viable (for me) sync function, and the split 8x8 mixing scheme ended up seeming like more work than it was worth. So I sold it off...

... and it came back. The new owner claimed that the inputs were scratchy (something that I'd never experienced), and I gave him his money back. I set the unit on the shelf and didn't give it a second thought. Last week I started cleaning my studio and clearing things that I don't use out the house. I thought "Well, I might as well figure out what is wrong..." and started experimenting. It turns out that everything is fine until you turned up the level on channel 5 - where it would start making all kinds of crappy noise. If you plugged a cable in and out a few times, it would quiet down, but it would start making noise again whenever you plugged anything into any of the other inputs.

That rang a bell for me, so I got out the tools and cracked 'er open. The R16 has an board specific to the back-panel jacks; it is connected to the main board with a number of flag plastic ribbon-like cables. I lifted up the board, reset all of these ribbons into their slotted receptacles, and bolted it back together.

And it works perfectly now.

Up for sale on eBay if you are in need. But it was a good reminder - internal cables are the locale of so many problems; always look to them as your first source of trouble.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

An Ode to Roads

OK - there are some books that have to be read a page at a time, completely digested, then put into practice. That's what Mille Plateaux was, and that's where I am with this one. My second time through, and it's just as inspiring as the first time. Curtis keeps on nailing it. (It's really nice that it is now available in paperback, so much less expensive than it was...)


Sunday, April 15, 2018

An All-in-One Treat

Someone just did some dirty work for us. The Synth Secrets series, one of the great bits of synth literature every produced, has been compiled into a single PDF file that is pretty perfect for hauling around on your iPad or something. I'm sure this isn't what Sound On Sound would prefer, but it's great to have, and you might want to grab it while the getting is good:

When the link doesn't work anymore, you'll be on your own...


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We Have A Winner [???]

Synthesizer Blogs

I got a funny email today that told me this blog had been chosen as a Top 40 Synthesizer blog. Quite honored, I thought. So I went to the site (hoping against hope that it wasn't some sort of Russian pr0n site) and found that I had, in fact, cracked the top 40.

Alas, they didn't even have 40 - they only had 36. And this blog was #36. So there's that...

But it was kind of an interesting scroll; I'm sure most of those people (except for Mosher and the Synthtopia folks) had never heard of me - but I'd never heard of them, either. So it gave me something new to swirl around in, and I had a little fun with it.

So enjoy your time here on our Award Winning site, and check out the Feedspot Top 40 (erm, Top 36) synth blogs to add some spice to your life - sans Russian creepiness, I think!


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Benjolin - plugged and rolling...

Maybe hard to tell in the sea of silver, but the Benjolin is seated in The Place Of Cool Shit, bottom row of the Station 252. Using it for an album project as we speak. Back to it now...



Thursday, April 5, 2018

More Single Cycle Madness

Tom Hall has come through with another SCW video, this time showing off some new options (like the Randomize and 2 Second Render) of the Single Cycle Waveform Editor while creating a tasty drone machine out of his Digitakt. Sounds so good...


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Tipping Point

Ever since I did the podcast interview with Rob Hordijk, I've been dying to have some of his gear in my little studio. I was working myself up into a lather over the Benjolin (particularly the pre-built one, available from my friends at CTRL-MOD) when I came across this video by Duplan.

This is what I've been working on patching, but it gobbled up most of the synth. Adding it (with just a little help, and a bit of processing) seemed like the kind of a thing that can help make a gig - or a session.

On the way. Oh dear.


Monday, April 2, 2018

Musicians in Studios getting Creative

Musician/producer Jamie Lidell is offering a glimpse into the amazing - chatting with other musicians and digging deep into their background and process. Sound familiar?

Jamie really brings an interesting view on the thing - from his long history with Warp records, to the amazing people that he interviews, these podcasts are chuck full of great information (and production tips, too). This week, Jamie is talking to Andrew Sarlo, and they end up talking a lot about A/R hellholes, productions mess-ups and Breklee school hacks. They also obviously dig each others work, and the result is a pretty amazing bit of work.

Love this podcast; available on Soundcloud and on Apple Podcasts. Check it out above!


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

And in the meantime...

I've been obsessing about overdrive/distortion pedals lately - for the modular. I really like the kind of rich tones that people like Tom Hall get on their tracks; since I know Tom Hall, I could ask Tom Hall! He pointed me to a few different things, but suggested the Mega Distortion MD-2 for one specific feature: the 'Bottom' tone control. He points out that most distortion pedals razz up the sound but bleed away the low end - not what you'd really want for a synth tone.

Apparently, the Mega Distortion was made for Sunn O)))-like dark doom sound, which also happens to work nicely for the warm enveloping tone that I like coming from my synth. Spent some time with it yesterday, and it's a complete winner. Oh, and $20 on Craigslist! (Thanks to the anonymous dude who was so kind - they normally go for a bit more.)

Best sawbuck I've spent on the modular in ages!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Eurorack Mount - Ordered (check!)

I picked up a Koma Field Kit from a local dude a few weeks ago, and have had a little fun with it - it came with the 'expansion' kit and a bunch of springs, but I need to have it integrate more with the rest of the modular - to make it more 'wacky'. All of the stuff I did as a standalone was a little 'meh'.

It's not like I couldn't figure out how to make something less 'meh', but I realized that I'd put it on the shelf because I wasn't having fun. But really, a radio, LFO, envelope follower and mixer should provide me with plenty of fun, right? I think that I just need to embed it in the modular so that it can have a little interplay with the rest of the modules.

So I ordered the Eurorack plate for it, and hope to have it play a role. Not sure which role - or maybe just a new role - but maybe this will open the door to fun, right? Since I have an OK power supply in my rig, it should be good unless I start driving motors with it (or something). I'll try to keep it sane, and let y'all know about it once I find out more.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

One million wha?

It's a little hard to believe, but yesterday the download count on the Art + Music + Technology site went over 1,000,000. That's one million downloads, which represents a lot of human time spent listening to my croaky voice talk to some of the amazing people in the art and music technology worlds.

Thanks to everyone that listens, and special thanks to my friends at, Cycling 74, Ableton and 20 Objects for their help in making this happen. Now to snag the next million!


Friday, March 9, 2018

The Weekend's Work!

Alas, this weekend is going to feature some quality time with a modular oddity: the Monome Teletype. Featuring some of the most cryptic programming imaginable, the Teletype pushes my programmer's brain in really interesting directions, and I ended up with code that is substantially different than I do on any other platform.

I recently got a TXI input expander for it, and I'm going to implement a multistage sequencer/recorder; I've long been using something like this on the Ardcore, but I now want to start implementing it on the Teletype. I'd had problems doing this in the past due to limited numbers of CV inputs; the TXI makes it possible, now, to do what I want.

So into the rabbit hole I go!


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Oh dear! We've made it now!

Very excited today - we made's front page! Already seeing a big addition to the activity on the site, and lots of new waveforms being generated. Huge thanks to the folks at Synthtopia for their help spreading the word...


Saturday, March 3, 2018

A little more info - Single Cycle Waveforms

My friend Tom Hall has put together this little intro video for the Single Cycle Waveform editor, available from this link:

Feel free to check it out, take a gander at the video, and make yourself some samples. Note: I just added a 'randomize' function that gives you the ability to passively scan your way through some crazy sample sounds.



Friday, March 2, 2018

Randy Writes - Musings from Madrona Labs!

Randy Jones (from Madrona Labs, developer of my favorite softsynth: Aalto) makes a welcome appearance at a great website: In this article, he talks about the history of expert-focused user interfaces - with a number of examples that might surprise (and hopefully intrigue) you. Buchla and Haken make appearances, but so does the Canon Cat! This is an interesting and thought-provoking article, and worth reading whether you work on user interfaces, or just use them (or create them using modular systems).

Check it out!


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Poor Video - but Interesting Demo...

Sometimes good ideas go south; in this case, I did a quickie video for the SQ-1 Soft Hacking article I did for Cycling '74 (, but the image quality was far south of our expectations. So we went with still images for the article, but I thought you might get a kick out of seeing it in action.

Messing around with the timing systems really made for a fun alternative course for the SQ-1, and I had a lot more fun doing it this way vs. running it straight.

Enjoy, but don't judge me on my videos...!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Alas, A Sequencer, And A Silver Box

The old school Bass Bot TT-303.

Saw this on the local Craigslist, and tossed and turned over picking it up. My friend Tom Hall pushed me to do it - especially at the offer price. Places like RA raved about it, and I had a 303 back-in-the-day that I quite enjoyed (although I would have liked a little more useful I/O). So along comes the chance to pick this up, with its MIDI I/O, it's CV/Gate outputs for the modular, it's quirky editing style along with its updated 'generative' OS - and I went ahead and bought it.

I've been playing with it for the last week or so, and I've been plugging it into the Tiptop modular for sequencing fun. Totally weird, and totally lovely. The InstaDJ OS that they developed for this thing is a blast, and is a real dice game during performance - you will get something related to the 'personality' of the slots where you gen new material, but it'll often take you by surprise.

In many ways, this is the 303 I really wanted back in 1996, and it cost me about a third of what I paid back in 1996, and I'm thinking that I'm going to hang onto this for a while...


Friday, February 16, 2018

The Dude's Crushing It

Walker Farrell is crushing it on Bandcamp ATM. His series of archival releases are really beautiful, and are coming at a furious rate. I've been enjoying them - and I suggest that you try 'em out; his work is all over the EM scene, and draws you in by being sneaky-smart.

I interviewed Walker a while back, and it was a great talk. Combining that interview with a load of new listening is a real treat...


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The 'Rang Is Back!

It's back 'In The House' (I found one and bought it...), and it's just about to be available again for purchase! After a bit of a disturbance in The Force, the Boomerang III Phrase Sampler is back in production, and new versions should be shipping soon.

I have tried virtually everything in the market - both hardware and software - and haven't found anything as inspiring as this beast. Simple functionality for either sync'd, unsync'd or serial modes, straight-forward setup of bonus functions, and a non-visual UX that keeps you focused on the music rather than the Big Lights.

I'm really glad they are making these again. Now, if I could just find where they stashed the updated firmware, I'd really be in business. Until then, I'm just going to loop. Until then, I'm just going to loop. Until then...


Friday, February 9, 2018

So I Made A Thing...

Here's a quickie video of a little waveform generator I created. I'm a big fan of single cycle waveforms, and was always a big fan of the Adventure Kid Waveforms. But when I got my MPC Live, I wanted to have my own waveform builder, and I reached back into my ancient box of goodies, and reanimated some of the functions that I'd put into the ol' Wave256 editor I created for the Wiard Modular Waveform City.

This one is better in a lot of ways: I have a working undo chain (with a few bugs to iron out yet...), and better mix-in wave handling. You can also choose the number of samples per cycles - and you can render either a single waveform, or a two-second sample of the waveform looped.

If you want to give it a try, check it out at:

Thanks to my sheetsofsound friends (Andrew and Tom) for their help in getting this to the point where it is. Many plans for the future (can you say wavetables?), but let's get this one cleaned up first!


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Shaking things up...

Well, I guess I had to do it. I'd gotten too complacent about my rig, and especially the 'just plug in the MIDI and wail' aspect of it. Time to shake things up! First up: I ditched the MI Yarns (since I never use the MIDI recorder, and I always want more gates...) and picked up this little thing: the cv.ocd MIDI-to-CV converter.

It's a cool little standalone device that gives me loads of flexibility. It doesn't sit in the rack, so I need to remember to take it along with me - but it also doesn't sit in the rack, so I don't have to dump other modules to make room for it! It is also ultra-flexible, with a Web-MIDI-based setup function that makes it a dream to configure for my needs.

I got it right before NAMM, and am just starting to play with it. But it seems like a home run to me!