this bird has issues

I was reading the other day on Stretta’s website that people often complain that music from modulars, at least that on YouTube and the like is too blippy-beepy-boopy and not actually “melodic” or something like that. I realized that I am almost always attempting to make something normal out of that which pours forth from my modular. SO in response I just set up a patch using the Plan B Model 10’s cycle input as the heart and pressed ‘record.’ This is one the more favoriter things I’ve eeked out of this machine.

Dance to it, kids.

Philadelphia/Ableton

For years and years I’ve lamented the lack of an organized group of electronic music nerds aficionados in Philadelphia. Basically, what I mean is, when I have an interest or a passion or a hobby, I like to hang around other people who like the same thing. I got hooked on mountain biking several years ago and in no small part the draw was this great group of guys who met every Saturday at 7am, rain or shine, hot or cold, and rode bikes. Same with music for me. I’m sometimes jealous of cities like New York and LA where it seems pretty easy to put together seminars, demonstrations, or just generally hang out and talk about this stuff.
My friend Tom, who teaches digital multimedia at The University of the Arts, and who kind of got me into electronic music in 2003, organized a group affiliated with UArts called SynthSIG (SIG = Special Interest Group). We’ve met six times now over the last eighteen months. Discussions have ranged from iPhone apps for making music to UArts’ old Moog Modular to a performance by musician Charles Cohen. We’d discussed at times seeing if we could get someone from Ableton to come in and talk about the program, or even help us set up a user’s group.
So last week I get an email from Tom that this is in fact taking place. The Ableton guys were looking to set up a group here and got in touch with Tom. The nerd in me is very happy right now.

If your’e into Live and you live within driving distance of Philadelphia, take the night off next Thursday May 6 and make your way to UArts in Center City. The info is in the image below. The link on the flyer is wrong, by the way. This is the correct Facebook link: http://groups.to/phillyableton

Here’s the info as a PDF flyer. Hang it up, give it to friends.

how kids draw synthesizers

I recently was asked to drop by the third-grade science class of a local elementary school and show off/explain my modular synth. The class was studying sound and it seemed like a perfect fit. Modulars are graphic, in that they have the shapes of the sound waves printed right there on the VCOs, and they are easy for kids to understand since everything is right there and accessible. This is opposed to, say, digital synthesizers where one knob might do eleven things and everything is hidden beneath multi-layered menus. The visit was a bunch of fun and as I expected the kids just loved pulling cables and turning knobs and hearing the immediate results. I’m sure that the subtleties of the way a four-pole filter resonates vs a vactrol filter was lost on them, but they seem to grasp some of the fundamentals.

In return for my visit, I later received a pack of thank-you cards that the class made. This is one of the perks of visiting schools (which I do often in my “real” job as a children’s book illustrator). Kids love writing and drawing thank-you notes. The cool part of these particular thank-you notes is that many of the students drew modular synths on their cards. Some of the drawings are fairly accurate representations, but most of them are more abstract. It’s wonderful to see what the kids took away from this — matrices of dots and lines representing the knobs, jacks and cables.

So here for your viewing pleasure, I’ve scanned my favorites. I posted a photo of the synth as it looked when I took it to the school at the bottom. Just to show what the kids were looking at.

100215_modular with seq02_006

a good Z8000 video

I’ve been planning to sit down and write a post about some of the new additions to my modular synth. One of these is the Z8000 sequencer by Tip Top Audio. It’s a matrix sequencer and while incredibly simple in concept and design, it’s incredibly rich and complex in practice and use. Just the two or so hours I’ve spent with it made my head spin, and I’ve been jotting down all sorts of patching ideas in my notebook when I’m away from the synth. One thing I’m really looking forward to working on is clocking the Z8000 with my Machinedrum’s triggers at different intervals and steps.
I acquired this sequencer with having seen only a couple of decent videos, and after reading a long thread on the Muffwiggler’s forum about it. Today I noticed a new video from Tip Top with Stretta putting the Z8000 through some paces, with a good explanation. Take a gander.

a new case

Just a show-off post. I’ve been switching a lot of modules out and mostly into the synth, and yesterday put it all in a new Mission 9 case by Monorocket. As I put it through its paces with my son Wilson, I took a bunch of pictures, of course. I also shot video of the breakdown and build-up which I expect to edit and post soon.

The pictures highlight two new modules as well, the Malekko/Wiard Noisering and the Flame Tame Machine.

the Monorocket Mission 9
one ring to rule them all
Tame Machine in the house
the Monorocket Mission 9