Another Time, Another Place

Several weeks ago I was asked by Marc Weidenbaum to take part in a remix project for Tablet Magazine, an online publication on Jewish art, life, and culture. The idea was to take Klezmer songs and remix them for Hanukkah. Originally he tried to get traditional public domain tunes, but when that proved too impossible, more recent songs were added to the mix. I was assigned a raucous number by The New Klezmer Trio entitled Thermoglyphics. I was curious by the choice, as my musical mind lies in a different place than this song goes, and since I work with a modular synth and a drum machine — a little less emotive than the great clarinet of Ben Goldberg in Thermoglyphics — I held my head in my hands for several minutes after taking a listen.
Going back a ways, I love Klezmer. Love. Klezmer. I took up the accordion back in 1999 specifically because I’m the gentile guy over there listening to Dave Tarras and the Klezmatics. If I’d had my wits about me and wasn’t so enthralled with robotic synthesizer noises right now, I might have picked out the melody on my accordion and messed with that as sampled audio. Alas, I instead programmed it all by ear using a sequencer in Ableton Live and making sounds with the synth (details below, if you’re into that sort of thing). I spent a few days climbing up the wrong tree, thinking could make things at sound at least somewhat organic. But it was one morning while walking the dog that I found myself whistling the main clarinet part of the original where I kind of had that Eureka moment. I switched on the sine wave in my oscillators, put the notes in through a slew-limiter, which controls the portamento, or slide between the notes, and hit “record.” The modular synth was also used for almost all the percussion sounds in my piece. The various tracks were mixed and arranged in Ableton Live, and after a couple of small revisions requested by Marc, it was finished. He describes it as “Eastern European android folk music” which I think is entirely accurate and slightly wonderful.

Here’s the track.

You can read more about it and listen to the entire album, plus an interview with Marc, on Tablet’s website.

For those with a more esoteric interest, the VCOs used are the uLFO and the Malekko Oscillator for the melody, detuned a few steps on the chorus parts. The percussion is almost all Hertz Donut noises, with one clickity coming from the Microtonic plug-in. Volta handled the procedure of converting the MIDI notes from Ableton to voltage to the modular. The slew-limiter is the Livewire Dual Bissell Generator.

not yet delayed

I’ve been loving my Boss DD3 delay pedal that my friend Greg gave me so much that I sold off some stuff I didn’t use or want, and got a Flight of Harmony Sound of Shadows module. Since this tune I’m posting here doesn’t use the delay at all, I won’t go into it much here. But while putting together some patches and sequences with which to test the SoS out last night, I stumbled across this little bit of goodness.
Basically it’s my two “normal” VCOs, the uLFO and the VCO6, sequenced by the Noisering. As I talked about in the previous posts, the EXT RATE knob is turned fully left so that while the CV output is random, the clock is straight. I’m sending the CV through a mixer to attenuate it a bit, then into a quantizer, then into my new Intellijel Buffered Mult, where I split it into two. With my previous unbuffered mults, this would have been less interesting because the signal would have dropped some. The buffer keeps that from occurring. Once it’s split, the sequence is piped into the VCO6 and the uLFO. The VCO6 is using the triangle wave, the uLFO is using its modified sine, with a LFO clocked every fourth beat adjusting that mod. That provides the slight buzz that rise each measure. The two VCOs are detuned, and it has a really nice organ feel. On some other patches I used a LFO to provide some wobble with the signals put through a filter which really added to that, but not here.
The result is quite pretty. The Noisering really knows how to sequence a bunch of random notes, and I’m loving that thing more and more. It’s random, but it allows so much control over that random. Oxymoronic, I know.

Enjoy. I’ll be posting actual results from several hours with the delay module soon. Including one that’s pretty similar to this.


Got a couple of new modules this week. The MFB Dual ADSR will replace the Doepfer A140. It’s got two ADSR envelopes, each with a “hold” state as well as the expected attack, decay, sustain and release. The envelopes can be triggered individually or together, and they each have two outputs. This is all great.
The Bubblesound uLFO is at its heart, as its name suggests, a low frequency oscillator. But it’s more than just that. It can go really really slow — something like 20 minutes per cycle — and it can be tracked at 1v per octave at audio rate, which basically makes it a secondary VCO. I’ve been wanting to learn more about FM synthesis and this is my first module that has a linear FM input. Both of my VCOs, Doepfer A110’s, only have exponential FM (at some soon point I plan to replace the 110s with a Cwejman VCO6 and a Harvestman Hertz Donut but they’re hard to come by right now).

uLFO and MFB dual ADSR

One funny thing about the uLFO. On Monday I noticed that the response of the SIne Shaped output seemed odd. This is a unique feature of the uLFO. It’s got a regular sine output but it’s also got a “shaped” sine, which basically creates what the Bubblesound website calls positive/negative biased non-linear triangles. The wave forms look like waves as drawn by a kid on one side, and bumps or the McDonalds logo on the other. However, I noticed that the shapes it created were the opposite from the icons indicated on the panel of the uLFO. I made a little movie to send to send to Bubblesound to make sure that I was hearing it right.

I posted this to the Muffwiggler forum, which got mixed replies. To make sure I wasn’t going nutty I ran the waves through my CueMix oscilloscope which proved that yes, I was hearing it correctly. Later, David at Bubblesound wrote and confirmed my observation. Regardless of this little quirk, this is a terrific module and I look forward to posting more here from the uLFO.