Free MatrixBrute Sound Library From ExperimentalSynth’s Chris Stack

Arturia has shared a free sound library for the MatrixBrute, created by multi-instrumentalist and composer Chris Stack. … Read More Free MatrixBrute Sound Library From ExperimentalSynth’s Chris Stack

A report from the futuristic Continuum Fingerboard’s first Con

The 19th Century was the century of the piano. The 20th Century, for all its innovation, still saw the piano keyboard as the dominant interface for all those new sounds. But the 21st Century finally looks to offer some choice.

And so it’s high time for the Continuum Fingerboard to get its day. The instrument allows you to find pitch as you can on a piano keyboard, but with expressive continuous control both in pressure and position – letting you bend pitch and shape sound more fluidly. Now having inspired instruments like the ROLI Seaboard (and with ROLI raking in investment money), the Continuum earlier this month got its own festival/convention, called – of course – ContinuuCon.

And what a gathering it was. Electronic music instrument enthusiast Chris Stack (of has brought us a full report.

ContinuuCon saw the devoted following of the unique instrument. That included inventor Dr. Lippold Haken and Edmund Eagan, who built a synthesis engine to match (EaganMatrix, sounding like something mentioned on the engineering deck of the Enterprise on Star Trek). But since the event was held in Asheville, North Carolina, it also brought lush mountain scenery as backdrop and plenty of major American tech names – including the Bob Moog Foundation (since Dr. Moog brought his company to the town), as well as modular makers Make Noise – plus artists from as far away as India.

Overview film:

Now, none of this is relevant if you can’t play the thing, so let’s start with an introduction to playing techniques:

Here’s a look at the history of the instrument with the inventor – a must-watch for anyone delving into electronic instrument history or design and engineering of alternative instruments:

The Continuum is exceptional, but it’s not alone. So to appreciate continuous pitch-space instruments in the larger context, we can turn to Dr. Tom Rhea. If that name is vaguely familiar, Dr. Rhea was not only a former Moog marketing manager (as was our friend Chris), but also a Berklee professor — and he wrote the original Minimoog Model D users manual and it intimately familiar with the birth of the modern commercial synth.

Dr. Rhea walks us through that larger history. Yes, of course you’ll get Good Vibrations – but more than just that.

(Wow, this makes a nice companion to John Chowning talking about the birth of FM; we’re getting a proper history lesson in June.)

Speaking of history, with Tony Rolando of Make Noise in the house, of course we’re treated to a review of how the so-called West Coast and East Coast synthesis approaches are shaping up (named for the different modular approaches centered around Buchla and Moog systems):

The Continuum isn’t itself a standalone instrument; it becomes a playable object once combined with software. And you need something to make sounds worthy of the interface – something to exploit that ability to be expressive. So that makes the deep modular software that goes with the Continuum significant. Here’s a look, also from its creator:

The tendency toward the conventional 88-key keyboard and its descendants comes, of course, in part from musicians trained to play music that suits that idiom. So it’s nice to see Pallav Pandya, whose music bridges India (he was even a top player and band leader for Bollywood) and classical Indian music with Western music and jazz. His dream of a fretless keyboard is realized in the Continuum; here’s a short video of how he makes use of it:

The full lineup:

Performers, sound designers, composers and electronic music enthusiasts who attended ContinuuCon explored this uniquely expressive instrument through concerts, workshops, lectures and more. Dr. Lippold Haken, inventor of the Continuum, and Edmund Eagan, developer of the Continuum’s synthesis engine EaganMatrix, were among those sharing their knowledge and musical talents.
With sponsors including the Bob Moog Foundation and modular synthesizer manufacturer Make Noise, the event opened with a reception at the Make Noise Factory and included an evening concert, and a dinner (with multiple jam sessions) at Streamside.
ContinuuConcert performers included:

Rob Schwimmer (NYC) : – Composer-pianist/keyboardist, thereminist, vocalist and Continuum player who has performed and recorded throughout the world. He has worked with Simon and Garfunkel, Wayne Shorter, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Chaka Khan, Laurie Anderson, Bette Midler, Queen Latifah, and many more.

Edmund Eagan (CANADA) – Composer/sound designer for film and video. Award winning productions include a Canadian television Gemini award for the music in the animated production “The Woman Who Raised a Bear as Her Son”, a Gemini for CBC’s “The Health Show”, and Gemini nominations for the music in the film “Curiosities” and in the Man Alive documentary “Beyond Belief”. Recipient of multiple SOCAN awards in film and television.

Sally Sparks (ASHEVILLE) Sally’s interest in electronic music came early where her study of classical piano intersected with growing up in a NASA town full of rocket scientists (including her dad). She got her first synthesizer with the introduction of Roland’s SH-1000 and within a few years was playing a number of great instruments, including the highly expressive Yamaha CS-80. A more recent quest for even more expressive control of electronic instruments brought her to the Continuum. Today she works from her studio at Streamside Sound but occasionally ventures out for live performances in a variety of musical styles. Sally performs on Continuum in electronic music settings with Yonder (duo with Chris Stack) and Waveformation (with Chris, Greg Waltzer and Geary Yelton) as well as solo performances. She has recently been touring with Grammy winning acoustic duo Al Petteway and Amy White.

Pallav Pandya (INDIA) – Pallav Pandya is among the pioneers of Indian Style synthesiser sound design. He dreamed of a fretless keyboard at an early age as it was difficult to express “Gayaki” in keyboards. He has studied Jazz from Mumbai based American musician Dee Wood (Guitarist). Passionate for creating new sounds in synthesisers, his explorations took him to become the advisor in the design of Yamaha keyboards for Indian samples. Pallav has performed in 40+countries, was group leader for Bollywood Legend Sonu Nigam, and keyboard player for Asha Bhosle. He has played for Bollywood movies including “Rush” song Mumkin Nahi, film Hunter’s song Bachpan bhi tha, and many more.

Wayne Kirby (ASHEVILLE) Wayne attended Juilliard, where he pursued composition studies and was a student of New York Philharmonic double bassist Frederick Zimmerman and bass virtuoso Gary Karr. While at Juilliard, Kirby formed a rock group with singer/actor Deborah Harry (later of Blondie). After recording two albums on Capitol Records—and sharing the bill with Jimi Hendrix, Leslie West (Mountain), Traffic, Bette Midler, Spooky Tooth, Rhinoceros, et al—Kirby left the group to pursue work as a performer, composer, arranger and conductor in New York theater, television, and records. From the late 1960s until the early 1980s, Kirby wrote arrangements and conducted for television shows including the Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and Julie Andrews shows.

Cameras: Geary Yelton, Chris Stack, John Schwenk
Editing: Chris Stack
ContinuuConcert Visuals: Greg Waltzer
Special thanks to: The Bob Moog Foundation, Make Noise, Hong Waltzer, Lora Tannenholz, The Altamont Theater and all the ContinuuCon attendees and guests.

Plus, pictures:






All photos: Chris Stack.

The post A report from the futuristic Continuum Fingerboard’s first Con appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

Experimental Synth Jam – Sally Sparks and Chris Stack

Sunday Synth Jam: This video captures some of the recording sessions for the track Reaching Aleppo, from the album Xenography, by Chris Stack (Experimental Synth).  Technical Details: Sally Sparks on Haken Continuum, DSI Pro 2 and PianoTeq. Chris Stack on Moog … Continue reading

Sound Design With The Paul Vo Wand

At the 2015 NAMM Show, inventor Paul Vo (Moog Guitar) introduced the Wond String Exciter, a new device, designed to let you explore new ways of playing string instruments. Vo’s instruments explore the idea of ‘acoustic synthesis’ – using electronics to control … Continue reading

Watch iConnectAUDIO4+ Connect Absolutely Everything

I know you’ve been there. Somehow, even with a small assortment of gear, you find that you have exactly the wrong combination of plugs.

It’s actually even worse if you’ve bought into the inexpensive mobile music revolution. iPads are chock full of apps; little boxes like the KORG volcas can be great fun. But… the iPads don’t have any ports, and compact devices (including our own MeeBlip) often have just MIDI in to save space. And then there’s trying to clock everything.

That’s why I’m really excited by the promise of the iConnectAUDIO4+. (And I know from feedback, I’m not alone.) It’s an audio interface for one computer. It’s also an audio interface for two computers. It works with your iOS stuff. It does MIDI. It does USB hosting for all those gizmos that lack MIDI ports. And it’s still a multichannel audio interface with mic pres and four outputs – while remaining nicely portable. (Too many audio interfaces are limited to two outs.)

In fact, it does so much, that the review I’m working on won’t be done until next week. In the meantime, though, our friend Chris Stack of Experimental Synth has posted a lovely walk-through video.

What’s nice about this is that this gadget really did help Chris finish his record. And that’s something that resonates with me. When you’re struggling to find creative flow, the worst thing is having to stop because you realize you can’t actually plug something in.

Here’s what he writes:

I just finished my first album and am starting on the next. I just got an iConnectAUDIO4+ and it has become the “everything hub” of my studio, connecting computers and iOS devices, high-res audio, MIDI, USB, 5-pin MIDI, mics, instruments, speakers, headphones and more. The mic preamps sound great, iPad audio fed digitally into Logic and Ableton is pristine. The iConnectAUDIO4+ has really streamlined my music production workflow. The iConnectMIDI2+ made a lot of my first album possible and it looks like the iConnectAUDIO4+ is going to take my next album even farther.



Find Chris’ (lovely) album at:

And learn about the product at:

The post Watch iConnectAUDIO4+ Connect Absolutely Everything appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Experimental Synth’s littleBits + Koushion + Ableton Demo

Chris Stack, aka Experimental Synth, has been working on a series of videos exploring possibilities with the new LittleBits MIDI and CV modules. Stack says, “[In this video series] I was able to hook LittleBits into my DSI Pro 2, … Continue reading

Experimental Synth’s Chris Stack On The Art + Music + Technology Podcast

Multi-instrumentalist Chris Stack (, right, is featured in a new interview in the Art + Music + Technology podcast. Here’s what host Darwin Grosse has to say about the interview: Chris Stack is about as multiply-experienced as anyone you can … Continue reading

Hands on with Dave Smith Pro 2: “The Most Useful Synth I’ve Ever Played”

Synthesist Chris Stack has had his hands on a lot of gear – and a lot of it with the Moog Music moniker on it. But every chance he gets, he’s bugging me about how in love he is with the Dave Smith Pro 2, the richly-appointed, nicely-overpowered monosynth on steroids as we described it earlier this summer.

And he’s having a lot of fun, transforming it into a hybrid digital/audio “hub” – a sound source, but also a central brain for exceptional soundscapes.

And in Chris’ hands, I’m certainly convinced, as this beast sequences beautiful frontiers of noise and melody. Just like Chris, making us lust after a synth over the weekend. But, as this often comes up in comments, my interest is never in whether you have to have some particular bit of kit. To me, the fusion of musicianship and instrument building is always inspiring – it’s something we can take back to our own work, whatever we’re using. Here’s Chris on his summer fling with this synth:

The Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2 is the most useful synth I’ve ever played. I got to borrow one for a short while and it quickly became the central control and performance hub of my analog and digital gear. In addition to its great internal sounds, with four assignable CV Outputs (and four inputs!), it (much like the Moog Multi-Pedal) is able to lend new functionality to your older existing gear.

For example, a Moog Voyager sounds great but it has (for all practical purposes) no MIDI clock synced features. Pair it with a Pro 2, though, and you can control things like the Voyager’s filter cutoff, volume, pan, wave shape and more with the Pro 2′s clock-synced LFOs, step sequencer tracks, envelopes and a variety of other elements.

I had a lot of fun connecting to multiple synths, starting the sequencer, and tweaking knobs. This video does not go into minute detail on showing how I did all this. It is meant as a quick look at some amazing possibilities. Think of it more as an “inspirational” than a “tutorial”. I wish I had more time to explore applications of the the Pro 2 while I had it.

And more videos:

The post Hands on with Dave Smith Pro 2: “The Most Useful Synth I’ve Ever Played” appeared first on Create Digital Music.