synthesis

Make Noise are turning a classic 1972 synthesis book into a video series

Even as modular synths make a comeback, the definitive work on the topic languishes out of print since its 1972 publication. But now, one synth maker is translating its ideas to video.

The folks at Make Noise, who have been one of the key makers behind Eurorack’s growth (and a leader in on the American side of the pond), have gone all the way back to 1972 to find a reference to the fundamentals behind modular synthesis.

“Where do I find a textbook on modular synthesis?” isn’t an easy question to answer. A lot of understanding modular comes from a weird combination of received knowledge, hearsay, various example patches (some of them also dating back to the 60s and 70s), and bits and pieces scattered around print and online.

But Allen Strange’s Electronic Music: Systems, techniques, and controls covers actual theory. It treats the notions of modular synthesis as a fundamental set of skills. It’s just now out of print, and a used copy could cost you $200-300 because of automated online pricing (whether anyone would actually pay that).

So it’s great to see Make Noise take this on – if nothing else, as a way to frame teaching their own modules.

And… uh, you might find a PDF of the original text. (I think most people read my own book in pirated form, especially in its Russian and Polish translations – seriously – so I’m looking at this myself as a writer and sometimes educator and pondering what the best way is to teach modular in 2018.)

I’m definitely watching and subscribing to this one, though – and this first video gives me an idea… excuse me, time to load up Pd, Reaktor, and VCV Rack again!

Allen Strange wrote the book on modular synthesizers in the 1970s. Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls. Unfortunately since the expanded 1982 edition, it has never been reprinted, and in today’s landscape where more people have access to modular synths than ever before, very few have access to the knowledge contained within. This video series will explore patches both basic and advanced from Strange’s text. Even the simplest patches here yield kernels of knowledge that can be expanded upon in infinite ways. I have been heavily influenced by Strange since long before I became a modular synth educator. Please share this knowledge far and wide. The first video in the series covers one basic and one slightly less basic patch using envelopes.

http://www.makenoisemusic.com

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Google Intros NSynth Super, An Open Source Neural Synthesizer

NSynth Super, made in collaboration with Google Creative Lab, lets you make music using new sounds, generated by the NSynth algorithm from 4 different source sounds. … Read More Google Intros NSynth Super, An Open Source Neural Synthesizer

Why You Can Never Have Too Many VCAs In Your Modular Synthesizer

While the most common use for VCAs is to control the volume of audio, they also have a myriad of uses for shaping the control signals in your patches. … Read More Why You Can Never Have Too Many VCAs In Your Modular Synthesizer

Creative Use Of Gates In A Modular Synthesizer

The video demonstrates using gates to rhythmically switch between parameter settings as determined by panel control and attenuators, add rhythm to drones and liven up sequences. … Read More Creative Use Of Gates In A Modular Synthesizer

How To Create A Hybrid Modular System With VCV Rack

Using an audio/cv interface, you can patch virtual modules in VCV Rack to hardware modules, to get the best of both worlds. … Read More How To Create A Hybrid Modular System With VCV Rack

How To Get More Funk Out Of Your Synth

Byron The Aquarius gives a quick demonstration on how to get more funk out of your synth. … Read More How To Get More Funk Out Of Your Synth

Making Pitches & Melodies Without A Keyboard On A Modular Synthesizer

The latest White Noises video takes a look at using generative techniques to make pitches and melodies on a modular synthesizer, without using a keyboard.… Read More Making Pitches & Melodies Without A Keyboard On A Modular Synthesizer

Buchla synth legacy secured, with new leadership, returning engineers

There’s renewed interest in his pioneering synthesis techniques. But now the future of Buchla’s hardware brand looks bright, too – under new management.

Don Buchla’s ground-breaking approach to electronic musical instruments has gotten a second lease on life, as a new generation has embraced making sound with modulars – and, for that matter, weird and experimental sounds generally. That’s meant that Don’s place not only in the history of hardware, but alongside the San Francisco Tape Music Center (and composers like Morton Subotnick and Pauline Oliveros) has found a growing audience.

Alongside that, the re-invigorated Buchla brand saw the re-launch of the Music Easel plus the debut of the new 252e Polyphonic Rhythm Generator.

It should have been Buchla’s return to glory. But it was marred by Don Buchla’s failing health, then financial troubles at Buchla Elecronic Musical Instruments, legal battles between Don Buchla and the new owners of the company he had founded, and finally the loss of Don Buchla himself.

There was no doubt Don Buchla’s legacy would live on – but would new Buchla instruments?

As of today, we have a much better picture for Buchla the brand. Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments (and the original Buchla & Associates) are no more. In its place, meet Buchla U.S.A.

On today’s nicely-binary January 11, Buchla U.S.A. LLC has announced it has purchased the former Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments and all its assets. The new company will be headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the leadership of CEO Eric Fox. Fox is also owner of Foxtone Music, the US distributor for Buchla, Dreadbox, Polyend, and Black Market.

More good news: Buchla U.S.A. will bring back two Buchla protégées, engineer Joel Davel, who worked alongside Don for over twenty years, and Dave Reilly, who the company describes as “hand-picked” by Don to manufacture new hardware.

The legal address is in Minneapolis, but design and manufacturing will remain in the Bay Area. So don’t worry – you aren’t going to have to start referring to “upper midwest synthesis.” (Well, not to describe this, anyway.)

Now, you know CDM is not in the habit of quoting press releases very often, but this one also comes our way from Marc Doty, history guru, synthesist, and friend-of-the-site, who now has a coveted new “@buchla” email address. And in that press release, we get this charming quote from the new CEO:

“With such an amazing legacy I am really excited about telling the story of Don and working closely with Joel and Dave to develop new products in the spirit of Don… and even revisiting/reimagining some of his designs that never actually made it out into the wild!” said Buchla U.S.A. CEO Eric Fox, about this historic purchase. “I hope to involve as many of the artists and people that inspired Don as possible, moving forward. We owe it to him and the generations of new users to give them a sense of what he was all about.”

So got that? New products, plus vintage designs that never saw the light of day.

That sounds good.

After over half a century, it seems the Buchla story isn’t over yet.

www.buchla.com

Buchla fans may still be waiting for Buchlafest, but you get Maestro Morton Subotnick at Moogfest. Photo (CC-BY) Ethan Hein.

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Get a kid to explain clock: Caitlin’s modular clock tutorial is must-watch

If The Mad Music Machine thought that getting young Caitlin in her Christmas crown to explain modular clock signals would grab attention … they were right.

Kids seem to have a natural affinity for synthesizers, after all – I know my love affair started early, and I didn’t have access to anything like this! And Caitlin’s video tutorial on signal is sharp, cheery, and to the point.

The idea: patching signal allows you to introduce time and rhythm to composition, here demonstrated on a Moog Mother-32 – a great place to start with modular concepts – and their Mutant Drums.

Within the modular paradigm, it’s also fun to subdivide rhythms – something musicians naturally do with beats, applied to the patch-and-plug metaphor. So they’ve also made use of the 4ms Rotating Clock Divider in the mix.

Good stuff – thanks, Caitlin!

And, of course, if you don’t have modular hardware nearby, now is a good time to mention our tutorial from last week, in which Ted Pallas shows you how to get up and running with VCV Rack. We present that tutorial without the assumption that you know how basic modules work in synthesis, so if you’re new to this, this can be a place to start:

Step one: How to start using VCV Rack, the free modular software

h/t Synthtopia

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Arturia’s Fairlight, Clavinet, DX-7, and Buchla Easel are each a steal

Arturia now offer these classic instruments individually – with another 50% off through January 10 – and have video tutorials to teach you how to use them.

Let’s have a big round of applause for democratization. There was a time when something like the Fairlight CMI was so out of reach, just owning one would probably land you some big gigs. Now, you can get software recreations that offer you the musical possibilities of these instruments, for the price of a nice date night.

We already had a look at the full update of Arturia V Collection 6 – basically, the software versions of a whole bunch of keyboard instruments and synths, plus tools for organizing and playing them.

The story here is, maybe you really just want the Fairlight, or just the Clav, or just the Buchla, or just the DX-7. Now those three instruments are available individually.

The Buchla story is especially interesting. Apart from getting the authorized stamp of approval, Arturia say they’ve gone component by component modeling the original Easel. And while full rack modulars are all the rage these days, it’s really the way the Easel distilled that sound into a single, integrated design give it a singular vision. It’s not just the “West Coast” idea in terms of signal flow: it’s a West Coast instrument.

Then, take the reboot from Arturia and its new features, and you get a relationship that’s a bit like Bob Moog’s reimagining of the Minimoog as the Minimoog Voyager. It’s authentic, but it’s also modern.

The overview video explains the basic idea:

But now there’s a tutorial series with Glen Darcey. (End of an era: Glen, who managed a lot of Arturia’s recent successes including the Beatstep and ‘Brute lines, announced early this month that he’s moving on to start a new brand. We wish him the best!)

Glen also takes us on a tour of the Fairlight CMI, the ground-breaking digital instrument that defined digital as we know it. I always admired the Fairlight’s unique interface and workflow, so this seems to me as much a chance to get your hands on that as the distinctive sounds it made:

Flashback: a few weeks back we featured Steve Horelick showing off the same hardware back in the early 80s. Steve here is speaking to kids (hi there!), but you might know his voice from his terrific Logic videos from our present decade.

The DX-7 sees a terrific recreation here, one that makes editing uncommonly accessible – just in time for FM to see a full resurgence:

Clav fans, there’s a tutorial series on that, as well (plus announcement video to give you the big picture):

Pricing: 50% off the individual instruments makes them each US$/EUR 99, through January 10 only.

The full version of V Collection is US$/EUR 399 (normally 499), same.

Upgraders: you’ll need to log in to see customized pricing.

More:

https://www.arturia.com/products/buchla-easel-v/overview

https://www.arturia.com/products/cmi-v/overview

https://www.arturia.com/products/dx7-v/overview

https://www.arturia.com/products/clavinet-v/overview

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