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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Synth Learning: “Tako Friday”

The soap-opera narrative of my modular synthesizer diary is me breaking up with and then getting back together again with my Soundmachines UL1 module. I think we finally committed to a long-time engagement last night. Season-ending episode.

This evening, to celebrate the 24-hour-versay of our vows, I ran a slow arpeggio of a series of electric guitar chords through the UL1, and through four other processing units.

Here’s more technical detail, as part of my modular diary, mostly for my own memory: All five of these separate processings of the guitar play simultaneously, though two are being gated, meaning you don’t hear them consistently. The UL1 is a lofi looper, and it’s the thing here being pushed into glitch territory. The UL1 is receiving a narrow, high-end band of the guitar signal, as filtered by the Make Noise FXDf. Another narrow band, also on the high end, is going from the FXDf straight out. A third narrow band, the highest of the trio, is going into a slowly clocked Befaco Muxlicer, the relative volume of the signal changing with each pulse. That same pulse is determining whether a fourth channel, the guitar through the Make Noise Erbe-Verb reverb module, is to be heard or not (as clocked by a slow square wave on a Batumi). That Erbe-Verbe is also having its algorithm flipped into reverse, on occasion, based on the same clocked pulse, but the gate delayed a bit (thanks to the Hemispheres firmware running on an Ornament and Crime module). And finally, the guitar is running through Clouds, a granular synthesis module, which is also being clocked to occasionally snag a bit of the guitar signal and turn it into a haze.

It took awhile to get the chords right. The only note the four chords have in common is an open D. The piece fades in with the D played on two strings, setting the backing tone. It also took awhile to get the right processing decisions made. I started with the UL1, and then built up and adjusted from there. I’m working on having more randomness in the triggering of the UL1, but this is pretty good, far as it goes.

It sounds a bit “Octopus’s Garden,” so it’s titled “Tako Friday” (tako being Japanese for octopus, and this being Friday). In retrospect I hear a bit of “The Dark Side of the Moon” in there, too. The audio was recorded through a Mackie mixer into a Zoom H4n, and then trimmed and given a fade in and fade out in Adobe Audition.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/disquiet.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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