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

tag: modular

Disquiet Junto Project 0381: Shared System

The Assignment: make music using a free software synth assembled by Scanner.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, April 22, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration of the project.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0381: Shared System
The Assignment: make music using a free software synth assembled by Scanner.

Step 1: This week’s project involves all participants working with the same instrument. The instrument is a specific set of modules in a free software synthesizer. The software is Reaktor Blocks Base. It comes as part of the free Reaktor Komplete Start, which is available here:

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/bundles/komplete-start/

(Certainly if you’d prefer to emulate this week’s “shared system” using VCV Rack, or another piece of software, or your own hardware modules, that is totally fine.)

Step 2: The musician Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) graciously agreed to create a shared system based on Reaktor Blocks Base. It consists of these modules:

Bento Box Osc
Bento Box SVF
Bento Box VCA
Bento Box Mix
Bento Box Env
Bento Box LFO
Bento Box S&H
Bento Box 4 Mods

Here is some background on Scanner’s thought process in the development of this system: I think it would be interesting to present a limited package of blocks they can use, and to not use a traditional sequencer. Instead, people would consider how an LFO or modulation can move a sound or series of sounds around. (In some sense, this is a more West Coast than East Coast approach.) I’m concerned if we include the sequencer then it would suggest lots of decent pattern-oriented music wrapped around a similar theme or approach. This idea of such reductionism is basically about avoiding the obvious in these encounters and leaving the creator to think a little more than they might have to otherwise. It could perhaps be reduced further, but it’s enough to get people shaping sounds and creating shapes. Any less and it could potentially be too limiting and uninspiring. It’s truly a Bento Box Delight. I presume there’s a modest learning curve for some users, but there’s a guide that seems very clear on the NI website.

Step 3: Create a piece of music using only the modules (one of each) as described in Step 2 above.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0381” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0381” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0381-shared-system/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, April 22, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0381” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: Consider setting your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 381st weekly Disquiet Junto project — Shared System / The Assignment: make music using a free software synth assembled by Scanner — at:

https://disquiet.com/0381/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0381-shared-system/

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

Image associated with this project adapted (cropped, colors changed, text added, cut’n’paste) thanks to a Creative Commons license from a photo credited to Ananabanana:

https://flic.kr/p/7KW67U

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

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The Koto of the Future

In a live video performance by Ann Annie

“North Wind” is a live ambient music performance on modular synthesizer by Ann Annie. The track is built largely around the sound of a simulated plucked instrument. The strumming and tuning of that plucking bring to mind in particular a Japanese koto, though the overall sci-fi feel of “North Wind” makes that more along the lines of a koto as depicted in some majestic futuristic cybernetic Ghost in the Shell anime. It is echoed, in Annie’s machine, to infinity, or looped back on itself. At times fragments of momentary string sounds flit into glitchy motifs, and at others they nearly evaporate as they become gaseous effects. Throughout, Annie’s tracksuit-covered arms manipulate the synthesizer. For those playing along at home, generously detailed patch notes provide some background on the equipment employed.

This is among the most recent videos I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at Ann Annie’s youtu.be channel. More from Ann Annie, who is based in Portland, Oregon, at annannie.bandcamp.com.

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I Guested on the Podular Modcast

Talking about modular synthesizers, and a lot more

It was a pleasure this week to have been featured as the guest on the great Podular Modcast, which as its name suggests is a podcast about modular synthesizers. The Podular Modcast is hosted by Tim Held and Ian Price. Price wasn’t available when the episode was recorded, but he does appear early on in the segment, telling a touching story about Aphex Twin, a subject that then leads into Held interviewing me about my Aphex Twin book, Selected Ambient Works Volume II (33 1/3, Bloomsbury), and announcing that it has been licensed for translation and publication in Japan, something I just learned this past week. I spent five years at a manga company bringing Japanese books (comics and novels, and related titles) to America, so it’s nice to send one back.

Held and I then talk about modular synthesizers, how I got into accruing (assembling? agglomerating?) one myself, after witnessing Marcus Fischer perform live in Portland when I did an Aphex Twin reading there back in 2014. We discussed the tactile as well as visual feedback of modular synthesis, and other topics. I had a great time speaking with Held. You can listen with the above embedded audio player, or at podularmodcast.fireside.fm.

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Revising Patchwork

A modular synthesizer track and what succeeded it

A week ago, Darren Harper posted the results of one of his synthesizer patches online. The audio track, bearing a timestamp for a title, “~4/23/18,” is soft matter infused with abrasions and occasionally launching peaks of sound from its core. At nearly eight minutes in length, it is like the scientific surveillance of some newly discovered utopian microsonic world, Whoville via R. Murray Schafer. A brief technical explanation is provided by Harper, those occasional peaks characterized thusly: “new bits and pieces pop up throughout.” The depiction is for participants of synthesis more than for observers, and it belies the environmental simulacrum of the achievement.

A week later, Harper revisited his patch, and found another environment entirely. This follow-up track, “~4/30/18 (4/23 redeux),” is even softer than the original, and it seems to look up and outward where the other looked down and in. Those “bits and pieces” are largely gone, replaced with lens flare grace notes amid a huge floating zone. It is, as Harper writes briefly, a “more spacious version.” That is an understatement.

Tracks originally posted to the SoundCloud account of Darren Harper, soundcloud.com/darrenharper. More from Harper, who is based in Nederland, Colorado, at darrenjh.blogspot.com.

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Depth of Field

Guitar + modular, via Australia-based Betsy Hammer

A post shared by Betty Hammer (@betty.hammer) on

This brief Instagram clip from Betty Hammer — aka Liesl Hazelton — shows her performing electric guitar, in the background, through an array of synthesizer modules, in the foreground. That depth of field serves as well to describe the music. You can see her hands playing the guitar, but by the time it reachers your ear those modules have done a lot to the source audio, pushing it from a simple plucked string to something more like a Caribbean steel drum played at the very far end of a long metal corridor. Meanwhile the synth is deploying its own snare beat, the pace evident in the soft red light that is as large as Hammer’s hand.

Clip originally posted at Hammer’s Instagram page. More from Hammer, who lives on Norfolk Island, Australia, at lieslhazelton.com.

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