First post/December Activity

After having this site up for a few years, I decided to add a blog component, primarily as a means of documenting artistic/intellectual activity without having to simply dump it in a database of images and sound, but also hopefully as a means of providing insights for other electronic artists/musicians.

If you are interested in my work generally, feel free to peruse the “about” section of the site or head over to the music page to listen to the seemingly endless list of musical projects I have been involved in.

The biggest news this month is that I have been designing a building a modular synthesizer. I recently discovered the joys of laser cutting, and modified an existing design from Andrew over at Nonlinearcircuits to create the case–a 7U 84HP design cut from clear acrylic. When I designed this synth I was very interested in being able to process the sounds and control signals from my other eurorack format synthesizers using some of the organic and interesting ideas from my earlier experiences creating DIY electronics. In particular I was inspired by Nicolas Collins‘ Handmade electronic music, which you should grab if you have any interest in DIY.

I was also very excited by the possibility of using the case as part of the instrument. Allow me to explain: most eurorack designs are individual, self contained modules that are designed to interface with each other via patch cables, or, on rare occasions, via a bus board in the case. Since the cases are purchased separately, there are few designs that use the physical case to influence their design at all. There are a few exceptions. Tom Whitwell‘s well-loved Microphonie and Olivier Gillet‘s adaptation of it as Ears both use a contact microphone that will react to any vibration that occurs within the case. In addition, the Noise Swash from 4MS uses photocells and LEDs in its circuit to create a sort of open vactrol that will change the behavior of the module in response to any light that makes it’s way into the case, including stray LED light from the power bus, or ambient light if there is an opening in the rack that has not been filled with a blank panel. Finally, there are some cases that have specific modules designed by the manufacturer to interface with various features such as a built in spring reverb, or audio output, for example.

These two examples are the exception rather than the rule, however, and as far as I can tell, there are no examples of designs that use qualities of the case to link the modules to the ambient environment. With all of that said, here’s are a few aspects of my case that are somewhat unique: It contains a photocell voltage processor, which responds to ambient light under most conditions, but, when a LED strip is activated (via voltage control) the two way mirror material I designed the modules out of reflects internal light rather than passing light in from the environment. This means that the external environment influence on the sound can be overridden via voltage control. It also looks cool as hell when it’s lit up. Most of the case is passive, so it can process sound, even without using the internal power supply, although this does lead to a drop in volume.

The case contains two wavetable oscillators (filled with wavetables I have designed) using Tabula Rosa boards (wonky ATMEL VC wavetable oscillators that users can load waves onto via SD card), two passive ring modulars, a euro adaptation of the Hexinverter Battery Acid distortion, a clone/modification of Meng Qi‘s Arcade Manifold (adapted with permission) a eurorack adaptation of the Koma Field Kit FX (the FKFX was designed to be euro compatible, but I designed my own faceplate), an MS-20 style filter -based off a schematic Look Mum No Computer adapted, two modules that literally send your signal into dirt, and a prototype of a module that Composer/DSP wizard David Kant and I have been developing over the past year (cannot say more about it at the moment). 

Aside from this, I am continuing to record new material for the next Repairer of Reputations album, I have completed drafts of two stories I began earlier this year, and I expect that my first story Fertility Rite will be published in Weird Fiction Review #9–out later this month. I hope to have at least one blog post each month, but as I am already quite busy with a newborn and dissertation work, that may not be realistic.