Monday, September 24, 2018

A Retrospective: In Real Time

My friend, co-Masters student and collaborator Kimberly Zahler did a great write-up of a dance/media/music piece we did called In Real Time. It was the pinnacle of my (late life) student work, and an incredible experience. It is also the first time that I worked with a dancer (in this case, Katie Elliott from 3rd Law Dance), and was the start of a collaboration with the late, great Jim LaVita.

Kim was amazing to work with; her talents were different-but-compatible with mine, and we were both focused and hard-working. The end result was a wild piece where "who is leading, who is following" is constantly questioned, and the whole thing is quite an eyeful.

That was the kickoff of a lot of great things that I've done. Alas, Kim and I aren't in contact anymore (my fault...), and I've moved far away from 3rd Law, so I'm not working with them, either. But I still have my board:

It's on the shelf in my living room as a constant reminder of great things we do in collaboration that could never have been done by oneself.


Monday, September 10, 2018

A Tasty EBay Snag

For my 'mini' system, I like using miniature keyboards - things like the KeyStep, QuNexus and the like. But I also like keyboards that have real pitch and mod wheels. Most of those only have USB connection, and I'm not up for buying an old creaky Oxygen 8 or something. So it was time to do a little ebay dumpster dive for something to help.

And, alas, I found someone selling a bare MIDI host board for cheap-ish, and with a Make Offer option. Made a low (but fair...) offer and won it. Got it on Friday, and screwed it into the table this morning.

Works like a champ. Doesn't work with my Korg, because it has a built-in USB hub. But for my Worlde and MIDIPlus MIDI devices, no problemo. Winner, and no extra boxes sitting on the damned desk!

It's the guts out of this:

Available here:

Happy as a clam...


Monday, September 3, 2018

Oh Dear: Uncovered after all this time...

image: 20091105 Belfort (0013).jpg by Donar Reiskoffer

This is a nightmare scenario for me: I did a podcast interview, about a topic that was going to be timely, and with a person that I came to really like. It was in the middle of a storm of other interviews, and I dropped the ball - I forgot to properly name the file, so it was in a big stack of time-stamped file names. When it came time to edit for production, I couldn't find it anywhere and I assumed it had been lost.

Well, this weekend, I was cleaning up the drive on the system and came across a weird little folder with a few time-stamped files in it. A quick listen and - what do you know! - there's the missing file!

I'm hoping it isn't going to sound horribly out of date, but I'm on it, and am hoping to get this up very soon!


Sunday, August 26, 2018

And again ... the Best Octatrack Tutorial is ...

... Thavius Beck's "Elektron 203" tutorial on I watched this before my OT Mk2 came it and it helped me get ready, but I took the time this weekend to run through it again. A "beginner's mind" approach, you dig? And it hit me again - for all of the YouTube surfing I'd done to try to become more comfortable about this box, it's this MPV video that works for me.

Thavius Beck, the longtime Ableton Live and Bitwig demo dude, combines his natural laid-back delivery with a beautifully-organized walk-through of the device - and of making it work for a reasonably experienced producer-type of person. He never talks down, always enlightens and really drew me in as a fan with this tutorial. Working with the OT is part of my 'daily practice' (which some of you might have heard about on my recent Podular Modcast episode), having something like this MPV video as a learning tool is a fantastic resource.

Thanks Thavius! (Ooh - I need to get him on the podcast, right?)


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Why The Norns?

So - it's not really modular, it's not an MPC, why get into the norns world? It is a pretty easy choice for me - because of a few things that were done brilliantly in this device:

  • Despite being a Raspberry Pi in sheep's clothing, it doesn't feel like a Pi - or anything else that would be draped in big, primary-color educational world. It feels like an electronic music instrument, and that changes my approach to the thing. It feels right - like everything that comes out of the monome labs.
  • It's got just enough, and not too much. Three encoders, three buttons. A 128x64 screen. Two inputs and two outputs. But four USB jacks means it can be extended to hell-and-back (but doesn't need to be), and the included USB networking nub means that I can attack it from anywhere.
  • It's battery-powered, which is becoming more important to me at each turn. It can be played on the back porch, charged up on the iPod station in the living room, and ready to go when I have to do that darned Wisconsin run.
  • The scripting programming language (Lua) is extended with some smart libraries by the monome crew, and many of the subtle edge cases all seem to be done right. I spent a little time this morning (woke up at 4am, so I had some personal time...) working with MIDI, and it had a minimal library that just worked to plan. I love it when that happens.
  • The backing engine is all Supercollider, which sounds a lot different than any of the instruments I'm currently using. A nice addition to my system.
All these things lead me to a system I not only love, but I look forward to working on. I'm enjoying Lua (in fact, it got me to fire up the implementation for some Max experimentation, and to buy a nice little book on Lua. Not everyone is going to look as a scripting language as a anchorpoint for fun, but it is for me.

I'm loving it, and finding myself already making some music with it - one week in. I have yet to dive into MLR very much; I'm hoping to do so this weekend. In any case, there's my view of it; I hope it can help inform you!


Thursday, August 16, 2018

One Simple - but intriguing - Voice

I don't always need the biggest voice possible - sometimes I just need a thing to follow along with the Teletype's burblings, or a third voice for squeaky noises, or just a simple melody line. I recently got an ALM MUM M8 filter, and ran across a good deal on a Braids - and was trying to wedge them into my system. I was mapping things out on Modular Grid when, low and behold, I realized that (with the built-in VCA) I had the better part of a synth voice with these two modules.

Given that I could situate them near a Maths, it was a no-brainer to give it a try - and what success! The MUM is based off the digital filters of Akai samplers, and it's a really appropriate match for the digital voicing of the Braids. This is especially true when I use some of the weirder voices of the MI oscillator (like the RING, FOLD or VOSM voicings) as well as with the FM implementations. The bright and raw sound of the M8 matches perfectly, and I'm finding myself using it as more than my 'third leg' - instead, it's becoming a peculiar (but useful) primary voicing choice.

So there you go - sorta the opposite of the analog purity of a modular, and more like the digital inevitability that I was going to succumb to! Yet another sweet+sour corner of my system. Whee!


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Getting swing/shuffle from a Maths (alone)

My friend/colleague Ben Casey asked a question on Facebook about getting a little swing out of his Maths. At first, I thought that it would need some external switching and stuff, then I realized that it could all be done internal to one Maths.

We will be doing a little wiring:

We'll be using both envelopes of the Maths to pull this off, with the EOC output of the channel 4 (the second envelope) providing the swinging clock source we need. Here's the walk-through (starting off un-wired):

1. Turn on the Cycle mode of channel 4 to ON (cycling), and use the EOC output to trigger something that you can hear.

2. Set the Rise time of channel 4 to zero, and use the fall time to set the interval for your trigger output. Find something that ticks along at a speed that you like.

3. Turn off the Cycle mode of channel 1 (if it happened to be on...).

4. Take the unity output of the channel 4 envelope and run it to the trigger input of channel 1. Channel 1 should now be ticking along in parallel with channel 4.

4. Set channel 1's fall time to zero, and set the rise time to be longer than one of the channel 4 cycles. You should see the channel 1 output LED blinking at half the rate of channel 4 (i.e., every other cycle).

5. Patch the channel 1's EOR output into the channel 4 fall CV input. You shouldn't hear much difference.

6. Now slowly bring up the channel 1 fall time control until you start hearing some swing. You might need to play around with channel 1's rise time to get things just right - but if you've got it together, you should here it start loping along...

Here you can hear me go from straight time, to swung time - to something even odder...

How does this work? We are using the fact that a Maths won't recycle during the rise period to act as a clock divider, so we treat every other cycle differently. We then take advantage of the pulse-wave-like output of the EOR output of channel one to make one of the clock ticks have a long fall time, and the other have a shorter fall time. With a little tweaking, it can give us all kinds of different timing functions (for example, in the audio above, I start extending the channel 1 rise time until it is dividing the clock by 3, 4 and more - then tweaking the channel 1 fall time until I get something interesting).

Hope you find this useful!