Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Facebook Marketplace: This is the friendliest place to sell, and generally when I post something up for sale, I get a lot of likes, thumbs-up and smilies. What I don't get is many sales. It seems like, unless I'm promoting a fire-sale, it takes forever for something to move via Facebook. And it never sells without a lowball offer starting the discussion. The only good side? I can limit the sales to locals (my Twin Cities Synth Meet group), so at least a friend will get the bargain. Grade: C+
Reverb.com: Kind of the new kid on the block, a lot of people are pretty happy with this one. I just started using it, and it is pretty seamless. So far, I've sold two things, and have yet to see my money - they don't pay until the package has been deemed delivered, which kind of makes you a little concerned unless you buy the shipping label from them. The listing and sell-through process was pretty painless, although the process had its opaque moments. The jury is still out, but so far, it gets a... Grade: B
eBay.com: You know it, you probably don't love it, but it works - eBay is where stuff moves. It's gotten so much easier to list, the tracking information during the sale period (views, follows) is great, and when something sells, you get paid right away. Downsides? You'll get attempted scammers: most often it will look like "Hey, that thing doesn't work..." - hoping you'll say "Ugh, just keep it, and I'll refund the money." I found that if you ask people to ship the item back, you'll generally get a message that says "Ooh! It started working again! Nevermind!"
Oh, and the fees. <sigh>
One key on eBay: don't do a "Best Offer" option, 'cuz you'll never get your price. Just set a price and forget about it - it will eventually sell. Do take advantage of the Worldwide Shipping thing (where you send it to a drop spot, and they send it on from there) - half of my sales sell through that process. Generally, a great place to sell, but painful to deal with the kinds of sellers that live there. All-in-all... Grade: B-
And... what about Muffwiggler BST? Lots of sellers, very few buyers unless you are in fire-sale mode. Also, they stopped auto-pruning the listings, so don't be surprised if you occasionally get that "Hey, do you still have that Vermona QMI?" message about something you sold three years ago. I don't even bother to sell there anymore, and only go fishing as a buyer if I really want to bargain hunt. Grade: D
So there you have it - a graded scorecard. That's fun, right? And such good clickbait...
Sunday, April 22, 2018
In the different approaches I tried for recording w/o computing, I gave the ol' Zoom R16 a try. It didn't really work for me, mainly because it had no viable (for me) sync function, and the split 8x8 mixing scheme ended up seeming like more work than it was worth. So I sold it off...
... and it came back. The new owner claimed that the inputs were scratchy (something that I'd never experienced), and I gave him his money back. I set the unit on the shelf and didn't give it a second thought. Last week I started cleaning my studio and clearing things that I don't use out the house. I thought "Well, I might as well figure out what is wrong..." and started experimenting. It turns out that everything is fine until you turned up the level on channel 5 - where it would start making all kinds of crappy noise. If you plugged a cable in and out a few times, it would quiet down, but it would start making noise again whenever you plugged anything into any of the other inputs.
That rang a bell for me, so I got out the tools and cracked 'er open. The R16 has an board specific to the back-panel jacks; it is connected to the main board with a number of flag plastic ribbon-like cables. I lifted up the board, reset all of these ribbons into their slotted receptacles, and bolted it back together.
And it works perfectly now.
Up for sale on eBay if you are in need. But it was a good reminder - internal cables are the locale of so many problems; always look to them as your first source of trouble.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
OK - there are some books that have to be read a page at a time, completely digested, then put into practice. That's what Mille Plateaux was, and that's where I am with this one. My second time through, and it's just as inspiring as the first time. Curtis keeps on nailing it. (It's really nice that it is now available in paperback, so much less expensive than it was...)
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Someone just did some dirty work for us. The Synth Secrets series, one of the great bits of synth literature every produced, has been compiled into a single PDF file that is pretty perfect for hauling around on your iPad or something. I'm sure this isn't what Sound On Sound would prefer, but it's great to have, and you might want to grab it while the getting is good:
When the link doesn't work anymore, you'll be on your own...
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
I got a funny email today that told me this blog had been chosen as a Top 40 Synthesizer blog. Quite honored, I thought. So I went to the site (hoping against hope that it wasn't some sort of Russian pr0n site) and found that I had, in fact, cracked the top 40.
Alas, they didn't even have 40 - they only had 36. And this blog was #36. So there's that...
But it was kind of an interesting scroll; I'm sure most of those people (except for Mosher and the Synthtopia folks) had never heard of me - but I'd never heard of them, either. So it gave me something new to swirl around in, and I had a little fun with it.
So enjoy your time here on our Award Winning site, and check out the Feedspot Top 40 (erm, Top 36) synth blogs to add some spice to your life - sans Russian creepiness, I think!
Sunday, April 8, 2018
Thursday, April 5, 2018
Tom Hall has come through with another SCW video, this time showing off some new options (like the Randomize and 2 Second Render) of the Single Cycle Waveform Editor while creating a tasty drone machine out of his Digitakt. Sounds so good...
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Ever since I did the podcast interview with Rob Hordijk, I've been dying to have some of his gear in my little studio. I was working myself up into a lather over the Benjolin (particularly the pre-built one, available from my friends at CTRL-MOD) when I came across this video by Duplan.
This is what I've been working on patching, but it gobbled up most of the synth. Adding it (with just a little help, and a bit of processing) seemed like the kind of a thing that can help make a gig - or a session.
On the way. Oh dear.
Monday, April 2, 2018
Musician/producer Jamie Lidell is offering a glimpse into the amazing - chatting with other musicians and digging deep into their background and process. Sound familiar?
Jamie really brings an interesting view on the thing - from his long history with Warp records, to the amazing people that he interviews, these podcasts are chuck full of great information (and production tips, too). This week, Jamie is talking to Andrew Sarlo, and they end up talking a lot about A/R hellholes, productions mess-ups and Breklee school hacks. They also obviously dig each others work, and the result is a pretty amazing bit of work.
Love this podcast; available on Soundcloud and on Apple Podcasts. Check it out above!
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
I've been obsessing about overdrive/distortion pedals lately - for the modular. I really like the kind of rich tones that people like Tom Hall get on their tracks; since I know Tom Hall, I could ask Tom Hall! He pointed me to a few different things, but suggested the Mega Distortion MD-2 for one specific feature: the 'Bottom' tone control. He points out that most distortion pedals razz up the sound but bleed away the low end - not what you'd really want for a synth tone.
Apparently, the Mega Distortion was made for Sunn O)))-like dark doom sound, which also happens to work nicely for the warm enveloping tone that I like coming from my synth. Spent some time with it yesterday, and it's a complete winner. Oh, and $20 on Craigslist! (Thanks to the anonymous dude who was so kind - they normally go for a bit more.)
Best sawbuck I've spent on the modular in ages!
Sunday, March 25, 2018
I picked up a Koma Field Kit from a local dude a few weeks ago, and have had a little fun with it - it came with the 'expansion' kit and a bunch of springs, but I need to have it integrate more with the rest of the modular - to make it more 'wacky'. All of the stuff I did as a standalone was a little 'meh'.
It's not like I couldn't figure out how to make something less 'meh', but I realized that I'd put it on the shelf because I wasn't having fun. But really, a radio, LFO, envelope follower and mixer should provide me with plenty of fun, right? I think that I just need to embed it in the modular so that it can have a little interplay with the rest of the modules.
So I ordered the Eurorack plate for it, and hope to have it play a role. Not sure which role - or maybe just a new role - but maybe this will open the door to fun, right? Since I have an OK power supply in my rig, it should be good unless I start driving motors with it (or something). I'll try to keep it sane, and let y'all know about it once I find out more.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
It's a little hard to believe, but yesterday the download count on the Art + Music + Technology site went over 1,000,000. That's one million downloads, which represents a lot of human time spent listening to my croaky voice talk to some of the amazing people in the art and music technology worlds.
Thanks to everyone that listens, and special thanks to my friends at Synthtopia.com, Cycling 74, Ableton and 20 Objects for their help in making this happen. Now to snag the next million!
Friday, March 9, 2018
Alas, this weekend is going to feature some quality time with a modular oddity: the Monome Teletype. Featuring some of the most cryptic programming imaginable, the Teletype pushes my programmer's brain in really interesting directions, and I ended up with code that is substantially different than I do on any other platform.
I recently got a TXI input expander for it, and I'm going to implement a multistage sequencer/recorder; I've long been using something like this on the Ardcore, but I now want to start implementing it on the Teletype. I'd had problems doing this in the past due to limited numbers of CV inputs; the TXI makes it possible, now, to do what I want.
So into the rabbit hole I go!
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Very excited today - we made Synthtopia.com's front page! Already seeing a big addition to the activity on the site, and lots of new waveforms being generated. Huge thanks to the folks at Synthtopia for their help spreading the word...
Saturday, March 3, 2018
My friend Tom Hall has put together this little intro video for the Single Cycle Waveform editor, available from this link: http://scw.sheetsofsound.com/
Feel free to check it out, take a gander at the video, and make yourself some samples. Note: I just added a 'randomize' function that gives you the ability to passively scan your way through some crazy sample sounds.
Friday, March 2, 2018
Randy Jones (from Madrona Labs, developer of my favorite softsynth: Aalto) makes a welcome appearance at a great website: designingsound.org. In this article, he talks about the history of expert-focused user interfaces - with a number of examples that might surprise (and hopefully intrigue) you. Buchla and Haken make appearances, but so does the Canon Cat! This is an interesting and thought-provoking article, and worth reading whether you work on user interfaces, or just use them (or create them using modular systems).
Check it out!
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Sometimes good ideas go south; in this case, I did a quickie video for the SQ-1 Soft Hacking article I did for Cycling '74 (https://cycling74.com/tutorials/soft-hacking-the-korg-sq-1-sequencer), but the image quality was far south of our expectations. So we went with still images for the article, but I thought you might get a kick out of seeing it in action.
Messing around with the timing systems really made for a fun alternative course for the SQ-1, and I had a lot more fun doing it this way vs. running it straight.
Enjoy, but don't judge me on my videos...!
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
The old school Bass Bot TT-303.
Saw this on the local Craigslist, and tossed and turned over picking it up. My friend Tom Hall pushed me to do it - especially at the offer price. Places like RA raved about it, and I had a 303 back-in-the-day that I quite enjoyed (although I would have liked a little more useful I/O). So along comes the chance to pick this up, with its MIDI I/O, it's CV/Gate outputs for the modular, it's quirky editing style along with its updated 'generative' OS - and I went ahead and bought it.
I've been playing with it for the last week or so, and I've been plugging it into the Tiptop modular for sequencing fun. Totally weird, and totally lovely. The InstaDJ OS that they developed for this thing is a blast, and is a real dice game during performance - you will get something related to the 'personality' of the slots where you gen new material, but it'll often take you by surprise.
In many ways, this is the 303 I really wanted back in 1996, and it cost me about a third of what I paid back in 1996, and I'm thinking that I'm going to hang onto this for a while...
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Friday, February 16, 2018
Walker Farrell is crushing it on Bandcamp ATM. His series of archival releases are really beautiful, and are coming at a furious rate. I've been enjoying them - and I suggest that you try 'em out; his work is all over the EM scene, and draws you in by being sneaky-smart.
I interviewed Walker a while back, and it was a great talk. Combining that interview with a load of new listening is a real treat...
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
It's back 'In The House' (I found one and bought it...), and it's just about to be available again for purchase! After a bit of a disturbance in The Force, the Boomerang III Phrase Sampler is back in production, and new versions should be shipping soon.
I have tried virtually everything in the market - both hardware and software - and haven't found anything as inspiring as this beast. Simple functionality for either sync'd, unsync'd or serial modes, straight-forward setup of bonus functions, and a non-visual UX that keeps you focused on the music rather than the Big Lights.
I'm really glad they are making these again. Now, if I could just find where they stashed the updated firmware, I'd really be in business. Until then, I'm just going to loop. Until then, I'm just going to loop. Until then...
Friday, February 9, 2018
Here's a quickie video of a little waveform generator I created. I'm a big fan of single cycle waveforms, and was always a big fan of the Adventure Kid Waveforms. But when I got my MPC Live, I wanted to have my own waveform builder, and I reached back into my ancient box of goodies, and reanimated some of the functions that I'd put into the ol' Wave256 editor I created for the Wiard Modular Waveform City.
This one is better in a lot of ways: I have a working undo chain (with a few bugs to iron out yet...), and better mix-in wave handling. You can also choose the number of samples per cycles - and you can render either a single waveform, or a two-second sample of the waveform looped.
If you want to give it a try, check it out at: http://scw.sheetsofsound.com
Thanks to my sheetsofsound friends (Andrew and Tom) for their help in getting this to the point where it is. Many plans for the future (can you say wavetables?), but let's get this one cleaned up first!
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
It's a cool little standalone device that gives me loads of flexibility. It doesn't sit in the rack, so I need to remember to take it along with me - but it also doesn't sit in the rack, so I don't have to dump other modules to make room for it! It is also ultra-flexible, with a Web-MIDI-based setup function that makes it a dream to configure for my needs.
I got it right before NAMM, and am just starting to play with it. But it seems like a home run to me!
Sunday, February 4, 2018
This week's Art + Music + Technology podcast is a deep dive with someone that is probably more modular than anyone out there: Todd Barton. Todd's work ranges from education to live performance, and his blog posts on Buchla, Serge and Hordijk systems are must-reads for anyone interested in those systems.
But what I appreciate most is his skill in composition and music creation. His work speaks larger than the systems he uses, and that speaks volumes when those systems are such strong voices. Todd's work opens mental doors for me: I get great ideas by listening to his work and trying to imagine how to develop along similar lines with my own toolset.
You can check out the podcast from this link, and learn more about Todd (as well as listen to some of his music) at his website: toddbarton.com.
Friday, February 2, 2018
So Akai does this funky thing with their NAMM booth where they have a velvet rope scenario, and only retailers, artists and journalists get to enter. Luckily, I was paired up with my Recording folks, and got to slip in. There wasn't anything phenomenally new, but I did get to have a great talk with a demo dude that verified some things I'd been wondering about.
What did I come out with? An unnaturally and obscene desire to get an MPC X! Sheesh, I need to sit down and get humble!
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Touring the software/pro audio building, I ran across these guys - Voltage Modular. It's actually a pretty slick little interface, and its mapping of MIDI to controls helps keep it visceral. But the interesting thing: there is an SDK (of sorts) along with a device builder that makes quick work of the user interface, and ties it a to Java-based audio engine. Freakin' insane - and worth checking out as more is revealed.
So exactly how much more modular are we going to get? More please!!!
Friday, January 26, 2018
Did you catch the most recent Art + Music + Technology podcast? It features James Grahame, the super-sneaky developer who, along with Peter Kirn (of CDM fame), created the MeeBlip synth. Listen to us talk through the history of that project, the difference with each, his view on open-sourcing both the hardware and software, and even some of his vision for the future. A great chat, a great guy - and a lot of info.
Thanks to Synthtopia.com for their help in bringing this together, and for providing text transcripts for the entire open-source series that we are running this month. Yay!
Thursday, January 25, 2018
My bazillionth NAMM show begins today. A couple of great meetings, and a chance to see (and hug) a bunch of the interviewees of the podcast. Didn't have a lot of time to spend in the Modular Mile, but I did get a nice tour of the new Nebulae by Collin Russell - with requisite jaw drop. A really nice update, can't wait to try it on for size. Also got to lay my eyes on the Five12 sequencer module; I'm going back to learn more.
But it's great to be here!
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
This weekend I put out my second 'archival' release: Infernal Data Machine. This time, it's a set of contemplative melodies created in Max, pitch shifted (subtly) in Soundhack, and noise-cleaned in Audition. All except the last were done around 2001 on an old Wall Street Powerbook, and represent a change in the way that I was making music. Prior to this, I'd been production-based, using both Logic and Pro Tools - along with tons of plug-ins - to create lots of sound. This was an exercise in minimalism, and is all based of a single Max patch (IDM-5) that was helpfully tweaked by Gregory Taylor and Andrew Pask.
Take a listen on Bandcamp, or some of the streaming systems I'm feeding (Spotify, iTunes and others...).
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Not often that you get to talk to people that you consider your personal heroes. I've been in the lucky position to do this fairly often as part of the Art + Music + Technology podcasts. Whether it is Brian Crabtree or Christoph Cox, I always am in pig-heaven when I get to talk to these folks.
This week's podcast was coordinated by the people at synthtopia.com, and features one of the people I consider to be at the head of my hero pack: Tom Whitwell. As the dude behind the Music Thing blog and Music Thing Modular, he has been responsible for bringing us such hits as the Turing Machine, Radio Music and the Chord Organ. It sound like he's got a lot of other goodies up his sleeve, too.
Check it out here:
Sunday, January 14, 2018
Last night, I had the honor of attending a memorial service for my teacher, mentor and friend: Jimmy LaVita. Jimmy was instrumental in getting me out of the basement and into active artwork as a co-director of the 3rd Law Dance Theater; with Katie Elliott, the company was as innovative and artistic a group as I have ever seen, and I was immensely proud that they chose me to work with them. He passed on October 25, 2017, and a memorial was held for him at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder.
My memories of working with Jimmy on the development of the massive Botanical Gardens performance, creation of the Authentic Reproduction show, planning the surprise visit in North Carolina or talking about DU - it makes me realize how influential he has been throughout my late-in-life development. He also pushed for the best, but was also always thoughtful about what was possible and what would be interesting to the audience.
One of the most interesting remembrances of the evening was by Deborah Malden, a board member with 3rd Law and supporter of Boulder Arts organizations. She was able to extend our understanding of Jimmy's work beyond the dance company by helping us to understand his full-throated advocacy for arts in Boulder, his calls for high-quality and lasting work and his desire to take on authority when he thought it was getting in the way of artistic expression.
I will miss Jimmy - maybe more than makes sense. We spent time together, but the differences in our life circumstances meant we could spend as much time together as I would have liked. Still, we kept in touch, visited when we could, and had enjoyable monthly calls. Now that he is gone, I realize that he has been one of the two or three most influential people in my life - not by demanding attention, but by modeling a way of thinking and focus on excellence that gives me something to strive for.
Thank you Jimmy.
Friday, January 12, 2018
Two trigger/gate buttons, only one button cap. These things aren't secured in any way?
I purchased this from some place called Rock'n'Roll Vintage in Chicago; when I contacted them about the missing button cover, they said a) this was the only one they have, b) they got the module through their distributor (?), who didn't carry FoH devices any more, and c) there is no way to contact the manufacturer, so I'm out of luck with that button cover - unless I want to return the module. It feels like I waited forever to get this damned thing into the house, so I'm not that high on a return...
Maybe you can help? If you know how to get a button cap, or how to contact FoH, drop me at line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; I'll owe you one (or two)...
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
(Image from synthtopia.com)
For obvious reasons, I've been a fan of Mutable Instruments' work since their beginnings. I loved the early builder-focused machines, but really got on board with the Braids, Peaks and Branches. But for some reason, I never thought I wanted a Clouds - despite the fact that everyone that I knew had one in their systems. My reasoning was that a) I didn't want to deal with more [virtual] menus in my modular, b) I could do things better with external effects, and c) I'm running out of space anyway.
I ended up with one in a trade deal, and decided to spend a little time learning it. I ran directly into a few things: I couldn't get anything interesting outside of a reverb wash, some of the seemingly useful options didn't have much sound for me, and there seemed to be a lack of immediacy to the module. I took it out of the rig, put it on the shelf and kind of forgot about it.
When I was putting together a test rig for some Cycling work, I pulled it out again and started messing. Still not much love - until I ran into the Rabid Elephant Wiki Space, which contained a collection of notes and information on uses (both novel and common) that one should consider. It was then that I realized the missing piece: modulation. I went on a tear with modulating things, and found a lot of joy in both controlled and uncontrolled modulation of all the parameters, using the ArdCore to cause very specific functional changes over time, and VCA controlling both the mix and the modulations to implement more-better behaviors.
Of course, about the time I experience this, Olivier decided to discontinue the module - and I can understand why. Technical debt is a bitch, and in his mind, there's a bunch of design and implementation decisions that he regrets. Luckily for the universe, he's open-source the work, and others will step in to provide Clouds for those that need 'em. But I have to say that, in using Clouds, I'm again reminded that great work sometimes takes time to germinate and grow; I'm glad that the Clouds is doing that for me now - it's a great addition to my module set, and something that's hard for me to imagine doing without!
Sunday, January 7, 2018
I, like everyone, am blown away by VCV Rack (www.vcvrack.com); it is super-high quality, features an amazing set of core modules, but is also already supported by a ton of third-party developers. And it is an open source project to boot!
This system is about as advanced a virtual modular as we've seen since the Nord Modular, but it has a great set of design goals, and is firmly driven by chief developer Andrew Belt. I got a chance to interview him for my latest podcast:
Take a listen and enjoy!
Friday, January 5, 2018
As many of you know, I've been a long-time contributor to Recording Magazine. This opportunity first came as a result of my close friend, Mike Metlay, becoming an editor at the magazine, and has continued through the years. I've gotten to know many of the people at the magazine, and publishers Tom Hawley and Brent Heintz have done an amazing job keeping the magazine flying high while other publishing companies struggle.
While I've done almost 150 articles for the magazine, I'm especially proud to have gotten the thumbs-up to do a new series: Studio 101. This is the beginner's series that the magazine produces, and this is an opportunity for me to put my specific slant on the core knowledge needed to become a strong recording enthusiast. The first article in the series is now out, and I'm proud as punch to be involved.
Thanks to Recording, Mike, Tom, Brent and all the readers for this great opportunity!
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
It's about time, right? I finally launched the Bandcamp site (darwingrosse.bandcamp.com), and uploaded my first release: The Means Of Production, a composition and performance from 2010. This was originally done for a concert on some sheet metal 'speakers' that my friend Dave Fodel produced, and was performed at a garage/loft in downtown Denver.
I did another performance that was recorded, and was originally provided to Gregory Taylor to be played on his WORT-FM radio show, RTQE. That is the performance that is provided in this release, and I hope you enjoy. You can buy a download for two bucks, but it is free to listen to on the site.
Fun to release this, and I'm going to be pulling some more archival content out for release over the next few months. Thanks!