Friday, April 4, 2014

Travelogue Show in AKRON!

Travelogue will be performing a free show on Saturday, April 19th (Record Store Day) at Square Records in Akron's Highland Square at 5:00.  Since it IS Record Store Day, you may want to arrive a bit early. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vienna Vegetable Orchestra.

I discovered this video a few years ago and find myself revisiting it often. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The state of 21st century Roland.

So this video was posted from a panel of select, clout-filled names to discuss the "state of 21st century synthesis".  Though many good points are made and interesting tidbits of information is thrown around, I can't help but feel that most of these people are totally missing the mark.  Even some of Mark Vail's comments surprised me - with his love and documentation of vintage gear, I am surprised that he sold off his original Minimoog.  You have a panel of people that for the most part, are stuck in the mindset that musicians love repeatability, presets, and program recall.  Eric says a few things about the empty slate pallet of a modular synthesizer and I agree with him on a couple of points but his example  that he shows on the serge TKB controlling the Modcan is incredibly boring and lack luster - he might as well be using a Roland D50 with aftertouch and his modular sound is pretty generic - the praise that it got is comical.  I am sure that he could have come up with something better than that to show the expressiveness of the TKB.  Furthermore, there is no mention about modern TKB's like Detachment 3's Archangel, which is a shame because it really blows the Serge away and is more similar to the Haken Continuum.  The example of the Continuum is my favorite part.  The musicianship and understanding of the sound vs the interface is well mastered.

The discussion sounds like a bunch of people talking about what instruments they should play when they compose the next soundtrack where everything is expected to sound like Vangeles or (now) Trent Reznor.   Music is one of the most expressive, creative artforms we have.  There are unlimited possibilities.  To put the preset patterns and sounds into the hands of the musical instrument manufacturers is suicide.  To copy trends and jump on bandwagons is nonsense.  We had this poisonous gibberish fed to us throughout the late 90's and we are only now recovering from that mess.  The great thing about the 70's and 80's was the experimentation with sound.  It is finally coming back in vogue and manufacturers (like Dave Smith) are going to have to think further outside of the box in order to keep up.

Here is the video for what I am talking about:

Points that I would like to make or correct.

1) Additive synthesis does not make a limited pallet of sound. Many synthesizers that have attempted additive synthesis have been so limited in processing power or features that they make additive synthesis seem limited.  But in fact, a synthesizer like the Kawai K5000 is one of the most amazing feats that a digital synthesizer manufacturer has ever created.  If a discussion about additive synthesis is taking place, it seems criminal not to mention the K5000.

2) Analog synthesizers have an infinite amount of adjustability and if you think of each knob being playable, then it is infinitely expressive and any parameter of the sound can be controlled on the fly.  You don't even need a Continuum or TKB to be more expressive, just reach the knob!

3) In the analog world, every synthesizer might sound slightly different.  This is mostly because electronic components rarely match the exact nominal value.  For instance, a resistor may be labeled as 100k, but it may actually be 98k or 103k.  You can buy components with tighter tolerance (0.1% instead of 10%), but all components still have a tolerance and the sound may be slightly different from instrument to instrument.  It is a good thing and very inspiring that analog synthesizers don't sound exactly like each other.  It is the exact reason that a cellist, guitarist, or trumpet player will carefully select his or her instrument and maybe even try several of the same model to choose the exact one.  Every instrument should sound slightly different.  I don't want to go from instrument to instrument and hear the exact same sound.  Repeatability is a void for creativity.

4) The idea that a synthesizer manufacturer wants to make boxes that are virtual analog and feel like analog is completely beyond me.  The only reason for virtual analog synths is if you are running them on a computer or iPad and you want them to sound a bit more 'analog'.  If you buy a stand alone synth that claims to have analog sounds, it should have analog circuitry, 1 knob per function, and not have any nested menus.  Programmability is optional and can be limiting.  Knobs are inspiring.  Changing sound by movement, turning, twitching, gesturing, where every aspect of the sound is changeable by a different means is what makes analog or modular synthesis great.  In 2 short words:  flexibility and controllability.  Sequential's Prophet 8 and 12 may sound good, but the interface is not as immediate as a Prophet 5 (mostly because of the nested menus and multi-function knobs), and therefore; it loses the ability to inspire because in order to change a particular aspect of sound, you may have to change modes or menus so the knob can now control that function.  Many modern synths are like this and they all miss the mark.  Somehow, manufacturers (like Smith) seem to think that the immediacy of recalling a preset is inspiring.  It is not.  The immediacy of changing any or all parameters on the fly with infinite resolution of fine tune is inspiring.  Korg and Arturia are some of the few manufacturers that "get it" and their synths are selling like hot cakes.  One problem with memory/programmability is that the knobs do not directly control the circuitry any longer - they go through an A/D (analog to digital) converter and then recorded digitally, then either a D/A converter back to the circuit or a digipot.  Many times, a synth with many knobs had a single A/D or D/A converter and it was multiplexed or switched to each knob on the panel.  Having dedicated, direct knobs to the circuitry allows an octopus to turn all the knobs at once with infinite resolution down to the carbon atoms while holding a key down - who wouldn't want that to happen?

On a similar note, I have to rant a bit on the new Roland TR8.  Talk about a company that is off the mark.  Once again, Roland continues to push away fans and customers with their insane corporate ideas.  There is little difference between this box and Rebirth (a simulation computer program of 909, 808, and TB303 sounds with effects that has been on the market for nearly 20 years).   I don't know who is behind marketing at Roland, but they need to start talking to musicians and stop analyzing numbers.  My statement to you, Roland, is this: 'It is not about recreating the same "classic" sounds at all.  It is about flexibility and controllability.  The thing that makes the 808 and 909 great is that each sound has dedicated knobs to control the analog circuitry with infinite resolution.  They can be fine tuned to fit the song.  Since your TR8 is digital, there is a finite number of steps.  It is like taking a shower and adjusting the water slightly and it goes from being too hot to too cold with no in-between state. The other thing that you have completely missed is an individual output for each and every sound.  This leads to ultimate flexibility in the mix.  Studios love to be able to process any sound they want through whatever processor they want.  Having two assignable extra outputs just does not  cut it - it needs an output for every sound, much like your 707, 909, 808, etc.  Also - giving the 606 individual outputs is one of the most common modifications done to it.  As it stands, you just put a lot of time and energy into making another groove box: it is just another D50 in a new box with more PCM memory.  You did the same thing with the Jupiter-8 a few years ago and still have not learned your lesson.  If you are going to compare a new product to an old one, you need to understand what features make the old one great.  Obviously, no one at your company seems to understand this yet.'

Sunday, March 2, 2014

House of Wires demo tracks for 'Your Side of the Mask' from the album 'Monogamy'

This demo would have been recorded around 1998 or so.  For more details, go to my Soundcloud page and read my description of the track.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Magnetic Table DIY

I get a lot of emails and comments concerning the Magnetic Table CV Controller that I built and demonstrated here:
I wanted to add a few notes on the construction and process of building one for those who wish to build one for themselves. 
I built it out of spare parts that I had lying around, plus a cheap wooden box that I bought at the craft store, then stained it and made it look older with some raw umber and shoe polish.  Originally, I just fastened an aluminum rod on the end of the joystick for the pendulum arm, but it was a little more wobbly than I wanted it to be and it easily loosened to the point where the subtle changes in position would not transfer to the joystick motion.  I eventually took the joystick apart, removed the "stick" and machined the end of a long aluminum rod to match the end of what was inside of the joystick so it became one long continuous shaft.  Most of this work was done using a lathe, a file and scotch brite for the final smoothing of the end.
The arm that holds the pendulum above the table was something that I had salvaged out of a discarded store display from a temp job that I worked at years ago.  It was sitting around my shop for years before I put it to use. It needs to be adjustable for a few different reasons:  1) if you want stronger magnets, the easiest way to make this happen is to stack them.  When you stack them, you need to adjust the height of the arm to compensate for the height of the magnets.  2)  At one time, I had not used it for a few months and when I went to use it, I noticed that the magnet at the end of the pendulum had broke free of the epoxy glue and the magnetic attraction over time had been enough to break that bond.  Since then, when it is not in use, I adjust the arm so the pendulum rests on the table and no additional forces are trying to pull the magnet free of the epoxy bond.  I have been asked where one could obtain the parts to make a similar arm.  The closest thing that I have found is available at Edmond Optics:
where synthesizer enthusiasts have talked about building their own version of this.  The discussion came up of having the table be curved and maybe a wok could be used.  This is a great idea and though it would certainly eliminate the need to stack the magnets at different heights for the outer extensions of the pendulum, it would drastically cut down on the ability to see the center positions of the pendulum and might not be as visually satisfying.  Honestly, stacking magnets is not a big deal.
One last note/comment on the electronics inside of the pendulum.  I simply have a 9V battery going into a couple of LDO linear regulators with input and output capacitors for each X and Y position.  The regulators make the position consistent and repeatable as the battery dies.  Realistically, I change the magnet position so often, that consistency and repeatability are not really practical issues.  Just running the 9V battery through the joystick attenuators would be sufficient.  You could also easily modify this to add oscillators, filters, etc into the box.  I left mine as a CV controller to modulate external oscillators, filters, etc. The knobs on mine strictly limit the range of the joystick itself by adding series resistors in the voltage divider.  One could also process the CV through an opamp and make the knobs control offset and amount.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A short excerpt from Friday's show

Here is a short excerpt from the show that I played at Mahall's on Friday.  
I am playing a version of 'All Damage has been Done' from my album 'The Noise is only Temporary'.
Thanks to all who came out for the show!