Modular Synth Blog 2009 Archive
Nick Blackburn

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more on oscilloscopes
31st December 2009

I posted a query on the Doepfer chat group regarding the MFB oscilloscope module and the feedback from two users was positive. Also mentioned in dispatches were this €35 DIY oscilloscope from China and the video o-scope.

To end the year, one more thing I keep meaning to mention is an email I received recently from a chap with remarkable design talents and modular enthusiasm, Richard Horsman. Here are links to his Doepfer-based artwork and his synth hardware and software projects.

End of Year Wishlist: MOTU Volta [page] - 170 dual slew - 109 Signal - 140 ADSR - 132.3 Dual VCA - 148 Dual S&H - Malekko noisering
Then: 196 PLL - 124 Wasp - sequencers (Doepfer soon, plus an FSS when available) - Malekko Borg, or perhaps the Assmaster - Trautonium set (104, 113, 198)
Wanted but not prioritised: 135 VC mixer & 144 morph - 188 Bucket - Livewire AFG and Dual Cyclotron - 116 VC Wave - 199 spring reverb - 163 VC divider - 138c polmix - 137.1 Wave Multiplier - 143-4 Quad VCO - 135-2 Quad Panner - MFB VD-01
Wanted but unlikely to be acquired: Cwejman VCO-2RM - Blacet Miniwave - Wretch - Plan B Heisenberg - Cwejman RG6
Acquired: 143-9 - WMD Geiger Counter - the Great Cupboard - Malekko anti-oscillator- MFB VCO2 - 150 VC switch - 145 LFO - analogue shift register - Bananalogue VCS - a Mac
[sponsorship target in green O------I--------I-----]
MFB oscilloscope interface
new modules
29th December 2009

There are some interesting new modules on the SchneidersBuero site (click the New option), expensive sequencers and innovative, expensive Cwejman modules, but I particularly like the Harvestman Piston Honda and the Tiptop Audio Z-DSP. Nevertheless. my next order from Schneiders will almost certainly be a noisering and perhaps the MFB mixer to go with the triple VCO. I noticed today that MFB also produce an oscilloscope interface (pictured right): a distraction from the current plan, but might prove irresistible.

Reorganisation of the finances to finish and restock the Cupboard have used up the sponsorship funds and so the collection for the Trautonium set will have to begin again in 2010.

At new year, I intend to clear down this page and link to a 2009 archive.

let there be sound
28th December 2009

All the action is on the cupboard conversion page at the moment. It was a modest sound, but a sound has emerged today from the Cupboard.

The Cupboard with two rails installed
Cupboard love
22nd December 2009

The Mac arried in less than 24 hours, damned impressive. Making some good progress on the cupboard conversion, the first two rails installed.

On the controlling software front, in addition to Volta, there is also a remarkably inexpensive set of utilities Silent Way which I may try.

I have come to a complicated arrangement with Andy at EMIS to swap the two LC9s for 3 DIY power kits minus the rails, and also pick up a 170 dual slew, 109 Signal, 140 ADSR in January on the way to Sunny Wales.

I spent some time enthusing about the Weird Sound Generator [sound demo here]early in the blog, . I built one which worked intermittently and have the parts to try again. The thrust of this intention has dwindled as it did not fit in with the Cupboard Plan, but I have had a super idea: build one in Eurorack format. More news as and when.

two good things
17th December 2009

Passed my degree, so no April resits needed and no more studying. Ever. Except learning electronics so that I can build stuff.

Ordered the Mac.

Now back to the cupboard conversion.

Cwejman RG6 Random Generator
delivery delays
15th December 2009

Damn, can't get the 3 DIY power kits until the end of January.

The VCS has arrived, but no chance to play with it yet.

Cwejman have announced a 'coming soon' random generator, albeit for a mere €480.

new wishlist
14th December 2009

A practical reorganisation of the wishlist

Assuming the cupboard works (if not I'll be buying 2 more LC9s), I plan five or six rows of modules (if five there will be a 19" rack at the top for the MOTU interface and patchbay). The bottom row will contain control modules, the top row will contain sound-processing modules and between the two will be discrete blocks of sound generation modules. The first four will be:

Archive Revised Wishlist: MOTU Volta [page] and a Mac - 170 dual slew - 109 Signal, 140 ADSR, 132.3 Dual VCA, 148 Dual S&H - Malekko noisering
Then: 196 PLL - 124 Wasp - sequencers (Doepfer soon, plus an FSS when available) - Malekko Borg, or perhaps the Assmaster - Trautonium set (104, 113, 198)
Wanted but not prioritised: 135 VC mixer & 144 morph - 188 Bucket - Livewire AFG and Dual Cyclotron - 116 VC Wave - 199 spring reverb - 163 VC divider - 138c polmix - 137.1 Wave Multiplier - 143-4 Quad VCO - 135-2 Quad Panner
Wanted but unlikely to be acquired: Cwejman VCO-2RM - Blacet Miniwave - Bananalogue VCS - Wretch
Acquired: 143-9 - WMD Geiger Counter - the Great Cupboard - Malekko anti-oscillator- MFB VCO2 - 150 VC switch - 145 LFO - analogue shift register
[strikethrough means acquired, changes of mind like the 112 just disappear - sponsorship target in green O------I--------I-----]
slight change of plan
12th December 2009

VCS is due on Monday.

I need to order the Mac before the end of the year in order to get the lower rate of VAT. This means some cash juggling and changing the December order to the 3 DIY kits and just the dual slew (to offer some novelty). The Trautonium Set will also have to wait. A shame, but pratical and sensible.

big city seem to have stopped selling the Heisenberg. I aim to have the first power kit fully installed on Monday, while waiting for the VCS to arrive.

Archive pre-overhaul Wishlist: - Malekko noisering - 135 VC mixer & 144 morph - 124 Wasp - 188 Bucket - sequencer(s) - Livewire AFG and Dual Cyclotron - Trautonium set (104, 113, 198) - 116 VC Wave - 199 spring reverb - 196 PLL - 163 VC divider - 138c polmix - 170 dual slew - 137.1 Wave Multiplier - more 109s - 143-4 Quad VCO - 135-2 Quad Panner - 143-9 - WMD Geiger Counter - the Great Cupboard - Malekko anti-oscillator- MFB VCO2 - 150 VC switch - 145 LFO
Wanted but unlikely to be acquired: Cwejman VCO-2RM - Blacet Miniwave - Bananalogue VCS - Wretch - MOTU Volta [page] and iBook G4 - analogue shift register
[strikethrough means acquired, changes of mind like the 112 just disappear - sponsorship target in green O------I--------I-----]
wishlist considerations
9th December 2009

VCS has cleared UK customs.

Plan B Heisenberg Generator

Now to the wishlist

I will rework the wishlist in due course.

James MacMillan's Veni, Veni, Emmanuel
up, up and towards
7th December 2009

VCS is airborne.

I will be working on installing the first power supply in the Cupboard today and also hope to hook up the LC9s so that I can make noises in the meantime. Broken Waltz will follow.

Nothing to do with synthesizers, but a new current favourite CD, James MacMillan's Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, where a series of orchestral variations on a snippet of a Christmas carol collides with a percussion concerto for the noble Evelyn Glennie.

A170 Dual Slew
VCS on the way
3rd December 2009

VCS now on order.

I might just slip the 170 Dual Slew into the December order. I have wanted this since Doug from the Doepfer chat group commented 'Consider the two A-147's but also add an A-170 slew. If you take two A-147's and feed each other with the slew in the middle, you get great timing, like a creaking door or jazz solo. '.

Bananalogue Serge VCS
Bananalogue Serge VCS
2nd December 2009

Much joy as Mr Vosh tips me off that the Bananalogue VCS is back on sale. That's my Christmas taken care of.

and we're back
1st December 2009

I now have all the bits I need to start building the Cupboard, that is one power supply, some of the mounting rails and a cupboard. I started work today on the Christmas post which will fund the Mac and which takes up time but leaves most of the afternoons free to fiddle with the installation.

I will also aim for a temporary setup to allow noisemaking in the meantime. My next piece will probably be disturbed waltz.

I still haven't reviewed Dave Vosh's latest DVD but will do so soon. [later that day] and here we are.

Assuming all goes well with the installation, the December purchase will be three more DIY Kit#1s and a 198 ribbon controller - that's all I can afford at the moment. The PLL and a filter will have to wait.

17th November 2009

If things were easy they wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Monthly Archive Wishlist: - Malekko noisering - 135 VC mixer & 144 morph - 124 Wasp - 188 Bucket - sequencer(s) - Livewire AFG and Dual Cyclotron - Trautonium set (104, 113, 198) - 116 VC Wave - 199 spring reverb - 196 PLL - 163 VC divider - 138c polmix - 170 dual slew - 137.1 Wave Multiplier - more 109s - 143-4 Quad VCO - 135-2 Quad Panner - 143-9 - WMD Geiger Counter - the Great Cupboard - Malekko anti-oscillator- MFB VCO2 - 150 VC switch - 145 LFO
Wanted but unlikely to be acquired: Cwejman VCO-2RM - Blacet Miniwave - Bananalogue VCS - Wretch - MOTU Volta [page] and iBook G4 - analogue shift register
[strikethrough means acquired, changes of mind like the 112 just disappear - sponsorship target in green O------I--------I-----]
Calefax - Conlon Nancarrow - Studies for player piano
happy birthday to me
10th November 2009

7th November 2009

The week away has reminded me why I dislike soft synths. I find the Arturia Moog Modular very difficult to work with. I also tried demos of Synthmaker and KarmaFX. All three products are aimed at keyboard users which isn't much use to me (though I might pick up an Akai LPK25 for the future). The Karma looks and sounds good but is Windows only and so is a blind alley if I'm heading Macwards for Christmas.

Interesting links from Sound on Sound.

5th November 2009

I've been meaning to do this since ending my law degree last month, a brief lyrical celebration of the freedom I now enjoy.

I'll be trying some soft synthing later today

winsome prodigy
4th November 2009

I'm trying this update away from home on unfamiliar hardware and software, so things could go wrong

Progress with Schroff at last today and I'm hoping for a revised invoice listing what I need.

Radio 4's Front Row yesterday interviewed the winsome and prodigious Alexander Prior opining on the avant garde. Here's the precise quote and here's the full interview. His music is quite nice, if you like that sort of thing, certainly better than most of the Andrew L. Webber oeuvre. However. While the search of one's soul for beauty has its place (for those interested in building gingerbread palaces), I rather like the sound of a robot in my room shitting out a 30 year old car engine.
While I will never envy his music, with 55 around the corner, I do rather covet his hair and teeth.

enforced virtual synthesis
2nd November 2009

Off to Nottingham this week and so will try some soft synthesis.

Picked a MOTU 828 mk1 on eBay last night, so that means I'll have to buy a Mac and Volta soon.

31st October 2009

The plan this weekend is to create a piece with the Wogglebug driving the anti-osc and the ASR creating extra voices with obscure timings created through the 16x modules.

The provisional November purchase is PLL, ribbon controller (sponsored), a 101-9 Universal vactrol lashed to my dual delay to give it VC, perhaps another dual VCA and (if the Cupboard is progressing) 2 or 3 DIY kits. I'll probably have to pass on the birthday sequencer plan as I'm running out of cash.

Monthly Archive Wishlist: - 150 VC switch - 145 LFO - Malekko noisering - 135 VC mixer & 144 morph - 124 Wasp - 188 Bucket - sequencer(s) - Livewire AFG and Dual Cyclotron - Trautonium set (104, 113, 198) - 116 VC Wave - 199 spring reverb - 196 PLL - 163 VC divider - 138c polmix - 170 dual slew - 137.1 Wave Multiplier - more 109s - 143-4 Quad VCO - 135-2 Quad Panner - 143-9 - WMD Geiger Counter - the Great Cupboard - Malekko anti-oscillator- MFB VCO2
Wanted but unlikely to be acquired: Cwejman VCO-2RM - Blacet Miniwave - Bananalogue VCS - Wretch - MOTU Volta [page] and iBook G4 - analogue shift register
[strikethrough means acquired, changes of mind like the 112 just disappear - sponsorship target in green O------I--------I-----]
a hint of progress
30th October 2009
first cupboard noises

(Later) Noise at last. I hooked up the most recent kit - anti-osc, MFB triple, ASR, enhanced FreqSh, WMD and set them off. The Malekko anti-osc makes a lovely sound, especially in the low registers. This is being driven by the SoU and the VC sent to the ASR which drives the MFB, into separate 109s with processng from FS and WMD.
Recorded on the old laptop via the splendidly servicable Tascam US-122. Just a short burst as the 20GB hard disk is nearly full.

Must get more short (30cm) cables. The 'cheap' eBay cables are now more expensive than EMIS and they have started charging £9 postage from HK.

29th October 2009

A few things to report

the power of sound
24th October 2009

Lest we forget the power and importance of the spoken word when compared to the noises we make, in the week that the BBC (probably justifiably) gave the oxygen of publicity to the odious BNP leader Nick Griffin who danced pathetically around his previous holocaust denial, this, a couple of days later, is from BBC Radio 4's Archive Hour on memories of war. An extended version here.

24th October 2009

Nothing much happening at the moment, the LC9s are sitting in the Cupboard and I got a blurp out of them last night, but the power wiring needs sorting out before it can be used normally. Most of my 19" rack units are too deep to fit in the lower compartment, so that has forced a rethink. And I'm waiting for (probably) one more reply from Scroff before finalising the order.

The power supply and a new cable-storage system should be done in the next few days, when normal sonic service should be resumed. SchneidersBuero have said that the MFB triple and anti-osc are on the way: I now have far more modules than will fit in two LC9s and do not enjoy making the choices this entails.

21st October 2009

Progress from Schroff. They have sent an invoice which I am currently clarifying. Delivery is stated at 3 weeks.

Having finished my exams, I have asked the Open University how to become an invigilator - even at minimum wage that would be a decent module for two days sitting around and the exam season lasts a few weeks.

20th October 2009

Just found this link on the Doepfer site. The patches section is particularly interesting.

[later] Picked up the VCOs and the cable (16-16 Jack), which looks good. The intention is to solder this up to two multiples to allow routing straight into the patchbay. That should make life easier. I also raised another £40 in 'sponsorship' by prostituting my opinions on banking to a survey organisation - this means the ribbon controller is paid for and will be in the next order.

Andy reports that Doepfer have confirmed the September order which means it is on the way, but it does not include the DIY kit. I have emailed Schroff's UK distributor for prices but will not hold my breath for a reply.

No sign of the Malekko anti-oscillator or the MFB VCO2 yet (not that I have anywhere to put them): I'll chase them up soon. I had intended to video my journey to town today but the Flip decided not to co-operate and so I recorded it audio-only on the Olympus and also 30 minutes of excellent pub noise in the splendid and keenly-priced Chandos (go for the OB Bitter).

It must be time to start considering the next order, though as noted it is rather pointless until I can get building. I'm thinking PLL and (if the first one works) two more DIY kits. The 135-144 will have to wait until I have more rack space. The Wasp filter has been on the list for a long time and I heard a nicely used 105 SSM today which might find its way onto the list. Maybe a VC divider. And with a birthday just around the corner, I think I'll take a 155 sequencer, just as soon as I have the space.

several things
19th October 2009

Well, I've just about recovered from exam trauma. No more law. Several other things to report.

Trautonium 198 ribbon controller Trautonium 198 module Trautonium 113 sub harmonic generator Trautonium 104 filter
14th October 2009

I've been struck by a splendid whim (this could be the effect of Law Degree Fever). I have mentioned my 'module sponsorship' myth before. It would be a shame to squander such funds on normal monthly purchases - sponsorship should be spent on modules of moment. Accordingly, I will allocate it to buying the Trautonium set - the 104 Quad resonant filter, the 113 Sub Harmonic Generator and the 198 Ribbon controller (probably in reverse order utility-wise). That will be fun.

It might benefit from a 177 foot controller too, though that has been discontinued, so look out for S/H offers - there was one on eBay recently, but I didn't realise I needed it.

The wishlist is becoming delightfully unwieldy. The squiggle at the end is a horizontal 'thermometer' of sponsorship progress, such as they used to have outside churches for the roof fund or for the Blue Peter appeal.

further thwarting, but also Good Tidings
13th October 2009

I phoned Andy at EMIS today and the order (including my 150) has still not arrived. What's worse, he doesn't stock DIY kits so these have to be ordered from Germany as required. The Great Cupboard Project will be a slow burn.

The final order is 150 switch, 145 LFO, 180 multiple (for wiring experiments), DIY kit (ha!), 2*B8s for rail alignment and I added a 164.1 manual gate as a late whim as I think this might be useful in synching noise to visuals by flagging a cycle reset, and also for flipping the 150 switch.

Three days to my last ever law exam (unless I need a resit in April), after which I will be free to play (in all senses of the word). And I got the Christmas Post job today, which means either Livewire kit or MOTU and Mac in January.

Nancarrow 21
11th October 2009

A terrific piece on BBC R3 this morning on Iain Burnside's show, unfortunately not available for replay. Nancarrow's 21st Study for player piano (title approx) features a rapid right hand which gradually slows while the left hand does the reverse. That has to be patched. Here's a YouTube link, I'll add my version later.

[later that day] Here it is. I need an lfo with really slow periods, so that's a 145 on the list, inverter already in stock. I have made a virtue out of necessity, used the 143-9 quadrature at is longest cycle, which is only a few seconds, driving the two VCLFOs on the top and bottom of the SoU. After a few listens I think that's the best piece I've done since Sonata. I'll run a few more takes and keep the patch until the new LFO arrives.

So, this week's order is 150, 145, Kit#1, 2*B8s for rail alignment and 2 multiples for wiring. I'm hoping Maise will be able to come up with a Schroff offcut for examination and in the meantime will probably build a simple box to put in the Cupboard.

Back to top - or bottom
the Good Cupboard
significant progress
9th October 2009

I think I have found the Ideal Cupboard on eBay and will pick it up next Saturday. It should hold around 4*LC9s' worth on top with some 19" racks for the power, patchbay, mixer etc. (and maybe a MOTU 828) in the lower section.

I have ordered an MFB triple VCO and bought two second-hand 110s and so that affects the current order. I'll go for the 150, one DIY power kit (for now) and two D8 plates for alignment. I have a plan to adapt some mutiples to patch directly from the modules into the patchbay and then into the mixer, so two 180s are probably called for.

I am rather disppointed with the response from Schroff on mounting rails for the unit. I wrote asking for a sample to help with the design and they replied, rather pompously 'I am afraid we are not authorized to supply free of charge items to private addresses'. I have tried again, saying that I only need a couple of inches for evaluation, but no response yet.

need VCOs
7th October 2009

I posted a question on Doepfer chat about VCOs for the ASR and my conclusion is to seriously consider the MFB triple VCO. There have been some adverse comments on this unit in the past, but two posters I respect have spoken in its favour, it is sensibly priced and has a small footprint. As the malekko anti-osc has not yet arrived, I have asked SchneidersBuero whether it will be possible to include a VCO2 with the order and save some postage that way.

Here's another thing, if I sort out the VCO deficiency, I'll then have another bottleneck on the subsequent processing - VCFs and VCAs and ADSRs.

So it goes, by gum this is fun. When I find the Good Cupboard, the final housing for all this stuff, it will organise beautifully horizontally, for example, a row of ASR. quad ADSR two DVCAs and other Vital Stuff. I can picture it already and just need the furniture, modules and funding to realise it. Super.

And there's a new pich shifter on the way, from a chat group post, 'We are about to develop a replacement for the discontinued A-126. The new A-126-2 will be without quadrature oscillator as we now have the A-143-9 available which has an extremely wide frequency range. The A-126-2 will be probably equipped with an optional squelch circuit (envelope follower + VCA). I hope the A-126-2 will be available ~ 2010. So far there is no exact release date and price available.'

le Plan B ASR est arriv&eacutel;e
6th October 2009

Well the ASR has arrived at last and is well worth the cost (I still have the PCB for the CGS ASR when time and skills allow).

Here's a first piece using all my VCOs (I'm one short until the Malekko anti arrives). VCO1 is contolled by the SoU which also inputs to the ASR. VCO2-4 are controlled by the ASR (quantised or S&H'd) and their envelopes are triggered variously by the clock sequencer and 166 Logic. ASR output 4 is spare until I get a 5th VCO and so is feeding the VCLFO which controls the SoU.

6th October 2009
A-187-1 Voltage Controlled DSP Effects

Damn. False alarm on the ASR front, it was a large and heavy box of medicaments for Mrs B I have just carried home from the POff. The ransom for the ASR is £20, £13 of which is POff charges, so not as bad is it might have been. Delivery is now expected tomorrow. The Flip has also arrived so we are nearly ready for a multi-media event.

On the DIY case front, I think I'll make a simple box now, while looking for the right cupboard as a longer-term solution.That solves my immediate space problems while offering the prospect of eventual satisfaction. I might use the box as a travelling resoure thereafter, which raises the interesting question of what to put in it, apart from the SoU.Perhaps the proposed 187-1 digital effects, which gives me an excuse to put up the image.

No response on the request for second hand 109s, so I guess it's new or do without. A shame, because they do simplify things. They pop up sometimes on eBay and doepfer chat so, if they do, I'll be in with a bid.

Spoke to Andy at EMIS today, and the next delivery is expected next week.Still aiming at 150 - 135 - 144 - DIY#1 and 2*B8.

5th October 2009

A135 VC mixer A144 morph controller
next order firming up
4th October 2009

With an inreasing inclination towards building a case and the two LC9s nearly full, I'll have to consign some lesser-used modules to a shelf for a while. I'm still minded towards the 150 switch and 135 mix and might as well add the 144 morph to maximise it and get the discount. With those in stock I'll be aiming for long single takes, switching between the two VCLFOs for timing variation and morphing through the range of sound processors to vary the noise. The PLL might wait, and round off with the DIY#1 rather than a third LC9 and a couple of B8 plates to help align the rails.

Heard from Finlay at FSS. The mini sequencer is 'months away at the moment', so it is probably a case of more expensive options first and one of those later.

2nd October 2009

The Olympus recorder seems excellent for the price, especially when combined with a knockoff Sony stereo mic I've had sitting around for a long time waiting for an application: all good medium-tech, economically-priced stuff. And USPS online tracking advises that the ASR passed through UK customs at 0705 yesterday, so they should by now have calculated what proportion of a trident missile I will have to sponsor to liberate it from their clutches.

Here's another for the wishlist. I am experimenting with my various sound manglers - mainly WMDGC and FShift+ and manually mixing the output. This clearly needs random automation and thus a 135 VC mixer (my CAB expenses can sponsor that rather than the abandoned 112). So the current October list approximates to: 150 switch, 196 PLL, 135 mix and either an LC9 or a DIY kit#1 to make my own box. I might need the 140 for a slow sine wave to drive the mixer, but that can wait for now. I am also inclined towards CV mixing. Then it must be more sequencing. I have also put out another WTB for 109s.

I have a tentative plan to leave the wishist in the first post of every month so that I can track its development. This is the first month so it might not last.

Now off to the gym and thence the library for some revision.

Wishlist: 143-9 - WMD Geiger Counter - 150 VC switch - Malekko anti-oscillator and noisering - 124 Wasp - 188 Bucket - sequencer(s) - Livewire AFG and Dual Cyclotron - 116 VC Wave - 199 spring reverb - 196 PLL - 163 VC divider - 138c polmix - 170 dual slew - 137.1 Wave Multiplier - more 109s - 143-4 Quad VCO - 135-2 Quad Panner - Korg MS2000R -
Wanted but unlikely to be acquired: Cwejman VCO-2RM - analogue shift register - Blacet Miniwave - Bananalogue VCS - Wretch - MOTU Volta [page] and iBook G4
WMD Geiger Counter first patch
Cables [then DaVosh, Olympus and WMD-GC]
1st October 2009

Trying to patch something gentle and soothing and I've run out of cables. I'm making my usual mistake of connecting too many things too soon and should spend more time making every component interesting before adding another. There was a recent thread on cable sources on Doepfer chat I'll have to consult.

The Olympus recorder has arrived - I'll be buying some batteries this afternoon. The same post brought a DVD from Dave Vosh which I shall play now (dot dot dot), well that was the plan when the geiger counter arrived. It is a quite remarkable device and (as I wrote to Dave) seems capable of transforming the most mundane sound into an interesting noise. Its first outing is a simple patch with VCLFO triggering the SoU which is driving 2 VCOs, one inverted. The output of those into a 109 with the filter output routed through the GC on setting 34. The LFO is also triggering the ADSR which controls the 109 VCA and the sample rate and (inverted) bit depth of the GC. I'll add some pings to the final piece.

ASR, Mondrian and the notion of 'classical' art
30th September 2009

The Plan B ASR is on its way from big city music, perhaps I should have ordered a Heisenberg as well. USPS provide a terrific online monitoring service, including emails at key intervals. I am rather excited at the arrival of he ASR, more so than the anti-oscillator (not expected yet) and the geiger counter (of which there is no sign).


I haven't patched my light relief yet, but here we go anyway with the recycled Mondrian thought for the day.
I am the first to admit that I am (or have been) moderately obsessed with Mondrian's work, as readers will learn here. I like looking at PM's later works almost as much as I like listening to noise. PM has had a significant influence on the world of design, more so (I would say) than, for example, Turner and Constable, but was he a great artist? Probably not: he invented a simple, elegant and lasting mode of design, and the journey he took to get there is discernable and fascinating, but frankly his representational drawing and painting was not up to much.

The example shows one of his most famous abstract pieces. On the representational front, he could render a pretty good flower, and paid his bills that way while pursuing his muse. Similarly, Duchamp was fun but no great shakes as a representational painter. By contrast Magritte and Picasso were true / real / fine artists who chose to explore new paths.
It is obvious where I'm heading here: do people chose to make noises rather than music simply because thay are not that good at ordinary music? There's a good deal of truth in that in my case, I have never been particularly good at any of the classical instruments I have been involved with since childhood, but I believe that even if I could knock out the standard repertoire satisfactorily on a keyboard, I would still want to make noises, the evidence being that while I like Beethoven, I spend more time listening to noise.

Let me stress that I am not casting doubt on anyone else's musical abilities, I have no idea of the 'classical' talents of any fellow noisemakers, I am merely being honest about my own.

Dream 2
29th September 2009

Dream Two will be going up on today. This is pretty much the same settings but 5 takes: 2 straight, 2 through the Plaguebearer and one through the FShift+. I think things are getting a bit dense so later on I'll unpatch and pursue something more tranquil and minimalist (which might lead to the next thought for the day on Mondrian).

An interesting quote from here
In my system, I'd have to say my favorites are the 2 Livewire AFG's the Frequensteiner, the Zeroscillator, the Bananlogue Serge VCS (I wish I had 3 of them), The Plan B model 10 and 24, the Doepfer BBD's (I do have 3 of them), and without a doubt, the MakeNoise QMMG. "

Building a case
28th September 2009

I'm wondering whether to return to my earlier plan of making my own case to hold the two LC9s I already have, plus some self-build Euroracks and 19" racks, encouraged by Maise's efforts in the example below. It has to be worth a try, so I'll hold off the third LC9, spend the £250 on parts and see where it gets me. Carpentry is in the blood, my father was one: metal end electrons I struggle with.

And another thing, sequencers. the 155/154 looks likely, no reply from FSS to my enquiry, but I have just spotted this Muff thread which looks promising, with potential entries in the sequencer field from from MakeNoise and Tiptop . My inclination is to get the 155/4 when funds allow and probably the MakeNoise too eventually. The Tiptop seems to be Eurovapour at the time of writing.

Well I think I've managed to get hold of a Plan B ASR. If true, that means a Geiger Counter, an anti-oscillator and the ASR should all be in the post. Super.

And I picked up an Olympus DM-20 on eBay today to reopen the gate to field recordings.

Thought for the day
27th September 2009
Marat Ondes Hoffnung

I have mentioned the well-intentioned naval-gazing I indulged in while putting some thoughts together on Dave Vosh's DVDs, how I removed them from the eventual document and how, rather than let them go to waste, I intended to recycle them as thoughts for the day.

Here's the second. I use the phrase atonal muck to describe my wurbles and bleeps and this explains where I obtained the phrase. There is probably no finer example of English eccentricity than the 1950s Hoffnung Festivals where humour was liberally applied to classical music for the British middle classes. Looking back (though I was only a few years old at the time), they were a little smug and self-congratulatory, but nevertheless contained some great musical jokes. None more so than Punkt Contrapunkt where John Amis takes a poke at the German avant garde. The sketch refers to 'old tonal muck' which for years I remembered as 'atonal muck'. The whole sketch is here, until someone complains.

Anyway, I was using the misquoted phrase to describe my intentions before the modules started arriving and, once I began playing with them, it soon became clear that my ambit extended to arhythmic, atonal muck. This abbreviated effortlessly to MaRaT which led in turn to thoughts of Jean-Paul of that ilk,the famously murdered writer of the French Revolution. More famous than J-PM himself is David's portrayal of his death and that gives rise to my album cover for this year's output. My original intention was to set up a shot with myself in the bath, an LC9 by the side and a copy of the Strange Bible in my hand and I may still do so, but this will do for now.

27th September 2009

I made an offer for this magnificent (emptied) rack - the owner has filled it and is commissioning a larger one. Regrettably, he wanted €1,500 for it which is way outside my price bracket, so it's one more LC9 for me.

And here's (p2) an article, link from Muff, on ASR use.

And here are some nice tunes.

list cont.
25th September 2009

Also consider the 163 VC divider as that avoids octaves. Perhaps LC9, VC switch, PLL and VCdiv for the Sep/Oct order.

The FShift is back and installed. I have also been putting one voice of the Dream through the Plague Bearer with entertaining results, so I will be posting a more sonically interesting mk.2 quite soon.

A143-4 Quad VCO
The List
24th September 2009

Volta contemplation is now on a separate page .

I'm going off the idea of the 112 sampler after comments in the Doepfer chat group, I'm not sure the quality of the sounds will deliver what I want, and so I will drop it off the wishlist. Perhaps I will put the cost towards a Cwejman VCO-2RM one day, but get the Livewire VCO first. I will also consider the Doepfer 143-4 Quad VCO when it comes out (due late 2009), jolly useful if I ever find an ASR.

Time to consider the next monthly purchase soon: another LC9, 150 switch, then what? I would like to play with a PLL. Perhaps then, unless there's a Doepfer module that proves indispensible, I can accumulate for some Livewire kit. I would like another sequencer but do not want to shell out yet for the Doepfer 154/155 or their rackmount. I have been hoping that the FSS mini sequencer would become available, but there's no evidence of that. Perhaps a 138c polarising mixer.

Sanyo Xacti HD700 Olympus DM20

I also need a video camera for two reasons. Firstly to grab some footage of patches in action but, more importantly, to shoot some films to go with the sounds. Again, economy is the key, I only need PC quality.The Sanyo Xacti HD700 reviews well in some places but poorly in others and so I am badly undecided.

And a sound recorder for location recording. I had a Zoom H2 but have somehow managed to lose it. I am looking at a cheap replacement such as the Olympus DM-20.

was Volta
23rd September 2009

Well, I have ordered the Geiger Counter and Anti-Oscillator and the Frequency Shifter with grafted Quadrature LFO is due back on Friday, together with a (hopefully functional, this time) 166 Logic. The plan is to rerun dreams with the Shifter - got the dots, now make the noises more interesting. I might add a thought for the day later.

And here's a fun Australian blog.

First dream
21st September 2009
Malekko anti-oscillator

Well I've got the Dream Machine working at last thanks to DV's advice. The first result (dedicated to Dave, of course) is "37 minutes, just a single take, single track, unprocessed with only one knob tweak as the first note of the sequence became annoying after 25 mins. The small thunk at the beginning is the system being switched on so that the warmup would be included". Subsequent dreams will be more complex and interesting. Overtaken by events here, is malfunctioning at the moment and so this is a later version of three takes with added thunder (in support of the Thunder Contention below). The name is Dream and thunder 22Sep09.

My problem was the top left of the diagram, trying to work out what the RVS is sending to the sequencer. My solution is to time the sequencer from a second VCLFO fed from the lower half of the SoU which itself is triggered on the 8th beat (A161) of the main VCLFO.

Now onto DV's suggestions. Firstly on kit.

Malekko noisering

Secondly on patches, references to the Strange bible:

Just a reminder the the purpose of this blog and this section of SnapDragon is an aide-memoire for me in making my wurbles and bleeps, so the format is entirely for my own benefit.

I have replaced the wishlist tables at the bottom of this page with the new section at the bottom of each new entry..

Wishlist: 143-9 - WMD Geiger Counter - 150 VC switch - Malekko anti-oscillator and noisering - 112 Sampler - Wasp - Bucket - sequencer - Livewire AFG and Dual Cyclotron - 116 - spring reverb - PLL - dual slew - more 109s
Wanted but unlikely to be acquired: analogue shift register - Blacet Miniwave - Bananalogue VCS - Wretch - MOTU Volta and iBook G4
20th September 2009

Two main things from DV's notes, more modules to consider and patches to try.

Patches first, I will try the Dream Machine again today and soon the Entropical Paradise (I'll have to work around the second sequencer for now).

19th September 2009

A terrific resonse from Dave Vosh including a number of ideas i will return to later.

But now, just a quick link to a page on ASRs Hard Sync ASR . It would appear that my options are PlanB or DIY.
Dave Vosh and Thoughts for the Day
18th September 2009
Frank Zappa, Yellow Shark

Dave's DVDs arrived on 12th. I promised a response and started writing it a few days ago while working on my last ever law essay. Perhaps predictably, the exercise turned inwards and I ended up writing almost exclusively about my relationship with noise, paying little attention to Dave's pieces. Today I abandoned mk.1 and turned my attention to the DVDs. That leaves my self-centred musings which I will recycle as occasional thoughts for the day on this page. More of Dave here.

Here's the first, writing the dots
I have referred previously to my love of arhythmic, atonal muck (MArAt) and will happily spend hours listening to other people's or making my own. I don't much like 'modern classical' music, though, and I am not sure why. Perhaps the form lives naturally in the improvised pieces to which modulars are so well suited and there is something intrinsically silly about taking what sounds improvisational, writing it all down in dots and getting a large squad of talented folk dressed in their Sunday best to sit down and play it.
I have never been much good at consistency, however. I soon tire of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, and much prefer the Zeitkratzer orchestral version. And I like some of Zappa's orchestral stuff, particularly Yellow Shark

One more thing, I have been listening to my pieces while doing other things this morning and also had open the page for a smalll but beautifully formed current V&A show (get there while you can, closes October 18th). The page has a loop of gentle thunder and I am forced to conclude that there is no piece which doesn't sound better for the addition of occasional thunder in the background. I used to have some BBC sound effects LPs: I wonder what happened to them.

Doug again
17th September 2009

Just a marker for Doug on Vimeo.Then I noticed an 'embed' option.

Karplus Funk from dougcl on Vimeo.

14th September 2009

The August Order has proved something of a dissapointment

WMD Geiger Counter
10th September 2009

Good lord, the WMD Geiger Counter is now available in Eurorack (that's the robotshit device).

The only disappointing aspect is the colour.

module meanderings
7th August 2009
143-9 VC Quadrature LFO/VCO

I do enjoy writing these confident, authoritative, definitive lists of What I Need Next and then tinkering with them.

I believe the modules identified in the last post are right but the order has kept me thinking since.

Livewire Audio Frequency Generator Livewire Dual Cyclotron
5th September 2009


subsequent p.s. if only it were that simple: don't forget the 194 PLL for playing with frequency multiplication and the 143-9 VC Quadrature LFO/VCO to extend the Frequency Shifter. I wonder what Andy charges for the modification (and optional additional switch).

order in
4th September 2009

EMIS order confirmed and Andy is going to fit a blue led just for the square wave on the VCLFO

later, 3rd September 2009

Damn, EMIS does not have the 150 VC switch in stock. I wanted this to switch randomly (or maybe sometimes even intentionally) between the inverted and non-inverted CV control for the VCLFO driving the random voltage sources (RVS - SoU and Woggle). The effect of inversion is significant, slowing down the rate and seemingly increasing the variation (difficult to tell). The plan was to flick between the two, routed to the two RVSs. So it goes, next month, then.

Blacet Miniwave
Two listens
3rd September 2009

An even better YouTube from Doug, using a Blacet Miniwave, for which Eurorack conversions do exist.

If I ever get the hang of creative electronics (planned to start on October 17th, the day after my degree stops), I'll work towards a frac rack row in the Cupboard.

The A&P Exerise (see yesterday) got me, frankly nowhere. Dalek voices on BBC Radio 4's Moneybox, but nothing worth recording. So it goes.

Now I know that this is a blog on my modular synthing, but this is the funniest sketch I have heard in a very long time. It's bad enough before the duck arrives, but at that point I just dissolve. Mitchell & Webb's Radio 4 series 4 episode 1.

A112 Sampler/Wavetable Oscillator
2nd September 2009 supplementary

I have lobbed in an order to Andy at EMIS in anticipation of his return from holiday. (166 dual logic, a 136 distorter, a 147 VCLFO and a 150 VC switch).

Pencilled in for next order are a blue led 112 Sampler/Wavetable Oscillator, 116 VC Waveform Processor and 124 Wasp filter. But for now it's time to stop, I've run out of cash.

It must be time to update the wish list.

a small change of plan
2nd September 2009
Appleton and Perera

The 116 fell through, so it goes.That probably means reconsidering the EMIS order.

The 166 Logic, 150 switch and VCLFO stand with one sound mangler - 116 or 136.

As I have already mentioned the 136 in the August order which has become the September order, I guess I'll stick with that and leave the 112, Wasp and 116 for next time.

A project on the back burner in Exercises is that shown right from Apples and Pears . I might give that a whirl later today as I happen to have two radios to hand. BBC Radio 4 for Voice and pot luck for "Chopin" on Radio 3.

Sound and vision
1st September 2009
Olympus Stylus Verve

A good day

31st August 2009

An admirable and gratifying response to my posting on the Doepfer chat group

I'll buy (subject to acceptable postage charges) the 109, one of the VCADSRs, the 116 and aim to order from EMIS the previously mentioned 166 Logic, 150 switch and VCLFO as I have immediate purposes for all of these. That's a good month's acquisitions. I'll delay the 136 until September when the sponsored 112 is due: I might well ask for a special delivery blue led, just to offer a little variation. And perhaps a Wasp.

One more thing before I get back to making noises early on this bank holiday morning.There was a flurry of posts a while ago in Doepfer chat about good manuals. Here they are:

30th August 2009
A109 Signal Processor

I have spent a few enjoyable hours this afternoon reorganising my modules around current and forthcoming projects and common patches (I think that's another way of saying moving my favourite modules closer to one another). Younger people might describe this as workflow. The process gave rise to an interesting thought, if I were starting again (bearing in mind I only started 6 months ago in February), which modules would I buy?

Perhaps inconsistently, having voted against utility modules, I do like the 109 Signal Processor as it makes quick patches easy and the filter is a beaut.

The process has also clarified what I need now, and some of it is more of the same , notably some more 109s another 147 VCLFO and a proper ADSR, either a straight 140 or perhaps the 141 VCADSR. I'll try a WTB on the Doepfer chat group for these. and if that doesn't work raise some cash for a supplementary EMIS order.

Important point
29th August 2009

Note to self (learned while working on Harvage, or is it Homvey?). When you have a pleasing stochastic patch, record at least three takes of it before messing around trying to 'improve' it. I had a very pleasant middle chunk running on the Asys VCo driven by the SoU through the 109 with the Frequency Shifter between VCA and Pan (that's what passes for a patch record here). Recorded a take then fiddled: what I have now is ok, but not as good. Nevertheless, Harvage is building and take one will be available soon.

Dropping out of Harvage, while I generated a percussion line, is a work for multiple tuned arhythmic metronomes with residual drones. A school friend (who I haven't seen for 35 years) told me of a piece he did at a university show, a Bach 3 part invention arranged for three typewriters of varying size. There's a piece for many metronomes, the composer of which eludes me for the moment. A university electronics friend (not seen for 30 years) built me a multiple metronome device a long time ago (I was looking for it the other day but without success). And all this builds up to the percussion effect I came across while fiddling with Harvage. I'll probably call it Bob and Andy after the two friends.

I guess this goes to show that it's good and serendipitous to fiddle, but not too soon.

p.s. It's Ligeti, of course, Wiki here . And here's Bob and Andy 28th Aug 2009 .

WMD Geiger Counter
Robot shitting
27th August 2009

There's a YouTube demo of the WMD Geiger Counter to which someone has posted the comment,
i need to buy this pedal. I can piss off everyone in my house, scare them, fuck everything up, peel the paint of my wall in my room, make messed up studio recordings, cause a third world war, and make it sound like theres a robot in my room who is shitting out a 30 year old car engine.

It looks like a fun device, though fully-priced, but more importantly, I would like to produce a piece which sounds like there's a robot in my room who is shitting out a 30 year old car engine.

26th August 2009

I'm struggling with making sense of the Dream Machine diagram and keep getting patch distraction displacement. This has eased me into the idea of structural homages , that is, taking an existing piece and organising sounds in a similar way. [I think this would be a good idea for a Tape Collective project but will not suggest it before I have some kudos with the group after the It's not a horse silence.] Anyway, my first attempt will be based on Jonathan Harvey's Body Mandala , an astonishing piece which I heard only days before Wendy Carlos's remarkably complementary Incantation from Beauty in the Beast , both deriving from Tibetan influences.

The plan is to plot noises against the original structure and gradually develop the homage.

Radiophonic Workshop
25 August 2009 supplementary
Daphne Oram with the Wobbulator

I've been meaning to post this for some time. The April 2008 edition of Sound on Sound incuded an extensive article on the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop which quoted the following:

"Wee have also Sound-Houses" became the Radiophonic Workshop's motto. Taken from The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon, it was rediscovered by Daphne Oram, and for many years was pinned to the Workshop's office wall. It is an extraordinary piece of writing, seemingly a vision of some recording studio of the future; yet, incredibly, it was written in 1624.
"Wee have also Sound-Houses, wher wee practise and demonstrate all Sounds, and their Generation. Wee have Harmonies which you have not, of Quarter-Sounds and lesser Slides of Sounds. Diverse Instruments of Musick likewise to you unknowne, some sweeter than any you have; Together with Bells and Rings that are dainty and sweet. Wee represent Small Sounds as Great and Deepe; Likewise Great Sounds, Extenuate and Sharpe; Wee make diverse Tremblings and Warblings of Sounds, which in their Originall are Entire. Wee represent and imitate all Articulate Sounds and Letters, and the Voices and Notes of Beasts and Birds. Wee have certaine Helps, which sett to the Eare doe further the Hearing greatly. Wee have also diverse Strange and Artificiall Eccho's, Reflecting the Voice many times, and as it were Tossing it; And some that give back the Voice Lowder then it came, some Shriller, and some Deeper; Yea, some rendring the Voice, Differing in the Letters or Articulate Sound, from that they receyve. Wee have also meanes to convey Sounds in Trunks and Pipes, in strange Lines, and Distances."

I think the Workshop is one of the UK's finest achievements, easily surpassing our retaking the Ashes yesterday. The decision to close it down in 1998 is a reflection of just how long the BBC has been sinking.

Bananalogue Serge VCS
August order
25 August 2009

It looks as though the August order will become the September order as EMIS (i.e. Andy) is on holiday. Only a few modules this month as I have been buying S/H on eBay.

23rd August 2009

It's been a while since the last post, some of which has been spent converting the page from MS Front Page to home-cured HTML, with the excellent help of Oliver & Morrison's HTML and CSS in 24 hours. The rest has been catching up with my law studies and CAB training.

In the meantime, the Wogglebug has arrived. It is an interesting beast and will take some time to master. Now there are two random devices in stock (Woggle and Doepfer SoU), it's time to patch Strange's Dream Machine (see the diagram in the 7th June post).

Korg MS2000

Housing the kit is up for consideration again. A post on the Doepfer chat group from a fine musician Marie (see here too), shows Doepfer in what I thought was a cupboard but turns out to be a wardrobe . Consider this: a cupboard containing three Doepfer LC9s and the fourth quarter a rack (contents to follow), a bit of space on the left for books and stuff. Now here's the clever bit: the modules are recessed 6 inches (or whatever is required) allowing some stuff on the inside of the doors. I have in mind a Korg (see below) and maybe one day a Wretch on the inside of the left door and cables and other miscellaneous bits on the right. It could work and I'm keeping an eye out for a suitable cupboard.
Also, must get a BBD and a Wasp.

I'd love a Korg MS20 but cannot afford one. The obvious fallback is an MS10, still not cheap, but what I have in mind is a rackmount MS2000 on the inside of the cupboard door. It is 87mm deep, that's about 3.5 inches.There's usually one on eBay selling for £150 to £250. (the Wretch is 3 inches plus valves and protective cover)

Doepfer on eBay
4th August 2009

Lots of Doepfer kit coming up on eBay recently. I have bought an A109 processor and regular ADSR A140 but regrettably missed out on an A147 (VCLFO) A112 (VCO/Wave) and A141 (VCADSR). No matter, that just means that I have the funds for a Wogglebug, ordered today. This month's EMIS order will be definitely an A166 logic and possibly an A136.

The great thing about being a poor pensioner is that I get paid for doing nothing: the not-so-great thing is a relative shortage of funds, so I cannot just buy any modules I lust after (big mistake not starting this a few years ago when I was still working). Nevertheless, this does keep life interesting in that I am perforce a lot more careful about what I buy and spend more time exploring it. I have also adopted the approach of 'sponsored modules'. The strange and entertaining supermarket LiDL bought the ASols sequencer when they succumbed to my refusal to pay their parking charge. CAB expenses will pay for an A118 in September.

Doepfer A136
Consider a 136
20th July 2009

Having fun, just a note to consider the A136 for the August buy. A166 still top of the list. And I need some VCAs, a VCO and a VCLFO. And the Wogglebug. And in compiling the multiples page, I have noticed the Doepfer A182 switched multiple .

Frequency shifter
13th July 2009

Incidentally, I am in the process of transferring the web site from the old laptop to the main PC and some updates are getting through, but not many of the attachments. My host has never been terribly efficient and I am still using MS Front Page which is rather unreliable. I intend to rewrite the whole site over time.

The A126 Frequency Shifter arrived today and is a quite extraordinary device. I am running an SoU piece which is sounding quite entertaining and when the CV fiddling modules arrive in (I hope) the next few days, that will allow some rhythmic variation, whereupon I'll publish in and SoundClick .

Available on
10th July 2009

The used 162 is looking likely, together with a multiple and perhaps a 115 audio divider. Getting the multiple that way will perhaps allow me to justify getting the 160 and 161 from EMIS this month.

I am also looking favourably on the A109 again: although expensive at first sight, the provision of VCF, VCA and pan would simplify multiple stream setups: a couple of those would be very useful in the continued absence of the A135.2 quad panner. I will keep alert for second hand 109s and try to pick up a couple. They will be discontinued when Doepfer's stock of chips runs out.

Another VCLFO is also needed, I must finish the LFO resource page.

I have never claimed to be decisive. July looks like blanks, 160, 161, red and blue cables; used 162, multiple and maybe audio divider; look for s/h 109s; keep (start) saving for the Wogglebug. August (or post-Wogglebug) initial shortlist: logic (166), quadrature (143.9), switch (150/151), minmax (172), VCLFO (brand?). Must be time to update the wishlist. When I started this, the intention was to buy one new module per month, by gum that was naive.

Now I really must get on with my essay on the Commons Act 2006.

I have added my pieces to - seem to be stuck on 30sec clips rather than the full track, but that will be resolved eventually [now fixed and available in their full glory and raiment].

Plague Bearer
Plague Bearer
8th July 2009

The Plague Bearer arrived at last. Half a day of panic as it took out one of the LC9 cases when I plugged it in, it came back to life when I unplugged the PB. Several emails to FoH HQ got us nowhere: Kevin's final suggestion was test the cable. This morning I tried a spare cable and it worked. An excellent device.

I had my first attempt at the Daniel Goode piece, using the Archers theme tune (BBC Radio 4) as a subject. It is very difficult to do: I abandoned the tune half way through. I might post the piece later. I will be trying again with the Beethoven.

I managed to find a second-hand Frequency Shifter in Canada and that is on the way, so that's damned exciting, but dents the Wogglebug Fund. Should be here in a week.

Where next? There are two or three areas for expansion, the notes (control voltages), and the noise (sound generation and sound processing).

A143-4 quad LFO/VCO

Time to contemplate the July purchases. I had been inclined towards the 162 Dual Trigger Delay, but I might have a line on a used one. So, apart from Doepfer blanking plates for the Asys modules, I need a multiple and some more cables. Unfortunately, that means three buys and no sound, so there must be at least one noisy component. The shortlist is: the 189.1 bitcrusher; 183.2 utility (probably not available yet); 143.9 Quadrature to go with the FreqShift; or some control processors. My current inclination is to go for the last to allow some more complex triggering, the 160 plus, perhaps the 161. This will allow lots of extra fun, especially if the 162 delay materialises. Then the 166 logic unit and one of the switches.

In the medium term (around the same time as the Quad LFO/VCO) I must also consider another dual VCA and more filters.

On multiples, it's worth noting that ASys have a 2x5 (RS170) for around the same price as Doepfer and also the RS230 'amplified multiple' for £55. When you add a converter cable and the postage the cost of the 230 is pushing £70, but if I make another ASys order, I probably will. A modest page on multiples is probably worth a go, there is the formidable MakeNoise format jumbler to consider.

Soon time to consider how long it will take to fill the two LC9s: it was only 10th June I stated that 'they will suffice for some time to come'.

5th July 2009

Back from a boating holiday and noise deprivation. I have read the Arturia Moog Modular (AMM) manual and am looking forward to playing with that. It has drawn my attention to the Frequency Shifter. Doepfer made these as the A126, but that is now discontinued as they can't get the wood. ASys make the RS240 at a mere £675 and so I might have to wait for a second-hand Doepfer - a WTB request on the Yahoo group brought no response. I expect a page on FSs will be forthcoming.

My current thoughts for modules while saving for the Wogglebug are the dual trigger delay (A162) and a switch (both the A150 and the A151 would be useful: choose one). The A112 VC Sampler might be interesting to try a modified version of the It's not a horse piece with, but it is rather expensive for a one-off and the Wogglebug should take precedence. I am also wondering about the MFB OSC-02 Triple VCO as a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to providing a sufficiency of oscillators: is Doepfer planning a Quad VCO?.

The Plague Bearer is due to arrive on Tuesday 7th.

I plan to try the Allen Strange Dream Machine on both hardware and AMM. This will be the first use of the ASols sequencer which is an excellent piece of kit and remarkably good value.

The Pieces pages are beginning to take shape as a repository for my input and output.

Arturia Moog Modular
25th June 2009

Despite what I said about soft synths, I have bought a copy of Arturia's Moog Modular as it is currently selling at half price. It will be useful for testing example patches from my books and to use when on a regular trips to Nottingham.

I emailed Livewire to ask about stockists in Europe and they put me on to the SchneiderBureau, which gave me a chance to chase up the Plague Bearer. This means that the next few major purchases (Wogglebug and Livewire) will be from Schneider. The Analogue Solutions kit should have arrived when I get back to London tomorrow and that should allow a bash at the Daniel Goode piece before heading off on a short boating holiday.

Faust crossing
19th June 2009
Daniel Goode's Faust crosses the Raritan

Although I have continued to log progress, I have not been able to update the website since 14th May. All the other PCs in the house are working with the new Virgin cable line, but not the old laptop I keep SnapDragon on. So it goes.

The Appleton & Perera Appleton & Perera book is interesting and has some useful exercises which I will pursue in due course, but the main excitement remains with the Strange Bible which continues to delight. The next study I want to use from it is based on Daniel Goode's Faust crosses the Raritan somewhere in East Africa and finds himself back home, a little south of the Reich... Now there's a title for you (as we Welsh tend to say). Essentially, the piece involves picking a tune, setting up the first few notes on the sequencer and than gradually working through the rest of the tune setting one note at a time, so the piece gradually 'wipes over' itself. He suggests Yankee Doodle on a 10-step sequencer, I'll have an 8-step to begin with and am inclined towards the last few notes of the Beethoven violin concerto. Strange says don't use a quantizer, I am inclined to have one VCO with and one without. Just waiting on Tom from Analogue Solutions to come up with the SQ8. Mr Goode has a terrific web site here and Faust is in the scores (one of the one-pagers).

Analogue Systems RS270 The only recent acquisition is an excellent socket converter from ASys (RS-270) which simplifies the cabling to the mixer. I have ordered two sets of parts for the WSG (remarkably inexpensive from ?? - at this rate I can carry on trying until two work). On the Doepfer chat board (link) I raised the possibility of releasing an analogue shift register and stirred some interest. I have ordered a Ken Stone circuit board, just in case they run out, but I doubt whether I will ever get anywhere with it - even if I manage to complete the board successfully, my chances of creating a workable, reliable and aesthetically acceptable module are vanishingly small. PlanB do an ASR, but there are the usual grumbles and warnings about delivery.

This could well be the first time I have ever updated the log without changing the wishlist.

15th June 2009
ASols now back from hols, so I have ordered the sequencer and VCO-sub. It appears that units are made to order, so 1-2 weeks quoted for delivery. Their prices do not include VAT, so not as inexpensive as at first sight.

Now saving up for the Wogglebug, $270 from Analoguehaven (plus VAT, import duties and post office / courier admin charges), €259 from SchneidersBuero (who still owe me a Plague Bearer). Looks like Schneiders. I'll just have to resist the temptation of Doepfer additions until that's in the case [but a VC switch some more cables and some blanking plate slivers for the ASys modules will probably be on the cards anyway].

A 'new' book has arrived, Appleton and Perera (Eds.) The Development and Practice of Electronic Music. A footnote in the Strange Bible led to it. More news when read.

First Analogue Solutions order
14th June 2009
Still waiting for a response from ASols on the sequencer and VCO+Sub and for the Plague Bearer to arrive. I picked up a mixer and an old 8-way multiple at remarkably good prices on eBay: I think there were some pricing errors as the VCOs were selling for more than new and many were just a few pounds under EMIS prices, but was pleased to get in early with the bargains.

On the wishlist side, the voltage generators will be reaching critical mass with the sequencer and Wogglebug; VCOs will be enough for now on 4 (2 Doepfer, 1 ASys, 1 ASols, Livewire to follow). It will soon be time to consider the sound-processing side. I am intrigued by the combination of audio-divider and PLL referred to in the Doepfer manual. I am also tempted by the vocoder units, but cost and space availability may be the limiting factor there.

The more I read of the Allen Strange manual, the more I appreciate it: there is enough meat in there to chew on for some time to come. While on books, the third Keyboard Mag derivative has just arrived, Synth Technique: unlike Synth&Comp it remains relevant (to me, at least the first half on voicing rather than the second on performance) so I'll keep that one.

Must get to work on the WSGs. I wish I had the skill and understanding to build modules myself: there are numerous fascinating sources, particularly the CGS analogue shift register . Perhaps I can do evening classes in electronics once my law studies have ended. I have a long and undistinguished history of failed and abandoned electronic projects, stretching back at least 30 years.

I have added ASols modules to the products pages and Macbeth's remarkable (and remarkably expensive) new dual VCO has just been released in Eurorack format.

system 9th June
First Piece
10th June 2009

The EMIS order arrived very quickly and the new modules (particularly the VCLFO) are working well with the SoU. Systems will always expand to fill the space available, but the second LC9 will suffice for some time to come. I have completed my first recorded Doepfer piece, using the SoU, Sonata 9th June 2009, available here .

June order
8th June 2009

EMIS Doepfer order made today. ASols are on holiday and so I went for the Doepfer VCLFO and also ordered the Dual VCA. I intend to get the ASols sequencer when they get back to me and a VCO if funds allow. I have bought a few cheap headphone splitters to provide 2-way multiples and tried to buy a few second hand items (106.1 filter and 162 delay) from the Doepfer Yahoo group, but my bank charges £25 for an overseas payment and this, with shipping pushes the price over EMIS new.

Must source the parts for the next attempt at a WSG soon.

Dream Machines
7th June 2009
Source of Uncertainty patch

Zero responses on It's not a horse, so I guess they were not impressed. I realised yesterday that I had missed one supplier entirely, the UK's Analogue Solutions: I thought they just made semi-modulars and percussion kit but if I had looked further down the page, I would have seen the keenly-priced, proper synth modules, some of which will feature in plans below. I will revisit the product pages and insert the ASol products (note: Analogue Solutions = ASol; Analogue Sytems = ASys).

The plans for the June module purchase are taking shape, largely around the SoU. The Doepfer manual shows one random patch based on Allen Strange's book and also refers to Strange's Dream Machine.: these are shown right. So the June purchase aims to provide the kit for both patches. (Note 19th June, haven't reworked the Dream Machine layout yet, so here's the original to be going on with.)

Dream Machine

For the random patch, all I need is a VC LFO - my first idea was the Doepfer A147, but also up for consideration is the cheaper ASol unit. For the dream machine the parts list is two random voltage sources, a sequencer, VCO, VCLFO, S/H, inverter, ADSR and two VCAs. That means I'll need a sequencer and use the exponential VCA for audio purposes. As the FSS sequencer is still showing 'late summer', my first thought was to get the Doepfer 160/161 combination which was on the wichlist anyway and can provide limited sequencing, but again the ASol offering is also in the frame.

Other modules in the shortlist are the A156 quantizer and the A117 Digital noise and and percussive sound source module. Also, if I am trying ASol modules, then an inexpensive VCO is a possibility (the VCOSUB is interesting, but needs a Doepfer 5v supply). Plus another LC9 case, of course.

The 160/161 pair is rising in popularity for a subsequent purchase, together with an A166 logic unit to stir up the rhythm.

A135-2 quad panner
Get the Doepfer catalogue
2nd June 2009

One thing which I did get with the Doepfer order is the system manual which list all the modules (at the time of publication) with their functions, uses and suggested patches. This is a goldmine of information and has an immediate and lasting effect on he wishlist. The first thing I am going to need in relatively short order is another LC9 case - there is no chance of me building one until my studies and exams finish in October. Then there are so many useful little Doepfer modules which will add a vital something to my patches - every time I turn a page, there's another one I didn't think until now that I needed. A167

Comparator, A167 VC Frequency divider and A162 Trigger Delay are of immediate interest, and a few A109s would be immensely useful. I'm passing Bristol this week and could call in for a case and a few bits, but will wait until my enthusiasm settles down and the list is rationalised: I don't want to blow the Wogglebug budget on some modular whims. And, of course, when the second LC9 is in, there will be room for the Livewire products.

I will need another oscillator soon, probably the Analogue Systems RS95 as that is the least expensive and I prefer the sound to Doepfer.

I am pleased with the new module layout with the signal path running from bottom to top, but I can see that when the second LC9 is in it will be logical to define a number of parallel signal paths running up to a final mix, probably through the A135.2, though some going into A109s would simplify matters.

I thought up my It's not a horse project a couple of days ago (it came about while listening to Radio 3's Hear and Now program on contemporary vocal music). I posted a request on the Chain Tape Collective message board , but no responses as yet.

1st June 2009

The Doepfer delivery arrived today. The A149 Source of Uncertainty has immediately injected a strong dose of interest into my output. The example patch uses a VC-LFO which would add complexity to the rhythm and I'm wondering whether to raise such a device in the order priority and whether to go for the Doepfer A147 or maybe something more adventurous, such as the Elby Designs PsychoLFO (not VCO). I think perhaps an LFO page is called for, but it will have to wait until I get the laptop on which this site lives talking to the new network. The A149 is intrinsically quantized after a fashion and so perhaps the quantizer imperative has reduced, but will one still be needed for the pitch/CV.

I have ordered the Plague Bearer from the European stockists, SchneidersBuero and was pleased to note they also stock the Wogglebug: only just managed to stop myself ordering one.

Further indecision
25th May 2009

The AS Pitch/CV is showing considerable promise, but will probably need a quantizer to tame it, so that will have to be raised in priority and fitted into the first LC9. I have had second thoughts on a few of the modules queued, perhaps the A183-2 would be more flexible than the A183-1: the decision might rest on which is released first. I also need to fit in the other multiple, the A181 Jack 2 for output. Wishlist updated accordingly. The May Doepfer order from EMIS is expected on Friday 29th.

I picked up a second hand dotcom rack frame against the day I start acquiring a small selection of modules. This will be incorporated into the case.

The WSG is proving troublesome and I will be sourcing the parts for a rebuild, aiming for 2 units in a rack-compatible configuration.

20th May 2009

The AS modules were delivered almost instantaneously. While I like the design and variety of Doepfer, AS does sound really good, probably better than Doepfer. I have taken the opportunity to reorganise. Using the indispensable modular planner, it is apparent that when the current Doepfer order arrives, I will have room for the Plague Bearer, Wogglebug a few Doepfers (min/max, dual attenuator) and that's about it. I will have to fit in the FSS sequencer (just as well that is small) when it is released, then it's a new case. The Livewire modules will have to wait.

I'll take a snap when the Doepfers are in and soon start posting my atonal muck.

May order - first Analogue Systems module
17th May 2009

Good speakers, poor soldering
14th May 2009

The speakers (Creative T3100) are remarkably good for the price. As predicted, the WSG has not worked first time, but I will persevere. I have ordered the Analogue Systems RS-35 pitch/CV converter. Plague Bearer next (trying to decide whether to order it from the US or Germany). The page on quantizers is under way.

cable storage
Cable storage
9th May 2009

Further evidence of indecision
3rd May 2009

The speakers have arrived and will be tested later today.

Having read numerous scare stories about Plan B deliveries (or lack of) I have amended the wish list to the Dual Cyclotron rather than the Heisenberg.

I just managed to prevent myself from ordering a Plague Bearer filter as they are so stylish and inexpensive, but this has prompted a new page of research on filters. The research seems to support my initial inclination towards the Plague Bearer as an inexpensive distortive device. I'll aim for one of these fairly shortly.

A further thought on the proposed double fronted case, just in case I can ever afford a Metasonix Wretch Machine, it would be as well to allow 6u of rack space above.

Postings on the forum regarding MOTU Volta, suggest that an old Apple laptop might be on the shopping list. It was said that an iBook G4 with 1Gbyte will suffice and they are reasonably cheap. This can wait, though.

The Official Wish List
29th April 2009

Wish list expanded, see here .
System design
27th April 2009

It's as well to sit on wish lists for a while and see what other ideas percolate.

What next?
20th April 2009

I picked up a couple of A-120 VCFs cheaply on eBay. I'm hoping that they will work: they did not come with power leads and so am waiting on these from EMIS.

My current plan is for the next purchase to comprise: A-110 VCO, A-132.3 Dual VCA, A-134.1 VC Panner, A-149.1 +149.2, Random voltage generator, A-180 multiple. I would like to include the Analogue Systems pitch/CV and envelope follower (shouldn't have bought the Doepfer follower)

I am also trying to set up an inexpensive portable recording method. This involves dot com System 44

I have also been giving some thought to where I would like to end up.
System VCO VCF VCA ENV Other
22 3 1 2 2 midi, slew, noise, mix, rmod, s/hold, mult, signal
44 6 1 4 4 midi, slew, noise, mix, rmod, s/hold, mult, 2*signal, pan, instrument, conn, clip, 2*VCOaid
66 7 2 4 5 midi, slew, noise, mix, rmod, s/hold, 3*mult, 2*signal, pan, instrument, conn, clip, reverb, std, switch, pedal, preset, 2*VCOaid, VCFaid, sequencer

Wish list (one of many)
15th April 2009

My journey up the learning curve has begun. I bought the A-119 envelope follower, but regarding the pitch/CV unit, apparently Doepfer have had one in planning for some time, but no sign of a release. I will have to look elsewhere (the Analogue Systems RS30 is a possibility). In the meantime, my current want list is:

Another oscillator (probably Doepfer and branch out later); 2 multiples; the Source of Uncertainty unit (again, branch out later); another VCA and possibly the Doepfer Pan and Min/Max modules. Then the small sequencer and quantizer.

Now to continue the research into Note Generators - completed.

Late changes
10th April 2009

The LFO query has been resolved and I have switched from the single unit to the Quad LFO. Having read the first few exercises in the Allen Strange Bible, I am considering picking up an envelope follower and pitch/cv converter when I collect the machine tomorrow.

First Entry
8th April 2009

I have wanted a modular since before Walter was Wendy. Retirement seemed like a good time to move and so, after a misguided detour into the cul-de-sac of soft synths, I am due to pick up a small Doepfer system on Saturday 11th.

For a couple of years I hovered over a decision to start with the admirable Entry System , but hesitated largely because of postage costs and import taxes. An article in the latest Sound on Sound by Jyoti Mishra did most of the work for me and swayed me towards Doepfer.

My initial choice of modules is based on the System 22 and the Doepfer Mini System and is designed to enable me to explore the basics of sound manipulation. The setup is:

This should keep me busy for a while, but even before it arrives, I am planning for expansion. That is what started this site, collecting details of what is available from the various vendors and comparing cost and features.

Several more oscillators oscillators will inevitably be required and that is where the exercise began. I am inclined towards the Livewire offering if funds allow.

My output will be atonal muck and therefore Note Generators will be high on the list. This is one of the most interesting areas of study and the choice is wide. My initial Doepfer system spec, was the Midi/CV, the Source of Uncertainty module and the new mini-synth, A-111-5. It was only the ETA of June for the 111-5 which returned me to a more normal entry path. (Going back a few weeks further, it was my decision to start saving the £2,500 for a Metasonix Wretch Machine which allowed me to spend half that on the Doepfer kit without blinking an eye. I'm still planning on getting the Wretch but that will be some way down the line.)

And a Sequencer will be required. Doepfer's modest A155 might suffice.

Some form of quantising will be needed to go with the Generators and Sequencer, but I'm looking for something more adventurous than merely standard Western tuning.

The wishlists have been replaced, from September 2009, by lines at the bottom of each entry.

Blank Entry


Wishlist: 143-9 - WMD Geiger Counter - 150 VC switch - Malekko anti-oscillator and noisering - 112 Sampler - Wasp - Bucket - sequencer - Livewire AFG and Dual Cyclotron - 116 - spring reverb - PLL - dual slew - more 109s
Wanted but unlikely to be acquired: analogue shift register - Blacet Miniwave - Bananalogue VCS - Wretch - MOTU Volta and iBook G4

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page rewrite started 19th August 2009