• "I’ve been considering writing about Make Noise/Tom Erbe Telharmonic for some time now. There’s an abundance of videos covering this module, of course. But regrettably, I couldn’t find any that go beyond technical demonstrations, in order to cover the module’s historical and ideological contexts (except for the original Make Noise demo videos, to a certain extent). In my opinion, those are the very things (apart from the hardware’s great sound) that make it a truly exceptional work of tech art." This is an excellent piece of historical writing and context from Oleg Shpudeiko.

Don Buchla died. This is the Guardian’s obituary.

Although Moog is often credited with having invented the first modular synthesizer, Moog even admitted during his lifetime that Buchla was the first to have a full concept of how to put all the modules together to add up to an instrument. Buchla tended to avoid the term ‘synthesizer,’ preferring to use terms such as ‘electronic instrument.’

That is, I guess, the neatest summation of what I valued most about Buchla – who I came to late. Not just neat synthesizers with tangles of wire, but a clear understanding of how they were instruments. Whilst the System 100 and 200 are all obviously hugely important, for me, nothing summed that up more than the Music Easel. I might still write something about how perfect the Easel is as an electronic instrument; I’ve found that the more I stare at Buchla’s instruments, the more cleverly put together they are. (Not to be a downer on Moog, but some days, I’m sad how dominant the Moog-subtractive East-Coast model is. It’s a great model for synthesis, but god, therea re so many others.)

This also reminds meme of the work I did on Twinklr, and the work I’m continuing to do on something like an instrument:

“…if a designer expects to design legitimate instruments, he has to design them from the outside in,” Buchla continued. “He has to build the outside of the instrument first. This is what the musician is going to encounter. You cannot become obsolete if you design a legitimate instrument from the outside in.”

It was all there, right from the start, and he kept playing and making throughout his life. As somebody pointed out on Twitter: even if you don’t know his instrument or name, his influence is in every music studio in the world, every softsynth, every EDM track. It was all there.

Then again, maybe the most pertinent quotation from the obit is Suzanne Ciani:

“He never wore matching socks, but oddly, as an enthusiastic tennis opponent, always wore pristine tennis whites.”

  • "The SSS-12 is probably the best hardwood sequencer to ever be put on water. An incredible machine, It stores and plays the last 12 hours of river samples. Custom circuits convert the saltiness of each sample into pitch, the more salt the higher the pitch, giving a sonic impression of the tidal cycle. With its wooden conveyor belt the SSS-12 automatically updates every hour so you always get to hear the last 12 hours of tidal activity."

    Wonderful.

  • I think the point where Brian revealed that all the various pages – pitch, gate, CV – can all be running at different lengths, leading to wonderful polyrhythms and modulation… was the bit where my head fell off a bit. I find the work monome are doing around blurring the boundry between composition and playing an instrument really interesting.
  • "The hackable, digital synth": cheap, build-your-own virtual analogue. Interesting.
  • "I've been working on a sketch wherein some data is downloaded from an HTTP server and is then processed on the Arduino (printed, as it happens, but I don't think that's important). In my original sketches, I was occasionally seeing transfers fail midway through." James is running into issues that might be relevant to me.
  • "The Shruthi-1 is a hybrid digital/analog monosynth. Its hardware design is deceptively simple, but the sonic range is wide: sometimes grungily digital like a PPG-Wave, fat and funky like a SH-101, videogame-y like a Commodore 64, weird and warm like an ESQ-1 ; but more often than not, truly original." Looks nice, not expensive at all.