Modular Synthesizer Demo for Purim

Purim is the “most synthesizer-y” of Jewish holidays, given that one of it’s central rituals is noisemaking. This year we created a synthesizer demo running sounds from a gragger through several modules.

The demo uses a mixture of pre-recorded gragger on the QuBit Nebulae and live sound via the Mikrophonie and Make Noise Echophon. The full list of modules used in the Purim demo is:

  • Make Noise Echophon
  • Qu-Bit Nebulae (v1)
  • Rossum Electro-Music Morpheus
  • Mikrophonie
  • Make Noise Maths
  • Make Noise Tempi
  • Malekko Heavy Industry Noisering

I do wish I already had a Qu-bit Nebulae v2 for this project.  You can see our review of v2 from NAMM 2018 here.

Purim is a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from the king’s wicked advisor Haman, as told in the book of Esther. Traditionally, the gragger is used to mask the name of Haman when said out loud during readings.

CatSynth Pic: Mr. Maximillion and Novation Peak

Mr. Maximillion returns, this time in a handsome portrait with a Novation Peak synthesizer.  By Charles Whiley via Facebook.  You can see Mr. Maximillion’s previous appearance here.

We were wondering what exactly an “Oxford Oscillator” is, as Novation chose to display the term prominently on the panel.  From their website:

The implementation of the FPGA opens the doors to a new type of oscillator design for Peak — The New Oxford Oscillator — the design of which stems from the analogue imperative. Peak’s raw waveforms are generated using an architecture designed and realised by Chris Huggett. It employs two waveform-generating techniques: Numerically Controlled Oscillators (NCOs) and wavetables.

The NCOs are used for the traditional subtractive-synthesis waveforms (e.g., saws, squares, pulses, and triangles).  The wavetable oscillators can morph between different source tables.   The architecture of the oscillators with traditional waveforms reminds me a bit of the Evolver from Dave Smith Instruments.  It is quite intriguing, including the fact that it is implemented on an FPGA.

CatSynth Pic: Rufus Meowing with Modular

Our ginger feline friend Rufus returns, courtesy of iamshadowdancer on Instagram.  He looks ready to serenade us with a new song.

He has a rather impressive modular setup!  The upper case is by Goike.  It contains a wide variety of modules – we see a classic Metasonix yellow, a Mordax DATA on the right, a Make Noise Maths, and many others that whose identification we leave as an exercise to the reader.

CatSynth Pic: Cat in the Studio, Arturia MatrixBrute, and More

This cat has the seat of honor in this synthesizer-heavy studio.  By Charles Whiley via the Facebook group Synthesizer Freaks.

God I 💗 that 🐈 . And those 🎹.

We know the feeling!

We identify an Arturia MatrixBrute on the left and leave the identification of the others as an exercise to the reader.

NAMM 2018: Blipblox

Among the more unique instruments that we saw at NAMM this year was the Blipblox, a fully functional synthesizer in a plastic shell reminiscent of children’s toys.

Blipblox at NAMM 2018

Don’t be deceived by its appearance. The Blipblox is a full-featured monophonic synthesizer with selectable signal topologies and oscillators; a low-pass filter; a sequencer; and even a drum machine.  There is also a modulation matrix to complete the feature set.  In some ways, it seems similar to overall style and concept of the Moog Mother-32, though it is of course a very different instrument.

You can hear a bit of our attempt to play the Blipblox in this video.

It certainly seems like an interesting way to introduce kids to synthesizers and both the science and art of sound.  But it also seems quite usable for live performance – if it’s rugged enough for kids, it’s probably rugged enough for the stage.  We look at it an immediately think of the repurposing of musical toys for experimental electronic performance via circuit bending.  Whether a Blipblox is bendable or not is beyond the scope of this initial look, but it would certainly fit in with a setup that includes such modified instruments.

More info can be found at