CatSynth video: Cat, Alesis and iPod

From William Potter, victimasdelspleen on Instagram.

CatSynth video: shadow cat (modular synth)

From Ebotronix on YouTube, via matrixsynth. Quite the modular synth collection in this recording, plus one cool cat.

4ms Peg, QCD /Expander² ,QPLFO, RCD, VCA Matrix
Analogue Systems RS 100², RS110²², RS 360²
Bananalogue Serge VCS
Cyndustries Zeroscillator²
Doepfer R2m, A101-2, A114, A118,A134²², A143-2,A151²²
A152, A175²²,A185-2, A138abc, A192-1( 4Vox midi CC )
Flame 4 Vox ,Chord Machine², FX 16, Talking Synth Module²
flight of harmony choices
Make Noise Brains ,PP²,Maths²,Moddemix²²,QMMG,
Optomix, Wogglebug²
Malekko Anti²², Unkle²²,Jag
Moog FreqBox²², MP201
Roland SVC-350 Vocoder, System 104 Sequencer
SSL Modulation Orgy
Tip Top Audio Z8000 manual voltage source
Toppobrillo Quantimator²(min pentatonic),Sportmodulator,TWF
Logic masterclock to Kenton Pro 2000
Rocktron Rack Interface²
FX : Alesis 3630,Philtre,Boss VF-1,Lexicon PCM 80
Line 6 Echopro ,Red Federation BPM FX Pro
TC M one XL, M3000
mackie the mixer²
drums Ultrabeat
vid # 1284

Battle of the iPad Docks at NAMM. Behringer iStudio and Alesis iO Dock

iPad docks seem to be a theme this year at NAMM. Basically, these are high-end iPad shells that provide audio and MIDI I/O functionality. Consider the iStudio from Behringer.

The iPad fits into the dock and serves both as the computer and screen. The dock provides several controls one would find in a small portable studio and then a host of standards I/O ports on the back, including XLR, 1/4″ audio, video and MIDI.

But no sooner had I encountered the Behringer model than I came across a very similar one from Alesis:

Here, the Alesis iO Dock is controlling the Korg iMS-20 iPad Synth. Like the Behringer, it has XLR, MIDI, unbalanced audio and video. They even both have footswitch inputs.

So which one is better? It’s not really something I can say. They seem more focused on people who want to use their iPad as a workstation rather than as a live instrument the way I do, which requires being able to move it freely (and switch to portrait mode) and lift it show to the audience. But now that several companies are coming out with docks, maybe we will see more variations.

CatSynth pic: Gravitarium 2.

Via matrixsynth:

This one in via Silent Strike who composed the tracks for the app with a Clavia Nord Modular 1, Micron Alesis, Jomox Mbase, Reason 4 Propellerheads, M-audio Axiom 25, Elektron Drumachine (pic at the bottom of this post). The app does not allow you to manipulate sound, but I thought it was interesting to acknowledge some of the gear used to create the audio for this app. The Waldorf Blofeld and Yamaha AN200 pictured however were not used.

Looks like Silent Strike had a studio supervisor involved.

There is also info on the app itself.

Gravitarium 2 combines music, art and science in one relaxing experience. Use all your fingers to guide the star flow. You can create 10 different animations depending on the number of fingers touching the screen:

1 – Rocket, 2 – Sparkle, 3 – Energy flow, 4 – Atomic, 5 – 3D freeze, 6 – Circularium, 7 – Fish, 8 – Vortex, 9 – Lasers, 10 – Lightning.

Use different options to create spectacular drawings made of stars. You can load the “Drawing” preset from the “Options” screen.

I will be taking a look at this app. The idea of creativity and relaxation does appeals to me, but the game-play part is a bit less exciting – though it is the trend in the mobile-app space.

John Butcher, Bill Hsu and Gino Robair at Artist Television Access

live visuals by Bill Hsu

Two Sundays ago, I attended a performance at Artist Television Access featuring electro-acoustic audio-visual improvisations with John Butcher, Bill Hsu and Gino Robair. Bill Hsu provided the visual elements of the performance using the visualization environment Processing. (I have been interested in Processing for a while, and used it in the abstract graphics in my video piece featuring Luna.) Gino Robair had an array of electronic devices, including a Blippo Box and an Alesis effects unit, and acoustic percussion for a variety of sounds. John Butcher provided the low-tech counterpoint on saxophone.

I arrived late to an already pitch-black room as the first piece was concluding. (I was late because I was looking for a parking spot, which in the Mission is usually an ordeal. and I rarely drive there, but I had to on this night because of other obligations.) The next piece began in darkness, with small colored dots and a very sparse musical texture. The sound primarily consisted of electronic drones and long saxophone tones. As the the dots began to expand, so did the music. It became more active and featured more percussive sounds from Robair. As the graphics grew more complex, with swells and streaks, the music veered from discrete sounds to outright skronking with long runs of fast notes from both performers.

The next piece featured graphics that reminded me a bit of finite-element simulations with large numbers of particles forming in and out of patters. At first the particles seemed to form glyphs or characters of a written language, but then dissolved into smoke. This was set against sparse music, featuring bowed metal. (It was too dark to see, but I am pretty sure this was Gino Robair’s signature cracked cymbal.) The graphics shifted gradually over time, sometimes it seemed more like water, sometimes more like sand. Towards the end, the music (both saxophones and percussion) moved towards rather piercing high tones.

After a brief intermission, the performance resumed with the now familiar sound of the Blippo Box. It is interesting how despite having chaotic processes, this instrument has a very distinctive set of timbres and contours that are quickly recognizable. I did find out after the performance that the Blippo Box was being used in conjunction with an Alesis effects unit, which added more dimensions to the sound without changing its inherent character. Butcher attempted to match the sound on his saxophone, coming into unisons on the steady-state pitches, but then moving in chaotic runs of fast notes are growling timbres during the more turbulent output from synthesizer. The graphics during this piece focused on two closed elements, one yellow and one purple. They were mostly round shapes that curved in on themselves, but they occasionally coalesced into representational objects, such as a complex cross shape with sub-bars on the end (a bit like an Eastern Orthodox crucifix), and vague outlines of human figures.

The next piece was a sharp contrast musically, with drum samples and live percussion set against percussive saxophone effects, such as key clicks and tonguing. The graphics featured a red star with a roiling plasma surface that expanded over time.

The graphics in the final piece connected most strongly with my own visual aesthetics. It featured patterns of vertical bars overlaid periodically with large dots. The patterns started out simple, focusing on just a few elements on colors, but got more complex and richly colored over time. The music set against these visuals again featured the Blippo Box and its constantly changing but distinctive sound palette. But rather than attempting to match it, Butcher’s saxophone provided a counterpoint. He wove together active lines and melodies that on occasion were distinctively jazz-like, and then moving back and forth between long runs and series of loud inharmonic tones.

KFJC 50th Anniversary at Flux 53

Last Tuesday I attended performance celebrating the 50th anniversary of KFJC radio at FLUX53 in Oakland.

robair_marsh_dedionyso_cThe evening opened with a trio of Arrington de Dionyso, Gino Robair, and Bob Marsh. The set began with the drone of an electric harmonium, the space was then filled with the chirping of Marsh’s performance on Alesis Airs, Robair’s percussive and chaotic Blippo Box sounds, and de Dionyso’s reed instruments. All the sounds, acoustic and electronic, had a similar quality, and seemed to come together in a pattern I would describe as “yodeling”. This was followed by a combination of low reed tones and bass synthesizer sounds, both of which had complex overtones again masking the separation between acoustic and electronic.

Photo by Michael Zelner
Photo by

During the next portion of the set, de Dionyso performed on a double-reed instrument that I am pretty sure was a nadaswaram, a South Indian instrument similar to the Indian shehnai, but larger. Surprisingly, it sounded more like a saxophone than what I would expect (based on my familiarity with the shehnai and double-reed instruments in general), and was set against bass synth tones and more “liquidy” sounds. The sounds evolved into a drone layered with scratches and bending notes, and then into something more evocative of old space or science-fiction music, with descending synthesizer timbres. From this mixture, a minor harmony eventually emerged.

Photo by Michael Zelner.
Photo by

Robair then brought out his “signature cymbal”, and played bowed metallic resonances against gurgles and whispers. de Dionyso sang into various resonant objects as well, such as a partially filled metal water pitcher, and the detached bell of a bass clarinet.

There was more of the “space harmonies” and drones, groans and static. And vocal syllables against machine-like sounds, softer percussive synthesizers and metallic resonances. The sounds faded out, leaving just the original harmonium droning. Then suddenly there were bells and loud “skronking” (fast-moving loud notes), and then the set was over.


In the intermission, Walter Funk presented the Hologlyphic Funkalizer, an installation that uses a video synthesizer to interpret audio signals and project them onto an oscilloscope. I had actually seen a previous performance at the 2008 Edgetone Music Summit where Funk also played in the duo Kwisp. This time I was treated to a more detailed presentation and explanation of the technical details, including the Max/MSP programs that generated the audio signals and the analog video synthesizer. You can see visual examples at his website.


The LARGE ensemble, which was indeed large, performed a series of conducted improvisations, with Gino Robair and Bob Marsh alternating as conductors. Marsh conducted the piece in dramatic fashion. It began slowly with atonal pitches, squeaks, bends and glissandi on various instruments. The woodwinds began to add more “pointed” notes, with some short runs and phrases. The full ensemble then came to a loud stop followed by silence; then back to more of the longer notes from the beginning, then another loud hit and silence. This repeated a few times. Out of last silence emerged guitar scratches and harmonics set against scraped percussion, eventually joined by plucked string basses with bending notes, then the smaller string instruments. The texture grew dense again with long notes followed by faster runs. The music became loud and energetic and “argumentative”. And then it stopped.

LARGE_ensemble_c

[click to en-LARGE]

The next piece, conducted by Robair, had a sparser texture that seemed to focus on individual timbres of the instruments and specific sounds. It started with analog synthesizers and noise generates (Travis Johns) set against fast gurgling trumpet (CJ Borosque). They were soon joined by string bass and guitar also playing faster tones, while the violins faded in with a long steady-state tone. I could envision the ensemble being played as if it was a synthesizer rig rather than a series of separate instruments and performs. The texture grew thick, with some deep bass electronic sounds set against the strings; then it grew sparse again, with drums, trombone and bass clarinet. After some jazz-like runs on the basses, the ending centered around loud multiphonics and overblown tones from the bass clarinet.

The next piece started off like a standard from the 20th century classical repertoire, with detached pitches, atonal harmonies and percussive sounds. The music carried the tension and anxiety of a film score. Eventually the whole ensemble crept in. I also particular liked a section with clanging metal percussion against a very low synthesizer drone.

Robair then introduced the next piece as “Stretched out Xenakis in G.” It very quickly lived up to its name, with very slow pizzicato glissandi, and drones set against percussion scrapes. It was interesting to watch some of the instructional cards being used in the conducting, some had very literal musical meanings like “louder”, “soft”, “sweet”, “fast”, but others had more unusual instructions like “subvert.” Eventually, the ensemble settled into a textural equilibrium with everyone playing at once, and then instrumentals were replaced by voices singing in such a way to keep the existing texture going. The voices and instruments moved towards subtle harmonies or unisons (which I realized were of course all on on near G). Against this harmonic structure I heard the scraping sounds from Tom Nunn’s skatch box. The texture of the music grew more complex, and was then suddenly replaced by a violin solo of a minor melody that sounded quite Eastern European.

At this point, Marsh again took over conducting, and both he and Robair alternated every few minutes while the music continued uninterrupted. There were sections featuring mallet percussion, and squeaks on a soprano saxophone set against Nunn’s scratches, and a big “drum solo”. Later on, the mallet percussion rhythms took on a jazz feel in terms of syncopation and harmonies, an effect that was augmented by the presence of guitar chords. The texture eventually grew noisier again, with noise generators and loud, excited playing by the whole ensemble. The instrumental ensemble again became a chorus of voices, this time sounding a bit drunk. As the music grew software, Marsh held up the final instructional card: “God is in the details.” After this, the music came to a loud finish.