Outsound Music Summit: Touch the Gear Expo

The 12th Annual Outsound Music Summit began this past Sunday, opening as always with the Touch the Gear Expo. Musicians and sound artists from the Bay Area and beyond were on hand with their musical devices and inventions for the public to observe and try out. I participated this year with two technological extremes: soft synths on an iPad, and a full two rows of Eurorack format analog modules.

iPad and Eurorack modular

Both offerings were quite popular, eliciting curiosity from visitors of all ages.

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[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

There were quite a few analog synthesizers on hand, including a vintage Serge modular courtesy of Synthesizerman (aka Doug Linner).

Synthesizerman and Serge Modular
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

One of the more intriguing analog synths I encountered was this creation by Andy Puls.

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The circular pattern represents a step sequencer controlling an internal sound generator. Conductive pegs can be moved around on the bars to change pitches and other parameters. There are also knobs as well. The overall geometry, control design and lights made this a visually appealing instrument.

Nick Wang also demonstrated some custom analog boxes with controllers, oscillators and a VCF.

Nick Wang synth demo

Fernando Lopez-Lezcano demonstrated his elaborate homemade analog synthesizer. I have had the privilege of hearing him play it in a formal performance.

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[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

Matt Davignon demonstrated his devices for working with fixed-media sources, a bit of a preview of what we can expect for Friday night’s PMOCOTAT performance.

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Acoustic creations, in particular sounds from natural sources, were a common theme this year as well. Cheryl Leonard demonstrated her expertly tuned instruments made from stones, bones, shells and wood gathered at the extremes of the earth. She also demonstrated her virtuosity with using these elements together, such as generating rhythms from a series of bones passed over the shells.

Cheryl Leonard
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

David Samas was also on hand with his musical creations from natural sources found here in northern California.

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Missing from the picture above is his tuned aluminum rod, from which one can get quite a powerful sound with a well-rosined hand. I had the opportunity to try it out myself.

Bryan Day presented his instruments made from found objects, including the tape measures featured prominently in the image below. Other sources included springs and metal rods. His creations are quite ergonomic and easily to play, putting unusual sources into compact and intuitive arrangements.

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Horaflora combined acoustics and small electronics in a couple of lively offerings, including drum heads excited by magnets. I heard him play this in a program several months ago.

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Horaflora also demonstrated exciting natural acoustic elements atop a subwoofer connected to an iPhone synth. You can see and hear a bit of my attempting to demonstrate these elements together with him in the following video:


David Molina (aka “Transient”) also blended acoustic and electronic ideas. He had a variety of small instruments and sound sources on hand, which he used to generate source material for complex loops and textures controlled in real time via Albeton live.

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In his own words, this was only “about half of what he will be using in his performance on Friday.”

Tom Nunn, a prolific inventor whom I interviewed in 2012, was once again presenting his creations. This time it was an exceptionally colorful set of his Skatchboxes.

Tom Nunn skatchboxes
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

There were others presenting as well, and unfortunately, I did not have time to see everyone and also attend to me own station. But I hope to see more of all the participants in more musical settings.

The Outsound Music Summit continues on Wednesday night with the first of the formal concerts, you can see a full schedule here. And of course, you can always follow along with @catsynth on Twitter if you can’t attend in person.

CatSynth video: Coco Keravos Music Live Improvised

From Meng Qi on YouTube, via matrixsynth.

“Live Improvised by Meng Qi and Xiaodaner

mengqimusic.com”

CatSynth pic: Mandarina and modules

From Travis Johns via the CatSynth Facebook page.

Mandarina “assisting” with some modules – March is the hottest month in Costa Rica and my studio is on the second floor of a building with a metal roof so daytime temperatures render it unusable – so I’ve been bringing work home with me in order to work at night when the temp’s a little more bearable. Unfortunately, there’s usually a certain orange snag to that plan. The modules themselves are from a class I’m teaching called TicoTronics – teaching basic electronics and circuit design via open source synth schematics, modified to use only components common to Costa Rica. For more info – www.vauxflores.com

You can see an example of Travis Johns’ creations and here.

You can see an example of Travis Johns’ creations and here.

CatSynth pic: Cat and Analog Video Synth Mods

Submitted by Logan Owlbeemoth via our Facebook page.

“my kitty hanging with me while eye werk on one of my analog video synth mods.”

via http://tachyonsplus.tumblr.com/

CatSynth pic: finallys a synths to match mah eyez

From softestthing on flickr, via matrixsynth.

CatSynth video: makey makey midi with kitty

That is one patient cat! How would your cats react to this?

Via matrixsynth, where you can see additional videos. The Makey Makey is actually a board that maps any electrical signals into standard keyboard events.

CatSynth video: Borgatron, beer, disco light and cat

From SolarisBorgatron, via matrixsynth, where you can find additional info and videos.

“A Demo of the Borgatron in action … a beer and a disco light.”

CatSynth video: Namasitar Stylophone

From Qi Meng, via matrixsynth.

“Circuit by Peter B
PCB/Design by Meng Qi

Portable and great sound.
Can be played standalone and as effector too.

ciat-lonbarde.com
mengqimusic.com”

Rubber ()) Cement, bran(…)pos, Hora Flora at Luggage Store Gallery

Today we look back at a recent show featuring noise and theater at the Luggage Store Gallery, part of Outsound Presents’ regular Thursday-night experimental-music series.

The first set featured Hora Flora, a project of Raub Roy. Most often, we associate noise music with electronic affects, but this set focused on acoustic noise opportunities. It opened to the sound of electric toothbrushes on drums. It turns out this sound can be quite rich, and also quite loud at times. Over the course of the performance, he used other acoustic generators for excite the drums, most notably large colorful balloons.

The set continued in this way, with the balloons and toothbrushes on the drums creating ever changing acoustic noise drones, with other elements such as didgeridoo and portable cassette players layered on top. The cassette players were very deliberately placed at even intervals on the beam that spanned the length of the gallery in front of the audience. I was right near one of them, but the sounds were still quite subtle when combined with the overall drone texture.

Horoflora was followed by bran(…)pos. I had last seen him perform at the 2011 Outsound Music Summit. Once again, he was performing from within a curtained space with video projections on the outside, but the setting was far more intimate setting. From my vantage point, I was able to see both his live performance “behind the curtain” as well as the enveloping video projection.

In his performance physical use of his face both generated and shaped the sound, which in turn controlled the video. The performance opened with expressive percussive sounds, which become more resonant through electronic processing and gradually formed a rhythmic pattern. It continued with a series of slurps, crunches and other forms of face percussion mixed with breath, voiced sounds and synthetic sounds. In addition to electronics for direct vocal processing, there were synthesizers as well, including an Access Virus:

Overall, the performance had the phrasings and overall structure of storytelling, but in a language whose words I cannot understand. It did come to a strong finish with growls and roars against a frantic thudding pulse.

The final performance featured Rubber (() Cement (pronounced “Rubber oh Cement”). The set was quite the spectacle, with a large costumed figure, a space creature of sorts, next to a towering old-school computer system made from cardboard. The visuals and sounds reminded me a bit of Caroliner Rainbow, but on a smaller scale, and on top of the audience instead of separated by a formal stage.


[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

Somewhere inside that lumbering lurching figure was a large custom string instrument. The plucking and striking of the strings formed the sonic base of the performance, which were both processed electronically and countered by other synthesizer sounds emanating from the “computer”. I suspected that the things would get quite loud, and indeed they did, with lots of loud shrieky pedal noises processing the strings and reprocessing themselves in complex ways. Of course the focal point remained the physical and visual aspects of the performance. In fact, that is a bit of an understatement, as part of the audience experience including being “attacked”. I got swiped at least once by one of the extending parts appendages, which are actually quite heavy – I was nearly knocked over. Things got a little crazier as the creature moved out into the audience. But it was all in good fun, and I don’t think anyone was hurt. Definitely an unusual experience for this series.

Overall, it was a great show attend, with different sites and sounds than usual. The audience was different as well, with the artists bringing their own followings. I hope to see more of them at other venues in the near future.

CatSynth pic: cannot patch..

If you have your own cat-and-gear or cat-and-music pictures, you can submit them to us via our facebook page, tweet us @catsynth, or contact us.

via Gunfire Horibly on The MATRIXSYNTH Lounge.  Also on the matrixsynth blog.