CatSynth pic: Turn (Taro and Mopho)


Taro plays a DSI Mopho. From Sawa Masaki on flickr.

2013, The Transformative Year

2013 Year End photo


[click image to enlarge]


Once again, it’s time for our traditional end-of-the-year image at CatSynth.   The past couple of years have all been good, rich, full, and sometimes complicated.  But 2013 has been particularly significant, certainly one that I will long remember.  As the title says, it has been a transformational time on multiple dimensions for me, indeed it has touched almost every aspect of my being.  There will be more to say on that in the coming days. Music and art have been going very well, too, and one of the main challenges of this coming year will be to build on the successes of this past year but in a more directed way.  If that sounds vague, it’s because I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

For Luna, things pretty much are the way the always are.  Such is the life of a contented house cat.  And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks to everyone who reads and supports this project, whether here at the blog, on Facebook, or through the many personal friendships that grown from here.  You are all what makes this work worthwhile!

APAture 2013 Opening Night

After a four year hiatus, Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture festival is back. The previous APAture in 2009 was my first look into the Bay Area’s vibrant scene of emerging Asian Pacific American artists. This time around, I not only attended the festival and gallery exhibition opening, but participated as well as one of the featured musicians. I created a set that featured the dotara, a South Asian folk instrument, as well as a sketch box, DSI Evolver, and analog modular.


The presence of blue and purple in the setup is not an accident, as the color blue was central to this performance. It was part of my costume and the lighting as well.


[© 2013 Susa Cortez/Kearny Street Workshop.]

The piece unfolded with the usual black-cat-blue-light opening, followed by a gradual swelling and fading of sounds from the modular. The dotata and sketch box were fed into the Make Noise echophon for effects reminiscent of old studio tape delays, alongside more modern noisy elements from the other modules. Overall, the performance was well received. For some, it was their first experience with electro-acoustic improvisation, and expressed to me their curiosity about it afterwards.

The opening night also included an opportunity to see the work of the visual artists participating in APAture. There was quite a range of work, and several pieces were quite strong both technically and conceptually. Jessica Tang covered an entire wall with panels connected by strands of red string. A closer look revealed that the panels were successive runs of Google translator on a block of text. The view can observe the decay of meaning and language through her piece:


Yuki Maruyama’s wooden blocks function as 3D versions of manga (comic) frames. The blocks can be assembled into new comic narratives, i.e., an “exquisite corpse”. Having three dimensions, however, allows for more combinations and interpretations of the assembled comic.


More traditional artistic media were represented as well. Wenxin Zhang’s presented stark versions of portraiture and architectural photography.


One of the more amusing pieces was an interactive conceptual work by Alison Ho, in which she invited visitors to stick gold stars with various Asian stereotypes on a blown up image of her face. Her piece was intended to challenge the notion of Asian American’s as a model minority. Clearly, many people were having fun with it.


[© 2013 Susa Cortez/Kearny Street Workshop.]

Other works that piqued my interest was Mido Lee’s starkly beautiful photographs of dead/forlorn trees, including some from desert landscapes; and a minimalist ring of light presented by featured artist Michael Namkung.

APAture has continued throughout October with events focus on different media, including writing, performance, and comics/zines.   The next event will be music night on Friday, October 25, at SUB/Mission (2183 Mission Street, San Francisco). If you are in San Francisco, do check it out.

CatSynth Pic: Dave Smith Instruments Evolver


From Dave Smith Instruments on Twitter.

“What are you looking at? Oh nothing, just that #Evolver Desktop in the corner…”

(UPDATE: original credit to for the photo.)

NAMM: Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 and Mopho X4

Dave Smith Instruments is one of my perennial stops at NAMM. This year they introduced two new keyboard instruments, the Prophet 12 and Mopho X4.

The Prophet 12 is gorgeous, but is also a powerful synthesizer. It’s odd to think of twelve voices of polyphony as a lot, but then one must consider that DSI synths are often monophonic. I did of course have to get my hands on one of these:

It plays very smoothly, both from the keyboard and while turning the knobs. I particularly liked the tuned feedback combined with both the highpass and lowpass filters. It was simultaneously a nasty sound but also very polished and playable.

The Mopho X4 was also fun. It is basically a four-voice version of the popular monosynth with a new physical design:

It plays like the original Mopho, very punchy and thick. It doesn’t quite have the smoothness of the Prophet, but it is not supposed to.

As usual, I wouldn’t mind having one of these myself, but they don’t come cheap. We will have to see…

CatSynth pic: Electro-Cat sucking up the noises (DSI Mopho)

Cute tuxedo cat napping with a DSI Mopho keyboard. From Paul Electronicaz Johnson, via matrixsynth.

If you have cat-and-music pictures, you can submit them to us via our Facebook page, Twitter @catsynth or contact us.

CatSynth pic: Mister Kitty

Mister Kitty returns today, with the impressive synth collection he shares with prophei.

I will leave off the list of synths as an exercise to the reader. Anyone care to give it a try? 🙂

CatSynth pic: Skinny, Maschine and DSI Evolver

Submitted by Alessandro Automageddon via our Facebook page.

“A very uninterested Skinny, ignoring Maschine and DSI Evolver.”

Thanks to our many friends who submitted photos this week.  Keep them coming via Facebook, Twitter @catsynth or contacting us.

CatSynth pic: MacBook Taro – cat

Another from Sawa Masaki on flickr.

I believe the synth in the picture is a Dave Smith Instruments Tetra.

CatSynth video: PHOENIX – Love Like A Sunset Sound (nearly)

By KidsAtMidnight on YouTube, via matrixsynth.

PHOENIX – Love Like A Sunset Sound (nearly)

Was supposed to be working on new track (and feeding the cat) but got sidetracked by the MoogerFoogers. Found a sound a bit like the mad glissando CS80 at the start of Love Like A Sunset so tried to work out the part a bit. Stole the Marimba-like bit from the Multitrack they put online.

Arthur (cat) was just hungry and attention seeking. He’s not normally too bad a chewer. Mind you, I did find all but one knob from my Digi002 in the hallway once. Bad boy …