Robotspeak Adapter Build Workshop in San Fransisco 8/17/13

Robotspeak AdapterTest

via matrixsynth:

“Adapter build workshop.

This is a simple passive universal adapter allowing interfacing of a Eurorack or Serge with other gear.

“What do I get ?”

You get the pedal box with holes in it, all the jacks, some wire, directions, help building & a place to build it for 3 hours. (it really shouldn’t take more than 2 hours).
Free modular synth performance @2pm

PS: Yes you can use it to interface your eurorack with your Moog or Serge , or even your home stereo or VCR! Yes its a pocket mult, Yes its a pocket adapter a banana stacking mult/adapter.

To sign up contact steve.t at robotspeak dot com”

It’s in San Francisco, it helps with Eurorack and other gear, and their ad has a cat in it! How could I not attend?

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: one kay (Eurorack modular live set)

From donaldjasoncrunk on YouTube, via matrixsynth. With Eurorack modular and a cat!

“live set – 3 seperate noises in one video for your convenience! happy to be celebrating my 1000th post on the best internet community in the world, Muffwiggler. thanks to my fellow wigglers for the awesome advice and the awesome music that i listen to constantly!

the first two sounds are more percussion oriented, the last more sequency. i premade the vocal loops to save some time and to save you from hearing too much of my lovely boyvoice.”

Pitta of the Mind, Red Thread, and Pet the Tiger at Turquoise Yantra Grotto

Today we look at back at the show “Noisy with a Chance of TEXT” that took place at the Turquoise Yantra Grotto in San Francisco earlier this month. The program of experimental music with textual elements intended to “break the ultimate taboo in noise: meaning” and featured performances by Pitta of the Mind (my duo with Maw Shein Win), Red Thread (CJ Borosque and Laurie Amat), and Pet the Tiger (David Samas and Peter Bonos). A secondary theme of the night was cats – with abundant animal print in the setting and attire of the participants.

The concert opened with an introductory set by Pet the Tiger, combining David Samas’ vocals and custom musical instruments with instrumental performance by Peter Bonos.

David Samas and Peter Bonos

Their performance combined a wide variety of sounds into a short period of time, with experimental voice, instrumentation and electronics. It set the tone for the evening of sometimes complex music but also warm and inviting at the same time.

Next up was Red Thread, a duo of CJ Borosque and Laurie Amat.

CJ Borosque and Laurie Amat

The set started (and ended) with extended-technique trumpet and voice, but in between it was a very sparse and captivating presentation of CJ Borosque’s poetry. Throughout, there was a counterpoint between the straight recitation of the text and Laurie Amat’s virtuosic vocal techniques.

Then it was time for Pitta of the Mind to take the stage.

Pitta of the Mind

We took the animal-print theme quite seriously with our costumes, and Maw Shein Win read a selection of animal-themed poems while I performed music on a variety of iPad synthesizer apps. You can see our full performance in this video:

Pitta of the Mind at the Turquoise Yanta Grotto, April 5, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

I particularly liked how well timed and structured the performance turned out, including the “cat piano” interludes. It was also great to see how much the audience got into the theme, meowing back at us. Afterwards, I was joined on stage by David Samas in an impromptu duo where he combined his extended vocal techniques with my improvisation on an analog modular synthesizer. It’s amazing how much Samas was able to “sound like a synth” with his voice. Again, you can see the full performance in the video below:

Amar Chaudhary and David Samas at Turquoise Yantra Grotto, April 5, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

Overall, this was one of the most fun experimental-music shows I have participated in for a while. Not only was it strong musically, but we had a large and appreciative audience that packed the intimate space of the Turquoise Yantra Grotto. I certainly hope for more shows like this in the near future.

Godwaffle Noise Pancakes (March 3, 2013)

Pancakes and noise music may not be the first combination one thinks of for a Sunday brunch. But that is precisely what is offered at Godwaffle Noise Pancakes, a monthly noontime show organized by Grux at The Lab in San Francisco. I had the opportunity to perform at the most recent event on March 3.

I opted for a “purple theme” revolving around the purple Monorocket case I have for my Eurorack modular system. I selected an outfit and hair to match, and even found an old toy keyboard that was purple.


[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

The performance itself was on the subtle side, attempting to dial in on specific sounds and module combinations. It was an exercise in managing unpredictability and finding musical structures and phrases even in the noisiest of situations. You can see the performance in the video below.

Godwaffle Noise Pancakes live performance, March 3, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The hall was quite dark during the set and my attempts to lighten the video resulted in a lot of artifacts. But it does complement the sound in a way. One take-a-way for future performances with the instrument is to be mindful of how one adapts the output of the small Eurorack jacks to standard live-sound systems. Investing in some strong audio adapters for the modular itself will cut down on some of those unpredictable pops. But overall I was quite happy with the set, and got a lot of positive feedback (about the visual as well as the aural).

The next performance featured Abyss of Fathomless Light featuring Bert Bergen. His fast moving performance combined vocal recordings on a series of cassette players with analog electronics into a thick and fast moving soundscape. He was followed by fslux, whose performance moved between longer more mellifluous sounds featuring her vocals and harsh electrical output from effects pedals.


[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

The performance by J. Soliday (Jason Soliday) was undoubtedly the loudest and noisiest of this noise-based show. There were long sequences of repeated loud glitches that required a bit of effort to listen to, but also a few gaps and pauses with space for quieter detail.

The final performance featured a collaboration by Wobbly and Thomas Dimuzio. I have seen them perform together before, but this was the first time with the technological combo of Dimuzio on analog modular and Wobbly on iPad and other digital synths.


[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

This was the longest performance of the afternoon (all the others including mine were quite short), but also the most captivating. They were able to create enveloping soundscapes that at times felt otherworldly and at others more meditative. The overall texture was lush, but there were dry moments with more staccato details from both the analog and digital instruments.

Overall, it was a fun afternoon of music. I am glad I was able to participate and hope to do so again soon.

Pitta of the Mind and Mezzacappa-Phillips Duo, Luggage Store Gallery

Today we look back at my latest performance with Pitta of the Mind at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco, a show that also featured a set by the Mezzacappa-Phillips duo.

Pitta of the Mind is my music-and-poetry duo with poet Maw Shein Win. It was our fourth performance as a duo, and probably our most polished to date. As with our previous performance at last year’s Skronkathon, we selected a color as the overarching theme for the set. That time it was silver, this time it was blue, which was reflected in our costumes, props (including a little blue tree), and the content of some of the poems. The selections were a bit darker and melancholy than at the Skronkathon, and overall the set had a more serious feel. There were, however, humorous moments in both words and interpretive dance moves from Maw. For the music behind the poems, I used a variety of iPad apps including Sunrizer, Animoog and Bebot. The challenge was to provide sound that fit with the poems without overpowering them.


[Maw Shein Win. Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

After the main course of our poetry-and-music set, I played a solo improvisation on the analog modular system as dessert.


[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

A subpatch with the E350 Morphing Terrarium from Synthesis Technology, the Make Noise Maths, and the KOMA Eletronik SVF-201 filter formed the foundation, with other modules patched in and out during the course of the performance. I was aiming for noisy rhythmic patterns, and sometimes succeed, while at other times allowed the sound to move in the direction of longer drones or unstable chaos.


[Click to enlarge.]

The set was well received by the small but appreciated audience, and we got quite a few positive comments for both words, music and our coordinated blue outfits.

Lisa Mezzacappa and Noah Phillips opened with with a set of improvised music for upright base and guitar, respectively. Both are virtuosic improvisers, and I expected good things from their set. They explored a wide variety of extended techniques, some percussive and some more drone-like, and moving freely between more structured and free-form rhythms. Overall, the timbres, harmonies and textures were quite beautiful and visually evocative.


[Noah Phillips and Lisa Mezzacappa. Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

Interestingly, this was not the first time we shared the bill with the Mezzacappa-Phillips duo. We were all together at a show in Oakland in 2011. I’m glad we had the change to perform together again.

CatSynth pic: Cat – Synth – Space (Eurorack Modular)

By musicalgeometry on flickr.

This cat has quite the collection in this Eurorack modular system. I see several modules that I have as well, including the Make Noise Maths, and 4ms Pingable Envlope Generator. I also have the outboard version of the Kenton MIDI->CV converter.

Farewell to 2012

It’s time for our traditional end-of-the-year image. It is always a challenge to decide what to include, but we thinks this captures a few of the significant elements. 2012 was a crazy and at times and a bit nerve-wracking, but it full of richness and opportunity. I except more of the same in 2013. It’s going to be a busy and challenging year ahead, but I hope to be able to continue to keep this site going and maintain the friendships I have made here.

Weekend Cat Blogging: The Messy Desk

Luna sits in the command chair of our office/studio. Our common tools of late, the laptop, the Eurorack modular, and coffee mug sit nearby. The stack of CDs was for our recent radio show. This is of course the spot where most CatSynth posts originate as well.

The desk is quite a mess at the moment, which I don’t particularly like, but I haven’t had much time to remedy. I feel far more creative and relaxed in a clean space, but in this busy month we will do the best we can.


Weekend Cat Blogging #373 is hosted by Pam at Sidewalk Shoes.

Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by When Cats Attack!

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.