New CatSynth TV: Hidden Sub Phatty

We have a brand-new CatSynth TV!  This one demonstrates a couple of the hidden features of the Moog Sub Phatty synthesizer.

In particular, we look at filter-topology selection and Oscillator 2 beat frequencies.  The filter selection makes the instrument much more powerful, moving between the extra crunchy 1 and 2-pole filters to the smooth 4-pole that is “quintessentially Moog”.  The beat frequency is a bit more esoteric – it maintains beating frequencies across different pitches, leading to some odd detunings in different registers.  But it can add a new timbral-metric component to compositions – something to explore in more depth.

We also look at the Editor/Librarian software from Moog, which is really handy for accessing these features as well as saving patches.

If you have not yet subscribed to our YouTube channel, please do so 😻

CatSynth Video: Savannah Cat on Piano

A young savannah cat – at least we think it’s a savannah and not an actual serval – playing on the piano. We think the music actually makes for a great introduction, perhaps the start of a theme and variations.

Seen via Emergency Kittens on Twitter. We think the cat’s name is raameses.

Passover Synth Jam with the Matzoh Man

The Matzoh Man returns for Passover on CatSynth TV, this time accompanied by a Minimoog, Roland VP-03 vocoder and our trusty Nord Stage EX.

The Dayenu song is a tradition on Passover.  The word dayenu approximately translates to “it would have been sufficient” and is used as a phrase of gratitude for each of the miracles recounted in the Passover Hagaddah.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Fun with Highways: 45 on California 45

A few years ago, I traveled California’s Highway 41 on my 41st birthday. I had hoped to make this a regular tradition, but various circumstances have kept me from following through, until this year, when I drove the southern half of California Highway 45.  It wasn’t exactly on my birthday, and I didn’t complete the route, but was still a fun and eccentric way to celebrate the conclusion of my 45th year of life.  It was also a good excuse to try out the new travel-mapping feature in our Highway☆ mobile app.

Highway 45 begins in the small town of Knight’s Landing in Yolo County, so I first had to schlep up there via Interstate 80 and then turn north on Highway 113 near U.C. Davis.  113 is a major freeway at this point, but a bit further north it narrows to a two-lane country road before reaching the junction with 45.

CA 45 in Knight's Landing, CA

Knight’s Landing was actually a very small but cute town along the Sacramento River. Before embarking on the formal part of the trip, I stopped along the levee at Front Street to view the continuation of Highway 113 across the river.  Front Street was rather beaten up compared to the rest of the town center, perhaps due to the nature of the levee or to discourage unnecessary driving, but it made for a nice little walk.

I then returned to the car and finally turned onto Highway 45, heading northwest out of town.

The highway zig-zagged on a grid between fields on the western side of the Sacramento River, but far enough for the river to mostly remain out of sight.  But there were some lovely wide-open farmland vistas, made more dramatic by the bands of clouds in the sky marking what was a lovely day after a week of dreary weather.

It is when the landscape opened up that I was able to fully relax into the trip.  There is always a point along the journey during which stresses, mundane or otherwise, start to melt away and the road, landscape, and solitude take over the mind.  As Highway 45 is remarkably well signed, there was no ambiguity or uncertainty.  The result is a sense of flow and well being that allows one to both think about other ideas, like music, while remaining fully engaged in the moment.  It is something I have experienced many walking the streets of San Francisco, but not lately.  I certainly hope it isn’t gone – as much as I enjoy these long excursions to other regions, I would love to return to the sense of external flow in my own community as well.  Perhaps it is the familiarity or the many stresses and dramas, but I hope to regain it.

The highway turned due north in Colusa County, providing great views of the Sutter Buttes, considered to be one of the worlds smallest mountain rangers.

The Buttes are a small circle of volcanic lava domes that rise suddenly from the rather flat Sacramento Valley.  The contrast is fascinating, and I would love to come back and explore the geology at a warmer time of year.  Unfortunately, public access to the Buttes remains limited as far I can tell. (If any readers have any advice or new information about public access to the Sutter Buttes, please share in the comments.)

At this point, Highway 45 comes closer to the river, and between Grand Island and Grimes, comes right up against levees, before turning north again.  It is not surprising to see such high levees, as the entire region seems like a giant flood waiting to happen.

Further north, we join with California Highway 20, a major east-west highway in this rural part of the state connecting to Yuba City to the east and to Lake County far to the west.  The road became wider, smoother, and significantly busier as we continued on the duplex into the town of Colusa.

CA 20 and CA 45 in Colusa, California

Colusa is a picturesque town on the river, with a small but nice town center and a quiet park along the levee and riverbank.  It had warmed up considerably since I last got out in Knight’s Landing, so stopped for a bit to enjoy the sight and sound of the river.  You can see a bit in this Instagram video.

Sacramento River in Colusa, CA

A post shared by CatSynth / Amanda C (@catsynth) on

Nearby I found The Tap Room, a small pub that had a large selection of beers including some local brews.  I don’t think they had Sutter Butte Brewing, but they did have some selections from Berryessa brewing including this IPA.

IPA at the Tap Room, Colusa California

In the enjoyment of the trip, I had completely forgotten that it was St. Patrick’s Day.  But I was quickly reminded by the bartender who was decked in bright green regalia and informed me of the holiday pub crawl that would be happening that evening.  This was the talk of the local patrons who started trickling in as the afternoon wore on.  Everyone was friendly and welcoming, but a night of drinking was not going to be compatible with my plan to get back to the city safely at a reasonable hour.  So I bid farewell and headed out on Highway 20 back to I-5 and I-505 to return to the Bay Area.

Tired but accomplished, I crossed the Bay Bridge back into San Francisco and home later that evening.  That would usually be the end of the story, but after resting, we made the last-minute decision to go out again that night.  So I found myself getting dressed up and heading back over the bridge for the third time to Oakland to see Chrome with Helios Creed.  We met up with quite a few friends at the show and had a great time.  You can see a bit of Chrome’s performance in this CatSynth TV.

It was a great day of diverse geography and experiences, albeit a long one.  Not every day can or should be like this, but hope there are more to come this year…

See more Northern California in our Highway☆ app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. 

Highway☆ on Apple App Store .   Highway☆ for Android

#MarchForOurLives San Francisco

Yesterday, countless people joined March for Our Lives in communities all across the United States and internationally.  We at CatSynth attended our local rally and march here in San Francisco and created this video of the experience.

March for Our Lives is part of a larger movement protesting gun violence and gun safety, especially as it affects our youth.  This has been bubbling for a long time, but it erupted in a full-fledged movement after the tragic shooting at Stoneman-Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida.  The students who survived the shooting immediately spoke out forcefully against the seeming intransigence of leaders in the face of gun violence and have since been joined by countless other young people as well as those of us who are a bit older and support their message.  It culminated in the events yesterday, where hundreds of thousands participated.  There were a variety of opinions, from simple common-sense measures like banning specific devices and background checks to entirely abolishing the Second Amendment.  But what united them is the idea that continuing to do nothing is unacceptable and must change.  There was a modest success in Florida in the wake of the shooting, but it remains to be seen if more action comes from this.

We at CatSynth strongly believe that we need to do a lot more to reduce gun violence – and increase gun safety – in the U.S., and that cultural intransigence in some segments is no excuse.  But we will save a detailed opinion for another time.  For now, we leave you with the speech by Emma Gonzales, who with her fellow Parkland students have become the faces and consciences of this movement.

CatSynth Video: Charlotte and Circuit-Bent Big Mouth Billy Bass

Charlotte the cat contemplates the horror that is a circuit-bent Big Mouth Billy Bass.  From Ok Housecat on YouTube.

I was often sardonically amused by this fishy contraption since the commercials in the 1990s.  But now I am genuinely intrigued by its circuit-bending possibilities.  At the very least, it could make for a fun CatSynth TV episode.  I found at least one set of instructions here, but it might be even more fun to just take it aport and just explore with alligator cables.

The Horror…The Horror…

From Ok Housecat. Visit their website okhousecat.com, where you can see an amazing array of circuit-bent and other custom electronic instruments. We at CatSynth are going to spend some more time exploring the video demos 😻

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.

An Afternoon with Sam Sam

Sam Sam stars in our latest CatSynth TV video.

You can hear her sweet but demanding voice, and see how our little girl spends a typical afternoon. It’s a pretty envious existence if I say so myself 😺. One can also see her rather unique way of walking up and down stairs.

NAMM Classics: Bastl Instruments and Bitwig Studio

That most wonderful time of year known as NAMM is fast approaching!  As we prepare to cover this year’s show, we’re sharing some of our past NAMM videos on CatSynth TV!

This year’s show starts on January 25.  Please let us know in these posts about anything specific you would like us to investigate or review while we are there.

Happy Boxing Day from Sam Sam!

It’s Boxing Day.  And Sam Sam wants to celebrate with one of her favorite activities: boxing!

While our friends in the UK, Canada and elsewhere in the former British Empire actually celebrate the holiday, we at CatSynth in the United States just love the name. But we have long been curious about its significance and origin. From Wikipedia:

There are competing theories for the origins of the term, none of which are definitive.[5] The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations from Britain in the 1830s, defining it as “the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box”.[6]

The term “Christmas-box” dates back to the 17th century, and among other things meant:

A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.[7]