CatSynth Pic: Bonnie in the Studio

Bonnie has definitely found a nice napping spot in this studio. Submitted by David Lemur via our Facebook page.

Bonnie says: ‘More of John Cage’s 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence please Donny’.

We see an Arturia Keystep, Roland TR-8, a TB-303 clone, a vintage Korg sequencer, and even a bit of Buchla in the upper-left corner.

CatSynth Video: Korg M1 Modded circuit bent with Marcel

From polynominaldotcom on YouTube, via matrixsynth.

Just modded and bent the classic M1/M1r wavetable with 6 switches on the back of the machine. 5 sounds demo with circuit bent options.
First 3 demo with normal Midi keyboard, In 2 others, the Mi1r is driven by an algorithmic generator module ‘Turing machine’. Generated patterns are midi converted with a Doepfer a-162 cv to MIDI module.

Very interesting to see a Korg M1 and M1R “bent” this way. And if that feline portrait looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it before. Eric of Polynominal.com and his cat Marcel are good friends of ours at CatSynth, and we have featured many of Marcel’s pictures.

NAMM 2019: Korg Volca Modular and Minilogue XD

We can always count on something new from Korg these days. Sometimes it’s completely new, but this year it was new incarnations of existing lines. We introduced them in a recent CatSynth TV episode and describe them in more detail below.

The Volca series continues to grow with its newest offering, the Volca Modular.

Korg Volca Modular

The Volca Modular is a self-contained semi-modular synthesizer in a tiny volca-sized package. It has a VCO and modulator for complex waveforms, a function section with envelopes and an LFO, a sequencer, and various patch points for splitting and mixing. Its novel element is the LPG, a low pass gate that can be used as an amp, a filter, or something completely different a la west-coast synthesis. It puts quite a lot in a little box for just $199.

It reminds a bit of some other “tiny tabletop semi-modular synthesizers” such as the Moog Werkstatt or the newer Bastl Instruments Softpop (my CDP bandmate Tom Djll uses one of these and thus I want one, too). Like those, the Volca Modular has tiny little patch points and chords, which are adorable. But unlike those, I found it difficult to patch. The wire tips were a bit flimsy and I bent at least one of them trying to create a new patch on the fly. Otherwise, though, I think this is a fine little instrument, and could end up in my Volca collection.

Minilogue XD

The other new instrument was the revamped Minilogue XD. The original Minilogue made quite a splash a couple of years ago as an affordable polyphonic analog synthesizer. In addition to a nice, darker finish, the XD adds their expandable digital wavetable technology from last year’s Prologue. The digital engine has several different oscillator types and functions, and is essentially a “third sound source” for the instrument. It’s not clear to me whether this includes the same open API that the Prologue has, which would be an unfortunate omission for us at CatSynth, though probably not an issue for most users. It also has microtonal capabilities, something which is missing from many structured MIDI-analog combinations.

Both of these instruments are interesting, incremental changes, with Korg seemingly defending the turf it established in the synthesizer resurgence. Neither is a top priority for us at CatSynth, but I would be surprised if they find their way to us at some point.

CatSynth Pic: Marcel, Korg M1R, and Minimoog

Marcel is back today, with a pair of Korg M1R modules. We also see a Minimoog in the back.

From Eric of polynominal.com.

CatSynth Pic: Studio Meow Meow

Beautiful Persephone posing in the studio of our friend Rob Robinson.

We see a Behringer Model D (aka “the Boog”), a Korg Mini Kaoss Pad (original edition), and a vintage synth module that we can’t identify behind the kitty.

CatSynth Pic: Rackmount Cat

A new picture from our friends Eric and Marcel at polynominal.com

Rackmount cat: done

A lot of amazing gear in this one picture. We leave it as an exercise to our readers to identify (but there are some hints in the tags).

CatSynth Pic: Synth Fortress

No, that’s not Sam Sam, but a similarly marked cat (at least from the back).  She is inside her own “synth fortress” with w Korg Poly-800, and Yamaha CS01, DX100, and VSS-30 synthesizers.  From thedigitalpurrgatory on Instagram.

thedigitalpurrgatory
Her very own (almost) color-coded fortress of synths while the wooden cat watches her sleep. [Korg Poly-800, Yamaha CS01, Yamaha DX100, Yamaha VSS-30] 

CatSynth Pic: Korg Prologue

Cat posing with a Korg Prologue synthesizer.  From James Maier on Facebook.

“Stop playing with that and pay attention to meeeee.” 
:3

The Prologue is a mixed analog and digital synth, with an intriguing open architecture for the digital oscillators.  You can read on brief NAMM review of the instrument here.

μHausen (micro-Hausen) 2018

Today we look back at this year’s μHausen, a “micro-festival” of experimental electronics that takes place every summer deep at a secure undisclosed location in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  It was the subject of our most recent CatSynth TV episode.

As suggested in the video, I was thinking a lot about our natural surroundings as we made music with our thoroughly artificial electronic instruments.  The trees, the air, the light, all seemed to be of a piece with the music at times.  I also thought about the fact that I had not been able to attend the last three installments.  In 2015 and 2016 I had to cancel or decline because of medical issues, and I’m not sure what happened in 2017.  But I was back now and was great to see and hear everyone.

First up was Peter Elsea, recently retired from his longtime position as a professor of electronic music at UC Santa Cruz.  On this occasion, he performed with a small rig that included a modular synthesizer and an electronic wind instrument.

Peter Elsea

His set featured tones that were timbrally rich and often noisy, but still pitched.  This worked well with the wind controller which allowed the noisy tones to swell and fade musically.  But there were also some beautiful moments of quiet pure tones that evoked the natural surroundings.

Next up was Later Days, a project featuring Wayne Jackson with his iOS-based evolutionary synth  MendelTone, which allows patches to “breed” and evolve.

There was an urgent “machine-like” quality to the music, with low drones oms mixing with high swirls of sound and various percussive hits.  Wayne is also the founder of this event and often its leader, but this year he ceded organizing duties to R Duck (of the R Duck Show), who performed next.


[Photo by Later Days (Wayne Jackson)]

The first segment of his set featured beautiful drones of processed guitar. There were quick runs, but they were absorbed into the overall sound.  Over time, the tone and structure darkened, with more complex timbres and harmonies set against slow but anxious guitar riffs.  He also teamed up with Later Days to deliver his perennial incantation featuring chocolate.  (Did I mention that we at CatSynth love chocolate?)

Next up was synthesizer virtuoso Doug Lynner, who performed on a Eurorack-based Serge modular synthesizer.


[Photo by Later Days (Wayne Jackson)]

I have long come to expect very complex and intricate sounds from Doug, often set in a very sparse texture where one can clearly hear the details.  That was certainly the case in this performance, which opened with light sounds reminiscent of birds and whale songs.  It could have come from the surrounding woods rather than the synthesizer on stage (OK, the bird sounds could have, probably not the whale sounds).  After a period of rapid modulation, the music settled into a different pattern, with a contrapuntal texture of long ascending tones reminiscent of sirens.

Lynner was followed by Paul Nicholson who had a large Korg-centric rig that included both a Minilogue, an MS-20 and an SQ-1 sequencer among other instruments.

His opening piece was more traditionally harmonic compared to the preceding sets, with slowly changing harmonic patterns that evoked late-20th-century minimalism (think Steve Reich and John Adams).  The second portion of the set featured some harsher sounds and noise centered around Nicholson’s modular synth.

Then it was time for me to take the stage.  I brought a rig that included the large 9U modular, a Casio SK-1 and my trusty Moog Theremini.


[Photo by R Duck]

As with most of my recent solo work, I select one of my more formal compositions as a point of departure.  In this case, it was “White Wine”, with the melody set against one of the SK-1’s drum beats.  This them morphed into a broken and complex break of sound and eventually to a pure improvisation with the modular and theremin, though the beats never really disappeared.  As I was when listening to the other sets, I was thinking about the natural surroundings – in my case being the “city girl” mastering my place in space and sound, even if just for a few brief minutes.

The final set featured Lemon DeGeorge on harmonica and electronics.

Lemon DeGeorge

The harmonicas (like a true player of the instrument, he had more than one) added a unique dimension to the music, and the electronics followed with long breathy tones.  The sounds appeared to build up layers upon layers into something heavy and enveloping, but never overwhelming.  Compared to Nicholson’s sounds, DeGeorge’s lone tones and patterns were thoroughly inharmonic but no less beautiful or musical.

Overall it was a fine afternoon of weird electronic music in the woods, and not just for the music itself but for the fellowship with friends who I don’t get to see that often.   I remained in the mind space of the show, the environment, and the sounds for a while on the drive back, at least until reaching I-880 and heading first into Oakland and later home to San Francisco, where I snapped back into my everyday urban life.

 

CatSynth Pic: Korg Minilogue

Cat and Korg Minilogue

Cute tabby cat with two Korg Minilogue synthesizers.  It looks like one of them is the special “sawed off” model 😹

Photo from flohrdumal on Instagram.  This human and feline pair hail from Decatur, Georgia.