Serge Modular 40 Year Reunion Concert

20150207-IMG_4117

Today we look back a unique event that took place a few weeks ago. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the modular synthesizer system created by Serge Tcherepnin, fans, inventors, early adopters and virtuosi of these instruments got together at The Lab in San Francisco for an evening of music, gear spotting, and fellowship.

I arrived just in time to see Slope114, the duo of Elise Gargalikis and Dmitri SFC. Elise’s voice beautifully floated over the beats coming from the massive modular. There were quite a few groovy patterns and refrains in the mix.

Slope 114

I should also point out that they were key in organizing the event (and in helping introduce me to this community), so extra kudos for them.

Next up was LX Rudis, another frequent performer of Serge modulars. His was a much noisier, abstract performance compared to Slope114, but with lots of interesting sounds.

One of the earliest users of the Serge synthesizer was Will Jackson, who brought it on an anti-whaling voyage with Greenpeace in the 1970s. He related the story of the trip, including their encounter with a Soviet whaling ship, and shared with us some of the music he composed for and with the whales.

Next up was the virtuoso himself Doug Lynner. He did not disappoint, with a complex solo performance with subtle elements and precisely tuned patches.

20150207-IMG_4105

The music is defies simple description, it is slow, evolving, beautiful, ethereal. it is best to just listen to his sit in this video:

Jill Fraser was on hand to perform with her large Serge synthesizer setup along with some more contemporary electronics. Well known for her work in film and commercial music, her performance came across as more abstract in this instance.

The final act of the evening featured a trio, bringing together Paul Young with Gino Robair on drums and Richard Marriott on trombone.

20150207-IMG_4114

I jokingly referred to them as the “Serge house band” for the evening, but they killed it with an energetic jazzy set, especially one disco-infused jam of which I was particularly fond.

I regret not being able to list every act in this report, there were quite a few and they all brought something different to the event. And there was quite a large audience in attendance, overflowing the seats. We certainly except to hear more from many of these artists soon.

CatSynth pic: Panelin with Malicester Meowly (Serge)

10906460_10204849078280414_2174776982639324412_n

Serge panel. From our friend Puzzle Abalos via Facebook.

CatSynth video: Making beats w the classic Serge Modular

Another from our friend Dmitri SFC of Coa Modular and Slope 114. The cat seems quite at home with the Serge Modular 🙂

CatSynth pic: Serge Cat! (Church of the Super Serge)

Serge cat

From my friend Elise Gargalikis, half of Slope114 and one of the organizers of the Church of the Super Serge at ROBOTPEAk. I am excited to be playing a show them tomorrow at ROBOTSPEAk’s 2014 Bay Area Synth Meet! Drop by tomorrow afternoon, 589 1/2 Haight Street here in San Francisco! I play at 3:30, but a lot of other great artists and synth makers to check out all day.

Outsound New Music Summit: PoetryFreqs

The concert series of the Pitta of the Mind, my duo with Maw Shein Win got things going with a set of poetry and electronic music on the themes of abstract art and cinematic distance. Our color theme for the evening was red and black.

Pitta of the Mind at Outsound Music Summit
[Photo by Annabelle Port.]

It was our longest set to date, but also our best so far, with a variety of sounds to match the words and tight transitions between poems. It was also the most complex technically, with the Prophet 12, analog modular, Moog Theremini, iPad, and Nord Stage EX all running at once.

Amanda Chaudhary
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

Maw Shein Win
[Photo by Annabelle Port.]

We performed confidently and playfully and we got a great audience response. And the color theme went well with the blue set and lighting courtesy Travin McKain.

We were followed by first-ever performance by Ruth Weiss, one of the original Beat poets, with master analog synthesizer artist Doug Lynner as well as Hal Davis on log.

Doug Lynner, Ruth Weiss, Hal Davis
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

Log may seem like an odd instrumentation, but Davis made it work well with Ruth Weiss’ recitations, and Lynner managed to create sounds on the Mystery Serge modular that sometimes mimicked the percussive resonance of the log and at other times complimented it with more lush tones. He was also able to hit loud or noisy moments in between the words. Ruth Weiss was sharp and witty in her readings, moving from her work in the 1950s and 1960s to more recent compositions. Although the trio had only met once before, they seemed very comfortable performing together and it made for a fun and exciting set. This was something that will likely never be repeated, so we were privileged to have witnessed it.

The final set brought together Zachary James Watkins on electronics and Marshall Trammell on percussion with poet and voice artist Amber McZeal.

A99-08899
Gx7-1170638Gx7-1170601
[Photos: PeterBKaars.com.]

The music began slowly, with calm but textured percussion and electronic sounds combined with McZeal on didgeridoo. The drone built up to more intense textures, with noise and thick electronics, Trammell’s intense drumming, and McZeal’s voice, which was at times beautiful and melodic singing, and other times dramatic and confident speech. The text for this set was very sparse compared to the previous sets, more like a third instrument than poetry set to music.

Overall, this was a great start to the Summit concerts with three strong performances (I admit I am biased about the first one). We had a great turnout as well, filling all the seats in the concert hall at the Community Music Center. It set a high bar for the next nights.

Outsound Music Summit: Touch the Gear

The 2014 Outsound Music Summit in underway. And as usual, we began with our popular community event Touch the Gear. We had a large crowd of all ages, and delightful cacophony of unusual musical sounds.

20140727-IMG_1543

This year, I brought the analog modular (specifically, about two-thirds of the current module collection) and the new Moog Theremini:

Amanda Chaudhary with analog modular and Moog Theremini
[Photo by Frank Lin]

There were several first-time participants this year, including Elise Gargalikis and Dmitri SFC of coa-modular.comwith their “wall of Serge”. It was fun to get to try this out myself.

10412005_10152421868127530_5470820447817500847_n
[Photo by Elise Gargalikis‎]

There was more Serge modular to be found, courtesy of Lx Rudis.

20140727-IMG_1558

Aaron Oppenheim brought classic circuit-bent toys, including a Speak&Math and the Talking Computron.

20140727-IMG_1547

It was a bit of inspiration to get of my tuchus and circuit-bend the Speak&Spell sitting in my studio!

There was a Minimoog sighting, of course.

20140727-IMG_1544

Long-time participants Matt Davignon and CJ Borosque demonstrated their recent work with effects pedals. Davignon processed drum machines and samplers while Borosque’s pedals were in a closed loop circuit generating their own sound.

20140727-IMG_1546

20140727-IMG_1541

There were acoustic instruments as well. David Samas brought his very impressive contrabass ehru. This beast was huge. And it had bells in addition to the strings and resonant chamber (made out of a trunk).

20140727-IMG_1552

20140727-IMG_1556

Bryan Day presented his mechanical/electrical/acoustic inventions.

20140727-IMG_1553

Jaroba shared a variety of wind and percussion instruments with a bit of electronics.

10547870_782105798487493_7181311810470151896_o
[Photo by Frank Lin]

There were several more presenters, and as usual I don’t have room for everyone in this post. But it was a great event as always, and we at Outsound appreciated everyone’s contributions. Now it is on to the concerts including tomorrow night’s Poetry Freqs show. Please click here for the full schedule!

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.

A99-01861
[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.

20130721-IMG_8420

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.

A99-02102
[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.

20130721-IMG_8408

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.

20130721-IMG_8422

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.

20130721-IMG_8413

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.

20130721-IMG_8414

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.

20130721-IMG_8419

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: Serge jamout with cat

From Benjamin Hawkins on YouTube, via matrixsynth:

“I wanted to upload a video with my serge and the cat was hanging out with me at the time.”

CatSynth pic: Rumble Sumthin’ (Serge Modular)

Cat and Serge Modular

Via matrixsynth.

“”All CGS SERGE Modular, + HexInverter.net NIENOHNIEN Kick. NO Computador! Live take single pass recording.”