Page 3 of 4

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 6:11 pm
by Hybrid88
piRoN wrote:But seriously, I am genuinely fascinated by the actively anti-modular sentiments here. Where does that stem from? It seems very similar to the sort of stuff we used to hear from softsynth folk back in the Bad Old Days, which makes me think it's some sort of anti-elitism thing.
Nothing of the sort, speaking for myself I'm not anti modular, I'm just stating the points why it may not be suitable for some people and the way that they work and the musical end they hope to achieve ;)

That said I'll openly admit I don't get much out of a lot of the music that is made with modulars these days, and to see them bobbing around to a shitty 808 beat making god awful noises and pretending it's avant garde is rather amusing to me. But that's more a musical preference.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 7:25 pm
by ppg_wavecomputer
Hybrid88 wrote:[...] speaking for myself I'm not anti modular [...]
Me neither. I just don't need one, and I do not consider it the be-all and end-all of things.

I'm sorry I beg to differ. I know this isn't popular with most people on the internet.

Stephen

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 7:27 pm
by ppg_wavecomputer
pflosi wrote:[...]
ppg_wavecomputer wrote:I can very well understand the lure of sitting in front of a huge wall of knobs, cables, and flashing lights. That's definitely cool in a Spaceman Spiff kind of way.

In terms of practical use, I'm with many of the other posters... what's the point of having all that bulk when the instrument as such is no more flexible than a Mini Moog with the bonus of having some additional patch points?

That's what prompted me to steer clear of modular stuff. This, and a constant lack of space and money.

Stephen
You sure seem to enjoy it once in a while :mrgreen:

Image
True :).

But that isn't mine, and I generally work without that one. This happened to be part of an album I was working on at that time.

I do no longer qualify as a 5U user either because I have had my pony-tail cut off.

Stephen

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:35 pm
by jcn7
I have several modular systems, one of which now includes a Moog Mother 32 (great module by the way!). All of my systems have been kept to only 3u 104 hp in the Euro format. I tend to enjoy smaller systems but can also be patched together as a larger system if needed. I also enjoy the limitations of a fixed architecture synths as well. For me, less is more...I end up actually recording music as opposed to just create sounds for sound sake. Also limitations make me think more creatively.

I also prefer to make music that includes my modulars as opposed to just blipps and bloops or noise which I tend to hear when just modulars are used, here is an example of what I mean:

https://soundcloud.com/jcn7/creation-day-three-wocean

One of my modular systems were used to create the ocean/surf sound in this piece of music I recently made. It contains 18 layers of filtered white noise to creat the "ocean" sound.

Anyway, I kind of look at this whole question from the stand point of use whatever tools that work for you to create good art...in this case music. In my case it is many different types of synths (including modular) and software to express your thoughts and emotions and make a statement.

Just my 2 cents.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2015 7:27 am
by GuyaGuy
Hybrid88 wrote: That said I'll openly admit I don't get much out of a lot of the music that is made with modulars these days, and to see them bobbing around to a shitty 808 beat making god awful noises and pretending it's avant garde is rather amusing to me. But that's more a musical preference.
I think you'd be surprised to hear the diversity in music created using modular nowadays. Don't confuse modular patch videos on YouTube with music.
Hybrid88 wrote:True to a point but I think sound design has come a heck of a long way past that these days, I mean the modules are getting fancier and doing more unusual things but lets not forget they're still based around a 1960's technology standard and are in a sense limited by that paradigm.
Kind of? I mean there are modules with patch memory, digital VCAs, samplers, and whole lot of other things that go beyond 60s standards. Or, to approach it from another direction, you can say the same thing about hardwired synths--limited to keys, CV only of pitch and maybe filter cutoff, etc.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2015 7:57 am
by GuyaGuy
KBD_TRACKER wrote:I was looking at this video:



The people in it talked about the uniqueness of the generated sound as "my own sound", the fact that no external (ie pre-determined) influence existed since the user started from scratch, etc..

In fact it seems that in this type of sound programming there is a deep tropism for the patch lability (due to the absence of memory), the perceived highly personal nature of the created sound, and the refusal of programming convenience/amenities ("just pressing a button").

I find all this very interesting in part because I must confess that so far personally I have not heard a sound from a modular that I did not "roughly" hear before, from more conventional synth sources.

But more important, I was wondering about a few things about this modular trend (some maybe extravagant, but imo not pointless) :
1. doesn't this represents de facto a rejection of, or conceptual departure from the whole sampler culture ?

2. is this in line with such an attitude as: using synth presets is not only "passive" but "lame" and reflects also a lack of creativity ?

3. is this not somewhat in line (stretching it a bit :mrgreen: ) with the "DJs are certainly no musicians" attitude ?

4. does it ultimately imply (stretching it a bit :mrgreen: ) that building your own custom piano right from the frame and metal assembly is creatively "better" and more liberating than buying one already made ?

5. does a modular user "necessarily" understand better synthesis or is more creative or more dedicated than a Prophet 12, or Voyager, or Andromeda user ?
It seems a lot of those views come from the fact that for the past 20 years most electronic music had been made on or at least with a computer. The technology was getting so rich in its ability to automate, save, layer, and so on. So it is partly about the sampler culture but also VSTs, automating hardware, etc. And so doing something completely different than that which also usually sounded completely different was a bit of fresh air--not because it's inherently better but just because it's different. Of course, the Euro craze has been going on long enough that a lot of enthusiasts are glad to see digital wavetable modules and the like pop up in Euro as a fresh alternative to sine waves into a low pass gate...

As for modular users necessarily understanding synthesis better, I'd say it would be hard to dive into modular and not get a better understanding of synthesis--for example learning how a typical hardwired synth operates but also finding out its limitations because of all of the things it will never be able to do because the parts are soldered together. That doesn't mean you can't learn in other ways though.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2015 5:39 pm
by griffin avid
As for modular users necessarily understanding synthesis better, I'd say it would be hard to dive into modular and not get a better understanding of synthesis--

Although this is supposed to be a strong plus, I always see it as a tough starting point.
You need to already have knowledge BEFORE you dive in. You can't buy modules first and then LEARN what they do, how they join, what's compatible- power and even triggering.

Most other stuffs, you can buy the thing -- and get to work and learn as you go.
The closest I see is buying a premade rack and learning what patching does (as in results, not function).
Whoever assembled the package understands what's what and you find out as you play around with it.

Ahem, I learned a ton about synthesis (mostly) from reading and studying the Andomeda A6 and its manual.
Everything else was those basic Operator Manuals that came with whatever you buy.

I would say it's about LEARNING MORE. Wanting to go beyond and getting deeper.
I feel the same thing a lot of other people feel- it's almost indescribable- a primitive back to the basics - almost purity in the connection to the process.
Heavy attraction from my sci-fi bend and all the blinking lights and science- it's just something else.

It's definitely in the journey.
I feel the tug even though it's totally impractical for my needs and habits.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:11 am
by Percivale
I am intrigued by modular gear and all those bunch of colourful wires but I never found myself wanting to follow steps into the supposed "dark side". I also agree that modular folks are into sound design and shaping and they do not always end up sounding musical, especially without a sequencer.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 4:18 pm
by meatballfulton
piRoN wrote:I find it quite strange how often people talk about the "added difficulty" of patching on modulars.
The only difficulty in making the patches I had was with the patch cords themselves. On 1/8"formats (Euro and Frac) it can get really tight. My 5U dotcom was a breeze as long as I had enough cords of the right lengths :lol: I think this would be an issue in live performance but I never took it out of the music room.

Now saving the patches is the real issue for me. Everyone talks about taking photos but since just minor changes to knob positions can lose the whole patch it's not truly practical. Creating a sound and using it immediately didn't work for me. I tried sampling but never could figure out exactly what to sample (short notes, long notes, what pitches) and all the modulations were baked in so I just ended up with lots of useless drones :oops:

That was really why I gave it up. I drank the KoolAid about patch memory and MIDI long ago and can't go back now. I wish DSI would do a mega-Evolver (more filter options, more mod matrix slots) and retain the encoders rather than use pots. I'd buy that in an instant.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:36 pm
by tomorrowstops
griffin avid wrote: I feel the same thing a lot of other people feel- it's almost indescribable- a primitive back to the basics - almost purity in the connection to the process.
Heavy attraction from my sci-fi bend and all the blinking lights and science- it's just something else.

It's definitely in the journey.
I feel the tug even though it's totally impractical for my needs and habits.
This ^ I can totally get along with. The whole purity thing is the most attractive point. My favorite vintage synths have been the ones with a minimum of, or zero computer controlled components at all* The Dotcom system I had was the only modern synth I've had that shared that trait.

*for simplicity, I am generalizing, I realize there are several threads worth of debate regarding what that means!

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 4:04 am
by piRoN
meatballfulton wrote:Now saving the patches is the real issue for me. Everyone talks about taking photos but since just minor changes to knob positions can lose the whole patch it's not truly practical. Creating a sound and using it immediately didn't work for me. I tried sampling but never could figure out exactly what to sample (short notes, long notes, what pitches) and all the modulations were baked in so I just ended up with lots of useless drones :oops:
That seems to be one of the key love/hate aspects to modular synths. Personally I love the ephemeral nature of it - it forces you to be creative every time instead of reusing patches, which - being the lazy bastard that I am - I totally will.
Percivale wrote:I am intrigued by modular gear and all those bunch of colourful wires but I never found myself wanting to follow steps into the supposed "dark side". I also agree that modular folks are into sound design and shaping and they do not always end up sounding musical, especially without a sequencer.
I'm going to repeat GuyAGuy's comment about not conflating modular videos on the internet with modular synths' use in general. Modulars are all over the place nowadays, used by loads of different musicians in all different styles of music. There's a selection bias at work here in that the sort of people who buy a modular and then make endless high-resonance filter FM noises with it (*cough* Muffwiggler *cough*) are more likely to be the sort of people who spend lots of time on forums and posting videos of stuff instead of actually making music. It's exactly the same as all those people who spend loads of money on classic synths, and then just talk about them online and post endless videos of filter sweep sounds.

Let's face it - of all the instruments of all different forms sold around the world, what's the percentage that ever end up being used to produce any sort of noteworthy music? (obviously ignoring the issue of tastes etc.) I'll bet that number is not a large one.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 4:32 am
by ryryoftokyo
I own a modular for several reasons:

1) I control EVERYTHING. No company dictates how I use the pieces. Remember the crazy c**p you could get up to with Legos as a kid? Yeah. That, but with sound. The other night I was using my dotcom state variable filter, sending out four filter curves at once with the resonance all the way up AS AN LFO that was being sent to a VCO that was sending out five waveforms at once to modulate four other VCOs in an incredible way. You cannot get that anywhere else.

2) My system contains five VCOs, an Instrument Interface (for bass, other synths, etc), three mixers, a clipper/rectifier unit, three filters, a spring reverb, four EGs, two passive Mults, three active mults two MIDI interfaces, two 8 step sequencers (one of which is a ratcheting), three VCAs, a noise gen, a phaser, a ring modulator, and many other various things like dedicated LFOs, sample and hold, attenuators, etc. This is my dream synth. I built it. I will continue to build it.

3) Despite what people say about modular being "so complicated and overwhelming", its actually much easier once you figure out how to make a basic patch. That's right, I said it. Its easier than operating my Blofeld, Bass Station 2, DX7, Poly 61, etc.

I don't think modular represents a departure from sampler culture at all. In fact, I've never wanted a sampler more than I have now. I have a modular that makes crazyness that I can't get anywhere else and would be a nightmare to try and patch live. I think a sampler helps out in a big way. I would wager that many other modular folks feel the same.

As for the whole psuedo spiritual BS that informs the decision making of so many synth players and guitar pedal snobs ($400 for a Boss Slow Gear? Really?), it is inevitable across all forms of music making. There is just the opposite that says "oh, modular is nothing but beep boop bleep whrrrr bzzzzz sounds" and then there are those that think they are so "patched in" to the sound creation process that are just as bad. Stupid is stupid and it exists everywhere.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 7:12 am
by griffin avid
Strange how you almost came with the sobering voice but then sound like the epitome of every previous sentiment. You gush about how you created a sound, which was already stated earlier about the journey. Then, speak about your 'control' which is related to how you feel- even with the kid analogy to Legos.

And you brag over the how and not so much the what - like what was the sound you made which leads back to the counter of "doesn't matter how you made it or with what if it isn't musical or useful".

good one.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 8:06 am
by GuyaGuy
griffin avid wrote:As for modular users necessarily understanding synthesis better, I'd say it would be hard to dive into modular and not get a better understanding of synthesis--

Although this is supposed to be a strong plus, I always see it as a tough starting point.
You need to already have knowledge BEFORE you dive in. You can't buy modules first and then LEARN what they do, how they join, what's compatible- power and even triggering.

Most other stuffs, you can buy the thing -- and get to work and learn as you go.
The closest I see is buying a premade rack and learning what patching does (as in results, not function).
Whoever assembled the package understands what's what and you find out as you play around with it.

Ahem, I learned a ton about synthesis (mostly) from reading and studying the Andomeda A6 and its manual.
Everything else was those basic Operator Manuals that came with whatever you buy.

I would say it's about LEARNING MORE. Wanting to go beyond and getting deeper.
I feel the same thing a lot of other people feel- it's almost indescribable- a primitive back to the basics - almost purity in the connection to the process.
Heavy attraction from my sci-fi bend and all the blinking lights and science- it's just something else.

It's definitely in the journey.
I feel the tug even though it's totally impractical for my needs and habits.
I don't think you NEED to know anything. Moog and Buchla users didn't have prior knowledge in the 1960s and they figured it out. Well, most of them. But yes, it definitely helps if you dive in knowing basic subtractive architecture.

The other comparison that comes to mind is that using a modular system is musical computer programming. While a hardwired synth offers a great WYSIWYG UI, modular gives you access to the programming language. This isn't even a comparison, actually. A modular system is quite literally a control voltage computer whose function is making and controlling sound. All of the standard IF/ELSE, AND, OR, value=, functions apply, and every cable connection is a line of code. To actually make a comparison, you're not just selecting from options that a website offers, you have access to all of the JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and C++ to build a site.

Re: Questions about the modular fascination

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 10:42 am
by KBD_TRACKER
GuyaGuy wrote: To actually make a comparison, you're not just selecting from options that a website offers, you have access to all of the JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and C++ to build a site.
Interesting but imo a bit unsound ( :biggrin: ) comparison: most web designers, to implement their design (I know I was one) do rely on in-house or free lance coders. There is enough work in dealing with usability, ergonomy, navigation, and of course aesthetic issues to keep the designer quite enough busy without also having to write the JavaScript, HTML/CSS for the site.
In fact I'd say nowadays except for the smallest or personal sites this is how it works. Web designers are only expected to have a "decent" grasp of coding to dialogue competently with the coder(s), anticipate what's technically possible, what's robust/safe or not, what's likely within budget or not. etc.
(Sorry for the digression !)

But back to synths, within the existing set of offered parameters, conventional synths offer you a quasi infinite array of sound creation/modification options. Surely if a conventional synth doesn't offer a modulation matrix or FM or a HPF and you wish to use it, that is a real limitation.
But this limitation exists the same in modular: if you wish to do "X" and you don't have the right module for "X" (or for that matter enough patch cables :mrgreen: ) you are under another but as potent form of limitation.

Not to mention another form of limitation: money, with modulars seems to me a critically enabling/disabling factor.
In fact if it could be "measured" I wonder what would be the ratio number-of-sound-possibilities/cost for a modular, and what this ratio would be for a "middle shelf" conventional synth ...