The newest edition of the German synthesizer magazine SynMag has a very detailed article the AE Modular system and interview with me. Please check it out!
This is an interview in the series of "Content Spotlights" which used to be infrequent and longer posts on the AE Modular Forum that showcase an artist's work and their thoughts about the AE Modular Synthesizer. Due to the length and formatting challenges of the forum editor I have decided to rather post them here on the tangible waves blog from now on.
- Carsten (forum @admin)
The community of AE Modular enthusiasts is quite diverse and it shows in the different topics that are being discussed in the forum. The community is also in constant flux as is normal with online communities in this age of fast flowing information and a myriad of competing streams clamouring for our attention. The membership of the Forum can be roughly categorised into the following groups (even though this is by no means a complete list of categories and most people fall into more than one category):
Andy is one of those Wizards and this spotlight is long overdue!
In his forum signature Andy proclaims to have been a lifelong student of Berlin School music, which is reflected in his towering presence in the forum and authority of all aspects of electronic music. Just by looking at the sheer volume of his contributions you can see that the forum wouldn’t be the same without him.
It’s not just quantity, but he answers questions in great detail, puts out ideas and challenges our conceptions. Here is a tiny and almost random selection of his contributions to the forum:
He also took part in creating some of the Patch Challenges, to which I would invite all of our newer members to participate even though they are now “over” they are still good exercises to get out of your comfort zone and try something new with your gear. You can find the list of all patch challenges here: http://forum.aemodular.com/board/14/patch-challenges
But his greatest contribution to our community would be his work on the mastering and subsequent release and administration of our very first collaborative Album “AEther Waves Vol.1” which featured 14 tracks from 14 artists from our community each with very different styles and approaches. Andy made sure that each track sounded great not just individually but also in the whole of the mix.
I have no idea where he finds the time, but after writing on the forum he still creates music in two related but still quite different genres.
He makes solo music via The Soviet Space Dog Project, which started as a way for him to explore his desire to make music in a very confined space and with a new set of instruments. Having built and used two large studios, he wanted to see what he could do with less equipment and in a faster, more live environment.
Soon, he was making a lot of longer-form ambient pieces, so he started to put those out (anonymously) via The Ambient Fish Society. This really did feature a lot of what the AE Modular could do live and was fun to make and he hopes that it’s also fun to listen to.
But enough of singing his praises … let’s let Andy speak for himself!
How did you hear about AE Modular for the first time?
Around June 2018, my mind got to thinking about how nice it would be to have a modular synthesizer for some super-fun noodling. I was at a point in my life where I was only buying equipment that could give me something different within a very small studio setup. I’d had larger setups at various times in my life, but now it was time for something small, effective and fun. A small modular setup looked like it would fit the bill, although I had prepared myself for it to be expensive.
A quick bit of googling and soon I had located some articles about this Tangible Waves format, a “Modular for the Masses” no less. Looking back at the articles now I can see that they featured demonstrations by no less than Tuesday Night Machines himself. http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2018/06/27/tangible-waves-intros-modular-for-the-masses/
After a bit more reading and looking at what I could get for my money compared to a Eurorack system, the decision was quite easy. The AE Modular appeared to tick the small, effective and fun boxes. The order went in and the waiting began.
When it arrived, it came on the same day, and via the same carrier, as the autobiography by Edgar Froese (deceased Tangerine Dream founder). As I said when I introduced myself on the Forum, the two packages were the same physical size and weight. This says a lot about the portability of the AE Modular and the quality of the book.
What is your favourite style of music? Would the AE system fit this style?
I like many different styles of music, although my real love is definitely what’s often called Berlin School Electronic Music. Whilst I’m not keen on the classification of music, that’s the name it’s usually given. I don’t particularly like classification as not only is it often artificial but it also can stifle growth and innovation when something no longer fits the imposed straitjacket – in my opinion, of course.
[Aside: I used to be involved in an online discussion forum called GoldTri, which was a contraction of Golden Triangle. The concept was that “good” music sat within a Golden Triangle, with a specific definition at each point of the triangle. Music could only be “good” if it was contained within those tight definitions. As you can imagine, it didn’t take too long before the arguments raged… and raged. Somehow we managed to issue two compilation albums before the whole thing imploded, with quite a lot of acrimony. So, I’m not keen on classifying music after that. We moved on and created another discussion space called Beyond_EM that accepted that there could be music beyond those boundaries. You can find more information about the two compilation albums here: https://www.discogs.com/label/234451-Stonker-Productions]
With that in mind, I would consider Berlin School Electronic Music to be what artists such as Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze were creating in the early 1970’s in West Berlin as they moved away from traditional instruments (guitar, bass & drums) and towards these new synthesizers that were being created. The traditional instruments were still there for a while, but augmented. It’s interesting that two of the greatest exponents of the sequencer (a key part of Berlin School) were both drummers – Klaus Schulze for Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, and Chris Franke for Agitation Free.
Another key player for me was Manuel Gottsching, who is a guitar player (Ash Ra Tempel) who ventured into the wonderful world of synthesizers, but not without first creating “Inventions for Electric Guitar” on the way in 1974; an album that hugely influenced what I wanted to do with a guitar.
Not only did the technology drive the music that was being created, allowing the creation of inter-weaving sequencer lines to create some driving rhythms, it was also being driven by the people who wanted more from the technology. There was a symbiosis being created between the technology and the music.
I first heard Berlin School Electronic Music in about 1977 when a friend lent me his big brother’s copy of “Rubycon” by Tangerine Dream. The sound and the feelings that the music evoked have never left me. Does the AE Modular fit this style of music…? Absolutely and completely. When I sit down with my AE Modular, I feel the spirit of adventure that must have filled those early pioneers.
I find the The AE Modular to be a blank canvas with many possibilities – it can create ambience, it can create sequences, it can even create some great lead lines. Being monophonic, I still rely on a few other instruments to bring that wider polyphonic sound into play, much like those early players did using organs, pianos and the proto-sampler, the Mellotron (although sadly not a real one).
Even the initial range of modules that came with my two-row starter rack was more than enough to get sounds that equalled some of those being created in the early- to mid-70’s. With the addition of the on-board SEQ16, I was able to do almost everything within the modular. As the range of filters continues to grow (I like filters), we have a continually increasing palette of analogue manipulation in a very small package.
To gain access to a greater range of oscillator base sounds I have added a Bastl Kastle to my setup, which has opened a door onto some fantastic ambient soundscapes - it is like adding a complex oscillator. Being fully compatible with the AE Modular, the Bastl Kastle interfaces at the patch lead level, enabling cross-patching and a lot of control.
In summary, with careful sound creation, combined with sequencing, the AE Modular is immensely capable of sitting at the centre of a setup for Berlin School music - and most styles of Electronic Music, to be honest..
How did you get started with making electronic music?
After hearing, and loving, music like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, as well as more “mainstream” music like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, I had a yearning to make my own version of it. I bought a cheap guitar, amp and a couple of pedals and also eventually an ARP synth (from the London Synthesiser Centre) at the very end of the 70’s and I started making some noise. I didn’t understand about things like reverb, but I quickly learned that one of those tape-based delay machines (mine was a Wem Copicat bought second-hand) made a big difference to sounding more like what I heard on the records.
I would simply play along to all of my favourite records, sometimes even in the right key…!!! I also had a friend who had ARP and Yamaha synths, so we started making our own Tangerine-flavoured Dreams in his garage. Somewhere there are some dreadful cassette tapes waiting to embarrass me.
Moving into the 80’s, I was able to buy some of the excellent Roland equipment that was coming out (SH-101, TR-606, TB-303, MC-202, etc.). I was a student, but I got a job both to help fund my studies and also to feed my addiction to synths. In the end, I sold all but the TR-606 (not sure why I kept that one, but I still have it, in pristine condition) and bought a Roland polysynth – the JX3P. I used this for my final year degree project, where I built my own MIDI interface that fitted inside a giant S-100 bus, Z80-based crate in the laboratory, just like the Crumar GDS system that my hero Klaus Schulze was using (although I didn’t know that at the time). Having got the hardware working, I set about writing a simple sequencer in Z80 Assembly Language (that dates me). Somehow, I got it all working and demonstrated it to the amusement of the academics assessing me.
Towards the end of the 80’s I lost some faith in the style of Electronic Music that I loved. It just wasn’t sounding the way I liked it, it was becoming much more computer-based repetitive and a bit samey (not in the good way that it had been). So, at this time, I switched to just guitar for a while, playing in a Blues band around London. Luckily, I didn’t have much of a worry about improvising – something that has stayed with me.
This is about getting started, so I’ll stop there. This all lead me into playing with some like-minded European friends in a band called Kubusschnitt and together we had some fun (and not so fun) times.
Your name is also connected to the band Kubusschnitt who are also present on Bandcamp and at some time toured and played live. Could you tell us a bit more about your involvement with the band and how that influenced your musical “career”?
Back in the mid-90’s, there was a mailing list devoted to Tangerine Dream discussion (Tadream), which was originally hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UWP). This list was the place to discuss Tangerine Dream and also the music being created by a number of gifted newcomers, who were creating the new wave of Berlin School, which had pretty much blended into New Age music by then. In 1996, there was even a members’ cassette put together, “Network-388”.
It was through this mailing list that I met (physically) a lot of people with whom I’m still in contact now – this included the other three members of what would become Kubusschnitt. There were four of us: Tom Coppens (from Belgium), Ruud Heij (from The Netherlands), Jens Peschke (from Germany) and me, Andy Bloyce, (from the UK). Our backgrounds were very different, as was our musical equipment and we started to share ideas via CDRs posted to each other.
We still had to actually meet, of course and the Electronic Music Festivals in The Netherlands provided an excellent way of meeting face-to-face and the first meeting was at what was to be the final KLEMdag in 1997. It was a fantastic day, with Ashra topping the bill in an excellent fashion. Chuck Van Zyl (the host of the long running radio show "Star's End") was also at that one, and I remember him being treated like a Rock Star as he was walking around, with the hushed talk of, “That’s Chuck Van Zyl”. He was, and is, a lovely guy, but he was a name and we were in awe.
As I said, we shared ideas and rough sketches by sending CDRs through the post and then playing with them to build up ideas, but it really came alive when we managed to get together in the same room and we could improvise with the DAT running.
Our first real musical meeting was in 1998, when three out of the four of us met in Utrecht and created the basis of what would become our first album “The Case”. It was never meant to be anything other than improvising and fun, but when the UK label Neu Harmony heard some of our early drafts we were asked to turn it into an album.
At the same time, I was also working up some solo material that turned into duo material when I was visited by the German contingent for a week. This became the Neu Harmony album, “A Different Kind of Normal”, issued under the name wEirD (the “E” being for England and the D for Deutschland). As a fan of Manuel Gottsching, there was quite a lot of guitar on this album. The track “Manuel Gearchange” was the just about the last track I recorded in my original studio, which had an 8-track reel-to-reel, after which I built a new studio based around a PC running Cubase.
Both of those albums sold reasonably well (very minor fish in an exceptionally small pond), so we carried on for a bit and made a further two studio albums, “The Cube” and “The Singularity”. At the same time we were playing a few gigs around Europe, which included the Jodrell Bank Observatory (in the UK), the Alfa Centauri Festival (in the Netherlands), the Krautrock Karnival (in the UK) and the National Space Centre (in the UK).
As we improvised, based on initial ideas, we recorded almost everything, all of the sessions and the rehearsals and the gigs themselves. Up until recently, the Kubusschnitt albums had become hard to find and, in some cases, a little expensive. As I really wanted to share the music for a reasonable price, I remastered all of the issued material and I collated the best of the various sessions and rehearsals and I started to put everything on Bandcamp for reasonable prices.
Ruud, Tom and I are now in the process of making some new music together for the first time in 18 years, and I fully expect the AE Modular to stand up well in the presence of a lot of vintage, new and generally interesting equipment.
Besides AE Modular, what is your favourite equipment?
I like equipment that inspires me, equipment that makes me enjoy the sound that I hear. Being a fan of the music, it’s really important that the sounds inspire me. So I like equipment that I can play live and is easy to control - for me that means that I can get those sounds that are buried inside it into the real world. An interesting piece of real hands-on equipment that I bought nearly 25 years ago is the Latronic Notron sequencer (the Mark I version as well, of which only 100 were made).
I still have it and I was amazed to find out just how rare it is. Of course, its similarity to a toilet seat couldn’t go unnoticed when Kubusschnitt got together for the Krautrock Karnival.
Over the last 40 years, I’ve been through quite a lot of synthesizer equipment, analogue and digital, a lot of which I still have buried in original boxes. One of my recent favourite is the Arturia MicroFreak, simply because it’s capable of producing some off-the-wall sounds - and it has some interesting randomisation features. The presets are awful, in my opinion, but sitting quietly with the machine does pay dividends with some sounds that are hard to get elsewhere. I also have a Make Noise 0-Coast, which is wonderfully complex for something about the size of a paperback book. Again, spending time quietly sitting and experimenting pays huge dividends with this synth, it’s my version of a mini-Buchla.
There was a phase in synthesisers where everything was hidden behind a large number of menus, with a small display acting as your guide. Whilst these were undoubtedly very powerful and quite often innovative synthesizers, they were quite soul-destroying to play and program. There existed great sounds within them, but they needed to be teased out and then carefully stored as user presets.
To me, these were dark days and I didn’t really buy much equipment at all during that period. I still have a Waldorf MicroWave 2 that I did buy, which brought Wavetable synthesis to within reach of normal musicians. As a result of enjoying that synth, I did buy a Waldorf Blofeld more recently and that still sees a lot of use in my setup. It’s a remarkably powerful (the modulation possibilities are mind-blowing), although it does need patience to coax the sounds out of it.
Overall, my favourite equipment will have an appealing interface that invites sound exploration. Whilst I’ve been through a lot of equipment, the AE Modular does present that opportunity for exploration in one of the most persuasive sizes I’ve seen.
How do you integrate the AE system into your music production workflow?
I have a very simple workflow - or so I think. I set up equipment, with effects, into my mixer and I send that to Reaper as a stereo pair. I have all of my recording equipment behind me and when I start I hit record, turn around, and then just start playing. This process can generate ambient sections or sequencer parts, which are captured and if needed then played in whilst I improvise the next part.
I try to do as much as possible in one pass, but sometimes that just isn’t possible as I have quite a small music area. So, if I’m creating a longer piece with a number of 20-30 minutes live sections, I’ll record them live, set them up to play from Reaper and then I’ll improvise and record some bridging pieces live to create the overall longer tracks. It can get a bit exciting if I have to remember tempo or key changes, but that’s part of the fun - and I try to do it without turning around to look at Reaper, I prefer to use my ears.
The AE Modular is one of my improvising synths, I use it mainly for ambient sections as the huge amount of live tweaking available can produce some very complex sounds. These are great when combined with some effects routing live into the mixer. For effects I now use my ever-growing pedal farm that started purely for guitars, but I soon realised just how much fun it was configuring these into various serial/parallel routings. I do “play” my effects at the same time as the synthesizers when I’m improvising.
What are you missing from AE Modular, how can it be improved, and which modules would you like to see in the future?
I really like filters and sequencers, and a nice sequencer pattern, with a modulated filter overlay is always a nice feeling. So, I would like to see more filters (e.g. a Moog-style ladder filter) and a sequencer with a deeper set of controls. I would be willing to give up a considerable amount of rack space for a more controllable sequencer.
I’m also very interested in manipulation of real world sounds (i.e. musique concrete), so a set of modules that allowed voltage-controlled manipulations of samples would be an amazing addition.
In terms of any improvements on the existing system, either offering a buffered CV input on the oscillators (or a buffering module to interface would help when tuning the oscillators in more critical applications. When you’re aware of the effect of a drop in voltage (and hence pitch), you can compensate for it - and knowledge of this is key at that point. It does mean that live performance patching can be a dangerous practice.
Finally, I really like randomisation, so an interesting source of randomness would be a great addition, especially if it could be tamed into repeatability (e.g. MI Marbles). Is that really random…? Yes, in spirit ?
Oh yes, and a Quantizer, but I think that’s on the cards anyway.
Notes and links
Creative Londoners, an Interview with Andy Bloyce:
The Kubusschnitt Blog:
The Kubusschnitt Bandcamp Page:
The Soviet Space Dog Project Blog
The Soviet Space Dog Project Bandcamp Page:
The Soviet Space Dog Project YouTube Video for “The Dark”:
The Soviet Space Dog Project Experimental SoundCloud areas (including Patch Challenges):
The Ambient Fish Society Bandcamp Page:
TANGERINE DREAM - FORCE MAJEURE, written and compiled by EDGAR FROESE. https://www.edgarfroese.de/shop/products.php?g1=e0ab31&g2=a99cac
Happy Birthday AE Modular!
Today is the 3rd anniversary of the AE Modular System. The Kickstarter Campaign ended successfully funded on the 16th December 2016 and with that this new system was born and changed my life. Now three years later the user base has more than quadrupled, the number of modules has increased from the initial 14 to over 40 different modules for all styles of music! This year has also seen a huge growth in the community and the number of performances that people have released on Youtube, Instagram and other social media. I have heard from many of you that this system has changed your life as well and that makes me incredibly happy.
What started as a hobby project which I was able to pursue in my spare time while working a job as a software developer has now become my sole focus and source of income. The demand has increased incredibly especially after Superbooth and I had to make substantial changes to the production process as well as hiring additional staff in order to keep up with the volume of orders that started flooding in. This increase in demand has led to an embarrassingly long wait time (for some up to 3 months!) and although you all have a right to be frustrated with this, I am also extremely humbled by the overwhelming good will and many messages of support from you, my customers and the community especially during the time when I was very ill.
Whereas the last three years have been focused on upgrading the original modules (better sockets, better patch wires, some fixes and improvements of the circuits) this year has seen a shift towards upgrading my production processes and while there’s still much to improve, I believe that I’m getting on the right track to deliver more orders in a much shorter time.
We can never be sure about the future, but I believe that 2020 will be another incredible year for tangible waves and the AE Modular system and community. The main focus will be to first get on top of the outstanding orders, but once this process is more streamlined I can focus again on the development of more and exciting new modules. The system will also be visible more globally as well, not just at Superbooth, but potentially also at next year’s NAMM, and hopefully in Japan and Australia as well.
Merry Christmas: 5% off all products!
I have decided to give you all this year’s Christmas presents early to thank you all for your continued support!
Please use the code XMAES2019 to receive 5% off any purchase on the tangible waves online store!
This code is valid until the 15th of January!
New Module Releases
These modules were silently cooking in the background and now I’ve finally managed to move them into production just in time for Christmas … you may buy them today but they won’t ship until next year as I’m still working on reducing the backlog!
The following modules have been updated:
Changes at tangible waves!
Tangible waves had to move to a bigger room as we’ve grown to keep up with demand and Antonia and I have now been joined by Tobias who is doing an internship and already showing his enthusiasm for synths and electronics with his involvement in the development of an interface module for the Volca modular.
(Greetings from the tangible waves team)
Documentation and the Wiki
With the fabulous help from Roger (aka @pol in the forum) the wiki now has documentation for most modules as well as a very promising getting started section. Please check it out and send any ideas of improvements to Carsten at the forum.
News from the Forum
Here are only some of the many new and interesting threads:
AE Modular Performances
The amount of new tracks that are being created with the AE Modular is truly breathtaking and it’s really heartening to see and hear so many new artists appearing on the scene every month! Every track is great to listen to, here’s a sample of last month:
And this video of me playing at the Ambient Waves event in Munich earlier this year has finally found its way to YouTube. I hope you enjoy my little performance on the AE Modular:
The DIY section is where the forum got really busy over the last few months and it’s really great to see that the 0-5v format inspires and enables so many interesting projects.
Tangible Waves was present at 4 music trade shows and meets this year at MEFF, Superbooth, Dutch Modular and Knobcon which was already twice as much as the year before. But next year we will double that again and try to show this new format to the world as far and wide as we can!
NAMM Anaheim CA, USA 16th - 19th January 2020
This is the King (or Queen) of all music conventions, the biggest and loudest and the one where most music hardware companies show off new gear. Although not 100% confirmed, it could be that an AE Modular system might be present and one or two completely new modules could be revealed at that show! Stay tuned.
Synthplex, Burbank CA, USA 26th - 29th March 2020
This is like NAMM, but more specifically geared towards synthesizers, modulars, pedals and controllers. An AE Modular system might be present there, but again, not 100% confirmed!
Superbooth Berlin, Germany 23rd - 25th April 2020
I’m looking forward to again present the AE Modular system at this event, which is growing ever bigger and more amazing each year. Please join me again if you can make it to Berlin, I’m keen to meet you and to hear how you are using the AE Modular or to answer any questions you may have.
Dear AE modular Community,
After all the ups and downs of the last few months, October feels like things are finally getting settled again. My health is now back to normal, and with my new helper I am getting on top of the production and will hopefully start to ship systems out much earlier than before. I really feel ashamed that some of you had to wait for over 2 months to get your system! It is now my main focus to bring this wait time down to a more acceptable time frame!
Upcoming Module Releases
The following modules were planned for release last month, but I just couldn’t find the time. But now they are finally ready and available in the shop immediately
I’m planning to release the following modules in November:
Changes at tangible waves!
As some of you might have seen from my post on Facebook a week ago, I am no longer working alone on the production of modules, but I now have assistance from Antonia, who is the first employee of tangible waves and has been taking to assembly of modules and starter racks like a fish to water! She really enjoys the work, as you can see from the picture below.
The workshop is also expanding! We will be moving to a bigger room at the technology hub where we are at the moment and that will make it much easier to get more people on board in the future to help with the assembly if the demand is increasing as it is!
There are only so many things that can be done in a day, and the main focus these last 12 months was on improving the modules, the patch connections, releasing new modules and above all, fulfilling the growing list of orders. Unfortunately some things fell off the side and one of those is a proper and centralised documentation for all the modules and other parts of the AE Modular system. When it was suggested in the forum to “crowd-source” this in the form of a wiki, Carsten jumped right on it and created a wiki and a structure where this documentation can take shape with the help of the AE Modular community!
From now on, all documentation and other articles will take shape and live at
Already a few people from the forum have declared an interest to take part in the shaping of this new and exciting resource for beginners and seasoned AE users alike.
Please note that it is still very light on content, but if the forum is any indication for the strength and passion of the AE community, I’m certain it will fill up with high quality information very quickly.
There is also a new section on the forum where anyone can post questions or suggestions about the content of the wiki.
News from the Forum
The forum has never been this active and this is mostly due to many new members that have just recently joined and adding their take on the system. The questions that are being asked are very useful and many of those and the answers that were provided by other members of the forum, will be the basis of the beginner’s guide on the new Wiki.
Here are only some of the many new and interesting threads:
The creativity of artists in our community is unbelievable and not a day goes by that doesn’t see a new entry on Soundcloud or a new video on Youtube where the AE Modular is being used in so many different ways that it’s hard to keep up! Here is just the recent sample of what was posted on the forum lately:
And Arti has not stopped a beat and delivered track after track after track of pure AE Modular goodness! Please listen to his collective works here:
The DIY crowd in the forum is growing stronger and stronger, sometimes I feel that there are more DIY modules out there than official ones and I’m absolutely loving what you are creating! Here is a list of the most recent projects:
Digital Analog Munich - 19th October 2019
I will be playing the AE Modular system as part of the Dark Waves ambient performances track at this year’s Digital Analog event in Munich. This is a mega event with artists coming from a wide spectrum of audio and visual arts. Please join me if you happen to be nearby. More information about this event:
Synth Festival in Australia - 19th October 2019
Carsten is organising the first ever Synth Festival on the Far South Coast of NSW in Australia and will demo the AE Modular system and use it in a live performance that night. For most of us that’s probably too far away, but if you live in Sydney or Canberra, you should definitely check it out:
Superbooth Berlin 2020 - 23rd - 25th April 2020
Early bird tickets are now available until the 31st of October, so act quickly! Although it feels like this year’s Superbooth was just yesterday, I’m really looking forward to next year. This event is getting bigger and better every year and it is incredibly fulfilling to be able to meet with so many of you in person. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Do you know of any other Synth Events?
Please let me know. Especially if you show off your AE Modular in public, I would love to know more about it.
Dear AE modular Community,
The last two months were not easy for me because of the health issues, but I have been uplifted by the positive and well meaning messages that I received from many of you. In fact I am really feeling much better now, and although I’m still not at 100% I have the feeling that I’m over the worst of whatever this was (there’s still no clear diagnosis what it could have been).
Thank you all for your support and understanding!
With the help of my assistant Antonia we hope to get back on track with manufacturing and sending out those long overdue orders. We are also preparing for an increase in demand now that Noisebug is promoting and selling AE Modular over in the US. In fact they have presented the system at Knobcon in Chicago and the response was overall very positive.
Upcoming Module Releases
My main focus last month was on getting systems and modules shipped so unfortunately the work on the new modules took a bit of a back seat. However I’m planning to release the following modules this month:
I’m planning to release the following modules in October:
As always, please check the status of new development on the Sunrise Page.
AEther Waves Vol. 1
This album is a phenomenal collaboration of many members of the forum and presents the variety of sound that the AE Modular system can produce. The quality of the tracks and the joy in which those artists of the forum have participated in this project show how remarkable this community is.
If you haven’t already, please check out the album on bandcamp and consider purchasing it for less than a cup of coffee. All proceeds go to the non profit organisation Sea Watch who is rescuing refugees that are in danger of drowning while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Upcoming Events in September 2019
Knobcon in Chicago has just come and gone and was a great success for Noisebug who were presenting the AE Modular system.
Tangible Waves will be present at this year’s Dutch Modular in The Hague on the 27th and 28th. If you are nearby, please come and visit us!
Dear Customers and Friends of AE Modular,
As many of you have noticed, there have been considerable delays in the fulfilment of orders and also a slowing down of the release of new modules. This has partly to do with the incredible influx of new orders that I’ve received since Superbooth. Although I always hoped that this business could grow to be my sole income, I have been caught by this a bit by surprise. But it’s a good surprise and I’m so happy that I can do something full time that inspires so many people! To get on top of the orders I have employed someone who is helping me with the production and after an initial few weeks of training she is now proficient in the assembly and packaging that is required to fulfil the orders. So I was hoping that the situation could improve.
Unfortunately however, my health is currently not good and that’s why even with my new assistant we are lagging more and more behind in production. It started a few weeks ago that I had pain in my neck and legs that just wouldn’t go away so I went to see a doctor who couldn’t find anything. Now the pains are worse and even after many visits to various doctors they still can’t figure out what’s wrong. So I’m spending a lot of time in doctors offices instead in the workshop and also the pain makes it a lot harder for me to concentrate on the work.
I’m really sorry that this is happening now that the AE Modular format is really taking off and I’m sorry, too, that so many of you have to wait weeks and sometimes months(!) for your system. All I can say is that no order will get lost and that we are working as fast as we can to send out every order. However if you do have an issue with the long wait time, please contact me and we can sort it out.
I hope that my health will improve soon and I have plans to ramp up production capabilities then to cope with the increasing demand. And finally - No worries - AE modular is alive and will grow on!
This blog post has been long overdue and I hope you won't be put off by the great number of videos. Superbooth took a great chunk out of my time with preparations and then afterwards the sheer volume of new orders! Next blog will be on time again!
This was the second year at Superbooth for tangible waves with the AE Modular system and it was phenomenal! We had so many people come to our booth to learn more about the system or to just chat and hang out. The booth was a bit of a hang out for members of the forum and we had the chance to see some of them for the first time in person which was a real treat. I also had a lot of help and support from so many people, especially Carsten, Felix and Mark … thank you all for your passion and continuing support! Although I’m of course really passionate about the AE system itself, my real joy comes from seeing the forum and the community thrive, with so many passionate people using the AE Modular for their enjoyment and creations. This is what makes me get out of bed every morning!
The Superbooth also had the effect that I received so many new orders that I’m now up to my ears in work and for the first time I had to hire someone to help me out with the assembly and fulfilment of the massive amount of orders. So if you are still waiting for your system, please be patient … we are working as fast as we can!
Felix of The Tuesday Night Machines organised this video where I could sit with and talk about AE Modular with three of my top supporters.
One of the main objectives was to get the word out to a wider audience about the AE Modular system and in this regard Superbooth was a huge success! We were visited by a few very influential YouTubers and their interviews attracted more views on the web than we ever had.
First was Gaz Williams from SonicState who is always very excited about everything, but I feel that he was really impressed by the system.
Then I was interviewed by Ben from DivKid and he created this wonderful video which was instantly viewed by over 5000 people in the first 2 hours!
Although not a review per se, but Bo Nurmi from BoBeats came by to say hello and he gave the AE System an honourable mention in this video:
Tom from the SynthAnatomy channel also conducted a lengthy interview and this was released just recently on his channel:
There was even a team from a Russion synth magazine who also were there last year. They were really impressed with the improvements that were made and about the amount of new modules that were released over the last 12 months.
And last but not least I was able to meet Sam Battle from Look Mum No Computer just before his very impressive show in Munich and he had a first look at the AE Modular ... and maybe he will use it in one of his upcoming videos?
There were 7 new modules that I showed at the Superbooth and of these the one that got the most praise was the Solina String synthesizer module. Not surprising really, since just on the first day of Superbooth, Behringer announced that they are “thinking of maybe designing a prototype of the Solina String Synthesizer”. Well at the tangible waves booth we had a prototype for people to play and listen. Felix from the TuesdayNightmachines even made this short video about it:
Next up was the new drum section consisting of 3 new modules: TOPOGRAF (a clone of the Grids Eurorack module by Mutable Instruments), KICK (a pure analog kick drum synthesizer) and DRUM 010 (a lofi digital drum kit with a few banks of different drum sounds). Again Felix made an amazing video about all three modules:
There were also the new Multi Mode Divider and a new Slew Limiter module. But what most people were asking for was a playable version of the ALGODRONE, a bytebeat noise generator that I demoed last year and never got around to finish until this month! And once more, Felix did a superb job of capturing its essence:
If you don't know what Bytebeat is you can read more about it in this forum thread.
Most of these new modules will be available in the shop either by the end of June or in July, so stay tuned for more info on this.
NEW Patch Cables
The patch cables were really the most annoying part of the whole AE Modular experience and so many people have told me again and again how they would fall out of the sockets, or cause crackling or just did not make a good connection. I totally agree! The standard patch leads that are normally used for electronics prototyping on breadboards are not really made for patching musical instruments and my friends over at Bastl share the same issues with this “state of the art” as it also affects their products, the Bastl Kastle and Bitranger.
But there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel and that came with an idea of one of my customers who suggested I try those slightly thicker pins that are being used in the RC model aircraft / helicopter DIY community. I ordered a few and made a few prototype cables with them and brought them to Superbooth to give away to a few people for testing.
So far these cables are holding up very well. They are much softer and they connect much better to the patch points, even to the older style ones and they won’t fall out! Now I just had to find a way to have those cables made large scale to get the price down to something that is affordable and after a lot of research and being in contact with various suppliers in China I finally found a reliable supplier and a very decent price point.
I’m very happy to announce that the age of bad patch connections and cables that are falling out is finally OVER!
Once I have enough of those cables in stock they will be available for purchase and they will also be added to the standard beginner rack systems instead of the old cables.
AE Modular retailing in the UK and USA
I have made arrangements with two distributors in the UK and USA who will offer the AE Modular system for retailing directly in their respective country. For now they will sell the Starter Racks as it is a complete system and easy for anyone to get into modular synthesis and Juno will also sell a palette of modules and accessories.
Please find more information at https://www.juno.co.uk.
Info about USA retailers will follow soon!
The forum is growing and more and more people are releasing their music online and discuss their techniques and support each other with (mostly) positive feedback. Just have a look through all the new content, if you haven’t in a while … it’s quite amazing:
Especially the patch challenges have become a focal point for new and creative ways to use the AE system. You can find a list, current and past threads here:
Otherwise it’s just so good to see so many new members connecting to the AE community. This is what my idea was all about, to create a system that is affordable so that many people can use it to learn and to make music with it for their own enjoyment or to share. And the forum is a great place to share and to ask more questions
My focus is to fulfil all those wonderful new orders that came flowing in after the Superbooth activities and also to finish the new modules so that you can order and start playing with them.
I also made some really nice connections with other module makers at the Superbooth and I am looking forward to some really interesting collaborations over the next few months with Casper Electronics, Ginkosynthese and Non Linear Circuits.
Dear AE modular Community,
It’s an incredible pleasure to get up every day and knowing “I will produce my own modular synth stuff now” or “I will work on a new module today”; Never in my life did I feel more to be at the right time in the right place (although I enjoyed my previous work in the IT business too, but nothing compares to be a synth developer and manufacturer!). And this is possible only because of you, all you who are using the AE modular, sharing ideas, giving support by motivating/enthusiastic/uplifting feedback, being patient if shipment takes longer than planned… So it’s time again for a big THANK YOU: you are an awesome community! And big thanks also to Carsten, Felix and Mark for their engagement in the forum, making excellent videos, DIY modules and overall helping out others and making them feel welcome. Sometimes I’m speechless what happens around the AE modular …
Upcoming Module Releases
AE modular goes drums!!
News from the Forum
Last month we could celebrate the 100th member signup on the forum! Another milestone on the way to a lasting and vibrant community around the AE Modular system and synthesis in general.
The forum has become the go to place for newcomers and seasoned professionals alike to share ideas, discuss gear and technique and to find information not just about the AE Modular system, but also the periphery which can be connected to it and integrated with.
The Patch Challenges are attracting more performers and are becoming the beating heart of the forum. If you haven’t already, please have a look at the depth and breadth of submissions to an increasing variety of synthesis puzzles and brain teasers.
The challenges have now moved to their own sub forum:
We were surprised when we received an order from Ezra Buchla for one of the Rack1 systems and asked him whether he would be available for an interview. You can read the first part of the interview here:
After we talked mostly about the AE system we then also touched on more general topics, the music industry, appreciating music through deep listening and tips for beginning electronic musicians. All of this you can read in part 2 of the interview:
And just to top it off we also had the great pleasure of interviewing Karin aka Kapuzal, a very talented music producer from Munich. You can read about her musical journey here:
We also were quite surprised about the proliferation of DIY modules when we saw this photo posted by @ben of his AE rack with a plethora of self made modules:
On the support side of things, there were questions about various aspects of the AE power supply: http://forum.aemodular.com/thread/198/another-power-supply-question and the available current: http://forum.aemodular.com/thread/186/available-current-question
And various options for keyboards were discussed, again initiated by @ben with a photo of one of his amazing DIY creations: http://forum.aemodular.com/thread/117/keyboard-ae
And last but not least: if you are a beginner to the AE Modular system or even modular synthesis in general you may be interested to check out the series of tutorial videos that Carsten aka The5thVolt is uploading regularly to his website:
Upcoming Events in 2019
Tangible waves will be present on the 6th-7th of April at the MEFF event in Florence, Italy! If you live nearby please come and visit us. More information about this event is here: http://tiptopaudio.com/meff/
May kicks off strong with the Superbooth which is from the 9th to the 11th in Berlin. Please come and visit us at the tangible waves booth. We are also planning an AE Enthusiast’s get together at the event. More information and tickets are available here:
You can find us at Booth W400, more information here: https://superbooth.com/en/tangible-waves.html?articles=tangible-waves-793
Although not directly related to AE Modular, but he is a kindred spirit, a DIY genius and an over the top performer. If you can make it, please come and see Sam Battle perform his “Look Mum No Computer” live show in Berlin on the 11th of May just on the last day of Superbooth. It will be the Big Bang with which to end the greatest synth show in Europe.
More info and tickets are available here:
And to finish May off on a more mellow note, please join us in Munich on the 24th and 25th for the “Ambient Waves - Kosmische Musik” festival where you can see Robert perform together with Dieter Doepfer and Thomas Quaeschning from Tangerine Dream among others. The line up reads like a who is who of German synthesizer craft and ambient music. Don’t miss out on this event:
This is the second part of my interview with Ezra Buchla. If you haven’t already, you can read part 1 here.
At first I only wanted to ask him about his experience with the AE Modular system which he had ordered a few months ago. But as we were talking we naturally touched on some more general topics about the current commercial landscape of modular synths and about making and appreciating music in general.
As a DSP programmer by trade, in which direction would you like to see DSP-based modular synth modules evolve in the future? Are there any exciting projects or developments you’re following closely or looking forward to?
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the proliferation of small computers in modular synthesizers (and elsewhere). On the one hand, it's pretty awesome that embedded computing is so accessible right now. On the other hand, it seems like a strange allocation of resources to have a eurorack system with 20 computers in it or something, all of which are similarly spec'd with different panel art and firmware. not every problem needs to be solved by throwing a 100 MHz processor at it. :)
My tendency is to want my digital devices to be maximally flexible and reusable. there's a huge number of used smartphones and laptops in the world, available basically for free...
So, I like the fact that there are open-source digital modules and that there is a large active community engaged in modifying them. (e.g. Mutable Instruments.) any digital module that isn't open-sourced seems weird to me.
My long association with monome.org speaks to our shared design values with regard to functional minimalism and openness. Last year they released "norns," which I was instrumental in designing and implementing; it is their take on the portable, linux-based desktop sound processor. The upcoming "crow" will be a complementary unit for analog hardware interfacing.
At this year’s NAMM 2019 we’ve seen some big companies getting into the modular world. Especially the Korg Volca Modular came as a big surprise and it introduces the “masses” to west coast synthesis. How do you feel about this “east coast vs. west coast” synthesis and do you even think about this when you are making music?
For what it's worth, I think it's a silly marketing conceit, and always was. Neither Don nor Bob appreciated the terms. Just say what you mean! (sequenced, generative, keyboard-based, FM, additive, subtractive, whatever.) I chose to disengage from the music tech industry in my daily life a couple of years ago and am now working in the hearing industry, which is a lot more fulfilling to me. I’m not sure I like the “toy” aspect of where things are heading and especially how many little computers are now being used and sitting in your rack. You know, there’s a $25 digital board and a nice aluminium panel and it becomes this collector or fashion item and is really marketed towards this certain upper class people that seem to mostly just collect these things. These are just not my values and especially with these digital boards you’re engaging with this global supply chain that artificially deflates the cost of the components. This is just not great for the world. We are now living in a world where people in the developed countries throw away their phone every three years. That’s why I like the really analog designs which have much less impact. I would like to do more with fewer computers.
I can see this is so true. There are so many new Eurorack modules coming out all the time and everyone has to have them. And then on YouTube you don’t really find many people that actually do interesting or even musical things with them.
Yeah, and I don’t really consider myself a musician nowadays. Although I did for ten years when that was my job. Nowadays I don’t feel like releasing electronic music because it feels like a very saturated world. I much prefer to do live performances.
I think it’s really cool, too that the synthesizer market empowers people to created their own sounds. That’s what this is really about, you can create and compose anything you like for your own enjoyment in real time with these machines and that’s the magic of them. At the same time I think it’s a poor fit with the traditional recording industry with their record release cycles. So it’s not appealing to me for instance to release for ambient synthesis music as a professional package because to me it feels unnecessary. It just feels strange to say, here is a recording made by a professional and you should value it more than other recordings made by non-professionals. And at the same time you’re saying, here is a machine that you can buy and make your own ambient music that sounds just like it [was made by a professional]. It is a strange and ego driven world where you’re trying to have both. And people are pushing their own creations out there at this breakneck pace that to me discourages reflection and listening with presence. And this is what I appreciate most in some aspects of ambient or minimalist music. That it’s ephemeral, that it exists in time and is a conscious experience of time and not just the clicking of the next Youtube link.
That’s interesting, that you’re talking about your love for ambient and minimalist music. Where is this interest coming from, what are your main musical influences?
The term “ambient” is a strange one and most of what is called ambient music I don’t care for, it’s too tame for me. But I like Minimalism as a compositional philosophy and ambient music in the sense of Satie’s music or Feldman’s music that is about really experiencing duration. That’s what I grew up listening to. Probably my most formative experiences were a lot of John Cage performances, Feldman performances and Éliane Radigue and Steve Reich which I experienced as a young person. Those were very formative for me in the aspect of how to approach process driven music. Because the interesting thing that synthesizers can do is create autonomous musical processes that provide a different way of accessing the same sort of compositional space that Feldman or Steve Reich were addressing. When I was enrolled in a conservatory as a string performance major and composition major and whether it’s acoustic instruments or electronic, those were always the compositional frameworks that I was interested in and that still interest me.
But I also played a lot in bands and I’m very influenced by Punk music and metal and all kinds of stuff. But in those frameworks the synthesizer has a different role, which is to make a sonic object that is impactful and that is maybe hard to do with other tools. For instance I used to tour with a band where I was mostly singing and I also played this tiny modular that was basically just a triangle core and some feedback - a dual oscillator setup that produced really aggressive sounds which were very physical when you cranked it up in a big room. So I would turn it on for like a second - [vroom] - and that’s what it did.
But these are all just tools like a cello is a tool and you can play Feldman or Xenakis with it [laughs].
So probably many people who are getting into modular synthesizers nowadays aren’t composition majors or may not have much musical education at all (myself included!). What advice would you give these people? What could they study or experiment with?
In don’t know really. I think you should just be aware of what your interests are and what kind of experiences you find enriching. That’s really the only advice I would give anyone, whether they’re a musician or not. One thing that I never understood is this desire or the attitude that I see expressed a lot of “How do I make this kind of music on my synthesizer?” or even “Which synthesizer do I have to buy to make this kind of music?”. This baffles me although I kind of understand it, but to me it misses the point. To me, music is a communicative medium and even to communicate just with myself to express through sound how I perceive the universe. Kind of like a lens through which I see what’s happening right now. And then you can transfer that experience to other people, and that’s what I’m interested in. I never thought “Oh I want to make something that sounds like a Kraftwerk song.” I just never thought that. So maybe this is very cultural. The environment that I grew up in was very much about this sort of experimental sound community in the Bay Area. And this music community was very much influenced by listening practices, maybe even more so than sound production. So if you look at the history of electronic music and how for instance Pauline Oliveros writes about music, she doesn’t write about how do you produce a sound, she writes about how to listen to a sound. The same with John Cage and other of my role models, they were all more interested in listening than sound production. And that’s what I still continue to do.
So my compositional advice is to just listen! But to do this in a really attentive way. This may sound obvious, but I think that a lot of people aren’t really listening in a critical way. You know? It’s really difficult to really listen to what you’re doing. It’s extraordinarily difficult.
On the same topic, I met with Sam Aaron recently who produced a computer language environment called SonicPi, mainly to teach kids music and programming at the same time. And I asked him, how do you teach this to kids? And he said “You don’t. You just show them the command that plays a note at 440 Hz and then you tell them that this number can go up and it can go down. Then you add the command for a pause and you just gave them the tools to play all of western classical music.”
And that’s what is was like for me, too. I had a lot of music education, but the most educational single memory that I recall was actually sitting down at the piano with my dad and he asked me to play just one note. And my dad actually got piano lessons from David Tudor, who was a great John Cage interpreter and an electronic composer in his own right. So these exercises were like “Play and hold this one note and then listen until you can’t hear it anymore.” And that was very impressive because when you pay really close attention then it’s very hard to say that you’re not hearing the sound anymore on a piano. Another exercise was, how soft can you play the note. Just like a lot of Feldman piano pieces have the direction “as softly as possible”. Softness isn’t just about volume, but also about touch, how softly can you touch the keys.Those things together give you an appreciation of the incredible sensitivity of human hearing. The dynamic range of human hearing has about a factor of a million between the strongest and the weakest stimulus that you can perceive.
So my music education was very non-traditional and some of the pedagogical techniques that were most influential to me were not traditional ear training or music theory, but a practice that was rooted in deep listening and experimental performance. Another person I like alot is W.A. Mathieu who wrote a book called “The Harmonic Experience” which has a lot of a sort of meditative training exercises, a lot of singing. This is how I would approach talking to kids about sound and music. I have taught the violin and piano to young kids, but never synthesizers. Only once did I play an old Buchla with my nephew who’s one and a half. He was just fascinated by the fact that you can turn a knob and the sounds goes up and down. That was enough for him and was an almost magical experience.
Thank you Ezra for this very interesting chat!
If you haven’t already, please also check out and listen to this piece that Ezra performed with the AE Modular, his Viola and tenor guitar:
Here are some links to composers and performers that Ezra talked about:
You can read part 1 of this interview here.
(Interviewer: Carsten Eckelmann, Skype interview from 10th February 2019)
Ezra Buchla is an accomplished violinist and musician who is creating soundscapes using just his violin and a computer running the supercollider audio programming environment. He is the son of the late Don Buchla who was instrumental in designing the Buchla music system and through his work defined what some people call “West Coast Synthesis”. Ezra is also a founding member of The Mae Shi, an experimental rock band from Los Angeles.
We were surprised and very pleased when - out of the blue - we received an order for the AE Modular Standard Rack 1 from Ezra so we wanted to find out what his thoughts are now that he had some time to play with it.
The following is my transcript (in sense if not word for word) of some written communication and a subsequent Skype interview with Ezra. It is quite long so we’ll release it in two parts.
Please also check out and listen to this piece that Ezra performed with the AE Modular, his Viola and tenor guitar:
How did you find out about AE Modular and, given that you obviously have access to much more expensive gear, why did you choose to buy a system from us?
I saw it mentioned on the `lllllll.co` forum and was intrigued by the overall design, the motivations and some of the specific modules (like the NYLE filter) and the price was low enough to justify satisfying my curiosity. I’m not a big gear head and I mostly work with computers. That’s why I worked alot with the monome.org project mainly on the "norns" machine. But I was curious about the sound producing components especially the oscillators and the NYLE filter. I really love that filter, it’s totally bizarre, the resonance knob goes to self oscillation at 12 o’clock and you can bleed different inputs depending on the output conductance. When I contacted Robert I was impressed with his passion and the way he talks about his system. So I wanted to evaluate it for the analog sound sources because I wanted to hear if they have more character than just a clean sound. And it was just what I expected, really grungy so I’ll probably run my viola and the guitar or voice through it just to give it some character.
Please be honest and let us know what you think about the AE Modular system. Would you use it for one of your performances?
Sure, I used it in a performance back in October, which went great.
The system I have is quite limited because I was mostly interested in checking out the oscillators and filters, and routing audio through it. For example, I have no sequencing capabilities at all! I tend to want to do sort of strange things with musical event generation, which are best realized on a computer. So I have been intending to build my own 5v programmable sequencer interface, but of course haven't had time.
I'm also not a big MIDI user... so at the moment, the system is basically a source of static textures / drones. This is totally fine with me, and I've spent enough time with it to have some ideas about what few things to add to optimize it for that role...
Which improvements would you like to see, which drawbacks do you see?
The main drawback for me is just the fragility of the sockets themselves. But I see this has been addressed in recent revisions. :)
There are a number of oddities and strange behaviors, but I don't actually see this as a drawback per se. Like, a lot of outputs aren't buffered (?) and adding e.g. capacitance to them (like by touching with a finger) can affect other outputs in the circuit in strange ways.
(that's is sort of a guess... honestly, I haven't even engaged with the system in a "technical" mindset at all. I haven't hooked it up to a scope or even looked under the panels. for now, I'm happy to keep it that way :) )
Would you recommend it to other musicians or students of modular synthesis?
Absolutely. Of course this would depend on the person's needs or intentions. To some extent I think it seems actually a little challenging for beginners. For a practicing musician new to synthesizers, road-worthiness is important, limited signal flow is ok, so semi-modular designs make sense.
But if someone is already familiar with synthesis paradigms (and digital systems can easily provide this experience), or wanting to dive in at the "deep end," then I would definitely recommend the AEM system.
Which modules would you like to see most in the AE environment
I could go on of course, ha.
At the AE Modular forum we have now started a fun little series of weekly challenges which are supposed to inspire people to produce and record small pieces with their system. The challenges are also a bit of a puzzle, like produce sound without using an oscillator, or produce ambient spacey, drones. What challenge would you set us?
So these are almost like scores, right? I did a lot of this work as a composition student, like scores for modular or instructions for modular. I have mixed feelings about it. I don’t really care for the prescriptiveness of the challenges, but I can see how it would be helpful for someone who is starting out and wants to sit down every day and do something, but isn't sure how to go about it. It helps to have a goal in mind. Maybe in a pedagogic sense, it seems cool, but it’s not really for me.
The most interesting thing for me is that because the way the AE system is designed, I believe it cuts a lot of corners. I’m guessing there are unbuffered outputs and stuff like this. It has these strange behaviours that deviate from the sort of ideal that someone might have learned in a software environment and that’s a really valuable thing to have. Like if you have never experienced this tactile environment where you are interacting with a real electric circuit and not just a number that’s copied over here when turning this knob.
Maybe that is a challenge that I would set: “Try to find a behaviour that you can’t explain.”
What would your “stranded on a desert island” music setup look like?
I actually don’t have a lot of stuff in my studio. I have this Italian viola from 1850 which is really nice and if that was the only instrument I could take, I would be more than happy. I also have another very modern viola with a carbon fibre body and an electric pickup which I really like. I also have a tenor guitar which I use a lot and a really nice audio interface and some distortion pedals. There’s a Moog Rogue which is really fun. That and the monome stuff of course and a few weird circuits that I’m working on is really most of what I have in my studio. Probably that’s already too much for a deserted island, but it’s not really a lot.
There’s this interview which I really like with Robert Henke, one of the co-founders of Ableton, where someone asked him about plugins and he replied “You know in Ableton or really any DAW you can have as many compressors as you want. You can serialise them, sidechain them, you can do stuff that no one even imagined being able to do in the ‘80s, not even in a million dollar studio. And now on your computer you can have all of this basically for free.” This is a really great antidote to the gear chasing mentality. You know, doing more with less is the essence of art. For instance the early Beatles records were recorded with one dynamic microphone in the middle of the room in mono.
A lot of my favorite music is recorded with pretty minimal means. My favorite artist Alastair Galbraith in New Zealand really does a lot with a violin, a guitar and tape loops and his voice.
So my deserted island setup would probably be just my viola and if I could bring my computer that would be great, too.
When playing a violin, you are able to add expression and emotion to your sound quite naturally and spontaneously via fine tactile input. Modular synths are often controlled without this kind of “touch” however. How do you feel about this? Do you miss certain controller types for modular synths, or is the often rather algorithmic approach to modular music-making a welcome change or even a challenge? In another interview you said that you mostly use software to program sound (was it csound?). Do you think that you can achieve a similar expressiveness in a live situation with program code as with knobs and faders?
I've mostly used supercollider for the last 10-15 years. I personally tend to use electronic sound structures as environments / processes that proceed sort of autonomously, sometimes in response to acoustic signals.
In both analog and digital systems, expressivity and depth of control are totally achievable. the kind of analysis-driven processes that I gravitate towards are much easier to achieve in the digital domain (e.g. with trivial access to frequency-domain / pitch / timbre analysis.) and on the other hand, direct response to gesture is fundamentally an analog thing.
There's a bit of a paradox in control design: you can make a system that is flexible and patchable, and highly responsive - but controlling responsivity takes practice. In an experimental environment it's cool to change up the gesture -> music linkage, but in I dunno, in more "traditional" music forms it actually seems helpful to have a sensitive but constrained set of gestures, and practice intensively with them. (consider the theremin for example.)
But yeah, for myself, real time control is not actually a big concern, since compositionally I tend towards static structures / minimalism in any case.
This is the end of part 1 of this interview.
Please come back for part 2 where we will talk about the current state of the industry around modular synthesizers, appreciating music and Ezra’s main artistic influences.
This is a link to the projects that Ezra participated in:
Ezra also a bandcamp page:
And he is a founding member of The Mae Shi, an experimental rock band from Los Angeles:
Robert Langer, founder of tangible waves. Here, I will share some thoughts, background infos and news about AE modular and tangible waves.