Nov 30, 2009 Gear
My new 48″ patch cords for the synthesizers.com modular arrived with me last night. Prior to this, I had only 12″, 24″ and 36″. Since filling the 22-space chassis, those are not long enough to reach from the modules at one end to the modules at the other. We’ll see if the new cables help with that.
If so, they’ll enable a lot of interesting new patches, both by freeing up cables and allowing me to route signals more flexibly, but also by freeing up modules (mostly the signal processor, occasionally envelope generators) that I’ve been using as “extension cords,” to splice shorter cables together.
I’d ordered the new cables, but they were omitted from my shipment by accident. The replacements arrived quite quickly and they also tossed in an extra for my trouble. That’s especially pleasing because I’d recently begun to wonder if I’d ordered enough. (I’d ordered three, but four makes more sense, since often I want to route things both to and from the two voltage mini stores, which are way off on one end.)
It’s interesting how sometimes it all comes down to the little details like having the right length of cable handy.
(About my previous dilemma, I still haven’t come up with a good Sync24 solution, but I’ve been having fun nonetheless driving the sequencing modules from a pulse coming over the MIDI interface. I’ve found that I can even use it to drive multiple different time-based events by using the trigger and velocity outputs, with the velocity of some or most of the notes set below the appropriate threshold. That’s turned out to be useful for, for example, advancing the sequencers each quarter note yet hard-syncing a low-frequency oscillator every bar. That still leaves the Pitch output free for modulating the pitch of the sequence, if desired.)
Nov 23, 2009 Uncategorized
Okay, so I have a Time Buffer now, and I wanted to try it. Of course, the big problem is — how do I get DinSync out to the module? My computer can’t output it and I don’t have a x0xb0x or anything.
Well, I’ve been keeping this link handy for just such a moment. It’s a freeware DinSync plugin. The instructions say to make the cable based on the diagram there, insert the plugin on a track, put a single note in the track, and away you go.
So I took a pair of scissors to one of my favourite audio cables (which I just happen to not really have a use for at the moment) as well as a MIDI extension cable I had sitting around and made the cable. Set up the software. Hit play.
Now, I’d used made the stereo-plug version of the cable and used the headphone output on my audio interface. Instead, I made another cable, sacrificing the rest of the cable mentioned above and a second MIDI cable (this time not an extension — I wish I’d found it earlier). Now I had the two-mono-plugs version, and plugged it in to the two main outputs on my interface.
Still no dice.
So there are a few possilities here:
- Despite my careful cable construction and extensive testing, I somehow made both cables wrongly. (This is entirely possible.)
- None of my attempts to set up the software were really set up correctly.
- My Apogee Duet audio interface isn’t DC coupled.
The DC-coupled part is a requirement of the audio interface being used. The plugin’s page says that as far as they know that’s pretty much just MOTU interface, but I’d read elsewhere that both the Apogee Duet and the (dreamy) Apogee Ensemble were DC-coupled. Perhaps I was mistaken.
Either way, there’s a couple of hours on a rare free evening and three cables including one I quite liked sacrificed to a null result, which is always a little disheartening.
Nov 21, 2009 Uncategorized
Today, Sarah and I are listening to The Moon and the Melodies, which is actually the first CD that I ever purchased. (Not the first *album*, but the first album that I bought on CD.) I bought it before I had a CD player. I had a friend with a CD player and a cassette deck and I figured that since I was planning to get a CD player, I might as well start buying albums on CD and getting him to dub them to tape for me. Then when I bought a CD player, I’d have a library already.
It didn’t *quite* happen that way — I believe my parents got me a CD player for either Christmas or my birthday — so I wound up having only the one CD for a month or two after getting the player, but that was okay, because honestly, I just listened to that CD like nuts and didn’t mind it at all.
The Moon and the Melodies is listed in most people’s catalogues as a Cocteau Twins album, but it’s actually credited on the album as Harold Budd / Simon Raymonde / Robin Guthrie / Elizabeth Frazier, which is to say Harold Budd + Cocteau Twins. Taken as a Cocteau Twins album, it’s easily, far and away my favourite album of theirs. However, I don’t file it that way mentally (although I do usually file it with the Cocteau Twins CDs in our drawers), so I usually call my favourite Cocteau Twins album as Victorialand. I think it’s a little unfair to file it simply under “Cocteau Twins,” as Harold Budd’s influence on the album is tremendous. (Apparently Richard Thomas from Dif Juz also appears, but I’m pretty sure he exerts very little influence on the composition.) I only have two Budd albums (as opposed to the 25 or so Cocteau Twins discs), but they’re tremendous albums with a really inimitable sound that comes through in this effort in spades.
It’s amazing to me how little this album has aged in the 23 years since it’s release (in 1986). I realize that 1984-1988 was my formative golden phase in music, so music from that time will often sound more contemporaneous to me than it would to other people, but I really do think that this is an album that stands outside of time, a beautiful and unqiue release that only occasionally references popular culture (the percussion mix is fairly specific to the sound that a lot of producers of the day were going to, but otherwise not much). It’s still to this day a tremendous and enchanting listen.
(For the curious, the first albums I ever purchased with my own money were purchased on two shopping trips in the summer of 1986. On the first, to a local record store in a mall in Windsor, I purchased U2′s live album, “Under a Blood Red Sky,” and The Cult’s album, “Love,” both on vinyl. On the second, to a store in New York City, I bought R.E.M.’s “Fables of the/Reconstruction” and “Life’s Rich Pageant,” both on vinyl, and The Colour Field’s self-titled album and The Dead Milkmen’s “Big Lizard in My Backyard,” on cassette.)
Nov 17, 2009 Uncategorized
So, I was hoping to have a video for you all of how to make a low-frequency oscillator using no less than three envelope generators, but even though, like that word you think you see in the Boggle board even though it’s not there, my brain PERSISTS in trying to pretend like it sees a perfectly workable solution, I have in fact not been able to get this to work at all. So, no video for you!
On the other hand, it hugely belatedly occurred to me that if I’m not using the MIDI interface for anything, I can output ticks from Logic and use *those* to drive the modular’s sequencer. The frees up my third oscillator (which was driving said sequencer previously), which allows me to not engage in any bizarre EG shenanigans to achieve the effect I wanted for the sound I was working on.
So I guess my win is your loss, or something.
I continue to have insufficient numbers of cables. I have a whole pile of them waiting for pickup in Niagara Falls along with the last three modules of the initial cabinet, but until I get a chance to get them, I’m left unable to realize the patches I want in all their ridiculous not-glory, and while I swore there would be no EG shenanigans, I must admit that I did wind up having to use an EG as a cable extender to combine two 24″ cables into one 48″ cables. (It was just carrying trigger pulses, so using an EG with 0 attack, decay and release, and full sustain basically just passes the pulse on as-is.)
One weird side-effect of no longer using the third oscillator to drive the sequencer is of course that I now can’t subtly tweak the tempo with its knob, nor can I modify the pulse with to control the trigger duration on the sequencer. Of course, I could use the gate instead of the trigger, in which case I could scale the notes and adjust the tempo on the computer to the same effect, but it’s not *quite* the same.
Nov 16, 2009 Uncategorized
Inspired by my friend Paul’s recent listening-blog post, I decided to night to take a little time out (about 45 minutes, to be exact) and just listen to an album. Not listen to it on shuffle or listen to it while surfing the net, but just listen to it. For tonight, I selected Holger Hiller’s 1986 album, “Oben Im Eck”. It’s an album that I always wanted in ninth or tenth grade when I first heard a couple of tracks from it on the radio, but I never did manage to get a hold of it. I found it the other day (yes, the actual vinyl record) and picked it up for a song. (Well, $10, but that’s a lot less than most CDs, so I was happy with it).
It’s been a long time since I’ve really listened to an album, so I thought I should do it right. I wanted to lie on the floor right in front of the stereo, put on my headphones and close my eyes. You see, that’s the way that I used to listen when I was growing up. Our stereo was nowhere near any furniture, and I had to use headphones because, well, I lived in a house with a bunch of other people. I often listened at night with the lights off.
I wasn’t able to exactly reproduce it. Our place is much more cramped than my house growing up, so I had less space to stretch out, and I’m older, so I was creakier about lying down on the floor and getting up. The spindle on our turntable is missing and has been replaced with a little plastic cylinder, which means that it’s actually really difficult to put a record on — it doesn’t have that pseudopointedness that a spindle has that makes installing an album easier. As such, I couldn’t turn the lights off. I found that having light, even with my eyes closed, made it harder to really focus, so I spent a lot of the time distracted by trying to find positions where I could prop my arms comfortably to block the light. Maybe next time I’ll just bring a sleep mask.
Mostly, though, I just don’t have the skill, and that’s something that I think should come back with practice.
Still, it was a fun exercise. Listening to the vinyl was nice. The album is… a bit of a novelty. I don’t think I’ll listen to it often. But it was interesting to have heard. I also discovered both that I knew more than one track on it and that the DJ on CBC had read out the track name wrong, such that the song I’ve thought was, “Warm Glass,” all this time is actually, “We Don’t Write Anything on Paper or So.”
I actually have some other albums, mostly on CD, that I’ve never gotten around to listening to or listening to *properly*, so I think I’ll try to continue this with some regularity. The turntable worked very well, although I should dust around it.
It did give me some things to ponder vis a vis structure within songs. These songs had a lot more radically diverse structure, were longer on average, and felt almost scatterbrained at times in their tendency to jump between nearly-unrelated themes. I don’t think I’d want to go that far, but maybe it’s something to think about.