After reading the thread 'Why to NOT get into modular synthesis' https://www.modulargrid.net/e/forum/posts/index/3579 I was first a bit disappointed. Then, in a second phase, I felt angry. 'To get or not to get into...'

Primarily, the main thing first and foremost is 'To love': to love music and/or painting, banjo or hightech electronic gear, my trusty old Arp Axxe and this wonderful new module, semi or not semi-modulars, Glenn Gould and Suzanne Ciani, etc and/or so on!

Then I wondered: 'What do I love above all about modular?' (and thank you sincerely Lugia for that). In a few words my own answer would be today: the quality of the sound, to experiment the generative music potential, and all those mesmerizing tiny colorful lights blinking in front of me :)) Beautiful instrument...

So I would be very pleased to know what do YOU LOVE (or prefer) about modular?
Thanks in advance for your words an confidences.


Many years ago I had a room full of synths and recording equipment: Moog, Arp Odyssey and Omni, DX7, Juno 106, Fender Rhodes, Reason, Ableton, Cubase, plug-ins, guitars, pedals, amps, condenser mics... and I made less music of lower quality than I make today with my entire "studio" that fits on a medium-sized desk.
I love creation, even if it's only for me, and I am now able to create every time I turn on my power switch. The sounds I hear in my head are finally within reach (for the most part). I would have never known this if I had second guessed myself and avoided the modular path.


I still have that sort of a room. In fact, I've spent the past year updating and upgrading it.

The biggest problem with having a well-equipped studio doesn't come from the volume of equipment. After all, it just sits there until it gets used. Instead, it comes from indiscipline...the idea that because these things are there, then they MUST be used. This is the wrong approach, and fits into the category of "blaming the gear for the musician's failings". Just as having some certain device (back in the ACIEEED days, it was the TB-303) is NOT a key to stardom, it's not possible to assign musical capability to the devices at hand. That's 100% on the user.

I recall having some wonderful conversations many years ago with Holger Czukay (RIP) in which this came up. And he pointed out that while Can had many different disciplines in it, ample equipment for the day, and so on...the key to Can BEING Can was in how they restricted what they did. Sure, those restrictions would shift from track to track...but there were always some agreed-to limitations that kept everything working smoothly. Otherwise, the results would've been sheer chaos...which, in fact, they ALSO knew when to employ, such as on "Soup" (on "Ege Bamyasi"). And this is what allows one to have LOADS of gear...but just like how you wouldn't use several dozen colors in one painting just because you happen to have tubes of those colors on hand, you don't want to muddy up your sonic palette by making the same mistake with all of your synths, processors, etc.


Those self enforced limitations have been a revelation for me in recent times. Leaving space and knowing what to remove is so important.
Also, I’m pretty sure I saw Damo Suzuki at an art opening in Leipzig, Germany a few years ago. I didn’t ask, but I could swear it was him.


Hi Sweelinck, All,

What I love about modular is the enormous flexibility for starters, then knowing this, at least theoretically, you can build any kind of (modular) synthesizer (system) you want. That kind of freedom, again the flexibility that it provides, is beyond believe and borders. The more modules you have, the more complex synthesizer-system you can build, the less good overview you will have of what is all possible because it's just too much ;-)

In that forest of trillions of possibilities, starting your day with a clean system (no patch cables plugged in yet), you start to switch on the system. "The blinking" of the system, as a kind of invitation for you, saying: "Come and try me". Once you switched on the system, stand or like I prefer, sit in front of your modular synth, one hand full with patch cables, the other hand scratching your head, that very moment of starting a new patch, a new design of your upcoming synthesizer, that's what I love so much.

Then the next moments, start to patch, trying out a sound or module, adjusting knobs, trying another patch cable with another module, till you get that sound you were looking for (or not really were looking for but just lucky to find it) and then the next patch parallel to what you got already, making it more complicated, more complete, more your own synthesizer. You build that synthesizer!

That's what I love about modular synthesizers ;-)

Kind regards and have an enjoyable modular weekend,

Garfield Modular.


I was really enjoying this thread till the business401k bot decided to ruin it.


Moderators: can we please delete the previous post, and suspend the account, please ? It's obviously a spambot.
[EDIT: I mean the one before the previous one ;-)]

What I love about modular:

  • The gritty analog sound. I may be in the minority here, but I'm sensitive to, and interested in, sound texture down to its finest grain. I'm not disparaging digital sound - it can be beautiful too in its own right, but in emulating analog, it's always a bland imitation, to my ears. Now I love digital sound design as well, because there are many things only digital synthesis can do, but I have the computer for that - a much cheaper solution, even though I'll admit it's less fun to use (It's also more efficient). Anyhow, when I want to feel my hair stand at the literal sound of electricity, only analog synths, and more than anything else, my Eurorack, give me that.

  • The geekiness of handling signals, coming up with new interesting ways of signal processing, and that a modular synth is half way between an electronics lab and a musical instrument. As I often say: just making music instead of noise is already a feat. Making good music, in those conditions, is a miracle and I have utter admiration for those who manage that (me, I make a few tracks with the modular and integrate them into more conventional instrument tracks to make a song - and I edit a lot afterwards). Getting elaborate music (or just pleasing sound) out of basic electronics with just the use of my brain and hands, is a joy and a marvel.

  • Sound design !!! (This is the logical conclusion of the previous two points)

  • The physicality of it. (VCV is great, but it doesn't thrill me as hardware does. It's a tad cheaper though, so it has that going for it ;-))

  • The fact that my studio looks like an Appolo cockpit. I am a technological peacock.

  • The creativity of module creators. (I wish I was better at electronics myself. I know I should make the time to learn that but I don't.)

  • The discussions: I love discussing many things, from art to philosophy to psychology to sciences to engineering, and here I find enough geeks to indulge my passion for splitting hair and talking endlessly about a subject; discussing our tastes, reviewing gear, sharing tips and tricks...

  • The vibrant community (this is the summary of the last two points ;-))

I'll let you know if I think of anything else.


Thank you all for participating.

A couple of quotes drawing me back again:
'...the key to Can BEING Can was in how they restricted what they did...' (Lugia)
'...self enforced limitations...' (Farkas)
'...that forest of trillions of possibilities...' (GarfieldModular)

These comments remind me a Matthias Puech interview in a video you can watch on YouTube (the following are accessible at https://www.sawup.fr).

It's in French (I am french too), but I'll try to translate and summarize below some of the main ideas in relation with our thread. (Sorry Matthias if I forgot something important, and sorry ModularGrid buddies for my poor english ;(

Matthias is a musician, teacher, researcher in mathematics, and well known designer of 4ms Tapographic Delay, Ensemble Oscillator, and Mutable Parasites for Clouds, Frames, Tides, etc.

Younger, Matthias had a study at IRCAM and learned about Max/MSP "which is modular synthesis".
According to him: "Modular synthesizer is obviously specific compared with Max through his physical dimension (real knobs, true voltage, etc.)". But, and that's a point for which he LOVES IT: "Especially in the Eurorack world, everyone may opt for let say 'semi-finished' products. Because modules are pre-thought, pre-engineered by their designer, the goal is to turn them afterwards into something relevant for oneself, diverting (hijacking) the codes, and using them differently than why they were intended for".

In this video, you can see his relatively small setup ('...limitations...').
Mathias Puech explains in another video, that he prefers "complex and deep modules, bearing their fruits after a while; this is especially the case for digital, but also analog modules (he mentions Synchrodyne, Swoop, etc.)".

One major bias: "No sequencer! But random modules delivering suggestions to be reworked".

More about Matthias Puech:
https://mqtthiqs.github.io
http://cedric.cnam.fr/~puechm/
https://mqtthiqs.github.io/parasites/

I wanted to share and relate this expert point of view in order to highlight the importance of 'limitations' and the determination of our own goals.

Modular is, by nature, a wonderful instrument which reminds us this universal rule of wisdom.


Many years ago I had a room full of synths and recording equipment...
-- farkas

sounds very familiar to me ;) cheers!


@fredeke
'...an Appolo cockpit...'
Same feeling. The first time I had this sensation was in the late 80's, in my little studio built around an Atari 1024 (with C-Lab Notator... forebear of Logic pro) and all those lights of Midi devices around. Feeling as an astronaut, alone in his capsule, living a sort of sonic space oddity :))


Hi Sweelinck,

Sorry that I don't understand French. So it was very nice of you to make a summarise of the video in English, thank you very much for sharing this interesting material :-)

Kind regards, Garfield.


@Sweelinck

Yeah I too remember the Atari days fondly :-)


Yup, I use Max (in its M4L incarnation) all the time...right alongside the Hewlett-Packard sine generators, the 1960s beatboxes, the wall of processors, the modular sandbox, the cool polysynths, etc etc etc etc...

A lot of the reason for WHY I have all of this stuff in one room is because, when I was still in academic study, I ran across two different professors who insisted that you had to keep all of these different electronic music media separate. And, frankly, I didn't see any rationale for that.

In one case, at the University of Tennessee, I got tasked to do a semester final project purely on the Synclavier. By that point, I knew how...well, ANAL...the prof in question was about the parameters of his assignments. But I also knew he was one of these guys that claimed he knew exactly what you were doing in a piece when, clearly, he didn't. The other thing he insisted on was that I had to use the "snazzy" new Yamaha automated mixer...piece...of...crap in full automation, synced with a set of visuals (slides, synced with a "buzz track").

Yeah, right. OK...first thing was, turn OFF the hideous moving fader nonsense. I'd been mixing without automation for about a decade at that point, and that was on big desks like MTSU's Harrison MR3. Then there was the Synclavier itself. First up, said prof made a BIG point of noting that Synclaviers have no noise generation capabilities...only pure sines and harmonics. Yeah, right. So, if I set the fundamentals for a patch at 1, 2, and 3 Hz, then start combining partials above the 16th harmonic at 100% level...oh, LOOK! NOISE! Sorta...but it needed a "touch", so I dragged the EML 200 out of the "analog" studio into the "digital" one and used it to nudge the FM pandemonium into the right "feel". I needed some delay as well...supposedly, I was to use resources in the Synclavier patch, but that noise-band thing really ate up the cycles. So...yet another no-no, I pressed the studio's PrimeTime II delay into service and futzed with the EQ to make it a tiny bit more "brittle".

In short, I broke pretty much EVERY parameter in the assignment. And what happened? Well...

I got a huge "A" on this, and the prof was utterly floored at my "command of the Synclavier". And at that point, I changed composition studios and kicked HIS sorry ass to the CURB.

It wouldn't have been possible to get that "A" had I followed his dicta. And I got it by doing these "forbidden" things, most notably dragging bits of one studio into another, where they presumably weren't supposed to be. Or at least, according to that clown, they weren't. That was Clue #1.

Clue #2 was when, upon arriving at Illinois, I discovered a situation where there were all of these "media separations" like that in the Experimental Music Studios, but to an even more fanatical degree. In fact, one night in the Moog studio I had to deal with some utter batshit insanity that went like this...

ME (talking to prof, who has just interrupted my session work for no good reason): Uh...about that pair of Symetrix gates. Where are the patchpoints for those?

PROF: Oh, you don't know how to use those.

ME: Excuse me? I've used things that're far more complex than them for years...

PROF: No...you DON'T know how to use those.

ME: [blank stare typically seen on my face when dealing with blithering idiots, followed by...] OK, right. Tell ya what...if I figure out where the patchpoints are, I'm going to use them ANYWAY, and I dare you to figure out where I did that.

PROF: [shocked look due to being unable to process dealing with person with real-world audio engineering experience]

Did I ever use them? Heh...but anyway, this nonsense was typical. It was SO typical, in fact, that Sal Martirano (who I was studying composition with while there, then later privately after I'd given up on academic composition) had found it necessary to set up a totally separate studio in the Comm West building about 1/4 mile away, and this was largely due to the fact that HIS explorations involved mixing the must-never-touch-each-other media to explore how primitive AI-type structures could be used for "directed improvisation". This was in early 1992, mind you; the only things like that were stuff like M, Max which was still really only on the NeXT as part of the ISPW rig, and things cobbled up by intrepid souls like...well, Sal. And it was Sal that encouraged me to combine as many working paradigms in one studio as possible. Even HE wondered what the results would be, and I'm glad I got to play him some of my very early efforts in that direction before he died in 1995.

So, for 25+ years now, my reasoning behind all of this gear is that there ARE things to be gained from combining all of these sonic vectors at will. OK, fine...this mid-60s Bruel & Kjaer filter isn't supposed to have a Roland TR-606 fed thru it...but what if you DO that? And of course, the results are very, very cool. Then whip that into Ableton, slap some Max-driven processing using a Lorenz attractor on it...yeah, baybee....filter it all through these Krohn-hite scientific-grade tube bandpass mo'fos and pump it into that cool new Neve-equipped Steinberg A-D to the 2-track (which isn't a 2-track because it's not even an effin' tape machine!).

THAT is how to do this. Careful combinations, like knowing when, how, and how much of a certain spice to use if you were a chef. But like I noted before, it really takes a lot of restraint to avoid wanting to slab every sonic generator and processor onto things. Some of that comes from knowing, simply, that doing so would be a hellacious amount of WORK. Yeah...uh, no. But also, from knowing that that's not a possible choice, and doing so more rapidly exhausts the possibilities inherent in tracking a few, specific, and well-crafted sounds because you're (futilely) trying to bring in ALL the possibilities AT ONCE. Not a good idea. But just like you don't play every string on a violin at the same time whenever the instrument makes a sound, you come to understand that there ARE limits inherent in a huge rig like this. It doesn't really want you to connect everything to everything else to generate...well, something dense and impenetrable that would probably suck on epic terms. Instead, you learn...or infer...what combinations TO use for just the right touch. And that's what makes this a lot like using a large-scale modular.

In fact, it sort of resembles that, when you take into account all of the routing patchbays in use in here. That's something from a different academic studio, though...specifically, the original one at Syracuse that was designed by some guy who knew that this was the way to make that open architecture work, the way to allow that interesting interconnectivity,...

...Bob Moog. I ain't gonna argue with that.


Two words - it's fun.

I find modular to be like finger painting with sound. I'm finally starting to develope some techniques, some ways to get predictable results, but the main appeal for me still is that it's a happy accident machine. I am not an organized thinker and making 'music' via patching is perfect for the way my brain works.

Inscrumental music for prickly pears.

@Lugia
Very interesting real life examples of those everlasting questions about art and technical means: 'Should I retain or break the common rules?', 'Should I use or dismiss instruments and tools I could use?'

History of art, and music in particular, abounds with great examples: the use of a keyboard (an harpsichord at that time) as a soloist in a concerto, traditionally limited to a role of continuo instrument (JS Bach was the first to dare it), the integration of vocal soloists and a chorus in a historically instrumental form (Beethoven symphony No 9), the use of vinyl discs, tape recorders and sampling techniques (Pierre Schaeffer creating musique concrète), etc.

"Don’t be ashamed of your own ideas. Most musicians get applauded for sounding like someone else.

People try something out that they think is exciting, and everyone looks a little unsure. Then they play an old James Brown riff and everyone’s saying: ’Wow! That’s what we want!’

Most of the time musicians are being encouraged to sound recognizable. What I’m doing [as a producer] is encouraging them at the points when they’re not."

[ Brian Eno ]

@baltergeist
And YES, baltergeist, THAT'S REALLY FUN! :))


Two words - it's fun.

I find modular to be like finger painting with sound. I'm finally starting to develope some techniques, some ways to get predictable results, but the main appeal for me still is that it's a happy accident machine. I am not an organized thinker and making 'music' via patching is perfect for the way my brain works.
-- baltergeist

Yeah, I've just started and knowing that I can turn my setup on, make a couple of connections and have some fresh sounds going is an incentive to get up in the morning. And the more I do it, the more I start to get it. It's deep and wide and light.


A simply factual observation: this thread, 'What do you love (or prefer) about modular', totals at that moment 252 views and 9 participants (and thanks to them, 16 posts).
252 views, 9 participants.
3 or 4 percent...

Is modularist community overwhelmingly a nation of music lovers or technicians?


A simply factual observation: this thread, 'What do you love (or prefer) about modular', totals at that moment 252 views and 9 participants (and thanks to them, 16 posts).
252 views, 9 participants.
3 or 4 percent...

Is modularist community overwhelmingly a nation of music lovers or technicians?
-- Sweelinck

What do you mean by music lovers or technicians? One could be both?

Inscrumental music for prickly pears.

Is modularist community overwhelmingly a nation of music lovers or technicians?
-- Sweelinck

Yes, absolutely.

These days, music and technology are so intertwined that you can't exactly separate them. See that drum circle over there? OK...now, what they're doing might SEEM like getting back in touch with primitive whatever blahblah, but if you look at what they're playing, you start seeing synthetic drumheads, devices that (these days) are carefully researched to create the optimal thudding noises everyone likes (OR NOT!!!) in commercials for SUVs to get numnutz consumers to pay attention and fork out for something they don't need, etc. And if you RECORD that drum circle...well, then you're up to your chin in tech all of a sudden!

Conversely, if we didn't have that tech, we wouldn't be in such a musically-rich period right now. Not only does the presence of cheap and easily-available technology propel the creation of new music, it ALSO allows for everyone to be able to access musical styles, cultures, and periods that...prior to the emergence of proper electronic recording technology in the mid-1920s...would've been lost to time. Consider: there's long been arguments of how early music is supposed to be performed. But there are ZERO arguments of how, say, Stravinsky's music is supposed to be performed, because you had the tech to record how Stravinsky actually wanted it across several decades of his life.

Also, most music we hear now technically IS "electronic" by default. One of the original criteria for electronic music was that it could only be heard with loudspeakers. But then, what do you make of a recording of the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by George Szell? For one thing, Szell's death in 1970 pretty much assures that ONLY recordings of his performances now exist; I don't see any concert announcements that read "MAESTRO SZELL RETURNS FROM THE GRAVE!!! ONE NIGHT ONLY!!!" Secondly, the confluence of players in the orchestra, the hall used for the sessions, etc etc also implies a non-reproduceable live performance situation. So...you're stuck with what's coming out of the speakers, and arguably, that makes it fit that criteria. Plus, should you so desire, you can take those Szell recordings (with a dubious degree of legality) and repurpose them in the same DAW that takes in those raw synth waveforms and does...well, much the same thing there, too.


@baltergeist
You're right. We have to be both. And I must admit that the concluding question was a bit provocative.
As if I'd stopped playing in the middle of the field, asking 'Hey! What the mess, where is the goal?' And beyond: 'What's our craft? What are we living for? Music, sounds or instruments and techniques?'

Modulargrid and the module I will order next month (an ADDAC 207) are surely amazing tools. But this thread was done to evoke the reasons for our common passion: our common interest for the chairs, not the planers.

Music lovers: we all know it's tough to talk about love sometimes :)
So, thanks for your remark, baltergeist.

@Lugia
George Szell, the Cleveland Orchestra and Rudolf Serkin in the Brahm's 1st Piano Concerto... Oh bliss!
Sincerely pleased to discuss with a connoisseur of classical music and a true modular expert at the same time.

'...such a musically-rich period...'
Same opinion, but with a little shade: I tend to compare the current period with the Middle-Ages followed by the Renaissance: development of polyphony, beginning of modern music notation, plethora of instruments, and a QUEST FOR A NEW WORLD...

'...most music we hear now technically IS "electronic" by default...'
I totally agree with you. And it's a too neglected observation. Many musical genres are indebted to the invention of 'Recording'. Jazz music is partly a children of this decisive technical turning point. And Sergent Pepper himself said that he still confirms this point of view :)

Modularists benefit from the same intake.
We are the Modularists Lonely Hearts Club Band, looking for Lucy...


I just patched all night, integrating my DFAM and rack for the first time. Really good fun. The combination of directing the sound and unexpected directions bubbling up as you go is so rewarding. I was even dancing at one point!


@Moanerette
Many thanks for entrusting these feelings and words to us.
You're nearly talking of your instrument in the same way as one talks about somebody he or she loves. I share the same kind of relation with some of my instruments: my modular, my piano, and I should say my whole home studio. It's like a second family, born 40 years ago.

There is no shame or loss when a violinist talk this way about his violin, particularly about some great or rare instruments. And I think a modular setup is to become as unique, special and personal (even private). The level of customization makes the rarity. Just as everyone is unique.

Although, fortunately (if I may say so), they have not the rarity and the price of the 'Vieuxtemps' Guarneri violin (you can take a look at this: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vieuxtemps_Guarneri), but our 'modest' modulars are for most of us unique and quite pricey...

Price of love? Surely for the sounds and the musics we can make with them.
Anyway, in the end we are very lucky willing victims, because we are definitely music lovers, not only technicians. Aren't we?

Please watch this video: the violinist Joshua Bell is talking about his instrument.
You will find the same feelings. It's even amazing to hear him saying the same words we use, and the same experience we share with our modular.

About the DFAM: it's a mighty and innovative synth!
I was more impressed by this module (or semi) than by the M32. DFAM is a world in itself. But I still tend to play it sometimes in a too much traditional way. You know, the first reflex to use it as an ordinary drum machine...

And here, thanks again to your post, you've chosen a right and nice word '...integrating... (my DFAM and rack)'. It's another answer to that thread. The pleasure of 'patching': ok, this freedom is tremendous. But beyond, 'integrating' is a better word because a more accurate point of view. I mean for producing an organic and living ensemble starting from solitary and inert pieces.

Creating life, that's all we looking for. And for this culmination, love is the key.

Will you publish the fruit of that night of love?
I would sincerely be pleased to hear it.


Thanks for that thoughtful post Sweelinck.

If I can sort out the recording, yes I'll publish some on my Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/dr-icy). But I'm having trouble getting rid of noise on low frequencies, maybe I should try the guitar-in setting rather than line-in on my 8 track. I'm sketchy on recording cos I haven't done it for 19 years.

Yes, playing with the modular reminds me of playing with real people. Before getting the DFAM the last music I did was an improvising band, but I was singing with them. I loved that. One of my friends is a super violinist and it was such joy playing with them. One of her mates has played with Joshua Bell.

Modular reminds me of when I first got a sampler nearly 30 years ago - an Akai SO1, baby Akai. It cost me two months' wages. I loved it, recorded with it and a cassette four track, just playing the buttons on the front. Maximum 15.6 seconds total sample time but 8 voice multi timbral in 1992! Never knew what new sounds might be found lurking in a messed up sample.

I intended to just get a few modules to support the DFAM and Delaydelus 2 which I bought, but I just went crazy for it and spent my savings on 9U of 84 HP. I don't regret it, it's what I was saving for really. I saw an Octocontroller for sale and had a look and thought yeah, I can go for this!