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Frankenstein’s Modular Lab Report

This is a very much overdue lab report from a wonderful evening three months ago, in which Xavier, Cristian, and Bjørn each shared their (very different) approaches to working with modular synthesizers.

There were so many gems in their presentations that I’ve given up on trying to communicate it all in writing, and have instead done my best to rescue the audio from a recording that I had originally only intended for my own note taking purposes.

Xavier Bonfill

Xavier Bonfill brought along a quite extensive and complex setup encompassing both his modular case, an OP1, Organelle, QuNeo controller, and Make Noise O-Coast amongst other things.

Here’s his case on Modular Grid:

He covered quite a lot of ground, explaining how many of his (utility) modules were digital – mini, single-purpose computers in effect. He talked about the approaches of sequencing, playing live, and setting up patches to make choices, explaining that while almost all of it could be done in software, the modular hardware took him in another direction.

…you can actually do all of these things (in software), but… I don’t do them, because it’s not designed in a way that invites me to do it, whereas this kind of invites me more.

Cristian Vogel

Cristian Vogel, in contrast to the precise controls that Xavier demonstrated, embraced the glorious non-linear chaos of the six Befaco Crush Delays in his case.

He gave a fine talk covering both the practical and philosophical grounds of his approach to creating music with electronics, ending it off with an an impromptu performance that put into sound all he had just talked about.

My recording could unfortunately in no way do any justice to the dense sonic intensity of those 10 minutes, but Cristian has fortunately released an album (available on Bandcamp) of his performance (covering similar territory) at Fluc Wanne in Vienna.

Bjørn Svin

Bjørn Svin brought along a beautifully compact case with an unusual arrangement of (duplicated) modules.

“I use the modular system to renew myself”

Bjørn gave an hour long demonstration of how he used those modules, communicating his enthusiasm for the brilliance their inventors had invested in them, and what they enabled him to do.

One of the central aspects for Bjørn is the way in which modular systems make it possible to connect everything with everthing else. This is something he talks about (from around 01h27m) in his wonderful interview (in Danish) with Jacob Bogh on the A Life’s Soundtrack podcast.

There he explains how Autechre’s See on See revealed to him the possibility of a music coming from a place where we don’t directly hear the source – only the effects of it. This results of this way of thinking were clear in his demonstration, using the envelopes of one rhythm to modulate the sound of another, for example.

The evening was rounded off with some general questions from the audience about favourite modules, and a discussion of the advantages that virtual modular systems such as VCV Rack bring to the table.

* * *

Use the following links on Huffduffer if you’d like to listen to the audio in a podcast player.

Special thanks to Katrine Gregersen Dal and the Danish Composers’ Society for helping make this evening possible.

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