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West Coast modular sound
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #61
Yes.
Serge is all banana connectivity, where almost any signal can go anywhere (audio or modulation). Buchla separates audio from voltages by using banana and tini-jax (similar to mini-jack).
Serge still employs a lot of subtractive ideas (analog oscillators and resonant low pass filters). Buchla is more about complex modulation, often with minimal or no use of standard low pass filters.
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
Why are you so obsessed.
I 100% stand by saying he is less relevant as a Gearslutz guest than many others working in Modular design right now.
His customer base was a tiny niche at best, and he hasn't done anything new (apart from a couple of E modules) in the last ten years, since the launch of the 200E. The thing is..... the last ten years has been huge in modular synthesis.
You seems obsessed : I only pointed that he has done somethings recently, something you didn't know and where doubtfull, I have never argued that there aren't others relevants designers and you know how those things are not exclusive, you can have an interview from Buchla and another from Olivier Gillet from Mutable Instrument for example.

All that for pointing a fact...
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
Yes.
Serge is all banana connectivity, where almost any signal can go anywhere (audio or modulation). Buchla separates audio from voltages by using banana and tini-jax (similar to mini-jack).
Serge still employs a lot of subtractive ideas (analog oscillators and resonant low pass filters). Buchla is more about complex modulation, often with minimal or no use of standard low pass filters.
Yes, I remember asking Don if the low pass gates could 'do resonance' if you patched up a feedback loop and he replied that he didn't know as he'd never tried. Coming from East coast tradition at the time that completely blew my mind.

On the other hand I think Serge is even more low level than traditional subtractive ideas. Like using single voltage ramps and pulses to do stuff (sound, modulation etc). Also I find I use lots of non-octave sub-oscillation: entraining one oscillator to another and going up and down through the sub-harmonics (sometimes at audio rates). That's not at all like standard VCOs -> mixer -> VCF -> VCA synthesis.

Another big East vs West difference is headroom. West Coast often sounds more acoustic, whereas East Coast sounds more like a rock guitar because the signals are often at different levels within the dynamic range. I think the 'Moog sound' is often warmed by being close to or over the saturation point, whereas many West coast patches have a more delicate, plucked, tapped or strummed sound because of where you are in terms of levels. Doesn't have to be that way, of course, but in practice I find that's another common difference.
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fiddlestickz View Post
absolutely loved those videos ngarjuna...very nicely done..

can I ask, how were the notes played, was it originally a midi file played out from a DAW converted from MIDI to CV/gate..? or did you play those by hand via a keyboard..??
Nah I suck at keyboard. I input the score into piano rolls (my modular isn't quite redundant enough yet to do these real time so I break parts into tracks as it relates to the patches), then usually I work the timing inside the piano rolls (as I've gone on I've gotten more expressive with tempos; the early ones are really, really metronomic), then Silent Way Voice Controller sends the pitch and triggers/gates to the modular.
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ngarjuna View Post
Nah I suck at keyboard. I input the score into piano rolls (my modular isn't quite redundant enough yet to do these real time so I break parts into tracks as it relates to the patches), then usually I work the timing inside the piano rolls (as I've gone on I've gotten more expressive with tempos; the early ones are really, really metronomic), then Silent Way Voice Controller sends the pitch and triggers/gates to the modular.
Old 30th April 2016
  #66
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I easily get the parallels between oscillator and filter in subtractive synthesis and exciter/resonator as the core model for how almost all non-electronic instruments operate.

In the Buchla/Serge world, you clearly also get "plucked" tones which can be thought of as the electronic equivalent of a string excited over a resonant body which amplifies its transients and vibrations.... but how does that break out in terms of the components, or modules, you could identify as the exciter and resonator in the latter case?

I think Morton Subotnick would be a far more interesting interviewee than Buchla, if he hasn't already been put through the ringer here.
Old 30th April 2016 | Show parent
  #67
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Edit: I got confused by the coasts...So the following post is from Mirror-World... (thanks for the hint, maisonvague)

The West vs. East Coast distinction only worked at a very specific point in time. It is useful to describe the historic schools, but it mostly falls apart when trying to describe more modern stuff (that does not try to emulate those schools).

When you try to apply the distinction to modern stuff you probably should distinguish between three topics:
- sound generation
- control interface
- use of modulation and composition
In terms of sound generation east coast is pretty much equivalent to subtractive synthesis. East coast is mainly about dynamic FM and waveshaping. If you look at this point in isolation, you will realize, that the east coast actually won the first round of the battle of the coasts. The DX7 is clearly an east coast synth in terms of sound generation and it killed subtractive synthesis at the time. You might also consider the Kronos to be the ultimate east coast synth, since the Mod7 engine does a TON of FM and waveshaping.

In terms of the control interface, west cost is mainly associated with piano keys. East coast was more about dynamic expression in terms of timbre. The harmonic expression was often more limited. In terms of control, west coast definitely won the first round, since we all tend to use keyboards of this type now. These days you can have the best of both worlds, when you use e.g. the Haken Continuum, the Linnstrument or the Roli Seaboard (there are some more, but those are probably the most well known ones).

In terms of modulation and composition, automated changes in timbre, pitch and amplitude that are part of the programming of the synth patch seem to be more of an east coast thing initially. This is probably only true , when you ignore the modular stuff on the west coast and an effect of the limited modulation options on the fixed architecture synths of those days. With digital synthesis we now have so many modulation options, that a lot of "modern" sounds are a bit more east coast. Just start the sound and it will play something and then you can modulate/change it in real time.

Last edited by bug2342; 30th April 2016 at 01:05 PM.. Reason: previous stupidity
Old 30th April 2016 | Show parent
  #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bug2342 View Post
The West vs. East Coast distinction only worked at a very specific point in time. It is useful to describe the historic schools, but it mostly falls apart when trying to describe more modern stuff (that does not try to emulate those schools).

When you try to apply the distinction to modern stuff you probably should distinguish between three topics:
- sound generation
- control interface
- use of modulation and composition
In terms of sound generation east coast is pretty much equivalent to subtractive synthesis. East coast is mainly about dynamic FM and waveshaping. If you look at this point in isolation, you will realize, that the east coast actually won the first round of the battle of the coasts. The DX7 is clearly an east coast synth in terms of sound generation and it killed subtractive synthesis at the time. You might also consider the Kronos to be the ultimate east coast synth, since the Mod7 engine does a TON of FM and waveshaping.

In terms of the control interface, west cost is mainly associated with piano keys. East coast was more about dynamic expression in terms of timbre. The harmonic expression was often more limited. In terms of control, west coast definitely won the first round, since we all tend to use keyboards of this type now. These days you can have the best of both worlds, when you use e.g. the Haken Continuum, the Linnstrument or the Roli Seaboard (there are some more, but those are probably the most well known ones).

In terms of modulation and composition, automated changes in timbre, pitch and amplitude that are part of the programming of the synth patch seem to be more of an east coast thing initially. This is probably only true , when you ignore the modular stuff on the west coast and an effect of the limited modulation options on the fixed architecture synths of those days. With digital synthesis we now have so many modulation options, that a lot of "modern" sounds are a bit more east coast. Just start the sound and it will play something and then you can modulate/change it in real time.
I believe you have your coasts mixed up. For example, it's East Coast synths that are mostly associated with traditional keyboards, etc.
Old 30th April 2016
  #69
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This is really one of the foundations of the concept of west coast synthesis:

http://www.artype.de/Sammlung/pdf/russolo_noise.pdf

That and musique concrete, which came after. Noise, found music, tape-based collage, primitivism, the modernist impulses that motivated Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Milhaud, among other things. Breaking away from current western musical traditions of harmony, melody and performance. Surrealism, Dada and LSD. Subotnick hired Buchla to build him an electronic musical instrument, but he'd been alienating audience expectations with his compositions and performances long before that moment already.

My question is still not answered, though: what replaces the oscillator/filter combination in this tradition? No filter, I get that, FM/waveshaping, totally familiar with both modulation techniques, but technique is not what I'm asking about. Oscillator/filter seeks to encourage the ear's familiarity with natural sounds and acoustic instruments to adapt to electronic creation of sound. FM took off with the DX7 because it achieved this goal -- with the most popular tonalities it produced -- even better than analogue synthesis. All of this is achievement of the already familiar.

Subotnick/Buchla seek the opposite; they wish to shock, alienate, de-familiarize, repudiate all convention. What are the core modular elements that drive that, as opposed to the desire to replicate the familiar-sounding?
Old 30th April 2016 | Show parent
  #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maisonvague View Post
I believe you have your coasts mixed up. For example, it's East Coast synths that are mostly associated with traditional keyboards, etc.
You are right, thanks. I added a "Mirror-World" remark to the post...
Old 30th April 2016 | Show parent
  #71
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Quote:
Originally Posted by realtrance View Post
Subotnick/Buchla seek the opposite; they wish to shock, alienate, de-familiarize, repudiate all convention. What are the core modular elements that drive that, as opposed to the desire to replicate the familiar-sounding?
The core modular (?) element for that is the brain of the user.

A DX7 can be very natural sounding. If you do however switch some of the Operators to fixed frequencies and/or to non-integer rations, stuff gets a lot less natural. You tend to hit those more with modular equipment, since you freely tune your frequencies and there is a better chance of just accidentally finding something that sounds cool. Also pitches will go all over the place, when you use exponential FM (and sometimes when you use DC coupled linear FM). Once you know, those sounds are there you can also hit them with digital synthesis.

FM, waveshaping, RM etc. tend to sound most interesting/unusual, if you use sources that are not oscillating at integer frequency multiples. Ideally some of the frequencies should be modulated, to create a bigger mess. Obviously your integer multipliers are useful, when you want to stay in tune...

Obviously the DX7 is not ideal for Buchla-type sounds, since modulation is at least half of the fun for those sounds and the DX7 modulation options are rather limited. So you might claim, that the core modular components for the Buchla-sound (or any "experimental" modular sound) are the modulators. Having many of them is always useful. Having the LFOs (or other more or less periodic modulators) run freely also helps. Quadrature modulation is useful. So is randomization. Quantized and/or clocked and/or slew limited random sources really help for the "experimental" flavor.

If you want to go really old school experimental (if something like this can exist), you can throw in a voltage modulated radio for real time found sounds and interesting modulated noises...
Old 30th April 2016
  #72
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For a nice historical overview/comparison regarding the early development of East v. West Coast approaches to sound synthesis, have a look at (gasp! A book!) Trevor Pinch's "Analog Days." Pinch's book, although somewhat clearly Moogcentric, artfully teases out the distinctions between the two approaches.
Old 30th April 2016 | Show parent
  #73
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bug2342 View Post
The core modular (?) element for that is the brain of the user.

A DX7 can be very natural sounding. If you do however switch some of the Operators to fixed frequencies and/or to non-integer rations, stuff gets a lot less natural. You tend to hit those more with modular equipment, since you freely tune your frequencies and there is a better chance of just accidentally finding something that sounds cool. Also pitches will go all over the place, when you use exponential FM (and sometimes when you use DC coupled linear FM). Once you know, those sounds are there you can also hit them with digital synthesis.

FM, waveshaping, RM etc. tend to sound most interesting/unusual, if you use sources that are not oscillating at integer frequency multiples. Ideally some of the frequencies should be modulated, to create a bigger mess. Obviously your integer multipliers are useful, when you want to stay in tune...

Obviously the DX7 is not ideal for Buchla-type sounds, since modulation is at least half of the fun for those sounds and the DX7 modulation options are rather limited. So you might claim, that the core modular components for the Buchla-sound (or any "experimental" modular sound) are the modulators. Having many of them is always useful. Having the LFOs (or other more or less periodic modulators) run freely also helps. Quadrature modulation is useful. So is randomization. Quantized and/or clocked and/or slew limited random sources really help for the "experimental" flavor.

If you want to go really old school experimental (if something like this can exist), you can throw in a voltage modulated radio for real time found sounds and interesting modulated noises...
Excellent reply, and boils down to what they say over at Muff's: you can never have too many VCAs! Or rather, functions, actually, is I think the main term in Buchla(Serge) synthesis. Modulation sources. And then, as Rob Hordijk made clear many years ago, Logic is the next big thing, perhaps? Clocks and triggers.

Ultimately, feels like it all heads towards algorithmic performance, in some ways, the use of math (or Maths <g>) to generate an unfolding of sound and silence.

Thanks for the great reply, in any event!
Old 31st July 2016
  #74
Here's a nice presentation with some audio examples
Old 10th August 2020
  #75
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West Coast sound without selling a kidney.

Inspired by the excellent videos of Marc Doty about the Buchla Easel Command, I realized that many of the features of the Buchla Easel can be found in the Voltage Research Laboratory, too. In fact, I think almost the previous videos available in my channel with the VRL do include only sine waves and no filter settings, which are essential features of the “West Coast”.

Please read the video notes for additional information.

Old 11th September 2020 | Show parent
  #76
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Derp's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Audiorange View Post
In fact, I think almost the previous videos available in my channel with the VRL do include only sine waves and no filter settings, which are essential features of the “West Coast”.
Well keep in mind that the main feature of the West Coast sound isn't just sines on their own. Ideally it would be a sine with wavefolding, multiplying, FM, or some other form of mutation that adds grit to the waveform. Modulating that modulation so that it settles down into a sine is where West Coast style comes into play. Also, LoPass Gates are important for the sound of West Coast because they filter down the harmonics while closing the amplifier.
Old 12th September 2020 | Show parent
  #77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derp View Post
Well keep in mind that the main feature of the West Coast sound isn't just sines on their own. Ideally it would be a sine with wavefolding, multiplying, FM, or some other form of mutation that adds grit to the waveform. Modulating that modulation so that it settles down into a sine is where West Coast style comes into play. Also, LoPass Gates are important for the sound of West Coast because they filter down the harmonics while closing the amplifier.
Of course. :-)

Please read the video patch notes. The VRL includes and can do all the things you say above. That’s why it can be used in the west coast style, without being a Buchla wannabe.
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