Monday, December 31, 2007

On the Workbench -- The Discombobulator

Brought two blocks of the Discombobulator modular synth to the workbench for reconfiguration (same as it ever was!).  I recently acquired a second Dotcom Q106 VCO, and I wanted to configure it to be used as either an LFO or a second audio VCO.  As part of this, I wanted to disconnect the Q161 oscillator mixer that was connected to the first Q106 (resident in block 1) and connect it to the new Q106 (which was to be installed in block 3).  
The Q161 is connected to the Q106 by some
 behind-the-panel wiring.  Since the Q161 is sold as a separate item from the Q106, the good Dotcom folks came up with a clever no-solder way of performing the conversion.  The Q161 comes with a set of 1/4" jacks that replace the ones in the Q106.  The replacement jacks are two-way wired -- they connect to the MTA-100 connectors on the Q106 in place of the stock jacks at one end, and to a second set of MTA-100 connectors on the Q161 at the other end.  So adding or removing a Q161 involves replacing the jacks in the Q106.

Here's Block 1 with the Q106, and the Q161 which is to be removed, to its right.  (The module to the far left is a Q141 oscillator aid, which is unaffected by the conversion.)

If you look at the bottom of the Q106, you can see that all of the jacks except the sawtooth jack in the center (which is not connected to the Q161) have been removed.  The Q161 is unscrewed and is ready to remove from the mounting rails.

Here's what Block 3 looked like before the changes:

The new Q106 and Q161 are to be installed at the far left.  The Synth Tech MOTM-220 LFO and the MOTM-101 sample/hold are going to slide to the right; the Dotcom A/B switch and the Cynthia StereOspace are to be removed for installation elsewhere.  

Block 3 from the back, after the new Q106 and Q161 have been mounted.  The "sine" jack has been replaced with the one from the Q161, and you can see the behind-the-panel wiring that connects the two modules.  One of the two sets of wires from the jack has already been connected to the Q161; the other end is awaiting connection to the Q106 and can be seen at the lower right.  (These modules, like most Dotcom modules, have rows of MTA-100 connectors around the edges of the circuit board where all of the panel devices connect.)  The other jacks from the Q161 have not been installed yet; they are off the edge of the photo to the bottom, but you can see the wiring going to them.  

The result: 

Block 1 is on top, with the Q141 oscillator aid and Q106 VCO at left.  You can see the empty slot where the Q161 was; I haven't decided what I'm going to put there yet.  Block 3 is on bottom, with the new Q106 and Q161 at the left, and the other modules moved over to the right.  (I'm going to try to squeeze an MOTM-190 VCA in the empty slot.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Name of This Blog Is Sequence 15

Hi, I'm Dave Cornutt, and I'll be your guide today through the world of electronic music... I decided to create this blog so I can pull together various thoughts and sub-topics in one place. I've been active for a while now on the Synth-DIY mailing list and forums like Matrixsynth, Vintage Synth Explorer, and But, like all forums, they have certain topics and subdivisions, and I wanted to be able to put it all in one place.

I operate under the nom de electron "Source Code", and Source Code's Web site is at The Web site (which needs updating right now) contains all of the music I've released, as well as gear lists, information about specific synths, and photos.

In my day job, I'm an aerospace systems engineer. That sounds about as far from anything arts-related as you can get, but I see a certain synergism between that and electronic music. Obviously, there's a technology element to both pursuits. But beyond that, I see both as being explorations of ultimate possibilities: aerospace pushes the outer limits of where and how fast mankind can go, and electronic music pushes the outer limits of what they'll hear when they get there. But also, I come from a musical family. My father is an excellent singer and plays tuba; one of his brothers is a fine trumpet player, and several others of his siblings have recorded as a gospel group. One cousin has played bass for various Broadway shows. And my brother was the bassist for the '80s hard-rock group Royal Court of China. In the mid-'80s, I played synth in a south Florida bar band. It was a bit of a mismatch, as they mainly needed someone to play piano and organ parts, and I was more interested in making weird noises. But I did manage to acquire some keyboard chops, and the band in turn let me loose occasionally on some things. I'm also a decent bass player, and a mediocre guitar player.

My synth influences began when I was in the third grade, and a classmate brought a copy of Switched-On Bach to school. The teacher played some of it in class. I recall the teacher quite excited about it. My next encounter with electronic music occurred almost five years later, when Edgar Winter's Frankenstein hit AM radio (I didn't hear Emerson Lake and Palmer's Lucky Man for the first time until a couple of years later.) The pulsing ARP 2600 solo in the middle of the track was the part that really got me. Shortly after, I attended my first rock concert, and it was the Edgar Winter Group. (Cost all of $4 for admission!) And I got to see Edgar with the 2600 around his neck. I wanted one. Only I was about $3000 short, and at the age of 13, my prospects for raising that amount weren't very good.

In fact, it would be another ten years before I was able to acquire my first synth, a Roland Juno-106. This was the synth that I did the bulk of my work with in the Florida bar band. I still have that 106, and in the intervening years I've been able to pick up a number of other neat pieces of gear. Being an adult and earning your own money is really cool. I never did get that 2600, though. And with the prices that they go for these days, I suspect that I'm still about $3000 short.

As I grew up and my musical tastes broadened (an easy thing to have happen in the era of progressive rock), I started to get into some of the electronic artists who are considered "old school" now but were regarded as fresh and groundbreaking then: Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre, and particularly Synergy aka Larry Fast. This blog is named after "Sequence 14", one of my favorite Synergy tracks. I also came to appreciate the virtuoso synth players of the well-known progressive rock bands, like Rick Wakeman of Yes and Genesis's Tony Banks. The era of '80s synth-pop was a shock at the beginning, but I soon grew to appreciate the work of players like Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes and The Fixx's Rupert Greenall. Cut to the late '90s, when electronica became established as a genre. I'm still trying to work through what I like from this, since the modern technology makes it a bit difficult to tell exactly what was done and who did it, but a few of the electronica artists who have caught my attention include Juno Reactor, Squarepusher, Autechre, and Underworld.

As this blog progresses, I plan to cover all aspects of electronic music, ranging from styles and music reviews to equipment, circuits, and modifications. So hop aboard and hang on. I might even sneak in some ballroom dancing on you (and a big hello to anyone visiting from DanceForums).

Tap, tap -- is this thing on?

Check, one two, one two, one two, check... check... check this out!