Sunday, August 24, 2014

Miscellaneous thoughts for August

Some things I've taken note of recently:

Buchla Music Easel back in production

After about 40 years, the Buchla Music Easel is back in production.  The original Music Easel was produced in the mid-1970s; it basically consisted of a semi-modular, two-VCO analog monosynth coupled to a 2-1/2 octave, capacitive touch sense keyboard with variable tuning and scaling. 

Both the new Easel, and most copies of the original, took nearly all of the internal circuits out to a big edge connector called the "program card" connector.  Back in the day, Buchla sold cards that plugged into these connectors that the (soldering-iron-equipped) user could use to program patches.  This was done by soldering resistors onto the cards to make certain connections.  Unknown to most people, though, the program card connector contained additional interconnects that made it possible to actually play the Easel remotely.  Buchla at the time was doing some experiments with computer control, e.g., the Model 700 that connected to a DEC PDP-11 minicomputer.  However, no interface for the Easel ever reached production.

Now, 40 years later, it has.  Buchla has introduced the iProgram interface card, which connects via wireless Ethernet to an iPad.  Using software supplied by Buchla, the iProgram can function as both a patch editor/librarian, and a MIDI interface.  That's not a bad trick, and it says something about the Easel's original design that it can be interfaced to something that would not be developed for another 40 years. 

The Return of Richard D. James

The first album of all-new Aphex Twin material since 2001 is nigh.  Syro, announced by means of this bizarre press release (via Synthtopia), will be available in September.  Oddly enough, I didn't realize it had been that long.

Modulation Wheels

I've been doing a lot of patching with the Solaris recently.  Now, I "grew up" as a synth performer using mostly Roland keyboards (that is, I've owned lots of synth, but the ones of other makes have been mostly rackmount units.  Of the ones I've had with actual keyboards, most have been Rolands.)  So I've long since grown accustomed to the Roland "T-handle" control for pitch bend and modulation, including the fact that it's spring loaded in both the pitch and modulation axes. 

The Solaris, on the other hand, has traditional pitch and modulation wheels, and the mod wheel is not sprung.  I've often found this vaguely disconcerting.  However, last week, I was working with a three-oscillator bass patch I had built, and I wanted to assign a performance control to detune one of the oscillators.  Assigning it to aftertouch did not do what I wanted.  I was going to use a soft knob, and then it occurred to me -- assign it to the mod wheel.  By doing this, I was able to put it in various positions to achieve the amount of detne that I wanted at different times.  This really led me to appreciate the virtues of a mod wheel that stays where you put it.

Stuff I Want

I've got my eye on Madrona Labs' Kaivo plug-in.  I've long wanted a physical modeling synth that provides the performer with access to the parameters inside the guts of the modeling algorithms.  Kaivo appears to be all that and a lot more.  I'm also looking for something that will give me a much larger variety of tuned and semi-tuned percussion sounds that one will get from the typical drum machine, and it looks like AAS' Chromaphone is just the thing. 

I've also gotten interested in some of the effects boxes from Strymon, particularly the Timeline delay, which has MIDI control.  I can think of all kinds of possibilities for that.  I've read that Strymon includes a lot of ex-Alesis employees, from the time when Alesis was doing good stuff (before Keith Barr lost control of it), so that's a good sign.

Next Week

I have a review of Izotope's Iris spectral editor, which I'll try to have up by this weekend.