In addition to composing and rehearsing, myself and most electronic musicians I know also spend quite a bit of time researching and tweaking their hardware and software rigs. In the last few years I’ve been more inclined to go deeper with narrow set of instruments for my work – both on the hardware and software side of things. Even so, I do spend time researching outside for my normal tool set from time-to-time to keep up with what’s new and sometimes add new instruments to my rig.
Two trends going on around us are the resurgence of analog synthesizers and a rapid growth in the popularity of modular synthesis – especially in the hardware Eurorack format. In laymen terms, Modular synthesis is just that. The sound designer not the manufacturer gets to decide how the signals flow from module to module. The end results can be very unique, evocative and organic sonic results.
Because I travel to many shows, I’ve gone with software-based modular synthesis. This is also a bit lighter on the wallet ;^) Luckily for me, the bar has been raised on the software side of the house with the release of Reaktor 6, a graphical modular software music studio made by Berlin-based Native Instruments.
The big news is Reaktor 6 has added a new interface called “Blocks” which emulates the metaphor of hardware modulars. I just picked up Reaktor 6 yesterday and thought I’d share a video Reaktor 6 of my first patch in action. My goal was to show how just a few modules with a few notes could create something rather sonically complex to show the potential of the system – and for those not familiar with modulars – the kind of sonic mayhem you can create. So please enjoy this simple but fun patch inspired – of course – by the Krell in the film Forbidden Planet. Who knows, maybe you’ll hear some more Reaktor 6 modular action in upcoming Sonic Encounters podcasts episodes.
For fellow electronic music artists that read this blog I’m using the Monark oscillator (now available in Block form) to frequency modulating a a factory Bento box oscillator. I’ve got an LFO modulating an LFO which modulates the pitch of Monark OSC + delay time of a Rounds Delay (also now available in Blocks form). If you are familiar at all with modular synthesis, you’ll find Blocks to be very intuitive and inspiring – and much easier to make instruments from from than using only the techniques possible in Reaktor 5.
I’ll close by saying I’ve also started beta testing another modular system based on wireless Percussa AudioCubes. It’s a fascinating take on modular synthesis using smart blocks and infrared. Watch for some posts on this as I get further along.