January 23, 2012

NAMGLA Day Three & Home Again...

by Chris Randall

On the third day of the convention, I mostly just talked to people about AD stuff and the suchlike and played pianos. I didn't make any earth-shattering gear discoveries, unfortunately. I didn't go to the fourth day, because that's the day they let the Dirt People come and touch things, and I don't want any part of that.

One thing I did do that was interesting was listen to Morton Subotnik give a little Q&A at the Buchla booth. The conversation wound, in a circular fashion, towards limitations, and someone asked about intentionally limiting one's palette (a subject, as you all know, near and dear to my heart). He basically informed the questioner, who was thankfully not me, that limitations are stupid. He rhetorically asked "why would you not want to be able to make the sound you know you need?"

Obviously I have a fairly fluid idea of intentional limits, and I have my reasons for imposing them, but it was an interesting point. He's a smart man. He's also touring all year in various parts of the world, and it's probably worth going. Info here.

After Saturday's NAMGLASTRAVAGANZA, I went in to L.A. to grab an ESQ-M off a friend, because I suddenly needed one of those. (You know how it goes.) When I got home and started fooling with it, I realized this 25-year-old synth that I paid $100 for is easily on par with most of the current analog offerings I saw at NAMM. This made me sad, for obvious reasons. We get all excited about new shit, just because it's new shit. We overlook the fact that it is lacking in many ways. The Minitaur could have been released in 1986. Easily. So could the Aurturia Minibrute. There is _nothing_ in these products that makes the intervening 26 years seem relevant, except maybe some construction methods and materials science.

And then the Trash_Audio BBQ. Which wasn't a BBQ at all, but rather Taco Time. So they might want to re-examine their naming paradigm. Good fun that; saw many people I normally only speak to in the twatscape, hung out with Tom Erbe, who is very smart, and Peter Nyboer, who is also very smart. Basically I just stood around feeling stupid. There were several AI regulars there, and I had some excellent conversations about meta-stuff, which I always enjoy.

Anyhow, home again, and back to work, which is stacked up like planes waiting for approach vectors at O'Hare. Shit just got real.


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Jan.23.2012 @ 10:19 AM
"There is _nothing_ in these products that makes the intervening 26 years seem relevant, except maybe some construction methods and materials science."

Well they're surely relevant in that they've never been so cheap, and judging by the reactions to them, they seem to be what people have decided to WANT, based on those 26 years.

But I suppose them being cheap's what you mean by referring to construction methods. Arguably, in the case of MiniBrute, they've never been so cheap whilst ALSO having one knob per function. Dave Smith stuff was/is cheaper, but at the expense of menu-diving.

If we want new new synth shit, we really have to go modular. But I still want a Minibrute, both for what it does, and to underpin and also MIDIfy my modular - which will have a Cyclebox in it...

Jan.23.2012 @ 10:28 AM
With an eye to the future though, sad to not see Ableton Live 9 announced. But that'll surely be Musikmesse. Hopefully?!

Jan.23.2012 @ 10:55 AM
CR - I know you'd waxed poetic about the ESQ awhile back. You using anything to edit sounds other than the front panel? Looks like it's not quite as friendly as the synth version.

Jan.23.2012 @ 11:48 AM
Synthesizers are as idea-bereft as guitars these days. Even the Schmitt could have been built in the 80s. Of course this is driven by the market. I think there's more opportunity for innovation in software synths. Someone may not want to invest $3k in a weird hardware synth, but might go for a plug-in (like Phosphor.)

Jan.23.2012 @ 12:26 PM
Hardware should be hardware. For synths, that means things like the minibrute and minitaur.

The past 26 years has been about software. You can mix with you fingers on wireless touchscreen as you mill about the club. Isn't that what 2011 is supposed to be about?

Jan.23.2012 @ 12:49 PM
Wade Alin
I hate it when people answer questions with other questions.

Jan.23.2012 @ 1:04 PM
The real action in analog synthesize is in the modular arena. There has never been a better time to start putting a modular synth together.

Which makes me wish I had a loose $10K to put into a modular. You can do some of the same things with digital modulars like Reaktor and Max/MSP but having used both, the analog modular gear is different for a couple of reasons:

1) Digital Modulars are limited by discrete sampling. Real analog feedback paths run electrons through millions of times for each discrete sample in a similar digital emulations. Try patching complex FM feedback networks in analog and digital systems and compare the sound if you don't believe me.

2) Real analog modulars invite different kinds of creative patching, partially because of limitations, and partly because the particular circuit designs -- even particular components in a circuit -- will always behave differently than a digitally idealized version of the circuit.

Jan.23.2012 @ 1:05 PM
Chris Randall
I'm not entirely sure what you're saying there. Hardware should be hardware? And that means "uninspired brick of throwback tech," I guess? I'm not buying it. These are fun little pieces of gear that will do one or two things fine. But the second coming of Christ? Not by a long shot. Someone has introduced a 1- or 2-osc desktop or rackmount analog at every NAMM since there was a NAMM. The _only_ thing that makes these in any way special is the brands they represent, and in at least one case, that's not remotely surprising.


Jan.23.2012 @ 1:05 PM
@stretta it's 2012 already. Tempus Fugit, innit?

Jan.23.2012 @ 1:51 PM
the minibruce is basically arturia's version of a Roland SH-101.. a synth many know and love and for a long time sold used for $350 or $450 if you wanted a blue one. now of course they sell for $1000+. thanks ebay (and hipsters)

so, yeah, i think people want the minibroose and it'll sell well (though i find a FR-XS or DSI Evolver way more fun and interesting). i'm sure they didn't have to kill themselves designing it.. just a matter of settling on features and then putting it together like electrical legos.

i welcome it to the world as it likely means there will be less microkorgs purchased and used in photo shoots and that's a good thing.

people obviously still want some analog. just look at the people earning a living from designing and building analog synths...

there is a lot of analog out there and i don't know how anyone can complain about not having an interesting synth to buy... aside from those people who (whine) want roland to make an analog poly like the jupiter 8 (dream on) because the just can't make music w/o one.

there are mono and poly analogs from more than a few manufacturers.. sorry they don't say roland or korg on them.. get over it.

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