I call what I do ‘experimental’ in the sense that Michael Nyman defines it in ‘Experimental Music, Cage and Beyond’. I build equipment, and that may be considered an art. But I do not think of myself as making sound art or music. Nyman quotes Cage,
” Where… attention moves toward the observation and audition of many things at once… no sense of making, in the sense of forming understandable structures, can arise (one is a tourist), and here the word ‘experimental’ is apt….”
The final experimental stage is to create a patch that results in sounds. When I compose a patch, itself an understandable structure, it is for the purpose of getting sounds whose structure is not so understandable. Rather than hoping to get a particular sound, I’m hoping to discover something unintended.
Photo from 2008
This is my MOTM-style synthesizer, in the works since August of 2002. I started building it after happening across the Synthesis Technology site of Paul Schreiber. In the 1970’s I became interested in modular synths. I met a composer who was using a large studio Moog at SUNY Binghamton. He let me play with it. The concept of voltage control hit home and I’ve been fascinated ever since. Later that decade I wound up building several modular synths for other people. A video artist, Walter Wright, gave me a collection of Electronotes and that got me planning my own synth, which was completed in 1980, based mostly on Bernie Hutchins’ ideas in Electronotes. It was assembled entirely on fiberglass perfboard, using a technique I learned from David Jones at the Experimental TV Center, where we worked. (The two large yellow boxes to David’s right in this picture are a modular audio synth I had built for the ETC.) We used plain boards without any etched traces. All connections were made by simply soldering together on the backside the leads of components inserted from the front side. That can still be done today, but I prefer to use available PC boards for almost all of the modules in this new modular synthesizer.
Photo from 2012
DIY Modular Synthesis
I chose the MOTM panel style for several reasons, including that I wanted MOTM modules. I like to build as much as possible myself and in 2002 MOTM offered kits. (These days, MOTM DIY is supported by The Bridechamber.) Another reason is the fantastic support in the synth DIY community on the Internet. Stooge Industries — and especially the late Larry Hendry — made this whole project much easier than it might have been.
I have a few modules of my own design, or that I adapted from information on the Internet. I made custom modifications to many modules. My intent here is to document as much of these projects as I can without revealing proprietary information. You will find construction photos, schematics, parts lists, MP3 files and more.