There is a sub-header for pugix.com: ‘My MOTM-style synth’. But I wonder if I should change it. I do have a lot of MOTM-style modules. The main cabinets are for MOTM panel format. I built them exclusively for the first eight years or so, until I started running short of space.
Then I started designing 5U panels in MOTM-width, but with smaller knobs. And those aren’t truly MOTM format anymore.
Then, I started evolving away even farther, not just from the format, but also from the entire design philosophy of MOTM, which was — at least initially — strongly grounded in the ‘East Coast’ Moog style from the sixties and seventies. I started becoming less interested in filters and more interested in wave shaping and complex FM as timbre creating strategies, in other words, more ‘West Coast’ style. I had leaned toward ‘West Coast’ style ever since the 70s and had already built a number of modules in the MOTM format that lend themselves to it, even before ‘going bananas.’
I discovered Ciat-Lonbarde, ‘Home of post-70’s electronics.’
As I studied Peter Blasser’s schematics, especially for the Cocoquantus, I began to understand more what he means by the post-70s motto. I think it involves several different aspects of making electronic music: 1) New touch-based control interfaces, 2) A loosening of control over the compositional structure, and 3) A loosening of control over timbre, 4) A general lack of concern with precision. The instruments, if they can be called that, seem intentionally designed to obstruct an approach to composition and performance that is based on preconception and rehearsal, encouraging instead a spontaneous interaction with the electronics, favoring unexpected results. While this idea doesn’t seem entirely new, the realization of it, as embodied in the Ciat-Lonbarde hardware approach, is certainly innovative.
As I see it, musical composition entails two structurally distinct elements: the fine-grained time structures which produce timbre, and the coarse-grained time structures that produce rhythm and movement. Early synthesis of the East Coast style emphasized the new and interesting timbres of the machine, hence the possibility of a Switched On Bach, a creation that stuck with many traditional musical structures. Later, the user of sequencers led to a new genre of electronic music, with the characteristic mechanical, robotic beats. Both the so-called East and West Coast styles utilized novel timbres, but it seems to me that the West Coast style went farther in exploring novel rhythmic approaches.
My evolution has led now, not just beyond the MOTM panel format into banana jack territory, but into the area of lessening of control over the coarse-grained time structures (which I’m calling ‘rhythm’ for lack of a better word). This seems to be an area that has not been explored much. The challenge here is to develop circuits and interfaces for working with them which facilitate exploration of novel generative rththmic structures. I tend to eschew the term ‘generative’, because of its history of use by Brian Eno and others to describe a specific type of automatic music that is more limited than the type I am aiming at. They did not generate novel rhythms, and usually remained within standard western tunings, making melodies and harmonies with those. Many approaches to generating complex rhythms that I’ve heard devolve into chaos too quickly. I don’t have a good descriptive term for the style I’m aiming for, yet. It will have to address several issues to be successful musically. It will need to remain rhythmically coherent, while escaping from tedium. And it will have to support input from a human player, who will be able to interact in meaningful ways to what the machine is generating. If such a style emerges (and not just from my efforts), then we may be able to come up with better ways to describe it. It isn’t related closely to a panel format anymore. But I do believe that a panel design can suggest something of the compositional philosophy of the circuits behind it. Hence, the Quantisise.