Mutable Instruments Modules

Recorded on May 29th, 2016

Like the rest of MoogFest, the Modular Marketplace was totally overwhelming, in the best way. A dozen, or dozens, of modular manufacturers crowded their display tables into the narrow, deep left half of the Power Plant at the American Tobacco Campus. I could have spent an entire day in there, just getting familiar with what each company had to contribute. I’ll know a lot more when we go next time, but this time, the demo units from Mutable Instruments were my favorite. First, they are drop-dead gorgeous. Here’s “Elements”, which almost made me walk out with it, except I had to pick between that and the Moog Mother-32, and I figured the Mother-32 was a better starter module:

photo of Mutable Instruments Elements module Elements, from the Mutable Instruments website

Second, they’re really weird, and not based on typical subtractive synthesis like I’m used to. Lots of physical modeling and resonating going on with them. I see the knobs and switches and I don’t automatically know what they do, which is exciting. Third, they sound so musical. For being software-based, they sure do manage to coax some organic, lifelike sound out of their electronics. Here’s what “Rings” sounds like:

Here’s “Clouds”:

That’s crazy!

I have many of their modules on my want-list.

Full Inspection of Modular Synthesizers

Recorded on May 29th, 2016

Note to self: If you buy a modular synthesizer (or just a module to add to an existing synthesizer), make sure to immediately test every single jack to make sure it feels right and it does what it’s supposed to. I only found out after returning from MoogFest that the VCO SAW output jack (one of the 32 I/O jacks) on the Mother-32 wasn’t as grabby as it should have been. The other 31 jacks were fine, but that troubled one didn’t have enough spring in it, so the plug would pull out really easily and would lose its connection if jostled by other patch cords.

I emailed Moog and they were very cool about giving me the option of an RMA or returning it to the local Guitar Center. And Guitar Center was very cool about taking it back and re-ordering a new one on the spot. So now I’m temporarily without the Moog, but I’ll pick up a replacement one in a few days and will be back in the business of posting annoying clips from it to SoundCloud. It’s worth it in the long run to have a piece of equipment that will really last for years.

Examples from Robin Weis Showing How to Record and Analyze Data About Yourself

Recorded on May 27th, 2016

Thanks to the always great “Good Morning RVA” email newsletter from RVANews, I was late to work today. At the end of every morning issue, they include a “This morning’s longread” section. The one today was called “Crying”, written by Robin Weis, a software developer. It’s a funny, nerdy, long explanation of how she logged every time she cried for 589 days, along with the intensity of the cry and some notes about where she was, what time it started, how long it lasted, and what caused it. She generates a bunch of positively Edward Tufte-ian visual analyses of all that data, and it’s delightful to see what her conclusions are.

What I love about her site even more than that article is the home/about page, where she has a high-level view of the events in her life and roles/jobs she’s had over the past 10 years. It’s beautiful:

screenshot from homepage of Robin Weis

That graphic is designed in the structure I didn’t know I needed until I saw it. I’d like to follow its lead for a time map of major things I can remember that have happened to me so far. When you arrive at the 45-year mark, it can be hard to organize your memories, and you just drift from one year to the next. Something like that grid could help put things in some kind of order while I can still recall enough to write down what was what.

She has other cool examples of data-gathering and analytics, all of them brilliantly executed and designed. Check it out!