Modular Synthesisers

February 23, 2016 | 12:00
Is our language impoverished to the point of not having words to describe audio functions?
Is our language impoverished to the point of not having words to describe audio functions?
Among the trends in products presented at the recent 2016 NAMM show, we’ve already remarked on the widespread use of the word “Analog” . Another key-word seen everywhere is “Modular”.

Lots of new Synthesisers, even those which are basically digital, are modular, with lots of buttons, swtiches and inputs and outputs connected between themselves with a rats-nest of cables.

If the audible results from these boxes of tricks are not always exciting, it’s usually the result of those who use them…badly.

The price of these modules is not going to encourage amateurs to experiment, much less buy. But to hope to gain familiarity with these modules, apart from money, you need time, patience and the imagination to understand the terminology used. To designate the good old functions of Oscillator, Filter and Envelope Shaper, the language used in
2016 is knowingly esoteric.
The phonogène with keyboard, from Pierre Schaeffer

We must recognise that the functions of today’s modules are richer and more complex than in the days when an oscillator was called an oscillator, and a filter was called a filter; the manufacturer “Hexinverter” describes his VCO with these words: Jupiter Sorm is a Cosmic Noise Oscillator. Wow…

Such obfuscation is used by the manufacturer makenoise, which produces otherwise excellent modules, one being inspired by the Phonogène designed 60 years ago (!) by Pierre Schaeffer : on the front panel, there are little more than drawings.
 
 
   
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