In 1977 I made friends with a fella who had, hidden in his basement, a Moog System 55 modular synthesizer. I knew little about this tangle of wires and boxes and little did I guess that my mind would become warped and wrapped around all those circuits forever lost in the maze and vortex of… Continue reading Modular

Sound design

Like so many unfortunate youngsters out there I very nearly had music, sound, the great sonic vistas of nature beaten out of me by being forced into that most ignominous of teachings – the ramming down into young throats of piano recital playing. I went through the years of toil leading to various Royal Schools of Music examinations, the finger and mind bending playing over and over again of scales and exercises and multiple humiliations of having to play for relatives, friends and those who just enjoyed their dinner with our family now having to endure little Neal and his piano ditty.

Fortunately for me the math of music, the shock of sound coming out of a sine wave coursing voltage, the magic of patch chords, modular synthesis, euclidean polyrhythms, delay and reverberation circuits – never left me. From my first synth – a MOOG 2600 – to todays open source digital haven – VCV Rack – I’ve had and continue to have it all to hold, for richer and [mostly] poorer, in sickness and in health and with full surprise, richness, colour, sound, electrons, keys, chords, time-signatures … now THAT is music … without beating the life out of the kid.

As you can see in the thumb image of the video above, I build my own modular synthesizers and oh boy! what fun it is. I get to let my mind run wild diving into all sorts of math rabbit holes, electronic design and build projects and then to use those tools to create sounds – that may include music – but are often far, far more and deeper explorations than mere music.

But then again — all of sound is music to us humans is it not?