Orthogonal to everything

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Lazarus Reborn Redux

After a 3 year ultra-pause, I've got most of the site working again! Radio Modular will start streaming soon too, maybe with some video too.

I've been building a digital rig in my media room to try some digital sound compositional experiments. Here's what's in the rig so far:

Three instruments will feed it:

Key Software:

I've decided against Max/Ableton. Monitoring will be done on the Martin Logan Summit's. I've found full-range speakers to be better for monitoring than nearfields lately. This room is acoustically treated, and has digital room correction to optimize frequency and time alignment at the sitting position.

Here is an early picture of the new media room / digital studio when I started this project in January 2010:

I'm really happy with the custom design of the Harpejji (it matches the continuum fingerboard):

(The Harpejji comes in a few months)

I'm trying to keep a 'death star' feel with blacks, greys, whites, and red so I can crank up some evil self-composing algorithmic evil-empire type music.

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Toy of the Month: Metasonix TS-21 Hellfire Modulator

This is neat. Only 38 produced, so I have 2.631% of them:

What is it? It's a crazy tube distortion device, sort of like a guitar pedal, but designed by a mad-man (Eric Barbour) in 2000. I think that this box could be called a Y2K pandoras box of horrors.

Eric Barbour (on Mafia Hit list? started a company called Metasonix in 1998 making crazy tube circuits out of unusual tubes, and designed these circuits to sound really ... different. Some of his latest products don't even have 'work-safe' names. Just go to the site and you'll see.

Here's another close-up shot of the magic tubes:

Here's an mp3 made by the dude I bought it from (Rhodes piano via Hellfire Modulator). He's using a very light application of the TS-21 Hellfire Modulator.

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Toy of the Month: Access Virus Ti Rackmount

The German company Access Music makes a really nice line of DSP based synthesizers (the Virus). I got the itch, called Nova Musik, and poof it arrived almost next day.

Here's what it looks like:

It blinks all sweet with lights and buttons and sounds very nice.

The first night I had it, I did these two versions of Tetris with it:

Tetris Take 1, Tetris Take 2

Here's a bunch of other MP3's demonstrating the things sound:


Nice sounding VA huh? The coolest thing is that it is very tightly integrated with a computer, so you can edit all the settings with your PC in your sequencer.

I give this device an 7.5/10 (it'd be a 9/10 if it had fewer bugs).

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Toy of the Month: Multi Kord Pedal Steel

Check this whack thing:

It's an old six string pedal steel. Pedal Steel guitars don't have frets. Instead, you slide a peice of metal or bakealite down the strings, which are usually strung in an open tuning (mine is Open-A I think). One steps on a lever, which then tightens or releases ONE OR MORE strings. You have screws which you can adjust to determine exactly how much the pitch on the affected strings should change. Check te pedals:

It's very 'country', 'trancy', and just plain cool. This pedal steel is very old, and very simple. It looks like a toilet seat, with cigarette burns, a crack in its formica finish, and that ludicrous pink/red top. It's a one-of-a-kind. Sounds very pretty tho. I fed it into an Access Virus Ti Desktop (next month's toy of the month, even though I bought it a while back) and it really blew my mind, esp on the vocoder patches.

This one has rusty strings, so I'll need to get some new ones.

Anyway, pedal steel guitars can get very complex. Some have five or nine pedals, and separate knee levers, and TWO necks. Check how ultra-complex it is from the bottom:

This Guitar is machined aluminum and carbon fibre. It's crazy!

I think Pedal Steel guitar (the Steel is for what you hold in your hand, not the construction of the Guitar) is about my favorite stringed instrument. Sounds beautiful.

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Toy of the month: Akai MPC1000

Sounds n StuffAkai makes a famous line of samplers called the "MPC". They popularized devices with little pads you could tap to trigger samples. Their machines are sampler workstations with sequencers, MIDI, effects, etc... Lots of HIP HOP producers use them, and you can see some great videos on Youtube: (MPC 4000, MPC 1000).

So now that you've watched the videos, you might be saying: "Paul! Why spend coin on a sampler when your laptop can do it all?". That's sort of true, but after playing with one for a few hours at a Guitar Center, I'd have to say they are good tools for sketching cool songs with. I've never really done much with sampling either, and I figured a little MPC 1000 might let me squeeze as much HIP-HOP out of me as there is, and maybe other stuff too. Here's what it looks like:

The coolest thing by far about the MPC 1000 is that a guy in Japan wrote a new operating system for it that packs huge features (apparently rivalling those of the MPC 2500, which costs a bunch more). So, for 30 bucks, you get many more features (even Pong :), in a portable travel safe package. And really, that's the main reason I bought it -- to travel with it. I figure it, and maybe a TI Virus would be good traveling companions on those long, lonely business trips.

(I'm such a geek)

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Toy of the month: Chandler Limited Germanium PRE/DI

Sounds n StuffI was looking for a distortion device ala a tube amp, but not a tube amp, and some folks on the Gearslutz forum suggested I try a Chandler Germanium Pre-amp. The thing is I don't really record with microphones much, so I didn't need the 'pre-amp gain' -- or so I thought. I also figured most pro pre-amps are 'clean/transparent/etc...' and wouldn't impart a lot of colour. Again, folks recommended the Chandler Germanium Pre, mainly because it features a variable feedback control, and has various other nifty features like germanium transistors (used in vintage fuzz boxes). The device looks like this:

You don't have to use a microphone, as you can plug in directly to the front direct-input (DI). It generates some rather snazzy distortion that I've never heard duplicated in software. Sort of adds an 'alive' shimmer and/or brittleness and/or bass blast zoom. Like a guitar effect, the distortion completely depends upon the frequencies and amplitudes of the input. Different signals give different results at different gains and different feedbacks. You get the picture. A lot of variety for just a few controls.

I wondered about the usefulness of 'gain' in a device that essentially takes "line-level" signals and outputs "line-level" signals, but I've found that it's a very useful sound shaping tool. You can use the gain to 'position' the sound relative to various 'feedback' thresholds and thus tailor the distortion to your liking. It's quick to dial in a good sound. It's also got a 'PAD' switch, which lets you feed in crazy hot signals from other equipment without first sending them to a compressor. Finally, there's a subtle 'thick' button that gives a low end boost that helps balance the fracturing the device can also create.

I wish the device was stereo, but I can see that the nature of its distortion would not really produce a correlated result across each channel. Still, later on I might pick me up another of these things and strap them on a summing bus.

This is my first piece of 'analog studio equipment'. I always figured most studio equipment of this sort was designed to record voices, drums, and acoustic instruments (which I don't do much of), so it seemed foolish to spend big $$ on something that wouldn't be useful. This chandler unit however came across as something a bit different, as it didn't try to go after that 'transparent' sound. Since I'm just after a 'cool sound', it sounded good.

I'm very satisfied with its performance so far. I did feel I was going out on a limb paying $1050 + $150 for an external power supply in what could have turned out as a glorified volume control.

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Toy of the month: Akai E4000s Electronic Wind Controller

I was looking for an expressive instrument that could travel as carry-on, or in the worst case, fit in my luggage. Mini portable keyboards are tired and really not as expressive as I'd like. Really, I wanted something with a bit of the Continuum Fingerboard feel that was very portable (even more than their 1/2 sized version), so here's what I got from Swee*censored*er:

It's a lot easier to play than a 'real woodwind' for sure, and it has a synth built in to it (great for headphones). Midi-out helps too.

Here are some quicktime demos that are kinda cool:

Steve Tavaglione Home Demo - 14.7MB (this is the coolest link)
Michael Brecker Home Demo - 2.39MB
Bob Mintzer Rehearsal Demo - 3.39MB
Mike Phillips Rehearsal Demo - 5.98MB


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Toy of the Month: EventideH8000FW

Sounds n StuffFor the last five or so years, I've pretty much abandoned using computers for making sound. I use them to 'record', and 'convert', but that's about it. It's mainly because they're so unreliable. They also run out of horsepower too fast.

So instead I've depended upon other electronic gizmos, most without CPU's. Occasionally, something with a CPU comes along that's not a full-fledged computer that is interesting.

The most recent gizmo is the Eventide H8000FW. It processes audio signals and makes them, hopefully, more interesting. It has two digital signal processors and a whole pile of audio I/O: something like 20 AES/EBU, 4 Analog I/O, SPDIF, ADAT, and 16 channels of Firewire IO. It can act as a sound card too. Here's what it looks like:

UI is okay -- I didn't need the manual for a few days

Check out all the inputs! It's even got MIDI, and Pedals, Relay controls, Serial, Firewire, AES/EBU, ...!

What does it sound like? Well, pretty good. It's got like 1800 presets. I haven't even bothered to make my own, but when I do, it'll be in a visual modular environment that looks like this:

What's it sound like? Well, it's hooked up to Radio Modular, but you don't have A/B ability. Here's a nice MP3 from the Eventide site:

1 --- h8kdemo.mp3 - a really nice demo that covers a lot of ground
2 --- fuzzpitch.mp3 - nice guitar effect


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What is the Modular Streaming?

Sounds n StuffWhat is the modular streaming? Every now and then I change it, and usually I update the configuration here.
Nov 23: Enough with the drony stuff. I'm going to try to focus on 'beats' (well, in so far as I can... Beats and I have a sordid past). Tonight's modules are mainly Metalbox, still the Modcan CV Recorder (great module!) along with the new toy, the Eventide H8000FW adding some neat digital FX. Don't expect too much :)

Nov 20: Three new modules: The Modcan CV Recorder (wild wild wild), the Modcan Super Delay, and a Modcan 01A oscillator from a long time ago (board says 1997). What you hear are two oscillators being driven by a simple 8 step sequencer. The CV Recorder 'sampled' the sequence, and is playing it back slowly. The two oscillators are tuned differently, but tracking the same sequence. The two oscillators feed the Modcan Super Delay. An LFO modulates the delay parameter just a touch. There's a VCA in there somewhere as well, driven by an LFO. The output from the Modcan CV Recorder is fed to the 904A Moog to filter out some grit. A touch of white noise is fed into one of the oscillator's CV input to give it a cloudy feel. In total: 10 modules are used:

2x Oscillator 01a
1x Modcan CV Recorder 57a
1x Modcan Dual LFO 05a
1x Modcan Noise/S&H 07a
1x Modcan 904a Moog Filter 44a
1x Modcan 4VCA 31a
1x Modcan Super Delay 30a
1x Modcan 6x2 Mixer 43a
1x Metalbox Sequential Switch (sequencer)

I'll tweak it over the next few days and see how it evolves.

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Radio Modular

As many faithful readers know, one of my varied hobbies is making music, usually electronically.

Now I've hooked up a feed of the main mixer from my modular and now stream it on the net. You can all listen to the wacky machine.

You can listen to it at http://www.paulsop.com:8000/radio1.m3u

Here is a pic of what is making the sound (more or less):

Tonight's (and probably for the next few days) selection is minimal: 4 noise sources: white, pink, +/-, and + from a Modcan 07a. The +/- and + outputs are sent to a Moog 904a lowpass and lovely glassy late model Arp Odyssey 4072 (Modcan 36a). These sounds are then sent to the Quadraphonic 33a surround position module (LFO's decide what the positioning is), and also through, to various modulated extents, two Ibanez AD202 delays and a super cheezy Pioneer SR202 reverb. Envelopes and triggering is from Metalbox. Each day or so I'll tweak it (requests?) and keep it streaming something new.

I'm working on levels so it may be too loud/quiet. There's no compression or anything. Just the modular->Motu Traveller->to stream. Let me know how it sounds? I am terrible with levels.

The modular is always on, and always squawking out something. Can't guarantee it'll be any good, but as far as I know, it's the first 24/7 modular source, so "yayz me!" It's all licensed under Creative Commons Attribution, so samples can of course be used.

Now, if other folk want to try something like this, I have plenty of bandwidth to host their radio streams. We could even make a 'meta modular' where we could, in real time, mix various modular streams (in a modular of course), and stream that out :)


KW Weather

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Live 24/7 modular music stream!

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Last n movies


Kick Ass

Clash of the Titans


How to Train your Dragon

Lost in time

Lost in time


Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix (IMAX 3D) - 71% - Go Big V

Transformers - 68.3% - Soundwave?

Ratatouille - 100% - Délicieux

Blades of Glory - 65% - Iron Lotus

Pirates of the Caribbean 3 - 57% - Calypso

28 Weeks Later - 27.5% - No Brains :(

Spiderman 3 - 55% - Bad Acting

Blades of Glory - 89% - Lone Wolf

Hot Fuzz - 91% - Best Village

300 - 80% - SPARTA HO!

Cinema Paradiso - 100% - Sappy

Casino Royale (2006) - 25% - Chasing

Demon Seed - 100% - I'm Alive

Pan's Labyrinth - 85% - Tasty


BORAT - 95% - Nice

Lemora - 75% - Consistent

Gankutsuou - 100% - Bloody Great

Supernova - 40% - hey, it tried

God of Cookery - 100% - Pissing Beef Balls!

Fubo - 30% - Really slow

Superman Returns - 30% - IMAX

A Scanner Darkly - 50% - Popcorn was good

Pirates of Caribbean - 55% - Looonnggg

SAFE - 75% - It's. Out. there

Nacho Libre - 85% - Esqueleto

Krrish - 80% - Just Imagine!

The Promise - 55% - Nice Hats

The Omen - 0.663% - Pathetic

The Da Vinci Code - 4% - Yay! Albinos!

Silent Hill - 77% - Barbed Wire

Conan - 102% - CROM!

V for Vendetta - 78% - Vim

The Eye 2 - 10% - A part 2

The Eye - 85% - Original

Undead - 55% - Aussie Zombies!

Bio Zombie - 85% - Zombie Pop!

Godzilla final wars - 75% - Mothra Rules!

40 Year Old Virgin - 25% - Aquaman

Exiles - 85% - Algeria

Moulin Rouge - 0.7% - Mouth Barf

They Came Back - 55% - NO BRAINS!

Crazy - 80% - Shotgun

Nanny McPhee - 95% - Emma Thompson

Wilby Wonderful - 15% - Nova Scotia

Memoirs of a Geisha - 45% - Pretty

A few of my favorite things

Toy: Monome 40h

Radio: WFMU!!! !! !

Podcast: 7 Second Delay on WFMU

Food: Veal chops in Calvados sauce

Coding: Ruby and MAX/MSP

Music sequencer: FL Studio 7

Blog: MatrixSynth

Music: Tom Waits and Laibach

Modular synth: Modcan and Serge

Instruments: Continuum Fingerboard

Place: Paris

Restaraunt: Maestro

Linux Distro: Debian (alltime fave)

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