revisiting noise/drone machines

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Nelson Baboon
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revisiting noise/drone machines

Post by Nelson Baboon » Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:31 pm

i went through a period a few years ago where i was fascinated by these things, and accumulated a bunch of them. Some were pretty cool - i remember a patchable JMT synth (curiously, i think i bought my old one after several changes of hands through a mw member, which should be arriving soon. but it might be another one - i don't think mine was a one off), and there was this thing called a baby box, and some others that I tried. there was that landscape thing...and some more limited escapades, long forgotten.

I decided at some point that the way to go was with more flexible synths - mostly modular, but other ones, and achieving the noisularity (this is a hole in a portion of the brain that I forget) through more convoluted means, but also achieving more motion and flexibility in the sound.

But I suppose that I reached my 'noisebud' moment, where i am missing the simplicity of these youthful excursions. I mean, fuck you, Mary Tyler Moore.

I miss having these things insult me to my face unambiguously, and turning a few knobs here and there to make it worse, and worse, and worse.

but then, the problem becomes, can one achieve enough variety? Has my brain deteriorated enough from age to simply not care anymore, and simply crave the sonic (what's the word?).

I am also thinking of taking some more powerful synths and trying to set them up as noise boxes. I've never thought about it much - but the idea would be to set them up to drone, and then have it so you can take a few knobs which then work similarly to a noise box, and tax your internal organs without modifying your hair style.

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Re: revisiting noise/drone machines

Post by floatingChalice » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:17 am

These are all good thoughts, questions worth exploring and sharing what you find

I don't personally have any answers though :)

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Re: revisiting noise/drone machines

Post by Flounderguts » Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:49 am

DIY drones are fun to build, and far easier on the pocketbook than tweaking existing synths past their resale value.

I think my favorite genre is self-resonating philtres, followed by granular samples turned to audio rate.

Over the years, I have found that too many knobs to turn is less inspiring than just a few that change dramatically with minute tweaks...I love feeling like I've discovered a never-before-heard mating call for the pacific grunt sculpin as I move the LFO cutoff less than a third of a millimeter.

Exploring generative drones is an activity I wish I could do with some really big speakers in a really small room, but is currently a headphone activity only to prevent sudden divorce or possibly a large fire.
Of the droney things I have, I think my current favorite is my Moffenzeef Muskrat that has a custom chipswitcher board (which I called the MooperGrooper)...although I am just getting into no-input mixing using my yamaha 1602 and a patchbay. When I get going with that, I begin to wish I were retired, so that I don't have to stop for meals or work.

Maybe we need a drone album, Songs of the Seniors


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Re: revisiting noise/drone machines

Post by oldgearguy » Thu Jan 14, 2021 7:21 am

I went through something similar a few years ago. Grabbed a Grendel Drone Commander (the one in the ammo box) and intially it was a lot of fun. Then I tried to actually do stuff with it in conjunction with other gear and got frustrated with the lack of patching/syncing/tracking. I didn't want to just sample it, but it became kind of a one-trick pony. It did it's thing really well, but it wasn't always what I wanted to hear/use. Fast forward to now and I went back to using a modest 5U modular setup for all these types of drones/noise experiements. The tradeoff is that I can be more precise on the sound, control, and movement of it versus having to take the time to set up a patch and it's definitely not as portable.

If the main ponit of a composition is to highlight the noise/drone and possibly have other incidental sounds around, then the standalone-ness of the noise/drone box is less of an issue. For me though, I got tired of owning gear that didn't play nice with anything else in the room and that became a big factor in deciding what to sell and what to keep.

I have used 'real' synths as well but some are not as immediate in that you can't just open the VCA and have it start sounding. You need note triggers or hold down a key. Also with a dedicated full synth, you're at the mercy of the manufacturer as to the quality of the oscillators, how well they can be slightly detuned and beat against each other without going into some phase locking state plus the filtering and modulation options present.

Synths that I've liked for drones in the past were the D-550 and Modor NF-1 for smoother drones and the MiniMoog for those beefy analog 2 slightly detuned oscillator tones. The Hypersynth Xenophone was another good choice on the harsher end of things plus it has the built in sequencer that can be used to provide some controlled movement if desired.

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