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Input for university research paper
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Input for university research paper
Cherubael
Hello everyone,

I am currently writing a paper regarding why many individuals choose to use analogue and other "older" style technologies when working creatively. I wanted to ask anyone who would be willing, to briefly describe what about modular makes you want to use it over an exclusively computer based approach. I know it seems like there are some obvious answers, but I would appreciate any responses about what this personally means to you. If you have some insight you would like to share it would really help me out. Thanks in advance to anyone willing!
andrewhuang
Tactile interaction is huge. Knobs, sliders, pressure pads, switches, all of these are far better at what they do than navigating to a control that you click and drag with a mouse. Another bonus for navigation - it's also possible to build an instrument larger than any computer display out there. The hardware is more reliable - you deal with far fewer glitches/bugs, no crashes, no latency... Also no temptation to check Twitter, no ding from a notification because you forgot to turn on Do Not Disturb...
sduck
A common misconception, or perhaps it's just a semantics problem, is that modular stuff is all analog. While quite a bit of the older gear was mostly analog, quite a bit of modern modular gear is very digital - there's a lot of microprocessors in modern designs.
sloth713
sduck hit the nail on the head. With modular ind the end analog or digital doesn't mater only what sounds good to you and interfaces well with you.

Now onto you question why I prefer modular over computers is because of the immediacy and tactile experience. Booting up a computer and navigating trough a DAW (I use abelton, though have never used push) feels like chore. To me hardware synthesis is almost always more enjoyable unless the menu diving is DX7 levels, and DAWs are for recording and mastering. That being said there are plenty of computer based synthesis options that sound good and are fun to use but there is something about a mouse that is less inspiring than a bunch of knobs and sliders. I wish i could make more quantitative statement to help you out but ultimately music and its creation?creative processes are qualitative.
unrecordings
It's the endeavour

Why climb a mountain
Why walk in the countryside
Why cook a meal
Why paint a picture

A tactile environment is more appealing than even the best (computer based) UI...

...to me at least...
DSC
How deep of an answer do you want?

If you have a lot of experience with software and can work with it VERY efficiently than modular might frustrate the crap out of you. Software can also drive you crazy, especially if you are interfacing it with hardware. So just to keep the hardware properly interfaced with the software you have to keep up on all of the updates for the application and OS and firmware for the hardware, just to take six months off from a creative block to come back to your entire setup being 'obsolete' and half ass working with a million bugs.

So, based on that experience, why wouldn't you want to lose your mind reading half ass written module manuals that are barely coherent, six different power standards, miss matched voltage ranges and a general sense on incoherence with panel design and layout?

TADA! A shot at making your own 'crazy', 'custom' instrument. That means you choose what modules you want, maybe tear a module apart and come up with your own idea and bastardize the hell out of it. All in the name to streamline your ultimate frustration and possibly extend the few moments of time where the confines of the waking world blend with the world of dreams!

Sometimes I get close, sometimes I'm WAY OFF!

milkshake
Its all about the user interface.

A computer is a generic device, an instrument is made to play.
dubonaire
Not really answering your question, but suggesting you may need to define your research question a bit more carefully.

What do you mean by old, and therefore what do you define as not old? Computer music is nearly 70 years old. MIDI is about 35 years old. Cubase is nearly 30 years old. Modular synthesis is 54 years old.

To me this is an error in thinking that computer music is still new. It's not.
mt3
Thesis Rejectors!
oberdada
Adding to dubonaire's suggestions, maybe you should consider requesting answers privately by pm?

Also, are you not missing something if you compare modulars to "an exclusive computer based approach"? What about field recordings, live electronics with acoustic instruments, circuit bending and so forth?
Parnelli
Modular Synthesis is the root basics for sound construction; where the modern computer work station could be seen as the grand manor in which we might live the modular consists of the concrete, wood, blocks and nails that the grand manor is built from. If you understand these building blocks of sound properly you can build your grand manor anywhere you like, provided you have the building supplies.

Furthermore it is much easier to re-arrange when you want to change something.

When I was a kid I liked building things with Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos, etcetera. Now it would seem that after all these years in music playing traditional instruments I am reverting back to my childhood days building my own toys to play with, and having a blast. To understand what a thing does is only a part of the knowing of it; it is only when you know the why and how of it when you begin to truly have understanding.
dubonaire
Parnelli wrote:
Modular Synthesis is the root basics for sound construction; where the modern computer work station could be seen as the grand manor in which we might live the modular consists of the concrete, wood, blocks and nails that the grand manor is built from. If you understand these building blocks of sound properly you can build your grand manor anywhere you like, provided you have the building supplies.

Furthermore it is much easier to re-arrange when you want to change something.

When I was a kid I liked building things with Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos, etcetera. Now it would seem that after all these years in music playing traditional instruments I am reverting back to my childhood days building my own toys to play with, and having a blast. To understand what a thing does is only a part of the knowing of it; it is only when you know the why and how of it when you begin to truly have understanding.


This is not a fundamental difference. At least not any more. In modular synthesis you can have a complete voice in a module now, but if I use Max/MSP I may need to build everything.
Timmy
Cherubael wrote:
Hello everyone,

I am currently writing a paper regarding why many individuals choose to use analogue and other "older" style technologies when working creatively. I wanted to ask anyone who would be willing, to briefly describe what about modular makes you want to use it over an exclusively computer based approach. I know it seems like there are some obvious answers, but I would appreciate any responses about what this personally means to you. If you have some insight you would like to share it would really help me out. Thanks in advance to anyone willing!


As Max Stadler, the well-known historian of science and technology, has observed, modular synths are "somewhat fallen out of time", meaning that they are curious temporal amalgamations which combine late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century technologies (telephone exchange patch cords and jacks) with mid-twentieth century analogue electronics (voltage controlled oscillator, filters and amplifiers) with early-twenty-first century embedded microprocessor DSP and control systems, all of which forms a patch-programmable audio analogue computer, the output of which is then digitised and fed into general purpose digital computers (i.e. your laptop) and then uploaded into the cloud on the internet for consumption by others (mostly). Or recorded onto vinyl discs, or even Phillips compact cassette magnetic tapes for distribution by postal workers riding pushbikes. That's a very weird mash-up of technologies from different eras, but nonetheless, it is a valid and fun form of creative anachronism. But creative anachronisms are everywhere. Consider a symphony orchestra playing contemporary repertoire: twenty-first century composers, recording their musical thoughts using an arcane 16th century notation system, which is then reproduced by real and highly-trained humans playing instruments made of wood, brass and horse hair designed in the 17th century. Um, OK, modular synthesis is no weirder than that.
DSC
Timmy wrote:

Consider a symphony orchestra playing contemporary repertoire: twenty-first century composers, recording their musical thoughts using an arcane 16th century notation system, which is then reproduced by real and highly-trained humans playing instruments made of wood, brass and horse hair designed in the 17th century. Um, OK, modular synthesis is no weirder than that.


That is a creative comparison! Based on that, you should well document your patches, in the hope that someone later in time may re-create them thumbs up
mousegarden
At the risk of repeating what others have said.
Interaction, tactile, plus, hardware reacts and behaves differently to software, this is particularly true of complex patches, and feedback loops.
I use a computer as well, probably more than my hardware, but for me, hardware still does things a computer can't, also with hardware, you aern't at the mercy of platform changes, or constant updates/incompatibility issues that you can have with software.
pixelmechanic
Cherubael wrote:
Hello everyone,

I am currently writing a paper regarding why many individuals choose to use analogue and other "older" style technologies when working creatively. I wanted to ask anyone who would be willing, to briefly describe what about modular makes you want to use it over an exclusively computer based approach. I know it seems like there are some obvious answers, but I would appreciate any responses about what this personally means to you. If you have some insight you would like to share it would really help me out. Thanks in advance to anyone willing!


You should look at this (if you haven't already)

http://econtact.ca/17_4/
MWH
For me, the tactile feeling of the physical interface makes me connect to the music more. When using VST and soft synths I can make music but there is a disconnect that makes it feel cold. Hardware modular feels more human and gives a more accomplished feeling with the performance.
anotherjones
Cherubael wrote:
Hello everyone,

I am currently writing a paper regarding why many individuals choose to use analogue and other "older" style technologies when working creatively. I wanted to ask anyone who would be willing, to briefly describe what about modular makes you want to use it over an exclusively computer based approach. I know it seems like there are some obvious answers, but I would appreciate any responses about what this personally means to you. If you have some insight you would like to share it would really help me out. Thanks in advance to anyone willing!


For similar reasons some people still use analogue camaras as opposed to digital cameras. But your question is confused. It appears you are asking about preference for analogue sound over digital. However, a part of the appeal of modular is the hands-on nature as opposed to mouse clicking. But this also applies to choosing a VA synth over a VST.

Are you doing a degree in marketing? Phsychology? What imperical results are you hoping to achieve?
dubonaire
Another one of those threads with a vanishing OP.
Jefro
For me the answer is limitations. The analogue stuff is more limited than the digital stuff most of the time due to cost. Working within constraints leads to creative outcomes.
Timmy
dubonaire wrote:
Another one of those threads with a vanishing OP.


The assignment due date has probably passed and the paper has been submitted for marking. I hope any quotes from this thread were properly attributed to avoid falling foul of TurnItIn or similar essay checking software.

But a “thanks for your help and input” from the OP would have been polite.
dubonaire
Timmy wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
Another one of those threads with a vanishing OP.


The assignment due date has probably passed and the paper has been submitted for marking. I hope any quotes from this thread were properly attributed to avoid falling foul of TurnItIn or similar essay checking software.

But a “thanks for your help and input” from the OP would have been polite.


Where can I read Max Stadler? (Thanks for the quote!)
dumbledog
Most of my school essays used white noise as the primary input seriously, i just don't get it
wsy
It's also a question of the UI _channel capacity_.... and I mean that in the information-theoretic sense - as in the
Shannon-Hartley theorem.

Specifically: Capacity = Bandwidth * log2 (1 + Signal / Noise)

Computer UIs have a mouse with zero positional tactile feedback and lousy visual feedback (ever "lose the cursor" in
a busy screen display?) Things move around, you have to look before you click, and menu diving is a constant thorn. In short, the
signal-to-noise ratio of a mouse-based interface sucks.

Meanwhile, the knobs, jacks, and cables of a real-life modular provide excellent tactile feedback and perfect visual
feedback. Channel capacity is much higher with the mechanical interface. Things don't move until you move them with
a screwdriver, so haptic memory is effectively improving the channel coding.

Plus, you can wiggle with BOTH HANDS. None of this "one thing at a time" because you only have one mouse and must
use your eyes to track the cursor because your hands can't feel a damn thing. Add a joystick or keyboard with wheels and
pressure sensing and you can independently control three or maybe four things at the same time.

- Bill
akairipper
dubonaire wrote:
Not really answering your question, but suggesting you may need to define your research question a bit more carefully.

What do you mean by old, and therefore what do you define as not old? Computer music is nearly 70 years old. MIDI is about 35 years old. Cubase is nearly 30 years old. Modular synthesis is 54 years old.

To me this is an error in thinking that computer music is still new. It's not.


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