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Homogeneity and heterogeneity
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Homogeneity and heterogeneity

AntManBee

I've just realised, in a lateral response to the 'Favourite Piece of Gear' thread, that with instruments I'm drawn to homogeneity rather than heterogeneity.

In terms of music-making my euro modular is the most useful & versatile instrument I have but, by its nature, is not really an instrument at all, rather a mutable collection of disparate parts. This heterogeneity allows great freedom in music-making, but elicits in me none of the fondness I feel say for my Les Paul or MS-20.

Also, because the euro modular is not a fixed entity, I constantly feel it could be better and so keep changing modules, in a way which is not fundamentally possible with the Les Paul or MS-20 - it's the integrity, the fixity (and the limitations), which define the character of the Les Paul and the MS-20 and make them such a joy to use but, ironically, it's the flexible nature of the euro modular which makes it, for me, innately unsatisfying and characterless. With euro I'm beginning to think that the huge diversity of choice is fundamentally a flaw.

I suspect this is why people are attracted to Serge or Buchla, as they both have coherance and a degree of fixity and limitation in their design which gives them character. This is probably why I continue to toy with the idea of selling my euro modular and buying an ARP 2600 or, more sensibly, a Serge Animal & TKB.

I don't know if I've written this very well as I've found it hard to put into words.


chamomileshark

AntManBee wrote:


I suspect this is why people are attracted to Serge or Buchla, as they both have coherance and a degree of fixity and limitation in their design which gives them character. This is probably why I continue to toy with the idea of selling my euro modular and buying an ARP 2600 or, more sensibly, a Serge Animal & TKB.

I don't know if I've written this very well as I've found it hard to put into words.


hi, no it makes sense. I've observed a similar thing in others and while I tend to think of my frac modular as a collection of bits and a machine I think of the Wiard as an instrument. As you say, it has a coherence that goes back to the creator's initial intention/ vision which you either accept or reject.


polyroy

Yup, your post makes a lot of sense to me and this is why my Euro rig consists of one manufacturer only and will remain that way. It feels like a growing entity, but still an instrument as a whole. It's the first time my Euro setup has really felt like this and I enjoy using it more.

I wish I had more standalone instruments sitting around as well. Really miss my Mono/Poly and 303, plus I have an SH3-a which has been sitting broken in my studio for about a year and a half. Needs to get some TLC as it's a fantastic synth and modded for CV/gate in and out.


darenager

I think it makes sense, the greatest strength of Euro is also its greatest weakness, still I think it is a good beginners format as it allows you to find out what you like and what you don't, then either stay with it and expand in the areas of interest, or move to a different more specialised/specific format.


sascha.victoria

The bulk of what you said had a lot to do with my departure from Euro to Serge. That and I realized if I sold all my Euro I could have the Serge I always wanted.

Serge, Buchla, Wiard, and a few other moduars are designed to be a system. People used to complain that Serge isn't really a modular because you can't move the modules around but to me if you go Buchla or Wiard you can move the modules around but you still need all the basic stuff to get going. I think a lot of people don't realize that most basic systems are pretty similar while bigger systems are just more of the same stuff salt and peppered with the more expensive modules.


Bricks

+1 to everything here. The cool thing is that both approaches are viable for different types of people.

Sometimes it feels weird to be a person that likes constraint.. but there is also lot to be said for learning about different systems and then picking a set of constraints that particularly inspires.


Just me

Since I'm not college edjamacated and big words elude my feeble mind, I didn't even know what this thread was about until I read it. Still, it makes sense to me. Although I love my modular for what it is, I tend to be more attached to certain other instruments and embrace the limitations and strengths of them more. I am able to wring the most out of my machines with the most limitations as I'm not distracted by all the other possibilities. I tend to actually work towards my initial goal and don't get as easily and completely sidetracked by happy accidents as I'm working. If I amd trying to achieve sound A, I tend to get it as close as the machine can without going to sounds B through K in the interim.


Dr. Sketch-n-Etch

I think it's important to realize that (notwithstanding the absence of a particular set of voltage standards in euro) a modular synth made up of a collection of modules from different manufacturers is no more or less "cohesive" and no more or less an "instrument" than one made up of modules from just one manufacturer.

...unless, of course, the look of the panel is your chief concern.


polyroy

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
I think it's important to realize that (notwithstanding the absence of a particular set of voltage standards in euro) a modular synth made up of a collection of modules from different manufacturers is no more or less "cohesive" and no more or less an "instrument" than one made up of modules from just one manufacturer.

...unless, of course, the look of the panel is your chief concern.


True, I didn't mean it in a broad sense for everyone, mainly how I feel when using Euro rigs. If it works for most people and it feels like an instrument to them, then that's all good as long as they enjoy using it!


xpander

i like my Buchla to be Buchla, but then i threw a euro case next to it with some format jumbling and it was an explosion of new flavors. so i sort of embrace both.


goom

I think this is why Moog decided to make the Minimoog. Limiting a synth's functionality to a few select modules makes it easier to use. The shortcoming is that you lose...err... functionality.


gwaidan

I built a Shruthi-1 last month, and it's been a revelation. It's just a fun cute little box that can be plugged in and sound great straightaway, with plenty of complexity (in the mod matrix and integrated sequencer) available for later if I want it.


Isaiah

AntManBee
+1
I've been thinking along the same lines recently.


Isaiah

polyroy wrote:
Yup, your post makes a lot of sense to me and this is why my Euro rig consists of one manufacturer only and will remain that way. It feels like a growing entity, but still an instrument as a whole. It's the first time my Euro setup has really felt like this and I enjoy using it more.



Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
I think it's important to realize that (notwithstanding the absence of a particular set of voltage standards in euro) a modular synth made up of a collection of modules from different manufacturers is no more or less "cohesive" and no more or less an "instrument" than one made up of modules from just one manufacturer.

...unless, of course, the look of the panel is your chief concern.



polyroy wrote:
True, I didn't mean it in a broad sense for everyone, mainly how I feel when using Euro rigs. If it works for most people and it feels like an instrument to them, then that's all good as long as they enjoy using it!



I agree with both of you.

But, one manufacturer may have a certain philosophy/attitude/personal taste towards design or use of their modules,
which means that there will often be complementary elements throughout the modules in their product line.

Some users simply find that this philosophy/attitude and/or the modules that are the products of this, particularly resonate with them.
Would you say that's right, Polyroy?

I suppose the same thing with people with exclusively Malekko/Wiard modulars.
And, Dr. Sketch-n-Etch, I'm sure the same would be true of your circuits (and Danjel's own) manufactured by Intellijel, but their size permits them to be put just about anywhere in any euro modular (or indeed, allows plenty space for other modules to be placed into an otherwise exclusively-Intellijel modular hihi ).

I don't know if I'm explaining myself very well.


Drumdrumdrumdrum

Indeed, the OP is very clever and deserves to be praised for his vocabulary and his wit.

However, just stating a paradox for the sake of it does not make it a given. For something to be limited by it's limitless is a broad stroke witty statement but needs to be explained beyond the comical syntax for one to ever agree with it being true or false. Also much more explanation needs to be given by the OP to the definition of words like, fixity, integrity, flexibility and fondness.

Based on this argument I must completely disagree. As a drummer of 30 years I have spent my life devoted to a hetrogenit instrument. A younger musician starting out these days may not even realize that the modern drum kit is a eclectic combination of World instruments. As the drum kit evolved it seem to settle on a regular combination that we now see as part of every popular band on the World stage today. In the early development of the drum kit the idea of limiting it to just a few instruments that we see today was not considered. It was all about adding more and more to get as many sounds as humanly playable.

It is still very early days for Eurocrack and who is to say what the Euro rig of the future will look like in 10 or 50 years time? The primary reason I choose Euro is for it's size and huge choice. The huge choice makes it difficult to, well,.......choose, but that is where this community becomes such a wonderful resource.

One of the great things about choice is not variety but, rather, competition. Not capitalist type competition, but communal, comradery that spurs each other onto greater excellence and innovation.

Finally, I hardly would call a guitar rig homogeneitic. There are so many parts of the audio chain that contribute and effect the sound of a Les Paul. True, that if you put a Les Paul DI into a clean pre with no EQ it will pretty much always sound the same but, honestly, who dose that?

Holy crap I can spew out some bullshit.....thanks. Rockin' Banana!


Chuck E. Jesus

Eno said he thinks of a studio as one big instrument, so there's that...


Soy Sos

Chuck E. Jesus wrote:
Eno said he thinks of a studio as one big instrument, so there's that...

That's kind of my feeling. I like my Euro for all I can do, the 2600 for its strengths and something singular, beautiful and expressive like a M'bira or a Tabla.


lizlarsen

I struggle with this too! With my own Euro modules, they are more of a subsystem though, and I consider my system design approach more as a complete instrument.

I like the fact that several manufacturers are (or are close to) offering complete complements of modules (Pittsburgh, Makenoise, Harvestman, Malekko/Wiard etc.). Aesthetically I really like the idea of having these modules on their own rows or in separate cases -- and then the fact that they can all share signals fluidly is simply an extra bonus! When I branch out into buying more audio modules, this is probably the route I will take.

In pictures I've seen though, swapping everything out to share the same knobs and having modules that are all black-on-silver does loads for making Euro look and feel like it's all the same system.

In any case, for me, I feel like it is primarily an aesthetic thing.


snufkin

I have purposefully built a specific instrument I wanted in euro (partly because eventually I want to move in to euro video as well)

It's only 6u and I haven't finished getting all the modules I want yet but I have limited my self to one case and a particular set of goals

of course I can patch many other functionality's I will use less often than the ones I designed it to do, which is a bonus

it only uses doepfer, make noise and mfb so far

it's really started to feel like an instrument to me tho seriously, i just don't get it


fac

How about this: instead of a big ass system, why not have various smaller systems, each of them independent enough to function by itself (so you can travel with it, gig with it, or sit in the couch with it), but in the studio they can play together.

I mean, I love my big 80-space MU system, but I would be lying if I said I don't find it overwhelming sometimes. Although there are many interesting new modules coming out, I feel I'd rather start a new smaller system (probably in a different format) than making that monster even bigger. In contrast, my petit euro system looks at me and says "Fuck that big guy over there. Come have some fun with me, or lets make a threesome with the Korg ER-1."

I love both systems, but one really has to stop reading about new modules and spend some time thinking about one really wants from a modular synth. I've just recently reached that point, but it took a while, and it took some determination to avoid buying modules just because of their coolness factor or a false sense of need.

That said, I'm proud to say I haven't sold a single module yet.


bouzoukijoe1

The grass is always greener on the other side.

Drumdrumdrumdrum wrote:


Based on this argument I must completely disagree. As a drummer of 30 years I have spent my life devoted to a hetrogenit instrument. A younger musician starting out these days may not even realize that the modern drum kit is a eclectic combination of World instruments. As the drum kit evolved it seem to settle on a regular combination that we now see as part of every popular band on the World stage today. In the early development of the drum kit the idea of limiting it to just a few instruments that we see today was not considered. It was all about adding more and more to get as many sounds as humanly playable.

Finally, I hardly would call a guitar rig homogeneitic. There are so many parts of the audio chain that contribute and effect the sound of a Les Paul. True, that if you put a Les Paul DI into a clean pre with no EQ it will pretty much always sound the same but, honestly, who dose that?



+1

comparing a homogenous system to a heterogenous system according to the standards of the homogenous system is by default, unfair. you can easily argue it the other way around by saying any homogenous system is limited by the ideas of the original inventor and his/her influences which is not as good compared to a heterogenous system influenced by many different sources. there are always pros and cons to each.

also I don't understand how the OP can say that "euro is the most useful and versatile instrument" while at the same time saying it is "innately unsatisfying". the statement sounds very conflicted. if a musician finds an instrument useful and versatile, doesn't that mean that the instrument has *satisfied* the musicians various needs? this more than anything, makes it sound like the OP has issues with finding the value in a heterogenous system (with all its flaws and advantages). for example, you can cannot compare a small city like Burlington Vermont with a big city like New York. of course it's ok to prefer Burlington for its more pleasant lifestyle, but you can't criticize New York for being what it is. it just comes with the territory.

and the term "characterless" used to describe euro IMHO is completely inaccurate. maybe what was really meant was "multi-character". there's a big difference between having a singular character vs. having lots of different character vs. not having any character at all.

I will argue that many different euro companies -- like Make Noise, Intellijel, Malekko, Pittsburgh, 4ms, Doepfer, for ex -- have very very strong character if you look at all of their modules. there is definitely a brand essence that each company successfully maintains from module to module. I don't mean to offend, but if there is any flaw, it is not the heterogenous quality of euro, but in the inability of a musician to embrace its heterogeneity.


AntManBee

A couple of points of clarification (and sorry I wasn't clearer in ther OP but it was a struggle to get my thoughts into words).

When I wrote that euro is, to me, inately unsatisfying, I meant in the sense that it's never complete or 'finished' unlike an instrument of fixed form so that satisfaction is always just out of reach (like life).

When I wrote that euro has no character, I didn't mean that the individual modules were characterless, which clearly isn't the case, but that, because it's not a single entity, it doesn't have a single character like the examples I gave of a Les Paul or an MS-20.

I didn't intend in the OP to state anything as a fact - it was a musing based on my feelings about euro which I wondered if anyone shared.


fac

AntManBee wrote:

When I wrote that euro is, to me, inately unsatisfying, I meant in the sense that it's never complete or 'finished' unlike an instrument of fixed form so that satisfaction is always just out of reach (like life).


This was more or less the point of my previous post. It doesn't have to be that way.

One is easily tempted to keep adding and swapping modules til infinity, but if one takes some time to plan and has some determination, it is certainly possible for a modular system to reach a "finished" state. I'm waiting for the last batch of modules for my 6U euro to arrive, and then it will be finished. And it's just the system I planned and designed before I bought anything. I did consider changing one of the modules but due to the circumstances, I ended up buying the module I originally planned.

Not that this 6U system is finished, I'm considering adding a third row in the future, but only for very specific tasks. It does not make the current system unfinished or less satisfying.

My big MU system wasn't as well-planned (well, it was at first but then it blew up), but I also took the time to think about what I wanted/needed from it, and decided at which point it would be finished. I will add 3 more modules (which have already been chosen) and that will be it.

Now that both systems are finished, it is extremely satisfying and relieving. I can just use the synths and talk about using the synths, instead of constantly debating myself about which module will be next, when will I buy it, and from where will I get the money to buy it. I seriously expect not to buy any new modules in one or two years.

I know I'm an addict, though, and sooner or later I will start buying again. But it will probably be a new system with a specific aim and a preset plan. Something that can also reach a finished state in a year or two. Or maybe I'll just go with a small complete system in a new format, like a Buchla Skylab (assuming I win the lottery).


polyroy

Isaiah wrote:


Some users simply find that this philosophy/attitude and/or the modules that are the products of this, particularly resonate with them.
Would you say that's right, Polyroy?


Yeah pretty much man. Like I said before, I wasn't trying to say 'modulars with mixed manufacturers aren't instruments' but using modules from one manufacturer feels like more of a complete system to me. I've had mixtures of Doepfer, Malekko, Cwejman, Plan B, Makenoise and Livewire in my Euro systems before and while they always gave me great results, I found that it never felt like like a synth as a whole, more an amalgamation of just bits and bobs crammed together.

I think it's probably aesthetic reasons as well, as I have quite bad OCD for certain things, but I've found I enjoyed my system the most when it was all Doepfer and what it is now - all Plan B.

The modules seem to interact together so nicely and it also gives me a more focused approach to building my system, by focusing on one brand, whereas I used to always be thinking 'oh what modules would work well in my system' as in reality most things available in Euro is fucking awesome. Also, I'm not building my modular to replace every function I could have in a studio, as I like having different bits of equipment to work with.

This is just what works for me though, as long as people are happy with their system (whatever it may consist of), then that's all good.

The Eno quote is great though and I do agree with it wholeheartedly.


jonah

AntManBee wrote:

When I wrote that euro is, to me, inately unsatisfying, I meant in the sense that it's never complete or 'finished' unlike an instrument of fixed form so that satisfaction is always just out of reach (like life).

When I wrote that euro has no character, I didn't mean that the individual modules were characterless, which clearly isn't the case, but that, because it's not a single entity, it doesn't have a single character like the examples I gave of a Les Paul or an MS-20.

I didn't intend in the OP to state anything as a fact - it was a musing based on my feelings about euro which I wondered if anyone shared.


fac wrote:

one really has to stop reading about new modules and spend some time thinking about one really wants from a modular synth.
Agreed. I got super sick of wanting new things for novelty's sake and what I did was write down my musical goals and areas where I was stuck either in the process or sonically and unless I can realistically tie something into those goals I let it go.

A thought I had a while back is that some people use modulars to get to where they want to go and some people use them to go where they never imagined. The thing is, I don't think you can build a system that excels at both.

Personally, I've taken a step back from the modules until I've saved enough to get what I have envisioned. 18 modules in a pyramid shape, mostly filters. I don't really know why other than it came to me in a dream and it was making incredible music.

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