A Cumbersome Feedback
Tue Jan 01, 1019 · 413 words



cum·ber·some -
/ˈkəmbərsəm/

In Fall 2018, I took a class at NYU with no other than Morton Subotnick - one of the first electronic-music giants, and a multimedia performance genius (were talking about early 60’s). Morton was a pioneer in experimenting and composing with audio-signals and control-voltage(CV) “machines”. One of these machines (which Morton was a part of the development team) is the Buchla modular-synth.

(Buchla 200-e)

Created by Don Buchla, this marvelous west-coast synth is a factory for pure sound synthesis. Buchla took the CV (control-voltage) and the modulations to a much higher level, thus allowing the new-born genre to evolve and reach out to musicians and sound engineers everywhere.

I hope that’s enough intro, so I can move on to the work itself…

The Feedback loop is one of the supporting pillars of modular synthesis, and the Buchla is wielding it like a battle-axe. You take one end of the pipe, and “meld” it to another pipes system (or back to the same one).
This turns the sound modulation and generation to be an ever changing spectrum of musical expressions.

So, I decided to take this feedback idea and see what happens if you make a loop that goes through different dimensions.

Analog => Digital => Physical => Analog

i.e.

Record sound transitions from the Buchla,
Create a 3D representation of the transitions,
Carve the 3D transition in the CNC router-mill,
Record the CNC while it carves the piece,
Feedback the recordings to the envelope-follower module in the Buchla.

The steps:

  1. Record sound transitions from the Buchla - I decided on 2 transitions: Sine wave - pitch shift

    Timbre - frequency shift

  2. In Processing - draw the waveforms and take “snapshots” of the beginning and the end of the transition -

  3. Create the 3D representations -

  4. Carve the transitions in the CNC, and record the sounds -

    Transition 1 - Sine pitch-shift Transition 2 - Timbre frequency-shift
  1. Feed the audio from the CNC to the envelope-follower in the Buchla -

So, here are the CNC sounds modulating the patch at the Buchla

(This is what we’re here for)


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