|First of all, you should know that there is
a master, stereo mixer, which mixes all the drum and drama
content down into a stereo feed, so you don't need an
Drum and Drama simply means any kind of rhythmic pulsing plus more gestural, soft, or emotional sounds. Thus the instrument is designed for a long performance, cinematic events, to be a major player like the great modular synthesizers of the 20th century which it gets its inspiration from: Arp, Buchla, Serge, and countless nameless inventions that used banana plugs.
The main audio producing modules are five (5), as follows:
|The core, as I said, is rhythmic pulse
machinery based on geometrical concepts of the Rolz-5 drum machine.
Basically, there is a 3-roll and a 4 roll. The 3-roll makes a sort of chaotic paradox sound that is highly reactive to outside influence. The 4-roll is a stable, rhythmic oscillator.
Brown bananas are androgynous pulse nodes. Orange bananas are strict outputs. Blue bananas are strict control inputs, which are labeled with a V for Verso, and an I for Inverso. V means that a positive-going input causes the oscillator to speed up, and I is vice-versa.
Each Roll has a knob to control its rate. The brown jacks, it must be emphasized, are androgynous in that they are both inputs and outputs, which means that a pulse output can be connected here as well as a pulse input. Connecting two brown bananas to each other merges the rhythm of their rolls. The reason there is one orange output per roll, is to provide some information about its state in control voltage format, to modulate other things. Here it should be said that brown bananas deal in negative pulse spikes which are not compatible with control voltage circuitry. Thus, like in the ideas developed by Serge and Buchla, there are really two types of signal: pulse and control, plus audio signals as well.
A green banana "reads" a pulse and inputs it into this module to make it go.
Thus the pulse input for "AVDog is right in its middle. In these following modules, there is a sort of "silohette", which demarcates part of the modules' territories. Here, it is a primitive, "dog" shape. Inside this shape are functions that pertain to what is heard at the mixer. Thus, FM modulation and its associated tuning knob, the audio output banana, and at the "dog's" head, is the pitch knob for the reference oscillator inside. The two knobs outside the dog-shape, one is labeled Q and one not. The unlabeled controls the rate of undulation, how fast the AVDog responds to its pulse input; playing AVDog is about tuning its response. Q also tunes the response. The undulator is responsive to a wide band when Q is down, and when it is up, the undulator is very resonant, like a wave-tank.
A purple banana is for FM input. It has a tuning knob right next to it. A white banana means the literal audio output. for modulating other things. The red banana, here, means the other side of avdog's undulation, its "negative space", a synthesized audio signal available for modulating other things. The blue jacks are control inputs to control this wave-tank, in tandem with its rate knob. The orange banana is the control output of the undulation.
In there, too is a GONZ versus TRAD switch. Start with this on TRAD, and you can turn it off/GONZ later.
The bottom knob sets the base frequency for ultrasound conversion.
Yellow jacks are only here in this module. They are the hottest of all, a pure ultrasound square wave that is the reference for the Nyquist resampler.
You can see by now that hot colors are outputs, and cool colors are inputs.
In there, too is a GONZ versus TRAD switch. Start with this on TRAD, and you can turn it off/GONZ later.
Outside the audio-siloette, besides the green pulse input, is a knob for the "pace" of a gonger, how often he responds to pulse input. This can be viewed as a very slow saw wave form at the orange, control voltage output. There is also a special extra waveform, which is a computed "offbeat", of the same saw-waveshape, as the orange banana. This gray banana is the gong offbeat.
You see, the deerhorn has a built in, two oscillator synthesizer. They used to be hard wired frequency controlled by theta output (orange to purple). Instead, now their are two purple FM inputs, and the possibility to hand wire it. This makes the base tone of deerhorn, a simple two tone straight bellow. That's as your hand moves in towards the antenna and back out again. You must always tune the response first, so that the two leds cross each other at a comfortable range from the antenna. Fine tuning is done with the top knob.
In the bottom cluster of controls, it all has to do with the frequency of the synthesizer. The bottom knob sets the base pitch of both oscillators. The next two knobs are associated with the purple bananas- they are FM tuning knobs. The switch on the stub of the deerhorn, is an orienting switch for the direction of the oscillators. In the middle, it turns them off (for auxiliary inputs)
It also has two tuning capacitors that should be well enough tuned on arrival. You can always tweak it. They are joined by a fine-tuning knob near the tip of the deerhorn, beneath the two white audio outputs. It is stereo, in that it responds two forward and revers movement as two different channels.
Here we go, with the most eclectic module in PLUMBUTTER. That's why I saved it for last. It is an accumulation of ideas about ideal drum machines accumulated in my college days and onwards throughout life. It also reflects the dichotomy of juxtaposition in general, combining two totally different circuits into one form. They do not communicate but you can wire them so.
At the base of the factory, represented by noise/steam, is a snare drum and quantum dust source. It does these two things because, at its cores, for it has two, it is listening to the noisy junction of zeners. This goes on to form the material of an adjustable decay snare drum. The decay is voltage controlled by the blue bananas, the green banana triggers a snare hit. The top knob sets the base decay. Pure analog circuitry. It has a wonderful side function, that it comparates the core noise against a reference voltage (bottom knob and blue bananas). The result can be termed quantum dust- it is quantized into pulses, which can be erratic as you set them, for injecting this "gray material" [gray banana] into other pulse places, inputs, rolls, fm inputs.
Now for the easy part- an eight stage pulse sequencer. The green banana is its clock. The purple is its data input. To recirculate data, connect one of the four orange bananas back to purple. To input data with your thumb, press the buttons on the front. One is called "andoff" and the other is "oron", meaning clear and set bits respectively. This module is very intuitive and if you just use it you will get it, you can see the bits moving up the smokestack. The red bananas are pulse outputs for the first four beats. And on the front face, between the buttons, are two additional green bananas. These supplement the buttons by allowing you to pulse input andoff/oron data automatically.
|GONZ VERSUS TRAD
As I said, start out in TRAD and then move on. This switch strictly affects the audio portion of the onboard synth in each module.
For AVDog, TRAD means FM input makes the oscillator vary in frequency, as a triangle wave, and GONZ means FM input makes the oscillator vary in duty cycle, in a gradient between triangle and saw wave.
For Gongue, TRAD means FM input makes the resonance vary in frequency, as a damped sine wave, and GONZ means FM input makes the resonator vary in timbre, as its phonemes sweep together and apart.
Deerhorn also has a switch which has the same feel of GONZ versus TRAD but without the label. All switches have an off position, which is important for AUXILIARY INPUTS.
on the 3 major modules, each switch has three positions: up, down, and off (middle). you can put it in the middle to turn the module off conveniently, like a mute button. also, in AVDog and Deerhorn, which take program input, putting this switch off allows the program input to have complete throughput with no onboard synthesizer. Gongue needs to be set at gonz or trad, because its auxiliary input goes straight through the audio filter.
Urban, in me, represents a strong sense of rhythm, churned out of machines powered by transformers and electricity which comes from an incinerator, a smokestack. You can see the silhouette of this silo on the left. The factories' product is “beats”, the pulse of urbanity.
These pulses are connected, patched with wire, to suburban “inputs”, to hear them. The beat is there converted into more human-shaped forms, electronic sounds that convey meaning in their resonances. An organo-form matrix of three types of suburban developments: Gong, AV-Dog, and Ultrasound.
Gong represents the palaces of ritual like a gong which signals the entrance of dignitaries, or courses in a special meal. Gong is triggered by an urban beat, but only after pausing for the proper duration of time, and it is the simultaneous action of multiple gongs that creates change-ringing, or hocketing, across a stereo field.
AV-Dog is a complement to Gong in the suburban matrix,and they are both placed together in checkerboard fashion. AV-Dog resonates the urban trigger, like a dancer or a pool of water. Yes, that is more like it- that the urban beat triggers divers who jump into a pool, and create waves there. These waves jostle sonic buoys, which are the output of this development. They show the rate of resonance within the urban product, they are a detector of resonances at the frequencies of human brainwaves.
Ultrasound is wedged in the heart of suburban development. It represents bats, which should be present in a good suburb. They indicate lush foliage, and they eat mosquitoes. And they sing at ultrasonic frequencies, which is what this module is all about- listening to ultrasound.
My wildernesses flanked me, on separate circuit boards, and were not integrated. These deerhorn represent invisible radio fields that sense any movement nearby, and through synthesizer organs, do bellow and rut. The deerhorn were separate and now are integrated in m'plumbutter. Thus it can be said “a system of interstates (power lines) connects Little Italy to a nuclear reactor in the woods.”
A 5-tiered stratification was my republic- Agricultural Cycles, Maritime and Shipping, Ultrasonic Manufacturing Center, Palatial Complices, and Pulsemining. This was my mental map, which contributed to my baroque psycho-geography, along with various utterances from the wilderness- the secret language of the hunter mixed with the sounds of beasts.
This was a baroque time in my development, meaning that the various “twittering machines” that made up my drum machine, they were all tuned to various indigenous frequencies, and there was no common standard. It became a goal to reform this baroque republic into a “Laboratory Roolz-Gewei”, and this means the following:
I am now called Plumbutter, after my designer whose name is “Petroleum Bottle,” and his early encounters with lead (Plumbum) in Cleveland. This name, Plumbutter, is much better than, and encapsulates all of my previous names: Man with the Red Steam (an urban drum beater), Rolz-5 (a drum machine village), Roolz-Gewei (the old republican stratification), and Laboratory Roolz-Gewei (which I am). My name is supremely better than those because it rolls off the tongue well. Think of it as a codename: Plumbutter.
"The Agamemnon Computer"
To make my suburban developments, Petroleum Bottle, took my basic twittering machines that were in my republic, and converted them to voltage controlled, laboratory oscillators and resonators. This was done with the help of interstitial paper circuits called AV-Dog Studio and Gongue Studio. The use of paper circuits is very helpful in prototyping complicated building blocks. Then this relatively expansive design was folded down over itself to create my organic suburban footprints. The final module has a sort of pocket in the middle, which is reserved for the special trigger input jack, which is green.
If you want to understand something about 70s suburbs, you must understand industrial color relationships. Prior to the 20th century, color theories derived from natural sources, such as vegetable pigments and looking at rainbows. The mystic thinker, Rudolph Steiner, named seven (7) colors that make up our plane of existence, including “violet” as the highest note of spiritual resonance. But none of these spectra contained the idea of “black” or “white” or “gray” as colors. In the twentieth century, however, we have plastic manufacturing, which can easily create these “colors”. Thus the makers of Johnson Banana Jacks provide ten (10) standard hues: Red, Black, White, Green, Orange, Yellow, Brown, Blue, Violet, and Grey. It is thus a central tactic of suburban planning to use all of these colors in the overall plan.
Inputs are cool colors, such as blue, violet, and green. Outputs are hot colors: orange, red, and yellow. Audio outputs are white. Ground is always reserved as the black banana jack. Grey has a special meaning, as noise or another kind of off-beat or rebellious signal. It is a sort of special sauce, designed to cause the drum machine to diverge from normalcy. Brown is a mixture of hot and cool colors (red and green), so it represents special, androgynous nodes, sections of the urban beat that can be “circuit bent” to each other.
This montage is about “drum versus drama”. At the beach, the drummer Tommy Lee carries a boogey board, and juts his chin, while Pamela Anderson looks inwards with blonde hair unfurled over her breasts and panty-line. Over and behind the coupling, are the black-light doping patterns for three silicon chips used in the drum-machine. 4015 is the ocean in the background, that says “DIMENSIONS MAY DIFFER, CONTACT YOUR SALES OFFICE”. 4013, dual flip-flop is Tommy Lee, and 40106 hex trigger as Pamela. They were chosen purely based on form- 40106 as asymmetrical and sensuous. 4013 as tattoed, primal and jutting. This montage helped me create a mental image of the dialectic between drum and drama, and relate it to the silicon chips that function in the machine.
The deerhorn module went through several revisions on paper over about five years. When I say "on paper", the circuits were actually printed and built on long paper boards. The circuits were long because of the essential nature of a radio field, which requires spacing from other radio fields. Thus, the deerhorn design has two radio fields, which must be separated by a long space of other circuitry that is not at radio frequency, such as normal analog processes.
Deerhorn began as a simple heterodyne circuit not unlike that of the theremin, and a gestural enveloping circuit that ensured the instrument only sounds with movement, and is silent at stillness. Then I added more apparatus onto this circuit- a frequency to voltage converter derived from the theremin tone, a gestural resonator of this varying voltage, and finally, a phase locked loop circuit which responds most sensitively to the finest movements.
Throughout this development period, the concept of deerhorn was developed in symbols and indeed, in text, on the circuit board. It forms a psycho-geographical map of the hunt for deer: a hunter blows a horn to beckon deer, he searches for mast, the food of deer, and listens for their rutting calls in the woods. He is seeking to bleed a deer and open it up. In the shamanic traditions of North Korea, a fox seen in the woods is quite a bad thing, for it can mean possession and/or mental disolution. These "foxes" did not appear at all like the English fox, but rather as a sort of maggot/brain floating in midair, semi-transparent as a ghost would be.
The fox is a symbol of the psychological terrors associated with deep woods. The hunter, having succeeded in securing a slab of deer meat, to eat in his cabin in the woods, he also kept the deerhorn. These he will use as symbols of his virility, and to construct strong tools and to use as a finish on musical instruments.
In Mexico, hunting for "deer" literally means to hunt for peyote, a psychadelic cactus. You can see that there is a field of meaning around deer and the woods, that is used to proxy for other, more sublime concepts. In Germany, a hunter speaks a secret language of false-meanings, intended to fool the forest into yielding deer-prey. These words were printed en masse on the circuit boards and explained with symbols- noise is the internal organs of a deer once it is opened, sweat is the blood which is shed from the deer, organing is the sound of deer in heat and rutting, and noise-syncronization is to imitate these sounds.
And finally, we have the deerhorn rack itself, what can we say about the shape of two deerhorn, arching out from a central plexus of hair and brain? One imagines the tips of the horns have an invisible electric charge that helps the deer sense its way through the woods, and find other deer. That is the analogy that is directly carried into the deerhorn instrument- sensing movement by modulation of an invisible field around an antenna.
I often wrestle with
words about what I do. I build synthesizers out of wood
and circuits, so I spend just as much time with saw as
with the soldering iron. But this term, “build
synthesizers”, does not cover the conceptual and indeed
philosophical processes involved in designing the
instruments. In face, it takes about as much time to
design a run of synths as it takes to then build them
for a few years. And between the doxis and praxis
there is also the wonderful moment of synthesis, when
all the planning and prototyping lessons learned are
integrated and encased for the first time in a wooden
coffin. One does in fact “synthesize a synthesizer”.
An example of a problem
in synthesynthesis is that of knob orientation.
The iconoclastic clockwise means that any user has been
trained to expect more in that direction. Wanting more
bass, intuitively turn it up clockwise. Wanting a
higher frequency, turn it up clockwise. You can
see that a synthesynthesist must be wary of the
handedness of controls.
In the Plumbutter, all
knobs work in this clockwise direction- you can turn up
the speed, or q, or frequency, by turning the knob
clockwise. Plumbutter is a map of a city, starting
from the inside and going out, so to fully traverse the
city, you need a dual plumbutter. And a dual
plumbutter can only be constructed by rotating by
degrees, keeping the factories in the middle and the
deerhorns on the outside. So one is rotated, but
its knobs still work in the typical clockwise-more
topic is called "boustrephodon" after the Ancient Greek
method of writing on parchment, "as the cow turns the
field". In ancient times, it was not known which
direction to write, from left or right, so they did
both. Instead of picking up the pen at the end of
the line, they just wrote backwards on the next line,
thinking this to be more efficient. On the Plumbutter,
the vector in to the city, when it becomes a vector out,
the modules are read backwards.
Within the suburban
modules there is a nested boustrephodon, as the modules
rotate around an invisible point, and half are upside
down. The logic is to propagate a "boustrephodon"
type thought-process that would carry over to the macro
level, making a dual Plumbutter not so alien in the
obverse suburbs. This is so necessary to have the
psycho-geography be consistent- factories must stay in
the core, and deerhorn at the periphery, especially
since the deerhorn antennae (not seen here) are on the
farthest edge of the case.
What a nice unit.
I hope that this talk on synthesynthesis topics inspires
you to seek them out as a highest priority in your
designs, to not think only on the short term but try to
envision how things will all fit together in the
Where my father dealt
with water and the lungs and surgery cuts bloody red,
TIPS N TRICKS
Here is a diagram of the various orange voltages available at modules. These are intended to be low frequency modulators, that mutate the machine in a gestural way.