Continuing with the patch I've been using lately - the core of which is the 266 and a single 259 - while directing the experiment toward including "movements" (7, in this instance) within a single self-playing recording:

And from Saturday - two takes of the same Self-Playing sequence (or rather, with two patch cables added for the slower, second take). This experiment deviates from a standard sequence with nested loops through the use of second external clock source under the influence of random values also advancing the 250e. Some reverb added in protools:


4-H Club (in response to a drawing)

Golden Blizzard - an artist collective of which I am a member - was recently selected to participate in More Mergers & Acquisitions on display December 10, 2009 - February 14, 2010 at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. Seeing that the collective has something of a history of self-celebration and operates at times like a recirculating delay line overdriven with feedback, we decided to each reinterpret a single arbitrary, older piece of work for the show.

Golden Blizzard
4-H Club, 2006
22 x 30 inches

Although I had originally planned on a different approach, in the end I chose to respond by recording a piece with the Buchla and reformat one of the solid state audio players I created for the most recent Golden Blizzard show (seen here). Below is a photograph of the finished player installed in the gallery:

Jason R. Butcher
4-H Club, 2009

And of course, the track itself - All Buchla 200, with processing/editing by way of ProTools:

The show opens December 10, 8-10PM.
Although I've spoiled the surprise as to my own work - I'm sure my Blizzmates' work will amaze and stimulate you.


11.27.09 Self-Playing Recordings

I spent most of the day leading up to the evening performance with Don Hassler at Railroad Earth (excerpted here) developing a Self-Playing patch that could be deviated from for the show. Most notable between these two recordings, the performance excerpt, and "A Difficult Embouchure" (recorded two days later) are changes to control of the Lopass Gate and function generator patching. My goal with each of these patches, was to avoid the easiest solution - some method of randomly addressing 250e stages. In these 11.27 recordings, a pair of function generators controlled aspects of the 266, which were fed back to the 281, as well as to the 259s. I scaled back further for "Embouchure" which began as an experiment to see with how few cables I could achieve a sufficiently interesting Self-Playing structure - but instead led to the elimination the function generators and gating altogether, instead using a rapidly changing fluctuating random voltage to pulse the quantized and distributed sections of the 266 patched to a single 259.

The video, of a descent in the elevator of Smith Tower in Seattle, seemed to be a fitting match and a fun way to deliver a Self-Playing track. Seeing that Self-Playing work is relatively valueless in the time domain, the counting down of the floors here seemed to me to function nicely in place of any discernible dynamic in the overall recording. Thus you know - at least approximately - when you may expect it to end.


A Difficult Embouchure

A Self-Playing Experiment for the Buchla 259 & 266 only.

As evident in the photo, a great deal of feedback occurring between various sections of the 266, with outputs coupled to all voltage controlled parameters of the 259.
A warped woodwind awaits:


Holy Terror

Unlike the first few weeks (or even months) after my 200 came to life (01.09) - which saw me running through some of the vast timbres the instrument is capable of with great abandon - I've been spending my time lately trying to examine subtle properties within the instrument and develop greater proficiency in playing and composing with it.

This often takes the form of small exercises.

I turned my attention this Saturday once again to the 221, and after concentrating for some time on the touchplate surface itself, I settled upon the joystick - or 2D voltage source as it is described on the panel. The initial purpose was to try to develop accurate control when using it in instances where it affects pitch - that is to say where any mis/use might be easily distinguishable by the listener. Seeing that the entire 221 moves laterally (to provide a proportional voltage output which one could use for vibrato, etc), one has to be careful when moving the joystick not to shift the entire surface of the 221.

In any case here is what resulted from the latest exercises - I offer you Holy Terror:

The track is comprised of three takes. In each, I gradually decreased the Y coordinate of the 221's joystick, while using my other hand to modulate stereo placement of both 207 panning channels via the lateral CV output. The joystick's Y axis CV was patched to the Primary Osc of a single 259. Amplitude modulation was being provided by the Modulation Osc, which was in turn phase-locked to the Primary Osc. The timbre section was being altered through some arbitrary 250e/266 strobe addressing (the details of which I can't quite recall). The Primary Osc output is fed to a 292 channel (set to combo - knob at 100%), and sent to a panning channel of the 207 and a 275 channel with the send/return directly connected. This 275 mix output was then sent to the other 207 panning channel.


The Original Electronic Book?

The story as I understand it, and this is painfully paraphrased from Don Hassler's telling of the story in detail, is that at one point in time Carter Thomas constructed this Serge himself during a course at CalArts instructed by Serge Tcherepnin, around 1972. Morton Subotnick had devised this synthesizer construction course in order to get electronic instruments under the students control earlier rather than later in their studies.

I've been hesitant in the past when Don has offered to loan the Serge to me, as it has the sort of aged appearance which at first just spelled F-A-I-L-U-R-E. Don explained the system briefly, and upon hearing that two outputs multed to a single input could destroy a module, I immediately felt even more anxious about interacting with it. Then Don rather casually opened the Serge and in no time, using only a few patchcords, he had a rather raw VCO being modulated by an audio-rate slew generator patched directly to some such by way of etc. The sound was a lot larger than I was expecting (an understatement), and once he got into the filter (of which there are four), I had come around and was interested in borrowing it. Leaving my only worry where I could find space for it.

It wasn't long after I arrived home with the Serge that I felt the impulse to at least hear a little of what it was capable of (under my limited understanding and therefore control). I began patching and before long, I had already passed several interesting sounds along the way. I paused and called Don to thank him. I really enjoyed that first recording, and was feeling stupid for underestimating the machine so egregiously.

Naturally I had read about Serge Modulars over the years as the most practical alternative to a Buchla. However whenever I would examine them online, I didn't find the instrument's interface engaging enough. This particular system is unique however - the paper front panels are oddly charming - the entire case gives the impression of a giant book - The knobs, inconsistent and most of them with little blobs of paint to indicate their positions, kept giving me the false impression I had taken my glasses off. The entire system is practically devoid of textual indicators that, once the associated annoyance wore off, was an unexpected freedom.

I ended up recording four segments in roughly 1.5 hours, with only a few minutes for breaks between takes. They are by no means incredible individually or entirely, but I post one here as an incomplete demonstration of the myriad of sounds this system is capable of generating:

Serge1.mp3 - 20:00

I was particularly amazed by the weird trumpet sound that comes in behind the intro waveform in the first minute. This recording commenced just after I switched the power on and got a basic patch running for the first time.