New track: “Se Pivoti”

This is a new 19-minute track accompanied by a video I shot in December 2019.

There’s a shorter version of the track that’s currently a pay-what-you-want item on Bandcamp. Price will be raised to US$1 on or shortly after January 1, 2021.

Here’s hoping for a vastly improved 2021.

Thanks for listening.

Another Mono Retreat

View from the patio of my temporary Mono Lake abode (from December 2019).

In early December, I spent a week at my favorite place, Mono Lake.

The weather, for 7700 feet high-desert elevation at the eastern foot of the Sierra, in early December, was disturbingly mild. I was hoping for cloudy days and some snow, but there was none of the latter and little of the former. I did a lot of reading, writing, taking photos and videos, offroading in my truck, some volunteer work, and relaxing (somewhat).

I also spent some time working with the Korg wavestate, tweaking programs, recording, and tracking and processing some existing stuff.

What Month Is It?

Mono Lake, December 2018. Shot with an iPhone 7 by Paul.

Now for sale on Bandcamp — “What Month Is It?”, a track recorded on cassette in 1988 in a frumpy ground-floor townhouse rental in Davis, CA. I think this might’ve been one of the few things I worked on that didn’t cause the upstairs neighbors to bang on the floor.

Scrolling, cursoring, taking notes

A couple months back I traded in the defective Modal Electronics Argon8 for a Korg wavestate. The latter isn’t especially easy to learn, with a lot of menu-diving involved.

The stock “performances” that were oh-so-cinematic in the YouTube wavestate demos turned out to be, with few exceptions, not so alluring after a few listens; I spent last evening scrolling through program presets and making a list of favorites.

I’ve also been working on learning the ins and outs (and sends and inserts and returns and busses) on a new Mackie 1642VLZ4 mixer. Initial forays include incorporating blends from three different Buddha Machines, as well as continuing to digitize long-neglected Funharm cassettes dating back to the early-to-mid-eighties.

Funharm track on Bedroom Cassette Masters 1980​-​89 Volume X

Today Bedroom Cassette Masters released a free (well, pay-what-you-like) compilation on Bandcamp entitled 1980​-​89 Volume X that has some very snazzy PDF liner notes.

It also has a contribution from Funharm — track 13, “Ideal Planes”, from 1985. A portion of said PDF snazziness is screengrabbed above.

Thank you to Bedroom Cassette Masters for including my song, tracking down highlights from 80s (and 80s-influenced) home-recorded electronics, and putting together an impressive package.

KORG Poly-800 softsynth from Full Bucket Music

fury800I still have my Poly-800, and it still works fine, right down to the noisy 256-note sequencer. My dad lent me the money to buy it in 1985 — I got one with the reversed keys, of course.

A lot of stuff was recorded on it that remains unreleased; “Ideal Planes” was probably one of the more listenable things I came up with, but I’m still going through cassettes from that era, and finding other segments and experiments that may be of interest.

I downloaded the the free version of the softsynth emulation this morning, though, because

“[It] raises the stakes slightly by offering two DCOs per voice – on the original, this was only possible when using the Double mode, which halved the polyphony. You can choose from two waveforms and each oscillator has additive harmonics ((16′, 8′, 4′, 2′).

Elsewhere, there’s a low-pass VCF, Noise, three envelope generators and a pseudo-stereo chorus effect. Enhancements in comparison to the original hardware include up to 64 voices of polyphony, and a ‘God Mode’ for real polyphony. The interface might seem a little fiddly, but MIDI Learn means that all parameters can be tweaked using a controller.” (from Music Radar)

Although I haven’t used the plug-in yet, I look forward to that extra DCO without the stolen polyphony. I’ll report back.

Firmware update via Modal app apparently fried the USB port on my Argon8

This is what I’d ba seeing on my laptop if I could still connect via USB. Photo courtesy Sound On Sound

Earlier this month I lugged my new Argon8 wavetable synthesizer to Mono Lake to do some recording.  I hooked it up via USB to my laptop, and fired up the Modal app for some patch editing. The app informed me a firmware update was available, so I downloaded it.

The synth was updated in less than 90 seconds. No problems.

Except the Modal app and my laptop no longer recognized the USB connection to the Argon8.

I rebooted everything. No luck. The Argon8 didn’t show up in the MIDI panel on the laptop. Hitting “refresh” on the app did nothing. Reinstalling the app did nothing. Running the firmware update again did nothing. The app still couldn’t find the synth.

The synth worked fine. The reason I brought it on the trip, however, was to modify factory patches. It’s reasonably easy with the app, but since the app wasn’t finding the synth, I had to do it the old-fashioned way: twisting knobs and saving custom presets.

I went back and forth with Modal support in the UK over the course of a week. They were patient and helpful, but finally told me they suspected the USB card on the Argon8 was hosed. They admitted this had never happened before. They offered to put me in touch with their US distributor, Voltage, but I never heard from the latter, and I’d already talked with Sweetwater, the reseller who originally shipped me the synthesizer.

There was no delay and no fuss — Sweetwater sent me a new replacement Argon8 immediately, along with a prepaid return label for the defective unit.

All that’s left to do is dump my custom presets as SysEx data so I can load them on the replacement unit when it arrives.

Thank you, Sweetwater (and Modal), for a fairly painless resolution to a situation that could’ve been a much bigger ordeal.

UPDATE (March 25, 2020): Let’s just say the process isn’t / wasn’t as “fairly painless” as I’d hoped. I can’t figure out how to dump the sysex patch data over MIDI without the Modal app — and, apparently, Sweetwater can’t either. Voltage, Modal’s US distributor, and Modal UK aren’t answering support requests. Hope to hear back from at least one of the three entities in the next day or so.

UPDATE (March 26, 2020): Voltage, Modal’s US distributor, didn’t “reach out” as Modal said they would on March 17. I sent Voltage a followup request on March 25, and another on the 26th, with no answer, no acknowledgment or autoreply.

I’d received some info from Sweetwater and, today, finally, Modal (after opening up yet another ticket) regarding getting the patch data off the defective unit using SysEx Librarian. The recommended process seemed like it was missing a step or two, but I tried anyway, in several different ways.

But after hours of various attempts to dump the sysex patch data into a laptop running SysEx Librarian with no luck, I’m giving Modal support one more day to see if they respond with more details. This has been going on since March 10, so it seems I’m jumping through all the requested hoops.

UPDATE (April 17, 2020): I finally got a call back from Voltage on March 30. Two of their employees were sympathetic and helpful over the phone. They offered to have me send back the defective unit, put a new USB card in it, dump the patches I’d made, then send me the patches so I could load them on the new synthesizer. This involved shipping a demo unit from Wisconsin to their office in LA. However, after several attempts to contact them again to work out the shipping address and other details, I got no response. After waiting two weeks I gave up, and returned both the defective Argon8 synth and the replacement for credit at Sweetwater.