(no)poem creative limitations: Modular/Looper/Max/Beatstep Meets Octatrack/Blofeld/Lemur

Darwin and mark


In my last post, I mentioned the formation of a collaboration with Darwin Grosse called  (no)poem. When we where putting this project together a few months back we started by defining a set of creative limitations which would inform the art for our first mini-tour through Lincoln and to Des Moines.  

We created this set of limitations:

  1. Desktop only
  2. No keys
  3. No laptops
  4. No synced clocks
  5. No sampling of each other's output


For Darwin, this meant a modular-centered rig:

For me this meant an Octatrack-centered rig:

  • Electron Octatrack
  • Waldorf Blofeld Desktop with custom presets from init, custom wavetables, and custom samples as oscillator sources via License SL
  • Instrumentality for Blofeld are via a custom Lemur patch on iPad (USB Midi with Camera Kit) and Octatrack (MIDI)


Different rigs and different workflows yield different results of course. A hardware focus means our eyes are free to focus on graphical scores (more on this in a future post) and paying attention to each other's body language. No keyboards means we have to use knobs, buttons sliders, cables, visual feedback from hardware, and in my case, physics and multi-touch through the Lemur interfaces. Again, this changes the creative result - especially when playing tonal passages without being restricted by a 12-tone keyboard interface.


If you've been following along here on Modulate This! you know I've gone deep with both the Octatack and the Blofeld for many years now so this upcoming tour is the culmination of a lot of work to create expressive workflows around these instruments. 


Stay tuned for more detailed posts on how I'm using Octatrack (see dedicated category), Blofeld (see dedicated category), and Lemur. I'll also do some posts on working with grphical scores and free-running clocks.

Lastly, tune into to Darwin's new blog All Things Modular to learn more about his rig and artistic process.

Introducing (no)poem - A New Collaboration with Darwin Grosse + Heartland 2015 Tour


Things have been a little quite over here at Modulate This! HQ because I've been super busy working with my my good friend Darwin Grosse to form a new duo called (no)poemStay tuned for some upcoming behind-the-scenes posts where I'll share some insights into how we put the duo together as well as some notes on the tech and artistic elements of the our upcoming tour. For now here is a little background on the project.

For those who don't know Darwin, he is director of education and customer services for Cycling ’74 (Max). He is the  creator and host of the art+music+technologypodcast. Darwin also launched a brand new blog called All Things Modular.

We're striking out from Boulder on a mini-tour of the Heartland.

Sonic Encounters Episode 004 Features Brand New Piece - "A Day In The Life Of A Krell Technician"


This next soundscape in Episode 004 is a 20 minute long soundscape. One thing I love about the podcast format is I can present these longer form works that you can listen to as you go about your day. If you need to pause the show, you can pick up where you left off.

So thanks to all of you who subscribed to the podcast in iTunes. If you haven't subscribed click here to Subscribe now on iTunes so you never miss an episode. Please leave a rating or review if you are enjoying the podcast. If you use a different podcatcher, paste this RSS link.

On to Episode 004...

Episode 004 A Day In The Life Of A Krell Technician

A Brand New 20 Minute Original Soundscape

To learn more about this episode visit the Soundscape Journal Page here.




Thanks for listening,

Mark Mosher

Announcing My New Soundscape Podcast - Sonic Encounters

It's been quite a while since I've posted on Modulate This! - but I've been working on a major project that I'm happy to announce today. 

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/15061316/4138646d-a20c-47b5-8cd8-a9d0ca859e83.png

For years and years I've wanted to launch a podcast featuring my original works. I'm excited to announce the day has come and I've launched Sonic Encounters: Soundscapse from the Sounds Around Us. Through the podcast I'll be bringing you original compositions and improvisations.

Subscribe now on iTunes so you never miss an episode. Also, it would help me out if you leave a positive rating and review of the site while you are there :^)

If you use a different podcatcher, paste this RSS link .

Companion Web Site with Soundscape Journal Gallery

Sonic Encounters is much more than a podcast though. It has dedicated web site with soundscape journals - http://sonicencounters.com

Episode 4 Coming Soon...

I have a brand new 20 minute piece teed up for Episode 4 which will be launching in a few days.

Tell Your Friends

If you enjoy Sonic Encounters, use the links below to tell you friends.

Mark Mosher



My New Cinematic Electronic Soundscape Marooned Now Available

Marooned Cover 600 - Mark Mosher

Marooned is Now Available

A Bandcamp exclusive with high-quality download in MP3, FLAC... includes digital booklet PDF containing 16 pages of liner notes, photos, and graphical score.

I'm super excited to announce my new album Marooned is now available. This soundscape is in the same universe and is a prequel to my alien invasion concept album series Reboot, I Hear Your Signals, and Fear Cannot Save Us. Unlike the first three albums which contained shorter composed and often groove-based songs, this album contains a single long-form recording combining electronic tonalities and abstract expressionist music. See detailed description below. Watch for future posts on the making of Marooned.

You can listen to and buy the album at https://markmosher.bandcamp.com/album/marooned.

Enjoy and please tell your friends. 

About Marooned

Marooned is an original cinematic electronic soundscape. I think of it as a score for a film yet to be made. An Earth ship crashes on a massive moon and the only hope for the crew's survival is making it across a harsh landscape to an alien outpost for a first, and uninvited, encounter.

This work is an example of live sonic storytelling and was recorded in one pass (with no prerecorded sequences, overdubs, or edits) after weeks of improvising and rehearsal.

Instrumentation: 90% Nord Lead 4 Synthesizer (performance instrument with all original signature sounds), 5% Octatrack (performance sampler for original field recordings/samples and on-the-fly sequencing), and 5% Tenori-On (performance instrument and on-the-fly sequencing). 

0:00 Approach
0:59 System Failure
1:30 Crash, Ejection, Blackout

2:08 Regaining Consciousness
4:14 Being Scanned

5:06 The Traverse

7:10 Point of No Return
8:04 Solving the Airlock Puzzle
8:53 Moving Through the Darkness
9:30 The Trap

10:47 March to Chamber

15:00 Extracting Secrets of Man and Machines

18:22 Extracting our Dreams



Written, performed, programmed, and produced by Mark Mosher

Cover photo and design, liner notes, and graphical score by Mark Mosher

Music inspired by Louis and Bebe Barron

Artistic process inspired by Joan Miro, Clyfford Still, and Darwin Grosse

(c)(p) 2015 Mark J. Mosher (BMI) - CC-BY-NC 


Synth Artist Thought Experiment to Discover the Modular Already In Your Rig

Back on March 7th I presented a workshop in Boulder called "Intro to Patching Virtual Modular Synths". I thought I'd pass along a concept from this workshop that might save you money as well as inspire you to start down the path of modular and semi-modular sound design with your existing rig.

Many of you already have modular and semi-modular synths but don't necessarily view your current rig with this lens. To illustrate this idea I came up with the following thought experiment.

I've spent a lot of time doing sound design on the Waldorf Blofeld. It's not one knob per function, but does have a nice display with interactive feedback on sound design elements. It's also semi-modular. After some dedicated use with instruments like this and more complex plugins, you start holding the architecture in your head. As a thought experiment I thought it would be interesting to pull apart the modules used in a Blofeld preset and rack them up as if they were in a hardware rack - then draw patch cables that represent what is really going on with the preset and signal path.

I also own Waldorf Largo which is very similar to the Blofeld (see this post and mindmap Waldorf Largo vs Blofeld). This being the case, to save time,  I took screen shots of the Largo and then laid them out in a "case".


 Here is the closeup.


Using the matrix in Blofeld, or just about any other instrument that has a robust modulation matrix, you can override the default signal flow and - voila - you realize you have a  modular or semi-modular  hidden in plain sight within your rig :^)

One last note on the Blofeld before you move on. If you have a Blofeld, make sure you schedule some time to check out binary modifiers in the mod matrix. Here is an excellent paper on the topic from http://synth.stromeko.net/Downloads.html.

To illustrate some of the sonic range you can get with an instrument like Largo/Blofeld when you take advantage of the mod matrix to add real-time expression here is horror soundtrack I produced solely using Largo in one real-time improvised pass.

When you are alone in the dark your mind will play tricks. 

Over the last year I've been spending time listening to the tone. harmonics, overtones, and distortion created by expressive electric guitar greats like David Gilmour. "Alone in the Dark" is my exploration of expressive manipulation of harmonics and distortion with a single synthesizer patch custom programmed. As a result you'll hear me go beyond the sonic range of guitars into the sub-harmonic realm.

Another awesome synth you might not have considered as  semi-modular is Native Instruments Absynth. All along it's signal path you can use the edit button to swap in a huge variety of modules overriding the default module for each slot.


You can even swap modules within modules. For example, if you select a filter type that supports feedback, you can swap in a wave shaper, frequency shifter, or ring modulator. 


BTW - Manipulating the audio in the feedback of the filter is a great way to add non-linear results to sounds that would normally be in the realm of unstable analog circuits. 

A sound design experiment showing the darker virtual analog modelling side of Absynth (no samples here) to illustrate Absynth's range beyond the typical motion pad :^) This piece is an improvisation using an original preset patched with two oscillator in single mode and two Filters with feedback. I'm using waveshaping feedback mode and modulating filters and resonance with envelopes which creates the sonic movement as the envelopes play out. 

Another great and affordable choice if you want the vibe of working with patch cables is U-HE ACE. It's only around $80, sounds fantastic, has a very good manual, has a great set of free YouTube tutorial videos and recipes produced by U-HE, and is way more than the sum of it's parts.


 It's a great learning and teaching instrument and using ACE will help you wrap your head around modular sound design recipes. Working with ACE could help you make better decisions about what you might want in a hardware system.

To help give you a jump-start check out my U-HE ACE Patch Cable 101 video - 29k views and counting :^)


Need more than ACE? 

Here are some other excellent choices in the virtual realm.

Of course this is a partial list of what's available. Pop the hood on some of your favorite virtual instruments - or put a new lens on the way you look at your existing hardware. Perhaps you'll find some modular and semi-modular joy in what you already have. 

I hope this post inspires you to use what you've got and/or helps save you time in money when considering choices in the hardware realm. Happy patching!

Hosting Boulder Synthesizer Meetup #36 - Live Looping in Ableton Live w/ Serafin Sanchez, Music by Darren Kramer


I'll be hosting Boulder Synthesizer Meetup #36 tonight. We'll have a great lineup with Serafin Sanchez presenting and Darren Kramer performing at the after meetup.

Fun fact - meetup now has 275 members!!!

See you locals tonight. If you are ever visiting the Boulder/Denver area on the 2nd Tuesday of a month we'd love to see you.

Thanks to Ableton for swag for giveaways and the The Walnut Room for giving us a home.

To give you a taste for what will be going down during the after-meetup, check out Darren Kramer's "Heavy Metal Paperclip" featuring  live looping trombone through guitar effects.

 Oh, and if you want to check out music from our members here is our moderated soundcloud group.