On Modular Synthesis

On Modular Synthesis

There was a guy in high school who loved to regale me with stories about his ongoing efforts to restore an old MG, a particularly unique brand of British cars.

He'd go on about searching for parts, updating the upholstery, taking apart the engine and on and on. Mind you, I am about as interested in cars as I am in getting shat on by a pigeon.

But his singular passion stuck out to me. The journey wasn't the trip he'd take at the end, so much as sifting through catalogs to find just the right part. It has become my go to analogy when I see people blather on about their modular synth skiffs.

I just spent a few minutes trying to find an obscene modular synth photo for this article. There's no shortage of absurd photos of gargantuan Doepfer setups. But I'm so shallow that I didn't want to sully this piece with a badly shot photo. So just imagine about $20,000+ USD worth of silver panels with hundreds of black knobs and you'll have an idea.

Truthfully, I used to find the whole thing a bit abhorrent on account of cost and environmental impact. Lately my perspective has been changing, a little.

Not because it has become any less expensive (it hasn't), nor because I can justify the cost (I can't). Ironically, perhaps it's because of the cost that my interest is piqued.

1959 MG A16001

You see, it all comes back to that damn MG guy in High School, sneezing over dusty auto parts catalogs, drooling over the newly buffed body; the journey. I've been wondering if there's something beautiful about dedicating and investing yourself into some tool that you craft and build over time.

Lately, during my nightly hour or so of cleaning and tidying up after the wee ones go down, I've been listening to music production podcasts. In particular, a lot of modular synth content by the likes of Tim Held's Podular Modcast and Mylar Melodie's Why We Bleep . Truth is, I also put on loopop breakdowns and Ricky Tinez jams. The energy is palpable, and just as in High School, I am keen to sit by and vampire the vibrations.

I can't say I'm terribly keen to try and create my own synth. But the explorative world of audio processing, mangling, electromagnetics and more are intruiging. More on that soon.