Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
October 30, 2017
by Chris Randall
Yesterday, I started writing a post about watershed moments in your creative lifestyle, when something (either external or internal) brings a change to how you make music (or, well, whatever it is you make.) Then I thought "meh, that probably doesn't really happen to anyone else, because everyone else seems totally together. I'm just a nut." I highlighted all the text and pressed DEL and got on with my day.
About 20 minutes ago, the above exchange took place on Twitter between Noisetheorem, myself, and DJ Empirical that made me realize that this sort of thing isn't uncommon at all, and in point of fact I'm totally norms.
For better or worse, your external environment greatly affects your creative output. Speaking strictly for myself, spending the last three years boxing and shipping Eurorack, talking about Eurorack, travelling for Eurorack, sleeping in piles of Eurorack, and generally devoting my entire existence to Eurorack, has left me in a creative nadir which was unparalleled in my 30+ year history of making music. Earlier this year, we came to the conclusion that we were devoting too much of the company resources to Euro, and decided to ease off and work on desktop and mobile ideas. Since the nature of the Euro market means the hockey stick is ludicrously strong, without a new Euro product we can't really justify remaking older Euro products. As a result, I got to spend the summer, which in Phoenix is like winter for the rest of the country, doing something I truly enjoy: making user interfaces, and not putting Eurorack modules in boxes.
Since confirmation bias is the name of the game these days, as you're reading this, you're going to only see the Zig Zigler Power Words and run off to say "Chris Randall's an asshole! He hates what I do!" or "GOD DAMN RIGHT, FUCK [insert creation method here]." I can't do anything about that, but let me relate a metaphor:
I was raised by divorced parents about 50/50 in rural Oregon and New York City. The rural Oregon half of my family are, for the most part, gun nuts. I was raised around guns, and am comfortable with their existence and use-cases. I own a gun, and know how to use it. My father (the New York half of my co-parenting lifestyle) was a general contractor, so I was also raised around power tools. I am comfortable with their existence and use-cases. I own power tools, and know how to use them. In my head, a gun is basically just another tool. There are people for whom guns are a religion. I am not one of those people. I do, however, understand the motivations and mentality that lead to worshipping guns, talking about guns, collecting guns, etc, and how guns become a lifestyle and not just another tool in the box.
Anyhow, you get the point. Lots of boxes and M3 screws, creative nadir, tedious metaphor, blah blah blah. Long story short, two things happened:
1. Due to our considered opinion that iOS was finally ready for pro (or at least semi-pro) music-making, we decided to make a run at the mobile side of things, and began porting our desktop products to iOS. This forced me to purchase and become comfortable with a state-of-the-art iOS creation environment.
2. Due to customer requests for MPE versions of our synths, we needed to investigate MPE, something of which I knew very little. After pondering things for a bit, I decided the Linnstrument was probably the best source of MPE data, and since I'm friends with Roger, I dropped him a line to see if I could borrow one of the small ones to develop some test cases.
I got the Linnstrument a couple weeks ago, and the first thing I did, to test how MPE worked, was to plug it in to the first synth in my collection that understands MPE. That happened to be Animoog, the polysynth that Moog made for iOS. I spent a few hours playing with this, and decided that MPE was worth exploring. So I moved the Linnstrument to my big computer and folded it in to my development process. Since I don't have a ton of room on my desk, I moved my normal controller, a Kontrol S49, out of the way. The much smaller Linnstrument sat in its place.
Since it was sitting there anyhow, I ended up using it to try to play melodies when I was testing other shit. And I suddenly found myself puzzling out scales and chords on it, and my testing other shit turned in to making songs. At some point that I can't exactly put my finger on, it clicked and I was able to play it. I'm not going to review the device itself because there are reams written about it. But yesterday morning, my wife pointed out that it was nice to see me making music again. I was like "huh?" And she goes "you haven't actually sat in your office and made a song in like 2 years, dude." That's when all this hit me, and I wrote Roger to tell him I'd be buying the Linnstrument off him.
It isn't, of course, as facile as that. There are other outside stimuli that are affecting things (new hobbies, the weather change, etc.) but putting in the time to get the Linnstrument to ease itself into my methodology was definitely the deciding factor in unwedging my creative block. Let's hear it, AI peoples. Do you have similar unblocking experiences?
March 31, 2017
by Chris Randall
That right there is a mockup of our new baby, Ensō, which is an audio buffer module in 22hp, with 50 seconds of stereo 48/24 audio memory, and various ways for looping/triggering/etc that buffer. We're done with the hardware design, and are working on the software now.
You can come see it (and the new Eos module) in person if you're in the LA area. I will be doing an Audio Damage clinic/Q&A at Perfect Circuit in Burbank this Wednesday, April 5th, at 7PM. Facebook event page with all the deets is here. Derrick Baseck will be doing a performance, and I'm given to understand there will be pizza and beer, two of the three major food groups. We will be giving away a couple modules, and buttons and stickers and the other usual shit, and I may extemporaneously perform for 15 minutes myself.
In other news, the first articles for the hardware version of Eos will be on the way to me today. So just a beta-testing round and then that will be shipping. Figure two weeks to stores at this point.
And finally, we will be attending Superbooth in Berlin again this year. I'm flying in to Prague on April 15, and then driving up to Berlin a couple days later. If you are in town and want to hook up, get at me in the usual methods.
August 21, 2016
by Chris Randall
Like the subject line says... I was curious as to how the Onde Magnétique OM-1 worked. Originally, I thought that these super cheap little decks might be powered directly from the sequencer. I went out and hit a few thrift stores and bought several and gave that a try, with success rates that varied between "not at all" and "fuckin' nope." (I believe I briefly referenced this failure in one of the other Tech Time videos.) So I just set that aside with a shrug and moved on to other things.
However, last night I was looking at the OM-1 video again, and I was like "oh. Duh. He's just throwing 0-5V at the speed pot." So I busted out the video camera and soldered a jack right to the pot, and sure as shit, works like a charm, as the video above shows.
Something I didn't mention in the video: this isn't 1V/Oct. It's more like 5V/Oct. Sequencer 1 actually shows the voltage value you're shitting out the CV outputs in linear mode, so I was able to just put a tuner on the ass end, and scroll the voltage values until it was tuned to 12TET. I got 14 semitones total out of it, which is plenty for demonstration purposes. But if you're going to attempt this, you'll need a sequencer that can output linear values in addition to 1V/Oct. Sequencer 1 is, of course, perfect for this sort of foolishness. I'm sure there are others that will work fine, but I don't feel like talking about them.
When it comes to the cassette itself, take the lowest note you want to play, and record a note a semitone below that (so you have some wiggle room) on your cassette, and you'll end up with a full octave above that note.
You can clearly hear the portamento in the note programming later in the video. This is a result of the time it takes the motor to move to the new speed. This is an electromechanical process, so it's not instantaneous. Something with inertia needs to be accelerated or decelerated, and this takes time. Hence, fixed portamento.
July 23, 2016
by Chris Randall
This week's Tech Time is a more sophisticated version of something I touched on in the last Push 2 / Modular video, making polysynth patches from a mono analog. I show my whole workflow, from initial sample to laying it in the mix.
The channel is starting to get a little momentum; I'll do my Cranky Old Man video on Sunday.
July 10, 2016
by Chris Randall
A slightly less esoteric Tech_Talk this week. My own personal workflow for dumping Eurorack tracks to Live for further production. This is kind of quasi-basic, I think, but I do get a lot of people asking me how I do it, so I guess it's something that people find interesting.
Looking for topics for next week's Tech_Talk and Weekly. Hook a brother up!