Modular Synthesizers

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My first experience with modular synthesizers was in the Buchla 500 studios at CalArts, pictured here about 4 years before I arrived there.


Barry Shrader, on the left was my mentor, Mort Subotnick taught grad students, so I didn't see him too much, and John Payne was in charge of technology and was pretty much solely responsible for keeping those synths (and tape decks and everything else) operational. I was in the work-study program there and worked recording concerts, learning everything about audio engineering from John, who also taught classes about audio technology. I learned about electro acoustic music from Barry, who was (and is) a master.

Pretty much everything since then has been a disappoint. I have never had access to synthesizers as massive and fun to use as those Buchlas. In the 1990s, I wrote a modular synth program called Syd , in an attempt to recapture some of that magic, but it's a pale imitation.

Recently I've enjoyed playing with the MiniBits/Korg kit, which if I had young kids, I would buy them in a second. I sure miss those big Buchlas though.

I've always attributed my early success with learning computers to my experience in the years just prior of familiarizing myself with music and then modular synthesis. Both are complex systems with their own internal logic. I believe musicians often make good programmers.