Dear friends of the studio,
We rise on the first of October to realize that—in the blink of an eye—September has passed and Fall is near. This is for many a favored season. With its crystalline mornings, turning leaves, and layered wardrobe, Fall bears as much promise as Spring, though of a different hue. It’s a time to hunker down and tackle projects, a cup of steaming tea by your side. To take long hikes in the forest, crackling duff underfoot. To commute by bike without breaking a sweat. To read introverted literature (like the final book of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s sprawling six-volume memoir, My Struggle) and listen to introverted music (like sound artist Tim Hecker’s latest record, Konoyo).
This, the October edition of Miscellaneous—Athletics’ no-frills round-up of the cultural items that inspire us each month—was designed to balance escape and engagement, and shepherd us all into the cold months ahead. Thanks for reading (and sharing). We wish you a wonderful month.
Stay tuned for more editions of Miscellaneous in the coming months.
Interested in contributing? Send us an email!
Jameson Proctor, Director of Technology at Athletics, loves his Make Noise modular synthesizer.
Why he loves it.
I’ve been playing and collecting musical instruments since I was 10 or 11 years old. As an adult, I played in a number of small bands, releasing records and touring from time to time. When my first daughter was born, I decided to stop playing in bands to focus on fatherhood and my work here at Athletics. I did, however, want to continue making music. So, I began slowly selling and trading guitars, amps, and keyboards acquired over many years to start a modular synthesizer collection.
While there are dozens of companies small and large designing and building synthesizer modules, I’ve always loved Tony Rolando’s Make Noise modules. They’re heavily influenced by the work of Don Buchla, one of the pioneers of the field and the father of the West Coast synthesis style. This style doesn’t involve a traditional piano keyboard but instead uses the connections between modules to make unexpected discoveries that result in a sort of machine music. The design of the front panels of the Make Noise modules along with the underlying functionality encourage the kind of exploration needed to make this kind of music.
How it works.
Unlike synthesizers that are based on more traditional keyboard instruments like the piano or organ, a modular synthesizer consists of discrete modules that are connected with patch cables to generate sound. Two types of signals are transmitted across the cables: audio, much as you would expect, and control voltage, which allows modules to modify the parameters of other modules. A host of switches, knobs, and buttons round out the complement of available controls. The result is an infinitely reconfigurable palette.
What it can teach us.
For most of my music making life, I worked in a three- to five-minute framework consisting of verses, choruses, bridges, and solos. The focus was always the end result. Working with my Make Noise synthesizer has taught me to focus on the process instead. This shift in focus pushes me to explore and invent approaches and techniques that I likely wouldn’t have pursued if I was just sticking to a known framework. The results are often unexpected, and sometimes revelatory.
“O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.”
— From ‘October‘ by Robert Frost
Header Image by Clyfford Still