Electric Music Box Fun with a Buchla 200e

Here are some examples of stuff I've done recently with my Buchla 200e. They were all recorded into Logic Audio, in a single live take, except where noted. The delay, when used, is usually the Logic Stereo Delay, and reverb is either Space Designer or Audio Damage's Reverence. A custom program called Gyre, written in Max/MSP was used to drive the Buchla's 225e MIDI interface so as to make the 200e dance. In keeping with the dance metaphor, a Feena Electronics FMDJ-9303 DJ controller is used as a performance surface. There's just something about using that horizontal slider to control the density of random events that I find quite satisfying.

At any rate, in the examples on this page I try to cover enough ground to give someone an idea of some of what the Buchla 200e can do. They are in reverse chronological order. There is also a "B sides" page that has some things that for one reason or another I thought weren't really done.

Photo by Sherry Glassman

My system currently consists of:
Top: 266e, 210e, 281e, 292e, 227e
Mid: 256e, 225e, 281e, 292e, blank, 291e
Low: blank, 249e, 261e, 261e, 261e

The Examples

SwampRacket.mp3 -

SwampRacket is a couple passes of rhythmic racket, one pass of bassy drone, one fretless guitar track, and one fretted guitar track. It's been a long time since I posted anything here. Sorry. I've been busy.

(posted 10/22/09) View / Leave Comment(s)

GraceAgainstGravity.mp3 - Grace Against Gravity is a more-or-less rhythmic piece that consists of one thwacky pass played straight through, with a bunch of little mini drones that were added later to fill holes I left in the first pass. I've never worked this way before, and I have to say it's pretty fun.

The title refers to one of my dogs, Gracie, who came within a day or so of dying from a condition called volvulus, which is fairly common in horses and other animals that eat grass off of the dirt, but rare in dogs. My vet and the surgeon who operated on her had never seen a case in dogs before. You'd never know that she had this close a call to look at her now.

(second mix posted 8/20/08) View / Leave Comment(s)

Burble.mp3 - Burble is the combination of two little improvs that were done a few days apart. After I had recorded the less rhythmic, droney, layer I wondered if that rhythmic thing I had recorded a couple days earlier was in the same key and tempo enough to fit on top.

It wasn't, but I glued them together anyway. I go back and forth on whether to add a lead sound to this one. What do you think?

For this one, my system was augmented with a borrowed 259e waveform generator, which I used heavily. There's probably a lot less reverb & delay on this track than you think.

(posted 11/13/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

RoundMirrorRolling.mp3 - Yet another 200e improv. I play with note density a lot in this one, leaving holes. This one gets louder after a few seconds.

(posted 8/23/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

TickTock.mp3 - Finally, something with something that almost resembles a beat. This one consists of three passes: a drum pass, a pass of a bass sound through a glorpy sample hold filter, and a shimmery bubble-filter pass.

(posted 6/18/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

17YearGuest.mp3 - A tribute to the diversity of the insect world. This is mostly the Buchla, but there is also one sound that comes from a simple synth that I made in Max/MSP.

(posted 6/6/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

UseOfUncertainty_part3.mp3 - I flipped a coin to decide whether to put these here, or on the B-Sides page. These are three parts out of a long improv. I've tried not to get too atomic with the editing (read: I'm too lazy to do a proper job of editing these down. In particular, the middle part should be much shorter). The Uncertainty involved here is split between the 266e Source of Uncertainty module and various random processes in Gyre. I try to strike a balance between having a pulse and free time.

(posted 5/20/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

VoxGong.mp3 - The titular gong (which isn't really all that gong-like, I suppose) is mostly the 291e Triple morphing Filter with the modulation oscillators of my 261e Waveform Generators feeding it. The rhythmic clicks and bumps are the principal oscillators of the 261e's.

(posted 4/16/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

TableThing.mp3 - This is a reworking of something called TableThing, that I wrote for the first commercial release of Max, too long ago to remember a specific year. TableThing is a scanning sequencer. and I put an updated version of it, renamed ScanSeq, into the Gyre program I'm working on (see Gyre page for a short description of Gyre.) By scanning sequencer, I mean that it scans a Window of notes, some number of times. It then bumps the window by some Step Size. When TableThing starts out you can hear this best. It starts with a seven note window that gets repeated four times, then it bumps forward by a step size of one, and continues this pattern. After a minute or so, a second ScanSeq instance comes in. It's scanning over the same notes, but with a window size of four and a repeat of seven. This one is also fairly long, not that it really needs to be, I'm just too lazy to edit it down.

It's also worth noting that since I did the examples below, I expanded my system, adding a second 281e and 292e, and a third 261e. Only two blank spaces left.

"An interesting blend of technology and sadness. The feeling of Sobbing Droids." - Johan Boberg

Information on Gyre can be found here

(posted 3/27/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

When the examples from here down were done, my system was:
Top: blank, 266e, 210e, blank, 227e
Mid: 256e, 225e, 281e, 292e, 291e, blank
Low: blank, 249e, 261e, 261e, blank

Max/MSP also provided a couple slow "LFOs" and a couple of timing clocks. If I only had another 281e, and a...

GestureLong_02.mp3 - This is a long (25 minute) improv on the 200e with a piece of software I'm writing in Max, called Gyre. This one is quite long, and fairly tedious in places, but I wanted to put it up intact to show some of the real-time changes possible with the 200e driven with Gyre. It's unedited, with no external processing used, other than a light dusting of compression. Given how long this one is, perhaps the best way to listen to it is to download it and skip around in it, as opposed to listening straight through.

Gyre started out in life as a way to map a keyboard controller to my 200e. It grew. It's not done, but a current screenshot can be found here. Currently Gyre has a sort of fancy Pulser, a bunch of "Gesture Recorder/Players" (aka function generators), a couple of "Shape Player" note generators, and a master clock to move it all along. I have a bunch more stuff that I want to add to Gyre before I consider it finished, most prominently more classes of swappable note generators. Ironically, I've removed most keyboard mapping functionality until I settle on a design for making the note generators swappable.

(posted 3/15/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

Blackbird.mp3 - There was a recent thread on Matrixsynth which started out being about a NAMM video of Yasi Perera showing some of the new Buchla 200e modules, but it quickly devolved into what is starting to be a common series of rants about the 200e demos. There were a few postings talking about how the 200e demos were un-musical. I asked what musical/unmusical meant in this context, and discovered it's much like porn, people know it when they see/hear it. I've since done some research, and discovered there was once a "pop combo", called "The Beatles", who were widely regarded as being "musical". This lead me to do a search on the "internet" to find a MIDI file of one of "The Beatles" "hits": a little number called "Blackbird." The original MIDI file, which by the way, doesn't seem exceptionally accurate, can be found on many web sites. I didn't touch the MIDI file, I just played it back, one track at a time, twisting a few knobs while I recorded the results.

(posted 2/9/07, with tongue firmly in cheek) View / Leave Comment(s)

VictoryGarden.mp3 - This is my entry into the 2006 BugMusic contest. VictoryGarden consists of four "passes" of Buchla 200e: two drone passes, a noisy/growly pass, and a plucky pass in 5/4. Each pass was recorded in quad, but is presented here in stereo. ShapePlayer, a custom Max/MSP patch was used as the note generator. There was editing involved to bring it in under the three minute barrier. Apparently, I can't even tie my shoes in three minutes. The name VictoryGarden was chosen to reflect this year's theme of War and Peas (sorry).

(posted 1/15/07) View / Leave Comment(s)

First experiments

Each of these was recorded live in a single pass. Some were then edited for length. Four channels of audio from the Buchla 227e System Interface were recorded into Logic Pro, along with a reverb send and a delay send. The two sends come from the 210 Signal Router and are, by necessity, pre 227e faders. The Buchla quad mains were mixed down to stereo in Logic.

None of these are what I would consider compositions, just explorations and noodles. I've only had the 200e for a couple weeks, composition comes later.

BattleDrone.mp3 - Naming drones can be hard.
(posted 10/16/06) View / Leave Comment(s)

Penta_e_again.mp3 - I switch back and forth between a couple of almost-the-same presets. I also prove that I'm a crappy keyboard player with the lead voice.
(posted 10/16/06) View / Leave Comment(s)

Spinnish.mp3 - The 249e and 266e get workouts on this one. No human note-generation.
(posted 10/16/06) View / Leave Comment(s)

200e_Trance.mp3 - One with some over-delayed guitar wanking. The Prophecy's arpeggiator provides the note sequence.
(posted 10/16/06) View / Leave Comment(s)

TwoSweeps.mp3 - A simple 261e sweep example.
This one really suffers from the MP3 compression. There's some nasty MP3 distortion sitting on top of the nice 261e distortion. (posted 10/16/06)

Go to the B sides ->