Alien Insects

This is an analog modular synthesizer piece constructed using as source material a recording of a live performance and another recording of that same material recorded some days later. The performance took place at the CD release party for my Breathing Voltages CD

There are a number of things that I employed as useful limitations: 

I wanted to use only instruments and equipment that could be installed in an old vintage equipment rack I found on Craig's List, (see pictures).

Because of this rack limitation, I could not use my beloved Moog Model 12 modular or Minimoog D synthesizers, but I considered it to be a stimulating break to not have access to my favorite warm Moog timbres. 

I wanted to make use of a newly acquired Futureretro pressure plate keyboard as my primary performance interface. 

And, I had to be able to perform the music live. 

About the keyboard: I was drawn to this particular keyboard because of an experience I had using a Buchla Music Easel at the Knobcon conference in Chicago back in 2014. I was exploring the arpeggiator feature on the Easel. I never really liked working with arpeggiators, because I considered them to be a little too limiting and kind of silly. (Of course, modern modular arpeggiators are far from silly and limiting.) While playing with the Buchla arpeggiator, I quickly found that it had a random mode. I could hold down a chord (or pitch set) on the keyboard, tell the Easel to "hold" it, then continually vary the pitch set while it was playing the pitches in random order. I absolutely loved this and found it very playable. So, when the time came to find a pressure plate keyboard for my cool old vintage rack, I sought one out that had an arpeggiator with a random mode that was also rack-mountable. The newly released Futureretro 512 Touch Keyboard was just the ticket. It worked well and can be heard being used extensively in the second half of Alien Insects, using this same procedure I mentioned using on the Buchla. Arpeggiator in random mode with a continually varying pitch set determined in realtime using the keyboard, with some pitch bending thrown in for good measure. 

About the vintage rack: I absolutely fell in love with this thing. Discovering it stimulated the creation of Alien Insects. I found this this old early '60s vintage equipment rack on Craig's List. I brought it home, cleaned it up and clear coated it to preserve the patina and honest wear it has "earned" over the decades. I then filled it up with a bunch of modular synthesizer gear and I must say, I absolutely love how it looks. It looks as if it came right off the set of an early sci-fi movie. I see this fantastical object as an instrument, even though it is comprised of many separate components, some of which are installed on the back side. This may seem rather impractical, but it makes for a very cool looking three dimensional musical object. 

This old 19-inch equipment rack enclosure was most likely manufactured in the early 1960s by the Emcore company, though the design looks like something from about a decade earlier. I found it on Craig's List and only paid $40 for it. It had been stored for many years in a shed and was quite dirty with a lot of bird droppings on it. I could see that it had no dents in it and not even any major scratches. What it did have was this wonderful wear pattern, particularly around the front where people would have been in contact with it over a period of many years. 

When I got it home, I gave it a thorough cleaning, sanded off some surface rust, buffed it out and gave it two coats of clear-coat. I also replaced the wretched old casters with much nicer ones and installed a plywood floor in it. It really came out nice. I did a lot of online research into preserving the patina. This is a popular thing to do with old cars right now, though there is a lot a debate about the practice among vintage car enthusiasts and no firm agreement as to the best way to do it. I also went to a couple of local auto body shops to seek their advice. In the end I took all of the information I'd gathered and just gave it my best shot. It came out looking great, and seeing as it won't be exposed to the elements like a car would, I think it's going to hold up just fine.