control freak

Another weird dream: an online roleplaying game where parties of four players each try to synchronize their characters’ magic powers and/or kung fu with a 4×4 set of knobs. I was playing it with my Doepfer A-138m Matrix Mixer, and someone else on my team had a Midi Fighter Twister.

Each column of knobs corresponded to a character, and each row a different category of ability (e.g. fire/air/water/earth, or attack/evasion/deception/defense, etc.). Each player mainly had control over their own character, but the closer other players’ knobs in that same column are, the more effective the ability is. (Or in some cases, you’d want the other three players to set their knobs opposite yours — it was complicated.) For maximum effectiveness all four players had to vary their own settings to match the rhythm of the combat or puzzle, and all four players had to coordinate with each other to maintain a defense or to attack as one to exploit an opening, and so on. Trying to have all your knobs turned up all at once would tire your character, and uncoordinated movement would hinder your teammates. And of course the knob settings affected the music too.

It was fiendishly difficult, required a very well-coordinated team and lots of practice, would never catch on and I have no idea how all this could translate in real time to something less abstract in terms of movement and choice making. My subconscious mind is creative, but is not a great game designer.

back to the salt mines

Last night I did not dream of Michelle or Barack, but of my boss.

In the dream he was throwing a party in his magnificent mansion / evil lair. It was built over, and included the entirety of, a former salt mine. Wide, high-ceilinged halls lined with exotic woods, with signs pointing the way to different “galleries” and “villas” within the… let’s face it, the man owned his own underground city. Shafts wide enough to contain a normal-sized house, with staircases wide as a city street, led down to museums, art installations, and stockpiles of building materials and booze.

So much booze. Everyone at the party was given a sizable bottle of Bombay Sapphire and we were downing it like water. There was a storehouse of it below in case the pyramid of bottles in one of the ground floor rooms wasn’t going to be enough. Impressive storehouses of really good rum and whiskey were below. In the waking world I would never choose gin over rum…

He also had his own cult in residence — well, not his cult but he was their benefactor. They had a village in one of the “galleries” with a natural salt floor; they dressed a bit like Mennonites but specialized in performance art and glass blowing. I watched them putting on a play about the misinterpretation of a dying woman’s advice and instructions to her children, who were going to run the village after her passing. The main character was represented by a carefully arranged pile of clothing, which they alternately shuffled around, removed from, and poured water onto to make it sort of sink into the ground as the character let go of life.

…I’m pretty sure IRL, my boss is a teetotaler, fairly well off but not obscenely rich, and doesn’t live in a salt mine or sponsor a cult. But I don’t know him that well; who knows?

it came to other people in a dream

A few days ago my spouse mentioned a dream with Michelle Obama in it. Apparently dreams featuring the Obamas dispensing wisdom are not an uncommon thing:

had a dream obama and the guy who plays air guitar at the mall were about to fight and obama said “ violence for violence is the rule of beasts “ and i woke up because that was the rawest shit i ever heard

There are t-shirts and podcast episode titles and a database of Obama dreams. So, why not an album of electronic music? Yep, I’m tentatively calling the next album and the last track on it The Rule of Beasts.

The last track stands out from the others in style (but is probably not “the rawest shit you eve heard”). I was trying out the Sputnik Five-Step Voltage Source I’d just received, driven rhythmically by Teletype and modulating Plaits’ various parameters. I recorded it but figured it was destined to be dumped on SoundCloud as too different from my ambient drone style. But a couple of ideas struck me right before publishing it, and it went back into SoundForge for a few more rounds of editing. The result works, I think, but I’ll wait to confirm that in a different listening environment first.

I’ve got 70 minutes of material now, but a couple of songs need final decisions about inclusion. For comparison, January 2018’s Nereus was a couple of minutes shorter and I’d rejected about 20 minutes of other recorded material.

I’d previously thought about calling this one Super Blood Wolf Moon, but that already feels like a dated and irrelevant reference already. It’s the title of one of the other songs though, if I don’t change it. The album art also was originally one of my dad’s photos of that event, but because the resolution was too low for DistroKid’s requirements, I started processing it… and now it’s a metallic tunnel/vortex thing. My approach to photo editing software sometimes resembles my approach to music making.


That Sputnik module is a bit quirky. The pulses coming from the top row when a step changes are ridiculously short and don’t reliably trigger every module. It works fine with Tides and Teletype though, and if the ER-301 is fine with it I won’t sweat it. Otherwise I’ve been able to massage the signal a little bit with tanh[3] to keep it over common trigger thresholds long enough to work.

I made a couple of wrong assumptions about controls in the Stage Select section, so it’s slightly less like the Buchla Music Easel sequencer than I thought — but cool in a different way. The Address input is exactly as expected and is easy to control via Teletype. Overall it’s a fun, hands-on multi-channel sequencer. Between it and the faderbank for the Teletype and the SQ-1, and good old MIDI, I believe that should settle the sequencing question.

I’ve got a tentative layout worked out for the new case. I took those guiding principles I came up with in the previous post, used the mind mapping tool to associate modules into groups, considered the impossible ideal of having all my modulation sources equidistant from any given destination, thought about geometry and pre-modern naval tactics and put together a compromise.

There’s a logic to each module’s placement, even if the logic was something a bit weak like “it was the right size to fit in an awkward gap” or “this keeps all the black-panel modules together.” Actual usage will tell me whether I want to shift things around, but I think this is a setup I can live with; I know the modulators are generally on the right edge, VCAs/LPGs clustered together, sequencing all at the bottom and so on.