whoooooosh

Crazy days. The Big Last-Minute Update at work required about three more layers of updates, but we’re getting through it. (Update ADOS so we can update the build agents (requiring new VMs with updated OS) so we can update so they support VSTest 2022 so we can update everyone to Visual Studio 2022 and Fortran 2024 so we can update the three critical third-party libraries, which required writing some code to cover for their mutual incompatibilities, so we can pass a cybersecurity certification.)

The plumbing stuff at my parents’ new home is done except for final inspection and we’ve been doing some final fixes and cleaning. We’re going down this weekend in a rental SUV to pick up their cats and some stuff.

Last weekend though I managed to record 10 more minutes for the next album, putting it at one continuous 30-minute mix. Since it’s an album rather than a live set, I’m gonna keep going… though probably will switch to a “side B” as I did for Parallax. As a thank-you gift for the house work, my parents sent me a small steel tongue drum, like a mini version of my HAPI Origin. This sounds pretty great through Wingie 2 (I heard you like resonators, so I put a resonator in your resonator…)


Scottish Eurorack company Instrūo recently released a dual allpass filter, called DAPF (the only non-Gaelic module name they have). DivKid did a great demo video of it, and I was convinced. It’s 4HP, the size of the last remaining gap in my case. Perfect.

Allpass filters are a bit weird. If you have a basic concept of lowpass, highpass, bandpass filters, the idea of a “filter” that doesn’t filter anything sounds like a joke. But a side effect of those other filters is a phase shift around the cutoff frequency, and indeed, an allpass filter does the phase shift without changing amplitudes. What that means is, if you put a particular waveshape into it, you get a different shape out that sounds exactly the same, having the same harmonic content, just shifted ever so slightly in time according to its center frequency. This turns out to be a surprisingly useful tool:

  • mixing the affected and unaffected signal in various ways creates other filter types.
  • moving the filter’s center frequency induces phase shifts; do it at audio rate and it sounds like FM synthesis.
  • move that center frequency more slowly, and with a feedback loop through the allpass filter (typically with several APFs in series) and you’ve got a phaser effect.
  • altering the waveshape means that nonlinear waveshaping (e.g. distortion, wavefolding) and analog logic operations/ring modulation/etc. will affect the signal differently. This allows you to fold a “square wave” (since it’s not square anymore, it just sounds like one). Shifting that center frequency changes the waveshaping in interesting ways.
  • allpass filters somewhat resemble the diffusion of sound waves in physical spaces. Digital reverbs tend to use combinations of delays, allpass filters and comb filters to do their thing. While you’d need an armload of DAPF modules to patch a reverb this way, putting it into feedback loops of various kinds does have neat results.

I found a particularly cool, unexpected application I found for it last night. Running a unipolar envelope through it, while also patching that envelope to the CV input, lets you get a bit of bipolar ripple/wobble. This reminded me of New Systems Instruments Inertia… so I added a feedback path through the allpass and got resonant wobbles like Inertia. Maybe this is how that module is implemented.

crawling along, but fast

The replacement Wingie 2 arrived, and it’s pretty cool. A little flawed, but I like how sensitive the internal mic is and how that translates to lovely pings and resonances. Just pressing the buttons on the built-in keyboard causes it to ring, as does moving your fingers on the case, a little wind, breath, etc. And it’s a feedback champ if you’re using speakers. It might not be the most versatile instrument/effect out there but it’s gonna get some use. Plus there’s the Blippoo Box firmware to try out.

Second track for the next album is recorded… and it coincidentally fit so well with the first one, it sounds intentional, and they’ve now been merged into one track. Also, another snippet that I made a loop from fits well with a semi-generative loop I separately patched in software, and together, I think it fits with the finished parts… lots of serendipity going on here. Overall, I’m expect this to turn out to be a long-form continuous thing like Slow Teleport or Parallax.

Speaking of serendipity, there was a weird, loud, deep bass hum from some passing vehicle right at the end of my most recent listen which totally fit, sounding like the intro to another section. If I could have recorded that right then I’d have done it.

I had a dream last night about being at a concert in a small room. Several people with various synth gear, computers, instruments, including one woman with a sort of hybrid taiko/doumbek, wooden but with a bowl shape like a tympani. They were having some technical issues with some instruments, and wound up doing a sort of live coding session on two computers which they then just let run for a while and sat back and listened. I had one of those dream epiphanies that doesn’t actually make sense in the waking world, something about how the division between composition and improvisation, or manually played and sequenced parts, was both ironic and illusory, which was supposed to be relevant to how I make music. Whatever, I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing.


My GW2 playing has been continuing. I’ve now got a level 80 staff/rifle quickness Deadeye — which doesn’t use the Be Quick Or Be Dead trait like I first though but is set up to maximize Steal Time. A glass cannon that can solo some champions but gets in trouble when CCd, so I’m probably going to rethink my chosen skills and make sure I have some kind of stun break/escape plan. She’s scary with the rifle, able to clear out a whole bandit camp (or whatever) without moving, but the staff is more fun and satisfying.

The update that adds more new weapons is coming soon. Some look super cool, some a bit more plain but might be fun. So I’m not gonna start into End of Dragons with anyone until that’s here since I might have a new favorite… or might get tired of GW2 again before I get there. (But that’s okay if so, I’ll surely be back later.)

I also just picked up Deep Rock Galactic: Survivors a couple of days ago. Where other “survivors” games seem to be a combination of strategic building and twitch action, this is more about tactical movement choices. Slower pace but it keeps you thinking on your feet the whole time, not just avoiding the hordes. You’re a Dwarven asteroid miner, there are thousands of alien bugs and some specific objectives to fill in a fairly short time. You could tunnel through some rock to force the bugs to go through in single file and set up a choke point, but you move slower doing it and they might catch you. But there’s some health crystals to mine for. And should you let them get a little closer so more of them get squashed when the drop pod falls? Depending on your weapon, upgrades and class, you typically auto-aim at the nearest bug, which means to take out the boss that’s your objective, you have to keep it fairly close but outside the reach of its claws. If you’re the Gunner, you mostly aim in the direction you’re running but you’re trying to run away from the bugs while shooting them…. so yeah, lots of stuff along those lines. Overall, I still think I prefer Soulstone Survivors, but this is a different-enough-yet-similar style to be fun too (despite some slightly-off voice acting and mediocre writing).

warped and glitched

I’ve spent a few days digging into Unfiltered Audio SpecOps like it deserves, and wrote up my notes on it.

Next I’m going to release Slow Teleport on Bandcamp and go back to just making music for a bit, before doing another one of these deep gear dives. But I feel like this one was especially enlightening, and I’ll be able to wring a lot more out of SpecOps. Already have in fact, with a captured bit of glitchy weirdness that’ll surely find its way into a release.


Work got a bit crazy. We were very close to a release candidate, for a long-delayed release that has a TON of improvements and new features in it. But we’re held up by some cybersecurity certification that requires us to update 3rd-party libraries that we were going to wait to update until the next release. We’ve fallen behind on these updates because Thing1 requires OtherThing 35.0 while Thing2 only supports OtherThing 32, but it’s time to cut through the Gordian knot with either Occam’s Razor or the Sword of Damocles so we can launch the Ship of Theseus.

And my parents’ house stuff is a mess too. The plumbing waste stack had to be replaced, an expensive job that dug a hole in the concrete of the basement floor and other holes in the bathroom wall; that’s all done but the county inspector says they have to do some other thing, and we’ve been waiting on that so the hole can be filled, drywall redone and the fixtures put back. My folks are moving in 3 weeks.


I traded my Mutable Instruments Blinds for a Meng Qi Wingie 2, which was kind of a lucky accident. I didn’t expect anyone to actually have a Wingie, PiezoThing or N0b Control for trade, but it happened. But the Wingie arrived DOA: lights lit, no audio, firmware wouldn’t update. The seller is sending me another one and we’ll sort out the return of this one, but that delayed my getting to play with it for a week or so. Fair enough, there was stuff to do anyway.


I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2. I got an Elementalist to level 80 using a hammer, and that was quite cool. I’ve got a Thief using a staff and rifle to 71, and that’s been fun but considerably more risky. I’m still not sure what character I want to do End of Dragons with, and may start up a Revenant… except that the expansion that brings additional Weaponmaster choices is probably coming soon and I’ll want to dig into that for sure.

Also Soulstone Survivors, still — unlocking the second costume for each character, currently on the Paladin. The class balance really isn’t; some classes simply have access to better skills and special features than others. Stacking buffs (Arcane Power, Might, Bloodlust etc.) with a couple of the strongest damage skills seems to really be the way to go. Pretty much every class has at least a couple of strong damage skills, but having access to two buffs by default and then getting a third through Skill Mastery makes a big difference.

They’ve announced a whole new character (The Monkey King) and a ton of new spells including a new category (Earth, which several existing spells could fit into alongside new stuff), so things certainly keep moving with this game.

men are from Tatooine, women are from Omicron Persei XIII

Sigh…

The Playhouse at Westport is once again running “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” which they made such a big deal of 10 years ago. There’s a giant poster in the hallway.

I’ve always hated that poster to an irrational degree.

The artwork is super annoying for some reason — the two faces look both super smug and yet somehow infantilized. The whole concept behind the title is stupid, stereotypical, gender essentialism and probably mildly harmful in some way.

I always want to vandalize that poster:

Men are from EARTH, women are from EARTH, you’re really not that different, get over it.

or: Nonbinary comrades, we must defeat the alien menace!

or: You’re all immigrants.

or: I am from Pluto.


Speaking of Venus, Zoozve is official now. Congratulations on your naming, little quasi-satellite!

Now if we could just get justice for Pluto…

An Exploration of Selected Effects Plugins

Realizing at the start of 2024 just how many effects plugins I have in my collection, I resolved to go through each one, dig in and explore it deeply, in order to:

  • increase my understanding of how they work and what they can do for me
  • find some cool tricks and techniques
  • drop any of them that don’t compare that well to their siblings
  • build up more resistance to buying more plugins.

Here are some of the notes I’ve taken along the way. This isn’t anything like a comprehensive list of plugins I use or recommend, it’s just the ones where I wanted to get some observations and thoughts written down as part of this process. Maybe you’ll find something useful, or get some ideas or inspiration for using other plugins you may already have.

Delays

Aqusmatic Audio Dedalus Delay

  • Feedback has always seemed a bit much on this one, and I haven’t noticed FeedDamp doing much. But turning up the input gain can give the feeling of reducing the feedback repeats.
  • The filter in the upper right corner is inside the feedback loop (and is a great way to affect the feedback tone and feel). Turning up the Prefilter knob makes it also apply to the initial delay, as well as also increasing the overall strength of the filter.
  • The overdrive stage seems to be applied on the initial delay, after any pre-filtering, as well as after the filter within the feedback loop.
  • Bandwidth is applied after overdrive (again, on the initial delay and within the loop).
  • Ducking/gating comes after the feedback loop. “Minimum” controls the level of the ducked/gated material (lower level = stronger ducking).
  • Modulation (VarDel/VarPitcH): the secret sauce here is that delay time changes can either cause doppler shift (“Glide” mode) or use a granular technique to overlap delays at different lengths as the delay time is modulated. Larger numbers of grains are more similar to Glide. Different grain rates will give smooth or rough textures, or steppy changes, depending on modulation speed and delay time. The “Delay Mod” switch seems to affect panning as well as delay time.

Sonic Charge Echobode

  • This plugin combines delay with diffusion (“Smear”) and filters, a frequency shifter, as well as an assignable LFO.
  • Note that frequency shifters are not pitch shifters — the shift in Hz is linear across the whole spectrum, so it bends harmonic sounds into inharmonic ones. Ring modulation happens to be the same as a mix of an equal upward and downward frequency shift, so this plugin provides a knob to control the mix. The “Anti Refl” switch prevents downward frequency shifts from reflecting around 0 Hz (shifting back up again) off is also known as thru zero.
  • Smear can easily turn delays into reverbs, and low-rate ringmod can act as a kind of tremolo. So there’s an awful lot that can be done with this plugin.
  • It’s definitely worth exploring MIDI mode, where the ringmod/frequency shift tracks the pitch of the played note, for even more dramatic and unusual effects. Hold Shift while turning the big knob for fine-tuning. The lowpass filter can help keep the pitch from running away through feedback.

Inertia Sound Systems Hinder

  • This delay provides a few methods to imbue a lo-fi character: bit reduction, noise, a filter, distortion (“heat”), and a “dark mode”. It also adds a compressor in the feedback loop, driving a bit more sustain and raising the stakes for all of the other dirt you add (as well as affecting the reverse mode dramatically).
  • Unfortunately, modulation can be a weak point with this one. Outside of sync mode, it’s not particularly easy to dial in subtle modulation for a really gentle wobble. I prefer to use Bitwig’s LFO modulators instead for finer control.
  • In sync mode, the modulation applies directly to the time knobs, which means it’ll be changing the clock divisions rather than providing that sweet Doppler shift. (And the internal LFO can’t sync to a clock to make that really cool — again, I use a Bitwig LFO instead.) Modulating the Width though provides a smooth delay time offset between the L and R channels, which does give Doppler shift in either mode.

Noise Engineering Imitor

  • Based originally on the Imitor Versio Eurorack module, the plugin version greatly expands on the features and flexibility — it’s basically a whole different animal.
  • The *2 and /2 buttons on Beats and PreDelay affect time, not speed. *2 means twice as much time, not twice as fast. But on synced modulation, it does refer to speed.
  • You can use Taps and Decay to simulate feedback without actually using feedback. Or you can combine it with Regen (and its additional effects).
  • Playing with Predelay, Time Warp and the Tap checkboxes can let you build more complex, swinging echo rhythms.
  • Time Warp helps to break up ringing feedback when you have a short delay time, large number of taps and high Regen, letting the delay ring out in a reverb-like way. Used this way, positive time warp generally calls for shorter delay times than negative time warp. Fewer taps brings more metallic ringing, more taps is smoother.
  • For the Tap Delay LFO on the Tone page, Dance varies the LFO rate differently for each tap, while Stereo varies the LFO phase for left and right channels. These can help make the modulation of more reverb-like effects as lush as it needs to be.
  • The envelope follower is a fantastic addition — assign it to Blend for ducking, to Regen for controlled bursts of feedback or for feedback ducking, to Crunch, Shimmer or Doom for a more subtle touch than just leaving them high, to Tone for a sort of auto-wah in your delays, to Decay or even Tap Total to modify the tap profile dynamically for a kind of swell effect… you can even assign it to delay time or Time Warp for weirder wobbles. (If modulating Tap Total, this causes shifts in how Time Warp as well as the panning parameters and Decay are applied.)
  • Assigning a square wave LFO to Time Warp when you have at least 3 taps and some regen is a neat way to get a blend of octave-shifting and non-shifting into your delays.
  • If you’re using a large number of taps and positive time warp, try a saw or triangle LFO into Angle and Rotate to wobble it around a bit in stereo for a bit of a granular delay kind of feel.

Audiority Plexitape

  • Sound On Sound mode was weird on the original hardware and it’s weird here. Frankly I just use Echo, or even Off for the preamp.
  • The Aux Echo knob (if not turned off) has the same scale as the main time slider; both are dependent on the Varispeed knob or sync setting.
  • Control names are a bit odd on this one. “Echo Sustain” is feedback amount, while “Record Level” is the preamp. (Higher preamp levels increase both the first echo and the feedback.) If you want more drive for tone reasons, you’ll probably need to turn down Sustain to compensate.
  • “Echo Volume” is the wet/dry control.
  • “Early/Late” preamp switch affects the tone.
  • Varispeed, as far as I can tell, does not affect the tone, only the delay time.
  • On the Age knob, lower values mean more degradation (the opposite of Valhalla Delay). Due to lower stability, this has a damping effect on the feedback.
  • Gain staging is important here — In, Out, Noise, Record Level, Echo Volume and Mix all interact and give you a variety of control, but it’s not particularly simple!

Audio Damage Ratshack Reverb

  • Like the hardware, this has no modulation of its own. It can be nice to assign an LFO from your host to the delay times, either with Link on, or modulating in opposite directions on L and R.
  • There’s really not much point to the Input switch — leave it on Mic to use the slider to boost the signal into distortion. (Some people own the hardware mainly to use it for the distortion, not the delay.)

Unfiltered Audio Sandman Pro

  • The diffusion on this one has few taps, so for the most part it’ll give you noticeable bouncy echoes with an interesting muted character. You can use this with extremely short delay times (including “No Echo” which is simply a 5ms delay that works with all the other features). Diffusion also sounds pretty cool with Reverse delay mode!
  • Strong feedback does tend to smooth out the diffusion.
  • In Multi-Tap mode, the displayed delay time is the time for the final tap in the chain. Increasing taps but keeping the same delay time increases the tap rate. Negative spacing accelerates the taps, positive spacing decelerates them.
  • A fun thing to try: capture a buffer in Sleep mode, then switch the delay time to Offset or Independent stereo, so the L and R channels repeat the buffer at different rates. (You can adjust start/end times as needed to keep them coherent.)
  • With “Sleep Filter” enabled, some of the effects from the delay modes (Saturate, Wow, Dirt etc.) as well as Diffuse apply to the sleep buffer in real time. When it’s disabled, they are recorded into the sleep buffer. This means you can record into the buffer with Sleep Filter disabled, enable Sleep and then enable Sleep Filter to double the effect.
  • Multitap and pitch shifting are always recorded into the sleep buffer, and can’t be changed afterward. But you can repitch the buffer using Sample Rate.
  • With Sleep enabled, you can assign an LFO to Reverse for ping-pong buffer playback. (Note you can also move the End to the left of Start for reverse playback.)
  • A square, tempo-synced LFO also can be good into Start and/or End for rhythmic variation on your buffer playback.
  • In Pitch Shifter mode, if you shift one channel up and the other down, using X-Feed instead of Feedback can prevent the “shimmer” effect of cascading pitch shift delays. This can work well with Mid/Side enabled.
  • Glitch Shifter is the same, but you’ll probably want much smaller shift amounts unless you just enjoy total chaos.

Valhalla Delay

  • Honestly I think this one is pretty straightfoward, almost foolproof to dial in, has lots of helpful tooltips and so on. But here are some ideas for unusual uses…
  • Disable all the modulation and set Delay at 0. For each mode, start with mix at 100%, feedback at 0%, diffusion amount at 0% and see what kinds of tones you can get with the other controls. Then experiment with mix, feedback and/or diffusion.
  • (You may find while playing with those that some knobs sound awesome when in motion, so why not assign an LFO or envelope follower from your host to modulate them?)
  • Ghost with 0 delay is a special case, since it’s a frequency shifter — sounds great with the mix at about 50%.
  • RevPitch is another special case; the lower the delay time, the noisier it gets. Times in the 0-20ms range can be nice to layer in behind another sound, with judicious tweaking of EQ and mix.
  • The ducking algorithms can be fun with Drive, Age and EQ.
  • Also try the same thing with non-zero delay times and a moderate mix, but without using feedback or modulation. You can still get multiple echoes by switching Style to Dual, Ratio, PingPong or Multitap.
  • And of course, cranking feedback to 100% or beyond just to “freeze” something imperfectly in the buffer, and then playing with the controls to mess with it, is always fun. I find it helpful to make sure Diffusion Amount is non-zero first, so you can quickly crank it up to smear it out into a drone without losing some of the buffer to a glitch as diffusion switches on. Also, a second instance in series can give you even more to play with.

Modulation/Pitch FX

Aegean Music Pitchproof

  • This is a pretty good pitch shifting “pedal” for free, good for doubling octaves or fifths and so on. It can also act as a kind of chorus if you just detune a little and set blend at about the middle.

Bitwig Pitch Shifter

  • Unlike Pitchproof, I like using this for more experimental purposes than simply changing the pitch of a signal. At fully wet you can get texture changes and rough inharmonic sounds. Small shifts with the mix about halfway and modulating the grain size can give you somewhat unusual chorus-flanger-phaser-like effects.

United Pluigins Retronaut

  • This plugin has a lot of character settings, so I love the Random feature here. A few clicks will very quickly take you through combinations of settings you might not have dialed in yourself, and chances are if none of those have the magic you’re looking for, you don’t need to waste time with endless tweaking.

Audiority Electric Matter

  • Mostly a straightforward effect. But in “Filter Matrix” mode, it’s worth trying modulating the Range with an envelope follower from your host. Modulating it at audio rate can get things really dirty.

Audiority Tube Modulator

  • I’ve found I really like the Link mode to get the two LFOs synchronized. Note that turning it on doesn’t immediately synchronize the controls — it takes effect when you move one of the time or amount knobs. So you can keep the amounts independent but synchronize the rates. Try different LFO shapes on the two sides.
  • Mix seems like a small and unimportant knob, but several of the Amplitude effects really benefit from a less than 100% mix.
  • If your host allows it, try separate instances of Tube Modulator on the left and right channels, with slightly different LFO rates and maybe a little Wow & Flutter. It’s extra lush.

Audiothing Lines

  • This odd plugin has several things going on, and one of them is a frequency shifter. It can sound great with the mix level at about 50%, and/or with some feedback dialed in, and it seems to be well complemented by the distortion.

Arturia EFX Refract

  • I think of this effect as a kind of “super-chorus” — as far as I can tell, each of the “Refraction” voices is effectively something like a chorus, with each voice placed differently in the stereo field.
  • Each of these voices can affect one of the parameters of the right-side effect as well, such as the filter cutoff frequency or sample rate. In some cases the Amount setting increases the spread.
  • This spread makes the Comb Filter with high resonance effectively a reverb. (Comb filters are implemented by mixing a short delay with the dry signal.)

Reverbs

Phonolyth Cascade

  • This is a reverb that offers an unusual amount of control over the diffusion and number of stages/taps, giving you a wide variety of delay and reverb profiles. But it can be fairly complex to work with.
  • The general outline of the effect is:
    Input Stage > Predelay > (feedback return) > Diffusion > Damping > (feedback send with “delay”) > Output Stage.
    This means the “delay” parameter has no effect when feedback is 0. Predelay, the diffusor, and damping all do.
  • Modulation affects only the diffusion times, not the predelay or feedback delay.
  • When Shape is 1.0, the diffusion section stage is bypassed; Stages, Distance, Spread, Stereo and modulation are ineffective.
  • When Shape is 0.0, the diffusion section is active but delay-like rather than reverb-like — there is very little spread in the delay times of each stage, but the modulation of each stage is different. Use Spread rather than Distance for more flanger-like effects.
  • Note that turning down Stages can take some time to “settle” (it doesn’t immediately kill the ongoing tails in later stages).
  • Distance x Stages = the delay time of the first stage. Changing Stages doesn’t cause a Doppler shift, but Distance does (smoothed according to the Inertia setting).
  • Spread is the additional time it takes to reach the final stage. More stages means Spread had a stronger effect. At stages=24, Spread x and Distance 1.0 is the same total time as Spread 1.0 and Distance x.
  • For a “grainier” sound with more distinct delay taps, use a lower Spread and/or fewer stages. For “smoother” sound, use more stages and/or a higher Spread.
  • Shape seems to affect the amplitude profile of the stages individually as well as their envelopes, from what I can tell.
  • Remember that “Delay” is separate from the delays that make up the diffusion network, and not subject to modulation. It can be used to add space to the repeats, whether the diffusion is creating grainy/distinct repeat taps
  • Damping has a huge effect on the character; a grainier sound with a narrower bandwidth gives a more retro sound.
  • The Infinite button on the feedback is a thing of beauty.
  • When the feedback is in Freeze mode, the Damping still affects the result (but isn’t written into the buffer).
  • There’s no gain control on the input stage. Maybe there should be — watch your input levels so that stacked diffusion stages and/or feedback don’t cause clipping.

Noise Engineering Desmodus

  • Another effect based on a Eurorack module, this one is basically Desmodus Versio with the tempo-sync feature of Electus Versio added. Again, multitap delays with diffusion that can create a reverb. It’s not particularly realistic but very good both for industrial and ambient applications (and especially where those two intersect).
  • It does infinite reverb really well.
  • Like with Imitor, the envelope follower is a great addition. Try it on obvious things like Blend, and less obvious like Tone, Dense, Regen… even Time or Input or Output. The same holds true for square LFOs or step sequences.
  • It’s not obvious, but you can also modulate Lerp Mode and Node Mode. Switching modes on a step sequencer, or even using the envelope follower so that peaks get the octave-up treatment, might come in handy for something…
  • Also not obvious, but (as with other NE plugins) you can modulate both Hue and Fire on the Config page. I don’t know why anyone would want to use Fire, but having the interface color react to the envelope follower is fun 🙂 You can also assign modulation to modulation parameters…

Sinevibes Droplet

  • The design of this one intentionally has a low density, so to get smooth-ish reverb requires a synergy of modulation, feedback and damping.
  • Deviation isn’t random — with no modulation and not changing any parameters, you’ll get the same rhythm of taps every time (including stereo positioning.)
  • You can take advantage of the separate Send/Return knobs by automating Send, to decide whether or not to send the current input through the effect without cutting off the existing tails.

u-he Twangström

  • I once did an A/B test comparing Twangström with an actual spring tank (using a Koma Elektronik Field Kit FX) and managed to dial it in so I couldn’t tell which was which.
  • Like a real spring reverb, you can twang the springs (with the GUI or VST automation/modulation).
  • Unlike a real spring reverb, the spring tension can be modulated for a chorusing effect. (Dreadbox Hypnosis has a modulated predelay stage for its spring reverb, but that’s a little different.)
  • The Input/Drive applies to the dry mix too, which you may or may not want. If not, consider putting this in a separate send or chain with a wet/dry control so you can have nicely blown out, filtered spring reverb alongside your clean dry signal. With plenty of drive, modulating the filter can be rewarding too.

Valhalla Room

  • The addition of the Space knob in version 2.0 pushed this reverb into my list of favorites, adding a feedback loop around the predelay and early reflections. My favorite way to use the plugin is to start with Depth at 0, Modulation at 0, Diffusion at max, turn up Space, and play with the Predelay and Early Size — the ratio between those two controls determines the smoothness or “bounciness” of the reverb. I might or might not bring in some depth (and adjust Decay) to let the late reflections play too.

Valhalla Supermassive

  • This isn’t a go-to ambient reverb for me, but try crystal-clear delays as a starting point instead. No modulation, no density, start in Gemini mode and Warp at 0. Each delay repeat will be slightly different due to phase cancellation with the input. Now slowly bring up Warp a bit and notice how the timbre changes. You might find something fantastic here staying entirely in “delay” territory, with a low Warp setting and no Density or Modulation. Note the Mode setting will affect the delay taps (it might multiply the selected time, or give you a predelay or tap patterns).
  • From there you might bring in Density, to see what it does. Or of course, modulation to make it all 80s synthwave lush.
  • Alternately: crank feedback to 100%, fill up the buffer with something, and play with the controls to mangle the resulting drone/noise.
  • For a subtle enhancer, try 0ms delay, 100% warp, about 80% density, no modulation. Pick your mode and dial in feedback, width, mix and EQ (I seem to prefer bringing the low cut way up).

Valhalla Vintage Verb

  • To design spaces with this plugin, I start with Predelay, Size, Attack, Diffusion, and Mod Depth at 0, HighShelf at 0db and BassMult at 1.0x, and Color at 1970s. The different algorithms reveal interesting textures with longer decay times. From there, working with one control at a time makes it clearer what’s happening. Generally, Size opens up more space between “repeats”, Early diffusion smooths the attacks of those repeats, Late diffusion smooths them all into a whole.

Distortion

Minimal Audio Rift

  • I prefer to work in Advanced View since it doesn’t hide any controls.
  • But to simplify things a little, I usually set the positive and negative distortion to the same type and enable Link. (I’ll separate them only if I want to modulate Blend to move between softer and harsher distortion types rather than changing the gain, or to crossfade between noise types.)
  • The plugin has a built-in envelope follower, but you might still want to assign one from your host if possible, to work with different attack and release times to encourage more movement in the various parameters. There are a lot of potential modulation targets…
  • The Feedback section and Filter section both have MIDI modes which track that last note played. Assigning an envelope follower to the feedback amount works very well.
  • Any overwhelming resonance on the filter can be tamed a bit by enabling Multiband, setting that section to only affect the filter, and adjusting ranges and levels as needed.

Noise Engineering Ruina

  • This can be a tricky one to dial in, with a lot of weird interactions. I don’t think the default from the Reset button makes much sense, so here’s mine: Blend, Filter and Center at 100%, Phase at 50%, everything else at 0%, Mobile/Cancilla/Under modes. From there, trying one or two sliders at a time can give somewhat more controllabel results.
  • Don’t forget about envelope followers (internal or DAW-assigned); dynamic control of parameters can really wake things up.

u-he Runciter

  • This is my favorite part of the Uhbik collection (I also like Uhbik-Q) — a combination of distortion and filter is always more interesting to me than either one alone.
  • Using two instances in series can make a lot of sense, with the second one taming the first or the first preparing the second.
  • It’s got its own envelope follower for cutoff, but I will harp on this again: an envelope follower from your host, assigned to mix, drive, fuzz, resonance, etc. can also be very nice.
  • The MIDI key follow option for filter cutoff can be useful, depending on playing style (not so much with legato polyphonic phrases).

Lo-Fi

d16 Decimort 2

  • If your DAW can assign MIDI pitch tracking to a VST parameter (as in Bitwig Keytrack+), try assigning that to the resampler frequency, turning on Images Filter and shfiting it up maybe a tiny bit. Set Approx Filter to taste.
  • Of course you can also apply it to the pre/post filter, but that’s not as exciting.
  • Modulating Approx Filter with an LFO can add a bit of vibrato due to the phase shift it induces. You can really get some results that don’t sound like a bitcrusher/sample reducer at all…
  • Aside from the digital distortion, don’t forget there’s a preamp right there, which can lead to badass distortion that works well with the filter(s)… and (say it with me) an envelope follower.
  • If you’re using a DAW that can’t assign modulation sources to VST parameters in this way, and you’re still reading this… sorry, you’re missing out.

Unfiltered Audio Lo-Fi-AF

  • If you have an anti-click plugin (I can recommend Izotope RX De-click), this removes the clicky bits from Skip Chance, for smoother buffer glitches. You can modulate Skip Time for an unusual take on “tape” warble.
  • Envelope follower. Seriously. Works on all kinds of things here, positively or negatively depending on the control and the vibe you’re going for — do you want it to get cleaner and steadier with louder volumes, or worse and messier? Of course you do.

Inphonik PCM2612

  • This is another one that can benefit from De-Click.
  • Also some gain staging experimentation. Cutting the signal going in and then boosting it going out dramatically worsens the signal-to-noise ratio, which might be what you wanted just this once. Of course, boosting the signal level going in and cutting it going out has the opposite effect unless you drive your signal to clipping.
  • A noise gate in front can stop it from constantly spewing DAC noise (or a noise gate after, but you’ll probably need a higher threshold).

AudioThing Speakers

  • I like this plugin a lot, but don’t have any special tricks to suggest other than… you know. On the mic/speaker mix knobs or the filter cutoff in particular.
  • I suppose a regular envelope triggered by MIDI could be fine, I just like envelope followers, okay?

Other

Noise Engineering Librae

  • Yes, it’s a compressor… but I use it more for the drive sections, especially for stereo enhancement. Turning up Soft Drive and Soft Blend, and maybe a bit of the hard version too, on the Side channel can really wake up a stereo image (and you’ve got the goniometer and handy mid/side slider right there, as well as a bevy of other gain controls to make sure the mid is still stronger than the sides).
  • Watch out for hot signals into this one, especially if they were supposed to be “clean” with relatively little in the upper end of the frequency spectrum. Increasing Release can help prevent unwanted… grindiness or scratchiness or whatever you want to call it.

Sound Radix SurferEQ

  • A clever EQ that can track pitch (via MIDI or the audio itself) and move bands around automatically for you, with adjustable detection threshold and glide settings. It also offers not just typical shelving and peak EQs, but harmonic shapes specifically tailored for resonator (or anti-resonator) duties, which you can set in terms of ratio to the detected fundamental. You can really shape timbres in fun ways with this…
  • This pairs well with the free MeldaProduction MAGC, to restore lost (or excessive) volume.
  • It also pairs nicely with distortion, since you’re exercising a lot of control over the harmonics going into it.

the mind is VAST

I’ve been contemplating the ADHD question. In addition to that MetaFilter thread, there’s one on the Lines forum, with several suggestions for books, meditations apps, fidget toys, things that have helped people and other things that didn’t, and perhaps the most valuable, just sharing experiences and feelings about it. I can definitely point out things from my childhood, from younger adulthood, and more recently which fit the pattern to a T — and also a few things that don’t really.

Because of that thread, I read ADHD 2.0: New Science and Strategies for Thriving with Distraction from Childhood through Adulthood, by Hallowell and Ratey. It describes more recent scientific findings, treatment breakthroughs and potential breakthroughs, and the experiences these two psychologists (both of whom also have ADHD) have had with their patients.

The book explains the basic mechanism of ADHD in terms of the Default Mode Network (DMN) and Task-Positive Network (TPN), different networks within the brain that have been observed with differing activity levels depending on the kind of attention a person is using. The TPN is more associated with concentration and focus on a task, goal-oriented thinking, executive function and so on. The DMN is more primarily associated with imagination, memory, thinking about oneself and others, curiosity, and mind wandering. Normally, when on task, the TPN is the more dominant network and the DMN rests. With ADHD, the DMN just keeps going and can divert attention and demand stimulation.

The authors say that this is not solely a disadvantage, not a “disease” per se — there are positive aspects of being impulsive and/or a dreamer. Explorers, inventors, scientists, certain kinds of entrepreneurs, the one who points out the Emperor’s clothes aren’t real, etc. It’s just a question of coping with it and providing the right kinds of stimulation and connection so this doesn’t turn into self-destructive thoughts, inability to function in society, addictive behavior and so on.

They also point out that it’s not a “deficit” of attention — the DMN is just as busy as the TPN, and people with ADHD have a tendency to hyperfocus when they’re getting a particular kind of mental stimulation. They have described this as “Ferrari engine brain with bicycle brakes.” So they’ve introduced the acronym VAST, for Variable Attention Stimulus Traits. And they point out that many people have VAST without meeting the DSM’s clinical requirements for an ADHD diagnosis — this is where I seem to be. I was thinking of myself as “high functioning” and that seeking an official diagnosis of ADHD is unlikely to be that helpful. I don’t have serious problems with work, relationships, addiction, emotional extremes, executive function in general etc. — I’m basically okay, I just have a lot of browser tabs open sometimes.

(VAST, not being a unique acronym, is terrible for internet searches. You pretty much have to use “vast adhd” or “variable attention stimulus traits” to find it. It was also a band in the 90s, Visual Audio Sensory Theater; VAST Dynamics is the name of a company that makes synthesizer plugins and I have a vague recollection of another synth company using the acronym VAST for something; there was also a 2023 Nathan Moody album A Vast Unwelcome whose title hits a little different now; also a Linda Nagata novel from 1998.)

For a clinical ADHD diagnosis, the DSM lists two sets of criteria — one for “inattention” and one for “hyperactivity/impulsivity” — and adults who meet 5 of 9 of them in either or both categories officially has it.

Inattention:

a. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
That was absolutely true in childhood! But I feel like I have functionally overcome it, and it works out much more to “sometimes” rather than “often”.

b. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading).
Yes, 100%.

c. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).
Yes. There are times when someone is talking to me and I’m just not absorbing what was said — I may realize this with some embarrassment, or I may not. And there are times when I ask “what?” and then a second or two later, it comes to me — I heard them but was a little bit behind and had to pull it out of short-term memory.

d. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked).
No — I am literally the best at getting stuff done at work! I temporarily lose focus but I get it back, and accomplish things really quickly in general.

e. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized work; has poor time management; fails to meet deadlines).
This isn’t a hard no, but it’s more no than yes. Missing deadlines isn’t a problem and I’m not particularly disorganized about work/tasks. I do sometimes realize I’ve spent an hour and a half on the clock keeping busy without actually doing useful job-related stuff, and I do sometimes want to perform multiple stages of a serial task simultaneously. But overall, things work out, and the timing and quality of my work don’t suffer.

f. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).
Yes. Not to the extent that I had this in childhood. But sometimes I just really don’t want to be sitting there solving a particular software bug.

g. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
No. Things I need regularly have places where they go so I don’t have to remember where I left them this time, but where I always leave them. I have a strong urge to make things are where they should be. Things I need less often might have an organized place for them, but otherwise they may be at risk of getting lost.

h. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).
Squirrel! I mean, yes absolutely. More the unrelated thoughts, and tangents. And having the entire internet right there in my pocket…

i. Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).
This was more of a yes in childhood, but no now. Bills have a spot on my desk, appointments have a calendar, other things have notes or just habit. Non-critical household chores may get neglected and delayed but I feel like that’s more of a lack of physical energy and/or motivation… including defining “non-critical” more broadly than some people might. 🙂

And the hyperactivity/impulsivity side:

a. Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat.
Yes.

b. Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g., leaves his or her place in the classroom, in the office or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining in place).
No. I actually kind of have this horror of being disruptive, of calling attention to myself — I would prefer to be invisible/unnoticed/”small” in social situations. I do get up and take breaks from work, but that’s expected and healthy. I don’t walk out of meetings or just go wander when I’m specifically expected to be somewhere.

c. Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate. (Note: In adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless).
Feeling restless, yes. I don’t have the energy for running or climbing…

d. Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
Nope.

e. Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g., is unable to be or uncomfortable being still for extended time, as in restaurants, meetings; may be experienced by others as being restless or difficult to keep up with).
No.

f. Often talks excessively.
No. I am usually “the quiet one.” When I’m with a very few people that I’m comfortable with I might jabber more, or in specific situations where I’m a certain kind of nervous but expected to talk. I do post a lot on certain forums or this blog, to get my thoughts out there, but I feel that writing is fundamentally different from talking, in terms of social context.

g. Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed (e.g., completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation).
No, in fact, the opposite. Often I do not see an opportunity to engage in a conversation — maybe I take too long trying to decide how I’m going to say it, or I just plain get talked over. I’m “one of the quiet ones.” My spouse is like this too, and sometimes one of us does end up talking over the other, though we both try to avoid that since we both experience it so much elsewhere.

h. Often has trouble waiting his/her turn (e.g., while waiting in line).
Nope. Especially if there’s a clear order to the queue, I might get a little impatient but who doesn’t? If the cause of the delay is unknown and it’s not a matter of turns, that’s far more likely to bug me.

i. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission; for adolescents and adults, may intrude into or take over what others are doing).
No (and I feel like this is just another way to restate g).

So… definitely not “hyperactive,” no surprise there. But close on the “inattentive” side. Generally though, I think VAST is a better fit than saying “undiagnosed, high-functioning ADHD probably” so I’ll stick with that.

I don’t feel like I need OTC medication or therapy or a coach for it. Recognizing it in myself is an insight though. And geez, I really should try to get some regular exercise because that’s supposed to be helpful. We’ve also been talking about getting back into Qi Gong (we took a class several years ago), and there’s some evidence that working on physical balance is helpful to regulate the DMN/TPN balance. So, yeah.

Slow Teleport announced…

While it’s not scheduled to be played until February 4, here are the notes for my Live & Indirect session “Slow Teleport.”

Some time after the show I’ll also most likely release it on Bandcamp, as I did with Stridulation-Yukon-Relay.

I just submitted that recording yesterday, but last night I already recorded a new session, tentatively called “Krill” if that helps you imagine what it sounds like, with the wonderfully inspiring Incus Iteritas Alia (and Peradam, Marbles, Clep Diaz, Miniverb, Dedalus).

I tried all the available firmwares:

  • Cursus is definitely a favorite.
  • Incus is also a favorite, it’s super interesting how much variety it can produce and just how far it can travel with a 1/4 turn of a single knob.
  • Debel — it didn’t stand out that much to me but would likely be useful to someone less already obsessed with FM. Deserves to be revisited to dig a little deeper though.
  • Ataraxic sounds extremely close to its original hardware. Since I have the space for it and it’s been getting pretty regular usage, I’m going to keep my Ataraxic Iteritas racked rather than selling it, unless something really compelling comes along. (And yes… this plus Wave Packets absolutely puts me back at “too many oscillators.” I think I’m going to just live with that.)
  • Manis — I didn’t spend long with it before jumping to Cursus, but I think it deserves a comparison to the plugin. My feeling at the moment is they’re somewhat different beasts and I’ll have reason to use MIA on occasion. But we’ll see.
  • Basimilus… heresy though it may be, I just prefer it in plugin form.

I’m really curious whether Loquelic Iteritas will be translated in some form to Alia. Obviously some changes would need to be made. I can imagine a version with main and mod oscillators with a ratio parameter, rather than independent A and B, and perhaps using a knob to switch or even crossfade between algorithms so one of the three-way switches can remain B/A/T. But it’s also not unlikely that NE has other ideas, or is planning a redesigned Loquelic module that’s not part of the platform.

̶m̶y̶ our winter storm

I’ve submitted my set for Live & Indirect, and in the next few days will write up a page of notes about it (before it’s even heard by anyone). I’m really happy with how it turned out!


We had severe, below 0F cold here a couple of weekends ago and then nasty, traffic-stopping freezing rain this Monday. The result caused a couple of things:

  • The furnace ran continuously, which dried out the indoor humidity really badly. Our portable humidifier in the living room just wasn’t cutting it. Our skin and nasal passages dried out and static electricity got to be a lot more prevalent. We just had a whole-home humidifier installed today and hopefully that will make a huge difference.
  • Delayed mail. The two modules I ordered on Reverb got delayed at both ends, the Alia just at this end. I did get the Alia and Cluster yesterday, while the Wave Packets is still “Moving Through Network” after arriving in St. Louis 3 days ago.

Cluster is just as I’d hoped, easy to work with, unexciting, does the job… perfect.

Alia is nice. I bought the Manis version (to help protect pangolins for the third time!) but after a quick “yep, that’s Manis” I switched to Cursus. And OH MY YES do I like the module version of Cursus more than the plugin. I did a couple of quick jams with it and was very satisfied. Thumbs up. I could honestly probably leave it on this firmware and be happy. Cursus is supposed to be the gentle one in Noise Engineering’s lineup, but it can get really gnarly with lo-fi formant-ish sounds in ways the plugin does not.

Today while waiting for things to happen at work, I tried Debel and Incus. Debel is FM percussion/plucks, and… strangely did not thrill me all that much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s solidly decent, it just has a lot of competition.

Incus though is more immediately interesting to me — a cousin to Basimilus Iteritas, there is a wild variety of sounds it generates with a combination of additive, FM and noise. It can get raspy, just plain dirty, or even phasey. Like some of their others, I could certainly wish for a drone mode – but triggering it at audio rates can get into some interesting rough textures and sync-ish sounds. Inverting and offsetting the envelope output and patching it back to Trig so it self-cycles is also fun and particularly well suited to Incus, so I’m just not going to complain at all at the lack of a drone mode.


I’ve been going through my effects plugins. Some of them got removed from the active list, because in direct comparison to others in their class, they just didn’t stand out much. For others, I’ve dug in, made an attempt to fully understand the controls and their effects, and/or found some fun techniques/tricks with them. I’ll write up a page of notes on effects, and separately dig into the synth plugins.

I have to say I understand some of the more complex or difficult-to-tame delay-based effects much better now… which both makes them more valuable tools, and increases my resistance to buying yet more effects 🙂

tested

First bit of news is, I’ve been invited onto another internet radio show — “Live And Indirect” on Repeater Radio, which is a kind of successor to Sonic Sound Synthesis. And I already have my half-hour set recorded and it just needs to be mastered.


The second is, I’ve done a wave of module purchases.

1. Noise Engineering announced 3 new firmwares for their Alia oscillator platform: Cursus Iteritas Alia, Ataraxic Iteritas Alia, and a new one called Incus Iteritas Alia. Cursus is what I was waiting for to buy it, but now it’s a direct upgrade to my regular AtarIter and a total no-brainer.

This is nearly ideal for me — I like all of NE’s oscillators but they seem to be the kind that I don’t always want to use; being able to switch between 6 different choices (and most likely a few more in the future) will be fantastic. The only better thing would be if there was just a knob to turn to switch firmware, but unscrewing it (thanks Befaco Knurlies) and plugging in a USB cable and launching Chrome isn’t bad.

Incus is a percussion-oriented module but it also does FM synthesis stuff, as does Debel. My FM-obsessed self likes where they’re going here.

2. I realized that I haven’t been using my Monome Teletype very much. The functions I had used it for have been taken over by Bitwig Grid, Entonal Studio and Univer Inter. There’s the “Just Friends as Harmonic Oscillator” thing but I have other options for that in software too that are honestly just as good. So that gave me an opportunity.

I don’t need more oscillators as such, nor more effects or basic modulation sources or controllers. So the smart thing is to go for something a bit unusual but with a wide variety of uses…

Auza Wave Packets is a module that was released a couple of years ago. It combines a multi-stage contour (envelope) generator with an oscillator (audio or LFO) that has 3 pitch stages, and outputs that combine the contour and oscillator in different ways. So you can get some conventional modulation from it, a fairly simple but complete synth voice, or very fancy wobbles and waves and patterns.

Breaking it down, that style of envelope generator is uncommon but not unique — Stages can do it with more flexibility. The oscillator itself isn’t particularly exciting. A couple of those combo outputs are more unusual though, limiting the bounds of the oscillator with a method that both scales and offsets it. The oscillator pitch control synchronized with the stages but having a separate glide rate is also an interesting twist, and taken as a whole, there’s not really anything quite like it. Also the oscillator and contour times can be synchronized to each other so there’s an integer ratio between them. People who’ve owned one for a while would like CV control over a bit more than what’s available, but I see a lot of potential here and there are a few great examples of it in use. Mostly this has been one that was too weird and obscure to catch a lot of attention, though.

There’s no CV control over contour rates, but there are ways to sync it to external gates, and it’ll cycle at audio rates — so there might be some ways to use it for a kind of pulsar synthesis. (Or, you know, do that while droning.)

So I’m looking forward to trying this. I’ll count this one as a justified module swap too. 🙂

3. Toppobrillo Cluster to replace my Mutable Instruments Blinds. I mentioned that possibility previously, and decided to go ahead and do it while I’m moving stuff anyway. The modules have some similarities but a different approach — switching them is basically a small nitpicky optimization, making it slightly easier to do crossfading and the sorts of things I typically use Blinds for while freeing up a little space, and I’ll probably be able to resell Blinds for more than Cluster cost. The upgrade later from Ana to Ana 2 will make up for what’s lost.


Those foam wedges I got? Perfect fit. The thicker, 16 degree wedges bring the top of the case 6 inches toward me without compromising any space at the bottom. Leverage! As I realized when moving modules around, this makes the top two rows just slightly top-forward of vertical. I may choose later to also use the 8 degree wedges and bring it that much closer, but probably not — I think the ergonomics problem is resolved where it is.


I’ve been reading Gender Queer: A Memoir, which is the most-challenged and most-banned book in the US. Aside from the wave of transphobia that has been going on, which would immediately cause every conservative and a lot of moderates and a few supposed liberals to be afraid that the book was trying to recruit kids to the Trans Agenda… this book talks openly about body parts and processes that society would like everyone to forget exists.

I guarantee that EVERY HUMAN BEING going through puberty has strong — and potentially confusing and disturbing — thoughts of one kind or another about sex and their body and other peoples’ bodies. That part is really not unique to non-binary, trans, gay, or asexual kids.

This book isn’t porn. Very little in it celebrates sex; it mostly expresses the fear, horror and confusion that the author had over it — which was greatly magnified by the face that society tells you you’re not supposed to think or talk about it and you should just “be normal.” Overcoming that was the whole point of publishing the memoir. This kind of repression very literally makes people suffer and die.

And it’s increasing. There are proposed state laws to classify the bodies of trans people as “obscene material.” That is just straight-up Nazi shit. There are maps now of states classifying them according to how personally dangerous it is in the “Land of the Free” to be trans.

Anyway, I didn’t really grow up like Maia. If I wrote my own memoir, it would be less dramatic and urgent. I didn’t have strong dysphoria, more of a general sense that the body I have isn’t really “me” so much as something I got stuck with. But also, I didn’t really have the ability to put the concepts into a coherent form and figure things out for myself until I was already in my 40s. The existence of communities online where people could share their experiences and give these phenomena names was absolutely key — which is why I think this sort of information should be freely available, not banned.

organization and attention

I’ve managed to turn playing with Lego(s) into a kind of work. Lego is particularly subject to taxonomy, with some basic categories and a lot of variants:

(Image is from the Lego Storage Guide at brickarchitect.com. Does SNOT stand for “stud not on top?” There is also a whole taxonomy poster…)

The “Creative Fantasy Universe” set is 1800 pieces — and at least half of them are “weird little fiddly bits” of some kind or other, falling outside the usual bricks and plates. Props for minifigs — enough spears to outfit a regiment, and shields, scimitars, eating utensils… flags and banners, dragon wings and angel wings and lots of little flowers and frogs and so many eyes (be not afraid!) and so on.

The other sets I have (bonsai and McLaren F1/Solus) also have quite a few of these weird bits. (The bonsai has literally 200 “pebbles”, which are either low-profile circular one-stud tiles or something that doesn’t even fit on a stud at all, not sure.)

I have not yet built anything from the CFU set. I haven’t even unpacked all the bags yet, but have sorted most of the bulk. I bought a storage case that turned out to be kind of a mess — flimsy and fiddly and not really enough compartments to sort it the way I’d wanted to. I’m honestly a bit annoyed I’ve spent so much time thinking about how to store and organize the Legos and dithering with shopping for a better solution… so I just ordering a better set of storage boxes and a sorting tray as recommended by the guide. THERE.

But come to think of it, my hobbies and my job lend themselves to the optimization of organization, in ways that sometimes gets a bit obsessive. There’s ModularGrid for comparing Eurorack modules and rearranging them in cases. I have a page of notes for Soulstone Survivors skills and builds. There are websites dedicated to builds, tactics and skill rotations for MMOs, and I may be a filthy casual in a lot of respects but you better believe I spend time on some of those sites. I keep notes on my music-making, spreadsheets of gear purchases and trades and of gear used on albums, the history of modules I’ve tried. I have meticulous, constantly updated notes for work about what I’m working on, what to work on next, what changes are currently in review or building, etc. I have a bunch of online notes on all kinds of things. Scribes gotta scribe, I guess.

There was a thread about “things not to say to people with ADHD” on MetaFilter a few days ago, and the comment thread made me recognize that… yeah, I probably have it. I was never diagnosed, though I’m sure I could have been diagnosed as a child. I’m sure at least some of this organization stuff is a coping mechanism.

My tendency to want to be as small and invisible as possible in social situations works against the usual list of symptoms; “difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn” absolutely does not fit me.

But I’ve definitely had the stereotypical experience of being a gifted kid who was bored silly with regular classes and thus couldn’t focus and did poorly at times. The restlessness, losing the thread of a conversation because my mind goes elsewhere, task switching. Needing to get up and take a bathroom break, fix coffee, walk around, etc. just to do something else for a moment. Driving someplace on autopilot and missing my turn because I was thinking about other stuff. Procrastinating, or alternately (or simultaneously!) being anxious because the thing is not getting done right now. Lately, sometimes when I’m reading for pleasure I wind up picking up my phone and playing a puzzle game for a bit. Or watching anime, looking at my phone and then realizing I can’t understand the dialog without the subtitles. 🙂 Writing a blog post such as this one, answering a forum post, checking Instagram, doing some online shopping, and listening to music while also working on a bug at work (with other tabs open to research what I’m writing/doing.) And I’ll certainly hyperfocus sometimes when I’m in the zone, whether it’s music, work, gaming etc.

I’m wondering now how this might tie in with my musical inclinations. I like listening to albums, and I like drone music but not that drone music… there has to be a kind of flow more than stasis, but it can be slow and gradual enough that it bores some people and I’m fine with it. Drone or not, music can take its time, but it can’t linger too long without going anywhere, if that makes sense?

This also might be related to the process, where it’s always committing and moving forward — recording a full mix with effects baked in, destructive editing, etc. I felt like it was more fun and better for my creative flow, but I’m willing to acknowledge it might just fit my mindset too.

Anyway, if I do have ADHD (and I probably do) I’d describe myself as high-functioning. Things like procrastination, restlessness, inability to focus, excessive multitasking don’t really get in my way very much. It doesn’t make me bad at my job or unable to finish projects. But it’s good to acknowledge it for myself.