pumpkin spice and synth show season

First, the usual complaint that summer can’t end quickly enough. The days are getting shorter, the pumpkin spice flavored everything is taking over, and we are well into the -ember months, but the high temps are still in the low 90s. Bring on the gloomy skies and the hoodies!

Knobcon 9 was this past weekend. I didn’t go, because I didn’t know how the COVID situation would be and because of some work uncertainties. I’ve heard it was about 2/3 the usual size, and honestly that seems like the perfect size to me, since the full experience is a bit overwhelming and crowded. But I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the entire weekend stressing over COVID, so I’m not sorry I missed it.

This coming weekend is Superbooth. Knobcon and Superbooth are the two biggest synth-specific conventions (though there are bigger music industry shows, such as NAMM and Musikmesse), and usually there are a lot of announcements about new products. Despite parts shortages, there have been some of those.

VCV Rack 2 is coming — first another free version, then a commercial one in VST plugin form. I was excited for that until I started hearing about toxicity in the developer community, and now I don’t think I can support it. One writeup about it is here. The rebuttal from Andrew Belt basically calls it a “smear campaign,” there is no attempt to address any of the concerns brought up, and there is indeed a “anyone questioning the moderator will be banned” policy, and I’m just not getting a good feeling from that. Honestly, I have gone this long without using VCV for more than a few minutes, and I can continue without it given how well Bitwig integrates with modular hardware.

Joranalogue has two or three new things that they’ve teased but not announced. It seems like one of them is a chaotic/random generator of some kind, one seems to be some kind of stereo tool (with a phase correlation meter, balance/width knobs but we haven’t seen more) and there’s something with a lot of faders that could be a number of different things. I look forward to seeing what these turn out to be, but probably not something I’ll feel like I need.

Shakmat Mod Medusa seems like a neat concept: a Euclidean (and other algorithmic patterns) LFO. But I have that covered with Teletype.

I’m more curious about New Systems Instruments’ upcoming “Intertia” module. It seems to be a function generator (a trigger causes a signal to rise at some rate, then fall back to zero, or it can cycle, or follow an input level with maximum rise/fall rates). But this one has momentum — it can overshoot its goal, then when it gets turned around, accelerate too much and overshoot again, and so on — also known as resonance. It can oscillate without retriggering, and it can act as a filter as well as an oscillator or envelope. It’s sort of unifies some related concepts that never quite connected before in modules. That said, you can run a function generator (or any other CV source) through a resonant filter and get this sort of wobble. I’m curious if having it all in one unit offers any advantages other than convenience.

Xaoc is not disappointing either, with three new modules: a stereo filter, a stereo spatializer and mid/side converter, and more relevant to my interests, a new entry in the Leibniz Binary Subsystem. “Erfurt” is, on the surface, a simple binary counter with +1, -1 and reset inputs, and outputs for each of 8 bits. Binary being what it is, if you clock one of the increment inputs you get /2, /4, /8, /16, etc. divisions. But the part I’m trying to wrap my brain around is how it interfaces with other Liebniz modules. When it receives input from that bus — such as from Drezno’s ADC, or Jena’s wavetable lookup — it uses the value as a guide for how much to increment or decrement by. I’m not sure what it sends out to the Liebniz system though — its own register value, or is it an offset to the input, or what? The implications could be lots of different things and I think I need some explanation/demos to puzzle this out.

Other than that, I can write off the other announcements (so far) as stuff that mainly doesn’t seem particularly innovative, or at the very least, just not relevant to me. Which is good, because I don’t really want to shake up my plan.

Last night I finished reading Glow by Tim Jordan — there are many novels with that title, I have just discovered. A sort of cyberpunk horror, with a setup similar to Repo: The Genetic Opera and perhaps Deus Ex: Human Revolution with a touch of Terminator, but also spies getting literally into peoples’ heads, robot nuns both worshipping and trying to create the “Future-Lord,” and a protagonist who literally doesn’t know whether he’s a human or a dog at times. It was mostly enjoyable, though I’ve just realized it has a “fridge logic” problem. But the main issue I had was that the copy editing seemed to just stop about 2/3 of the way through the book. Grammar started to stumble, and punctuation dove off a cliff. It’s like the nicely bound novel with a very well-designed cover, bought in a nice brick and mortar bookstore, suddenly became a self-published ebook.

Now hang on. I’m not against either self-published books, or ebooks! But too many of them suffer from lack of an editor.

I know my grammar on this blog and on forums — the only places where I really write anything — is far from perfect. Sometimes I cringe and correct things quietly when I notice what I’ve posted. But when I read a novel, I have expectations, and I’m often disappointed. These things detract from the experience. It’s like listening to a bootleg of a live show rather than a professionally produced and mastered album.

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