home stretch

Coincidentally, not long after what I said in the last post about additive synthesis, GuyaGuy on the MW forum said this about Arturia Synclavier V:

“Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys playing with harmonic oscillators and spectral transfer filters in modular but wants polyphony and similar-but-different tonal options.”

Those were the magic words. I’d kind of stayed away from the synth because the interface is a bit weird. All of the “V” synths have skeuomorphic UIs that at least somewhat imitate the original hardware they emulate, for better or for worse, plus some extras. In this case, they gave the main panel more knobs (good, even if they are virtual!) and put the “screen” interface on a separate tab. There’s a lot going on with this synth so there’s probably not much choice about that. It seems complex at first glance, and that’s because in total, it is. It doesn’t help that the Synclavier uses “partial” to describe one layer in a voice, rather than the usual definition it has in additive synthesis. But each “partial” is a relatively simple additive synthesis layer (or a sample player) with an FM modulator.

Once I sussed out the interface though, I found that I like it a lot. The “chorus” option isn’t an effect (except that it has an FX section too, in its additional goodies) but a doubling of the voice, at a freely tunable ratio. A few of those, some inharmonic FM, and you can make some pretty wild sounds with this thing.

The Synclavier was an extremely important piece of digital synth history. Originally an additive synth in 1977, over the next few years it added multiple layers, FM, and then the first 16-bit sampling available, then the first polyphonic sampling, all at very high spec for the time. It was built entirely on custom hardware and software — some of which was repurposed for scientific research and medical applications, as nobody at the time was building off-the-shelf analog-to-digital converters — and each unit was in the $25,000-$200,000 range depending on options.

And it sounds wild. The iconic opening sound to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” was done with a Synclavier II preset, exactly mimicking a sequence that was on an obscure synth demo record. There’s still very little out there like it; additive synths have generally been rare, and Yamaha FM synths have a very different architecture.

Sometimes I just have to reflect on how amazing software plugins are.

Another thing I’m planning to give a serious try is Fabfilter Saturn, a flexible saturation/distortion plugin. I have Wavesfactory Spectre and some other options, but this kind of seems to be the king in this area, and another forum comment associating it with resonators seems encouraging…

I tried a new third-party Versio firmware over the weekend, and found it wasn’t really to my liking. Rather than putting Yester or Melotus back on, I went with Ruina and found it’s got some different flavor than the software plugin. It inspired a doomy dark ambient recording, with Rings as the sound source (again, not sounding “like Rings”). I think I’ll run with this for a while.

That album really is moving along — I expect I’m now just one track from calling it complete, and I have the foundation of that track already recorded. Bandcamp Friday is this week, and it’s kind of tempting to push hard and get it finished in time, but I don’t want to rush it either. We’ll see.

That new office chair was a nice boost in comfort and tends to improve my posture. (I’ve also found I can play the Miezo with the arms still on the chair, no problem.) Now we’ve got a new cat bed upstairs too, and that has calmed Rico down some, and that has meant more and better sleep. When we had our big power outage a couple of weeks ago, I noticed he slept more peacefully and bothered us a bit less. Cats do tend to run hotter than humans, so I thought he might appreciate a self-warming cat bed (reflecting his body heat). And indeed he does.

So why does my back still insist on hurting? šŸ˜›

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