Serge-O-Voxes //// voices for the Serge IV
« SERGE-O-VOXES – voices for the Serge » is bursting out as a companion to the second installment in our I.T.A.T.I.O.M. series dealing with Inventors Talking About Their Instruments Or Modules.
Gathering 80 compositions to celebrate « the Serge synth » this mammoth of a collection was curated by Doug Lynner and I, under the guidance of Serge Tcherepnin.
Adopting such a title became obvious when Serge Tcherepnin told me:
Searching for names for my synth back in ’72, “Serge-O-Vox” and “Tcherepnin Synthesizer” came up. Then, thanks to the way I funded purchasing the parts, panels, PCBs for the first 20 synth, we came up with the name “People’s Synthesizer”. The serge was the first crowd-funded DIY synth. Anyone with $600 was able to obtain a kit.
In order to make your listening easier to digest I have chosen to divide « Serge-O-Voxes » into 4 sessions.
Here’s the fourth one:
01. Doug Lynner – From a Breath (20:08)
Doug Lynner began his friendship with Serge Tcherepnin, and his association with the Serge Modular Music System, in the early 1970s at the California Institute of the Arts where he was a composition student.
He owns the first commercial Serge, the Mystery Serge, and was the company’s demo artist in its early days.
Doug continues to contribute to the Serge world through free video tutorials and private instruction, and recording
regularly on the Mystery Serge and aiding in the development of the Elby Serge variant.
02. Batchas: Un Cycle (03:26)
Batchas plays synths since the eighties and the Serge Modular System is his favorite. «Un cycle» was improvised on his STS system.
I really enjoy its multi-functionality and its amazing sound. The first time I heard the VCFQ being pinged, it acted like a revelation! When I decided I should get a Serge system, we were lucky to already have CGS and Ken Stone with his inestimable know-how about Serge circuits, but I didn’t feel skilled or competent enough to build a system by myself and the DIY scene was far to be as developed as today. I was dreaming of having a paperface system, but never could afford it. What I found was either in a very bad shape, or way too expensive for my budget. So I saved enough money and bought a new system from STS, the only source I knew to get this magnificent analog modular system. I never regretted it.
A few years later, I got a paperface system from 1978 and a dream came true.
03. Nicolas Peck – Orange Skies (09:35)
Nicolas Peck first encountered Serge modulars in the early nineties, when he was getting his BA in electronic music at San Francisco State University. He immediately took to it, learning and loving its intricacies as the music department moved away from analog and toward computer music. He did more work with Serge, as well as Buchla and Moog Modular systems, while doing his MFA in electronic music and recording media at Mills College in Oakland, California.
Many years later, Peck rediscovered modular as Eurorack became a practical solution. But after a time, he wanted to move past the small form factor and heterogeneous approach, and back to his first love: Serge Modular. He now owns a BOCGS system from Elby Designs, as well as a handbuilt 73-75 Paperface system, in addition to several homebuilt EuroSerge modules from Random*Source. Peck is preparing a lecture on the history of Serge Modular for the Synthplex ’20 convention in Burbank, CA and continues composing on the Serge system, as well as creating tutorial videos for his YouTube channel, Under the Big Tree.
04. Ian Boddy – Krellic (07:17)
Ian Boddy is a UK musician who first got into electronic music in the late 1970s. Since 1999 he has run the well respected Electronica label DiN releasing over 90 albums as well as more recently curating the Tone Science series. He has also composed many library music albums as well as being a much sought after sound designer.
Krellic uses my large 6 panel Serge system with an aleatoric, self-playing patch exploring an evolution of the basic Krell patch by Todd Barton. Utilising analogue FX to give it a Sci-Fi B-Movie vibe by using not only the Wilson Analogue Delay within the Serge system but also some external FX from a large Accutronics spring tank attached to the Doepfer A199 & the Echo Fix EF-X2 tape echo.
05. Rafael Timoner – State of Alarm (08:33)
Rafael Timoner has been working on visual arts, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography and video installations, under a minimalist and conceptual style, for more than 30 years.
My art works are present in numerous public and private art collections, with some sculptures installed in public spaces in Spain. Since 2012 I‘m working and experimenting with sound and my system is based on Serge Eurorack R*S, Catalyst Audio Bucha Serie 100, and Verbos Electronics, whose versatility allows me to experiment in sound and video synthesis.
06. Ralf hoffmann – RhythmusicX (17:44)
R.C. Hoffmann (born in Karlsruhe, Germany) is a painter, software developer, multimedia artist, lawyer, musician and espresso addict. He studied mathematics, computer science, art and law in the United States (Deerfield Academy, Columbia University) and Frankfurt before venturing into a number of projects ranging from super-learning techniques for languages to oil painting, derivatives or children’s books. In 2015, he started Random*Source and has been working with Serge Tcherepnin since, in order to bring the Serge Modular Music System to a new level.
07. Bertrand Fraysse – Kowloon (04:37)
Bertrand Fraysse started using computers but quickly drifted to analog sound sources, discovered through no-input mixing board raw oscillator/filter sounds. Very interested in feedback, whether with guitar and amp, or in the box…
After all my electronics were stolen I had to find a new way to perform (I used the no-input mixer with many pedals, some fairly rare and hard to find) so after a couple of years searching + waiting for it to be built, I got a two panel serge system, Sound Transform System Animal and Soup Kitchen II as it was the only way to get a new Serge system.
It was a few years before the eurorack and D.I.Y. boom. I immediately loved the sound and crazy routing possibilities, no difference between sound and control voltage ! I knew I’d love to spend thousands of hours on it too !
08. Modular 2 – Astorevoc (06:08)
From the early 70s on André Stordeur pioneered and taught Modular Synthesis in Belgium. In the early 80s he started using a Serge synthesizer prototype which was especially built for him by Serge Tcherepnin himself. From 1981 on he was the Serge company consultant for Europe.
Modular 2 was a song recorded in 2008 (with his pupil Fabrice du Busquiel) using Andre’s Serge System + SSM Clones.
09. Patrick Kuessner – Sieben mal sieben gibt feinen sand (07:42)
My name is Patrick Kuessner and i live in the city of Mainz, wich is the city where the printing press was invented, wich was a really big Revolution as people suddenly had the chance to buy a printed version of the bible, translated into many languages. With my disabilities i often ask god for help and strength so that i can keep doing what i do in a prayer, because it is something very special being a human. When i was a kid, my brother had a Yamaha DX Synthesizer and i loved making helicopter sounds with it. I grew up listening to a lot of Electronic music, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I bought a used Moog Slim Phatty, wich really helped me learning about synthesis. Nowadays I do have three rows of eurorack, wich is largely inspired by the analog synthesizer pioneers on the west coast Don Buchla and Serge Tcherepnin, so i have ad envelopes, a low pass gate, i have some real Serge modules in it too, linear and also through zero fm capable oscillators and a digital oscillator too. Also the Trautonium Filterbank in a small 32hp case. Being severly disabled from mental illness, these instruments are the most important thing in my life. Some people take care of me and often I like to escape this reality, music help me to find a world that is a lot more positive in its attitude towards life. Thank you for your interest.
10. Marc Canter – Hi Eva (01:46)
Marc Canter is a software entrepreneur, opera singer and electronic music composer from Chicago. Early voice lessons led Marc to discover John Cage, while also getting access to a Moog synth at his high school.
From 1975 to 78y Marc entered Oberlin Conservatory where immersed himself into 6502 assembler, APL, musique concrete and extensive, extreme analog music synth performance using Moog, Buchla, Serge, Putney…
Since he co-founded MacroMind in 1984 – which became Macromedia in 1991 he has been creating software tools…
11. Julien boudart – There is something behind me (06:31)
Julien Boudart has been performing and composing on electronic music instruments since the mid 90’s. He made his first musical experiments on crude DIY circuits, a modded Radioshack toy organ and a pair of cassette decks. Since 1996, the Korg MS20 has long been his main instrument as a performer. Often improvising live with acoustic musicians. Aside his solo works, he is involved in a handful of regular bands, works for theater, radio and multimedia performances.
When I first played a Serge system in 2015, I fell immediately attracted by the peculiar conception of the modules and of the whole system. At the same time quite esoteric and very open to many uses and abuses. This is a very generous design, which naturally encourages to try adventurous combinations. I found this very stimulating and the instrument naturally took a central position in my music.
I sometimes route some of the Serge signals into a metallic resonator (a speaker whose diaphragm is a tam tam gong). I like the way the electric wildness of the Serge hybridates with the acoustic nonlinear wildness of the gong. I use this setup (though quite gently this time) on “There is something behind me”, along with some field recording and hand manipulation of my Serge’s spring reverb.
12. Phisynth – Bargaining Again (05:31)
Phisynth was immediately attracted to the Serge system, not only for its characteristic and raw sound, “the brutal sound of electrons”, but also for its highly aesthetic appearance.
I immediately had the feeling that it was more of a real instrument, unlike Eurorack and its frantic race to the latest fashionable module, which never attracted me. The Serge, which consists of almost only basic modules, whose design has changed little since their invention in the ‘70s, requires a patch programming approach to get the best out of it, which was the logical continuation of my work in Max/MSP, but with a much more immediate result.
It is really intended for sound experimentation, which can obviously sometimes lead to disappointing results, but also to happy accidents, which is what I have always sought in my approach to sound, because I consider myself more as a sound explorer than a musician. In my opinion, there are obvious comparisons with Lego blocks, in relation to which I have always considered the basic 4 x 2 brick to be the ideal module for stimulating the imagination and building an infinite number of things, unlike specialised pieces like you see now, which only fulfil one function and which you never find anyway when you need them. My first Serge system was a leap into the unknown, it was composed of 4 STS M-modules : Creature, Quadslope, Waveshaper and Gator, later joined with a TKB. I think retrospectively it was the ideal system to start understanding Serge’s philosophy, because it contained both sound generation tools, the infamous VCQF filter, logic modules (that I learned to love), waveshaping tools and 4 instances of what I believe to be the most essential module in the Serge world: the Universal Slope Generator, the paradigm of patch programming flexibility. This system went through many iterations, then eventually evolved int a 8 “shop panels” system before I realised that it was actually too much, and understood my creativity was actually richer with less (Less IS actually More in the Serge world). So I reduced it to 4 shop panels, which I augmented with a TPS control panel I made with CGS PCB’s (my biggest venture into SDIY so far).
With this system, I have the feeling I have achieved the perfect balance for my needs.
Oh and did I mention that I’m in love with banana cables as well ?
13. Thanos Fotiadis – Voltage Birds
Thanos Fotiadis is a classical pianist, a multi-instrumentalist and an electronic music composer based in the Netherlands. He has performed many concerts playing works of contemporary classical composers and has made his own music as a bass player/guitar player/drummer with various post-punk and noise-rock bands for 20 years now. As a composer he discovered his own language through the modular synthesizer and particularly the amazing architecture and sonic possibilities of a Serge system where the deeper you go, things become simpler and more substantial. Thanos is currently working on feedback systems and studying the cybernetic music of Ronald Kayn.
After a few years experimenting with creating my own modular system, I realised that the power of a system that is carefully designed as a whole, is substantial to my work as a composer. And Serge was honestly the only system that gives me the freedom to dream different connections without the restraints of formality.
14. Christer Déman: Band Brus Blues’ (03:15)
Christer Déman is a Stockholm-based musician focused on ambient, atmosphere, noise, film, art and technology.
In this tune/patch ‘Band Brus Blues’ the following Serge modules were used: 2x DUSG, 2x SSG, 4x NTO, 2x VCFQ, 1x VCFS, 2x VCM and 1x Stereomixer. Effects are BBD delay, Tape Echo, Compressor/Limiter, Reverb. Recorded on 2 channel tape recorder. The first part of a DUSG is clock in the patch and also drives the rhythmic sound. Then the rhythms go back and forth between DUSG, SSG, NTO and VCFQ which gives character and random. Mainly Sinus from NTO with FM input but also Variable, Triangle and Saw. Pulse for rhythm. Further filtered in VCF and some steering and tweeking. No keyboard or sequencer.
15. Tom Djll: Hesitation (04:34)
Tom Djll studied electronic music with Stephen Scott at the Colorado College, working with the EMS Synthi 100. He spent 1981-1993 working with the Serge Modular Music System (SERGE WORKS published by Other Minds’ Modern Hits netlabel, 2018) before enrolling in Mills College Contemporary Music Program, where he extended his quest to develop and integrate an idiosyncratic trumpet language into electronic sound worlds. He resides in California.
This piece is very recent and the result of an improvisational approach to a new instrument I put together over the last year or so. It is a 3-tiered XL-boat Serge system built mostly from Random Source components, including a TKB, a Mantra, and an Edelweiss Mk 1. Also heard are Hordijk and Bug Brand instruments. Single-track stereo take.
I am of one mind with Serge when it comes to ‘letting the circuits speak for themselves,’ rather than putting together Bach preludes or visionary math-rock or whatever, although my open-ended, polyrhythmic sound constructions might suggest a kind of electronic free jazz.
16. Julien Heraud – Improvisation on a feedback patch (05:52)
Julien Heraud composes electroacoustic and noise pieces. Previously a saxophonist, around 2015 he switched to electronic instruments (analog synthesizers, digital samplers, recorders and feedback mixer, tape recorders, microphones) before devoting himself mainly to two modular systems Make Noise and Serge Random * Source since 2018. He is interested in the psychoacoustic properties of vibrations and dynamic variations of sound, whether it comes from analog synthesis or from concrete sources.
17. PRFRK – NTOS – Opus 8 (08:12)
Geek and passionate about all musics PRFRK (aka Yan Proefrock) likes to think outside the box. Video director and editor specialised on live music shows for the french television he learned classical piano quite young and started buying gear in the 80’s. He discovered modular synthesiser in 2016 and became totally addicted to it…
In 2020 he started the very first radio devoted to the genre Modular Station.
Eurorack was a starting point, he dived into DIY and circuit designs. Meeting Serge Tcherepnin and discovering the Serge system has been a trigger and a revolution for his way of thinking and making music.
18. David Chesworth – Serge Mix Tape (excerpt) (02:08)
With a background in post-punk and experimental music, David Chesworth creates large-scale sound and video artworks made with Sonia Leber that are featured in galleries and festivals including the Venice and Sydney Biennales. David’s own performances include the Bang on a Can Marathon in New York, the Paris Autumn Festival & Ars Electronica.
David’s Serge works date from his early student days when Warren Burt introduced him to the large paper face Serge that was once installed at LaTrobe University in Melbourne. It has only recently been restored and now resides at Melbourne Electronic Sound Studios (MESS). For David, the Serge is a compositional tool where simple elements can be patched to derive novel evolving structures that reveal the Serge’s inhuman humour, pathos and logic.
Pleased to end that hommage to Serge with Friends Of Rocky + The 27th Parallel whose music I have just discovered and whose approach I find highly interesting.
Both tracks were made using modules designed by Eric Barbour and adapting Metasonix to the Serge format and thus may serve as a perfect link to our I.T.A.T.I.O.M. dealing with Metasonix.
19. Friends Of Rocky: A Ballad for Cephalopods(10:44)
Friends of Rocky is the alias of Ricardo Velarde born and grew up in the Barranco neighborhood in the coast of Lima, Peru.
Since I was a child, I have been interested in electronic music, films and art. After school in the 90 ́s, I went to Europe to connect with my Italian ancestry and all the classic art I had always admired through pictures in art books. I spent a year in Florence, visiting museums by day and illegal techno and electro parties in abandoned factories by night. Then I went to London to attend film school and ended up staying there for 10 years. Time passed quickly, shooting short films in Cambridge, and driving back to London the same day to attend jungle parties on raided supermarkets at night, sleeping and attending Bernard Parmegiani ́s quadraphonic performance in ICA the next day… Every other day was like that: beautiful but exhausting. Until the day I tried an electronic instrument: a dodgy and primitive Roland TR 606. From that day on I stayed home most of the time playing and recording my brand new Livewire modular system and Metasonix Wretch Machine. More recently, back in Lima, I managed to shoot my first feature film in Super 16mm called The Light on the Hill, a mystery thriller at 5000 meters above sea level in the mountains of Cusco, featuring sounds made with the Metasonix TM boxes and other synths and modular. And even though it took me to Montreal and Sitges film festivals, back in Peru it was treated like rubbish and was put in commercial theaters in Halloween to compete with cheesy horror and stupid romantic comedies, and was removed from theaters in a week. Angry with the commercial film distribution system and theaters, and full of debts, I decided to concentrate on my new Serge Modules and Metasonix gear to avoid going crazy.
20. The 27th Parallel – Tonal Breaks (10:29)
The 27th Parallel is the alias of Ethan Carlson is an esoteric musician and short film composer based near Seattle, WA. Under the (now former) stage name of ‘Delepathy’, he began performing live at age 17 (2015) in Seattle with a small Eurorack system at Modular On The Spot. In 2018, he scored four short films and a feature (not yet released) for film students at a local community college.
Up until late-2018, he had performed live alongside notable names in the pacific northwest modular synth community. This included: John L. Rice, Dark Sparkler, Donald Crunk, Tim Held, and The Animals at Night (Recovery Effects).
Ethan currently resides in the hills, somewhere SW of Seattle – auspiciously playing what many will never hear.
In 2018, I met Eric Barbour of Metasonix (indirectly, through many emails and social media). Then in 2019, after getting into the 4U Serge format, requested custom Random*Source/Serge 4×4 panels made with RK modules. The first panel, aptly named the “Sodomizer”, had an RK3 and the beta version of the RK7 Thyratron VCO (uses different resistors and labeling). The second panel, flagrantly named the “Bellend”, contains an RK4 and RK2. Eric also re-adapted the original R-56 Vacuum-Tube Reverb to fit within the Serge 4×4 format. Only one of which currently exists.
Fantastic addition to any SERGE/BUCHLA system: