Modulisme 051

Philippe Petit – Birthday Session

Cover Artwork : Yan ProefrockConception - Layout : P. Petit / Cover Art : Proefrock

An invitation to drift with…

Modulisme has been in existence for 2 years already and offering ressources, hours of music – sharing great works of today and those from the past – so I feel happy that it has become a strong voice supporting left-field Electronic music.
To mark the occasion I have completed this BD Session in hope to clarify musical intentions and broaden the scope of our platform + send a message to all those who had already offered their music not to hesitate to compose a second session, returning being the best way to reinforce our community/family !
Our union makes us strong in the accomplishment of this labour of love that brings more pleasure every day.

Modulisme shall remain thought-provoking, I want to emphasize the importance of extensive interview/liner notes rather than offering any shortcut-reader’s digest type of thing, feel welcome to step in and immerge yourself, this is an “invitation au voyage” just like this session is an ode to “dérive”: a Situationist drift.

What have you been working on lately, and do you have any upcoming releases or performances?

I just completed a piece for the Anti f:Orm series of compilations which God Hates God Records has been releasing throughout the years.
Buried Treasure, a British label specializing in Contemporary Library music, has agreed to release 3 vinyl EPs and the first one is appearing in the Fall + they are featuring a song on a sampler CD.
In the Summer we completed the second part of the trilogy Michael Schaffer and I initiated last year, « II » is scheduled to see the light of day in October.
By the end of the year Flag Day Recordings – out of the USA and who had released my homage to Hyeronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” triptych in 2020 – will manufacture a Cassette edition of « Cymbalomentums », exploring the sound of my amplified Cymbalom vs. Electronics.
Glacial Movements, #1 home for tasty Ambient Music will issue « Ice_Thawing » in 2022, an album denouncing the consequences of global warming, the melting of glaciers all around the world…
In 2022 Aural Terrains, a label dedicated to Contemporary music and operated by the composer Thanos Chrysakis, will release “In A State of Weightlessness” a CD gathering some Electroacoustic works I composed during the past 4 years.

Last but not least I completed an ambitious work marrying Grand Piano with Electronics. « A reassuring Elsewhere » is a work around my “inside-piano” techniques where – unlike the preparations made popular by John Cage which diverted and orientalized the instrument while keeping its unity – I tried to obtain more diverse sounds, more spread out in the frequency spectrum. My desire was to transform its timbre, retranscribe the importance of the instant-compositional gesture, keep it concrete in the way Pierre Henry had intended in « Le microphone bien tempéré » for instance… I wanted that my prepared piano could play the unique role of an instrument that creates sounds that feel electronically altered using an acoustic manipulation and then I worked on marrying them with my Buchla 200 and Synthi A synths.
The most noble acoustic instrument meeting the 2 most legendary modular systems not knowing where one stops and the other begins… Nonclassical Recordings from London have been convinced and will release the album in 2022 !
Having been a strong supporter of the label since its inception, in the early 2000s, it is needless to say that I am very pleased to be featured alongside Gabriel Prokofiev, Langham Research Centre, Ligeti Qt., Aisha Orazbayeva, Tom Richards, Dominic Murcott, Klavikon, Mercury Qt., Génia and so many others who appeared on their compilations or side projects…

How were you first acquainted to Modular Synthesis? When did that happen and what did you think of it at the time?
How does it marry with your other « compositional tricks »?

Back in 1978 I went to see Kraftwerk play and ever since records of Electronic Music have been added to my shelves. But I fully understood and embraced Modular Synthesis in 2018 only, and I was amazed to come closer and understand such ways of creating the music I may have in mind !
Up to then I had been relying on Roland Fantom G6, Arp Solina String ensemble, miniMoog and DAW and TBH I felt bored with creating music on a DAW. It’s such a tedious process with very little interaction except for tons of mouse and keyboard clicking.

When did you buy your first system? How long did it take for you to become accustomed to patching your own synthesizer together out of its component parts?

I bought an Easel K and fell in love with the world of Buchla in 2019.
Patching seemed very natural as I had been a DJ + Turntablist for many years and movement/gesture is of the utmost importance to me. I loved the immediacy of the instrument !
It truly made me realize that I am a sound-craftsman who puts his hands in the grease and sculpt sound…
Of course to fully understand what I was doing and know what I may be able to achieve I read Allen Strange’s operating directives « Programming and Metaprogramming the Electro Organism » and watched video tutorials by Todd Barton.
And I am still watching Todd’s wonderful tutorials on a regular basis because in 2020 I upgraded to a 200 system and everyday I work at establishing communication with + between the modules…

My Buchla 200. 15U / FEB 2020

What was the effect of that discovery on your compositional process?
On your existence?

A point of no return !
Even if I am distancing myself from the « all-electronic » modular-only trap and advocate the marriage of acoustic with electronic more than ever, to me the electronic addition is much needed. And I’m really not talking about electronic additions to look good (because the process is bankable) while not allowing to hear the transformations or feel that the current passes between the beings. To my ears, all these trendy processes are harmful and underline to what extent humanity privileges appearances over content.
I have a visceral need to feel the electric current running through my fingers, you see at a younger age my mother wouldn’t let me play with fire, so I enjoy controlling electricity all the more, unless it may be this addiction that controls me?!

Quite often modularists are in need for more, their hunger for new modules is never satisfied? How do you explain that?

First things first, I consider of importance to remain curious so if such hunger is due to a search for knowledge and pleasure it is healthy. Showing such curiosity would not kill a cat…

Obviously gear is very important for us who have to build our system. To complete an instrument being able to gratify our sonic wishes implies researching modules on the internet and buying stuff that we don’t know whether or not we need before we experience in real. It takes time and research to find the right missing module and our needs would change with every composition when we are after variety. Some would be happy to reproduce the same music once they have managed to find their own sound, some other would like to diversify and try different instruments. For instance you can have a look at the 4 pictures of my Buchla 200 showing that I am often unscrewing/repositioning modules so as to keep my principal instrument in constant evolution and change my gestures and the way I approach/practice.

my Buchla 200. 21U / SEPT 2020

What is damaging is that the capitalistic world we live in is well-known for creating needs which we do not need.
Isn’t that the best way to sell and thus make profit?!
Hunger is fueled by the insane number of modules available in the market, especially when it comes to that Eurorack world I have chosen to stay away from. It can take a long time to explore the options and arrive at a system that supports your musical desires. And this is my point : what are those desires?
It would serve a composer to work on a script, partition his thinking and then choose the gear that can help achieve his task.
Unfortunately, many still develop a compositional point of view from trying new modules and, even if obviously playing may bring in some fresh ideas, this is not composing. This relates more to the epicurean attitude that wants to take immediate pleasure, the search for enjoyment, and this is great and some may want to try modules just for the sake of it, if they can afford !
On another hand Freud, in his psychoanalytic theory of personality, calls it the pleasure principle. One wants to satisfy needs as quickly as possible, with little or no thought given whether or not they be needed for real. For instance think of young children who often try to satisfy their biological needs as quickly as possible, with little or no thought given whether or not the behavior is considered acceptable. As children mature, the ego develops to help control those urges. The ego is concerned with reality. The ego helps ensure that the needs are met, but in ways that are acceptable in the real world. The ego operates through what Freud referred to as the reality principle. This reality principle is the opposing force to the instinctual urges of the pleasure principle. Instead of seeking immediate gratification for urges, the reality principle guides the ego to seek avenues to fulfill these needs that are both realistic and socially appropriate… BUT what if the ego craves to become immortal by leaving behind music that future generations will discover, as quickly as possible, with little or no thought…?!
Don’t get me wrong I do not want to « play superego », moralizing, and only want to emphasize the importance of planning well, without of course totally erasing one’s instinctive desires, and it seems obvious that finding the right balance is one of the fundamental questions of a man’s life…

How has your system been evolving?

It could relate to my personality, hoping to find that balance.
As a human being I’m constantly questioning and repositioning myself, I hope to avoid certitudes and hopefully keep evolving in the right direction. When it comes to music I keep experimenting, as a Man I am learning everyday so I pursue certain directions and adapt my desires accordingly…
Unless it be the opposite, and my desires would be dictated by my intellectual discoveries, meetings… ?!
Desire? Needs? Ego? All of this brings in some more questioning and my system keeps evolving, so does my conscience…

my Buchla 200. 24U / June 2021

Do you tend to use pure modular systems, or do you bring in outside effect and devices when playing or recording?

Doesn’t the answer depend on the size of a system?
For example some instruments include Reverb, Delay, Frequency Shifting, Ring Modulation, Phaser, etc… And in such case I don’t see the point of adding anything.
Again, such choices would be related to my compositional need and if I’d like to process a sound in a way that my system may not allow then I’d consider using a pedal. For instance in some parts of my Session 001, I had processed my Easel K thru the Fuzz FX of the Eventide H9 Pedal, or a Moogerfooger Ring Modulator.
Since then I got rid of the Eventide and I am still using the Moogerfooger + keeping my reverb external relying on the Ekdahl Moisturizer Spring Reverb.
I plan on acquiring a PT Delay lovely red box standalone from Bugbrand…

Would you please describe the system you used to create your Modulisme session?

I had initiated our series of sessions and recorded back in July 2019 using only 1 synth : The Easel K from Buchla. Instant composing, one take and giving priority to spontaneity. That session can be seen as a sign of that time when I was learning how to play-patch and be in communion with my instrument. Today I think it is important that I know how to take the time to let it rest, what matters is my process of research, creation and the way to interpret what I have in mind imposes itself to me when the idea reaches maturity.
Consequently I decided that to celebrate our 2 years of existence I’d « compose » a session instead of improvising, and I must confess being quite ecstatic during the 8 months it took to complete it.
Ecstasy designates a state in which the individual feels himself to be “transported outside of himself” characterized by rapture, vision, or extreme joy which hopefully may lead to drifting… Dérive !
You see in my early 20s I decided to go against anything chauvinistic or nationalistic and consider myself as a « Citizen of the World » rather than a Frenchman… Feeling close to the US term ‘drifter’ referring to a vagrant who refuses the solid bourgeois values of work, family and nation. Drifting apart from the kapital, the law of value, choosing to marginalize and stay Independent which became possible thanx to my passion and involvement in music, a « derive » which has never disappointed as I hope to always question myself, keep repositioning and throughout this session I would like to invite you to follow the idea of drift as a privileged practice of opening up to the new, the one defined by Guy Debord:

« Among the various Situationist procedures, the drift is defined as a technique of hasty passage through various atmospheres. The concept of drift is indissolubly linked to the recognition of effects of a psycho-geographical nature, each action changing the behavior of individuals and reinforcing the affirmation of a playful-constructive behavior, which opposes it in all points to classical notions of travel and promenade ».

Following the spirit of situationist irreverence and creativity I hope to stimulate a dérive towards a pleasant listen… I will describe in detail the thread of history and its instrumentarium :

My Buchla 200 / 24U in SEPT 2021

01. Situation (03:45)
Buchla 200

In 2021 I made quite a few short songs to be aired on our Modular-Station. Following different directions, largely for the sole purpose of making myself happy, enjoying the present situation, in a very epicurean manner. Following an idea, choosing a direction and in this case rerouting the old and popular Plan de Debord and serve as a preliminary step to our voyage…

02. Une Villégiature Cosmétique (17:03)
Turntablisms / Inside-Piano / Spring Reverb / Pulsar 23 (SOMA) / Buchla 200 / Synthi A (EMS)

« Une villégiature cosmétique » is taking us to a « cosmetic resort » where one would like to go find resources…
It originated back in 2010 moving my prepaired vinyls during a « turntablistic performance » which was recorded and was used as a basis for this composition. Then I added some textures playing my EMS Synthi + various electronics with my Buchla.
A few percussions came from the SOMA Pulsar 23 + banging on the Ekdahl Moisturizer Spring Reverb. I also opened the grand piano at CNRR national Conservatory and aimed at playing with resonances, sliding rubber, wood, aluminium and used plastic on & between the strings.

This one inspired a video to PRFRK :

03. A Breathe (01:57)
Inside-Piano + Buchla 200

Once you have reached the “Naked City” and found a cosmetic shelter where nature is breathing out in tune…

04. Psychographical Pivotal Point I (02:35)
Synthy A (EMS) + SOMA Pulsar 23

Originally The Naked City was a psychogeographic map of Paris cut apart and Debord had repositioned-recommended parts that were ‘stimulating’ and “worthy of study and preservation”. As a guide he drew red arrows between these parts to represent the fastest and most direct connections from one place to another.
Red arrows show the way and we do move on carefree…

05. Driftin’ to EcsTazy (10:55)
Inside-Piano / Buchla 200 / Turntablisms / Field Recordings / Voices / Metasonix RK2 VCA + RK3 Grinder + RK4 Filter / Tibetan Bowl

The center part of this session, the drift is guided, orchestrated like a Debord-style “mapping” – towards a questioning … A reassuring doubt, beneficial since it opens our consciousness to new experiences.

06. Transurbain… Trance-Urban Splash Sonic Disruption (05:15)
Buchla 200 / Amplified Wood Tablet percs

No more doubts, Trance sleepwalking being disrupted, sound-objects are pouring out all over…

07. Psychographical Pivotal Point II (02:31)
SOMA Pulsar 23 + Buchla 200

Still following the red arrow, happy as a bird, hopping like a…

08. Quinquinetteabella (05:12)
Buchla 200 / MiniMoog

After the flood comes a more contemplative moment in homage to my beloved Quinquinetteabella who brings sweetness to my existence. Drifting when arranging to spend a weekend away together. Travelling to our chosen destination by different means and without arranging a meeting time or place and finding each other…

09. La Bohemia du flâneur (09:24)
Inside-Piano / Nepalese Singing Bowl / Synthi A (EMS) / Recordings from hydraulic machinery driving waterwheels, forge bellows and turbine. Recorded at La Taillanderie: a XIX century farm-workshop manufacturing scythes and other cutting tools.

« Flâner » is a French word meaning « To stroll », urban wandering, the reinvention of the city through imagination, the supernatural sense of place, the sudden insights and juxtapositions created by aimless drifting, new ways of experiencing familiar settings, La Bohemia !

La Taillanderie – hydraulic machinery

10. Elegantly Ending Our Psychogeographical Exploration (07:39)
Wood + Metallic Percussions-rubbings-cracklings + Synthi A and Guitar processed thru Landscape Stereo Field.

The LSF is one instrument with three uses: simultaneously a stereo/quad modular touch plate feedback atonal synthesizer, a stereo/quad audio processor and a pressure sensitive chaotic CV “controller”. Here all three uses are available separately as well as simultaneously and in conversation with each other detourning our Naked City beckoning listeners to end their psychogeographical exploration.

What do you think that can only be achieved by modular synthesis that other forms of electronic music cannot or makes harder to do?

Immediacy !
As we know Electricity simply refers to the movement of electrons through a conducting material, such as a copper wire or a patch cable. The force applied to electrons to push them through the conducting wire is known as voltage, and the rate of flow of the electrons is known as current. Nothing else may bring such sweet and malignant pleasure than being able to think that it is possible to create such sounds with impunity from diverting current and controlling voltage source.

Are you feeling close to some other contemporary Modularists?
Which ones?
Which pioneers in Modularism influenced you and why?

Visiting our « Sessions » tab will reveal quite a few of the composers I am feeling close to and more to be added every month because I truly feel an urge to support Contemporary analog Electronic music.
When it comes to influences, my desire is also to document pioneering works which paved the way to what we create today. I want the « Early ElectroMIX » tab to be an essential guide through my favorites « repertoire works » so please go get lost in music.

Any advice you could share for those willing to start or develop their “Modulisme” ?

2 years ago I had advised to « Be open-minded and ready for unexpected adventures… » so allow me to simply add that it is crucial to make the most of it. As with everything in life, enjoy it as much as possible.
Thanx to YOU who listen, show support and interest !

P.S.: I envision our Modulisme as a label-family struggling to help our community to grow and be heard. I’d like to dedicate this session to Yan Proefrock whose generosity and precious advices help make Modulisme what it is.

Another video from PRFRK:
“Voices In My Head” is a reference to Larry Cohen’s cult movie « God Told Me To » dealing with unpredictable assaillants randomly killing people claiming that God told’em to do it… Playing my Easel K (Buchla) + those voices in my head could be uttered into your ears thanx to the SOMA Pipe: a voice / breath / mouth-controlled dynamic FX processor turning my voice into a powerful soundscape synthesizer.
MUTANT speech synthesis !