This weekend, Brooklyn will welcome a two-day modular synthesizer fair called Machines In Music. Organized by modular synth makers Control and Verbos Electronics, the fair is a chance to get up close and personal with a new generation of synthesizers, as well as attend talks from synth don Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and film/TV composer Reed Hays. There will also be a night of live hardware performances at Secret Project Robot. The FADER had a quick chat with Lowe and Control's Daren Ho to find out what attendees can look forward to.
Why is an event like this important?
ROBERT AIKI AUBREY LOWE: [Machines In Music] will present these instruments/tools in a way that invites all to understand what they are and how potentially they can be utilized with no rules attached, giving the user an open palette in which to create work with hardware. [The event will] showcase the vast possibility of such an object. It's also important because it is not exclusive: everyone is invited.
DAREN HO: There are hundreds of musical tools available, but there is not a lot of exposure to many of these besides what can read or seen on the video through the world wide web. Feeling and playing these tools is essential to reach to an audience of musicians and artists. It is also important for the public to be able to engage with these modern instrument builders. They provide their philosophy and direction [and] this event provides crucial exposure.
“Designers and manufacturers have stepped into a realm where the imagination for what should be possible with these instruments is boundless.”—Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
How has synthesizer technology evolved over the last few years?
LOWE: Eurorack modular synthesis has grown exponentially over the last few years—not only in sheer volume, but with a true expanded concept for what individual modules are capable of. Designers and manufacturers have stepped into a realm where the imagination for what should be possible with these instruments is boundless.
HO: If you look at images [of synthesizers] from 40+ years ago, it's either a rock or funk musician with a miniMoog keyboard or a wall of electronic knobs and lights with cables with a keyboard on the bottom of it all. Images like the film Phantom of the Paradise or the musicians Herbie Hancock or Rick Wakeman pop up.
The evolutions in electronic components and theory have evolved the synthesizer significantly. Things are smaller, less temperamental, and can be more feature-rich. In the process, the overhead for inventors in producing electronic devices have gone down significantly. This allows freedom to experiment with new ideas and revisit old ones. [There is now the] the option of eliminating the keyboard and replacing it with other tools that the musician and artist might feel more expressive to their taste. You have devices that can convert a guitar into an abstracted electronic sounds, or take simple gestures like the pressure of a flat surface and convert it to play musical notes with non-western harmonies.
While laptop music production still reigns supreme, there are people looking to venture beyond. After all, we weren't born with appendages or a nervous system just to drag and tap our fingers on a 3"x4" rectangle in front of a screen to conduct everything. We like to go to the beach, to feel the sand between the toes, and swim in the ocean. Well, we have that now, with the sand in the form of silicon circuit boards, and if you want, you can put ocean water in a container, put a contact mic in front of that, and run it through some effects and tone generators and make it sound like an aria of dolphins or a generative quiet storm R&B music. This is to say, whatever wild imagination we have, we now have the tools to take it there.
Will you be performing at the event?
LOWE: I won’t personally be performing but I will give a talk as a part of the short lecture/conversation series during the fair also featuring Reed Hays, Michael Johnsen and Patrick Detampel. There will be performances by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Evan Camaniti, Christopher Goudreau, C.O.U & M.O.S.S. hosted by the fair at Secret Project Robot the night of October 17. More sets by the likes of January Hunt, Peter Speer, Copious Bamboo, StillMonk and others will take place over the course of the second day, October 18th, at El Cortez.