The State Of The Art In Modular Synthesis

These tracks by Matthew Davidson (Stretta), grouped under the heading A Funneled Stone, represent his latest work exploring analog + digital + computer-controlled modular synthesis.

About the tracks, Davidson says:

Many of my musical project ideas come from the desire to listen to something that doesn’t currently exist. Music made with a modular synthesizer tends to fall into some fairly well-traveled areas like interpretations of classical music, berlin school electronica or flowing ambient/environmental.

I wanted to hear something layered and multitracked like the classical interpretations, but based on original music, and not shackled to the Baroque. I also wanted the form of the piece to be extended – like, an album side. From experience, I can roughly estimate how long something like this would take. I can produce about one minute of finished multi-track modular synth audio a week. So, an 22-minute piece would take about half a year to complete. Uhhhgggghm.

Davidson’s new tracks offer some fascinating music. It’s safe to say, too, that they are helping to define the state of the art in modular synthesis.

Give the tracks and listen and leave a comment with your thoughts!

13 thoughts on “The State Of The Art In Modular Synthesis

  1. Curious that Mr.Davidson mentions the baroque. I appreciate he refers to the tonality and structure of JS Bach as interpreted by Wendy Carlos. I also find her interpretations dogged by a certain academic overzealousness; as if in the modern age the best we can do is bow down in front of the masters of the past. Of course procedurally, my guess is that Wendy Carlos was freeing her her work on developing synthesizer timbres and techniques from the need to confuse it with the notion of 'this is what the music does because this is what the synthesizer tells me it does' and, of course, she goes on to expand the exercise into novel musical compositions too, none of which are pastiches of Bach.
    But with the exception of the third piece posted here, the first image that leaps into my mind is of another composer born in the same year as JS Bach: Domenico Scarlatti. In the finely-nuanced articulation of episodic emotion on a chamber-music scale, these pieces could be from Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonatas some two-and-three-quarter centuries later. Not as in ‘interpretation of’ but as in ‘weirdly parallel to’… and there’s nothing remotely superficial about that.
    In terms of sheer musical quality, the pieces posted above are very good indeed, regardless of contemporaneity or specific technical vehicles employed. And this is what makes Mr.Davidson’s ‘modular synthesizer explorations’ unusual and exciting.

  2. Curious that Mr.Davidson mentions the baroque. I appreciate he refers to the tonality and structure of JS Bach as interpreted by Wendy Carlos. I also find her interpretations dogged by a certain academic overzealousness; as if in the modern age the best we can do is bow down in front of the masters of the past. Of course procedurally, my guess is that Wendy Carlos was freeing her her work on developing synthesizer timbres and techniques from the need to confuse it with the notion of 'this is what the music does because this is what the synthesizer tells me it does' and, of course, she goes on to expand the exercise into novel musical compositions too, none of which are pastiches of Bach.
    But with the exception of the third piece posted here, the first image that leaps into my mind is of another composer born in the same year as JS Bach: Domenico Scarlatti. In the finely-nuanced articulation of episodic emotion on a chamber-music scale, these pieces could be from Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonatas some two-and-three-quarter centuries later. Not as in ‘interpretation of’ but as in ‘weirdly parallel to’… and there’s nothing remotely superficial about that.
    In terms of sheer musical quality, the pieces posted above are very good indeed, regardless of contemporaneity or specific technical vehicles employed. And this is what makes Mr.Davidson’s ‘modular synthesizer explorations’ unusual and exciting.

  3. Curious that Mr.Davidson mentions the baroque. I appreciate he refers to the tonality and structure of JS Bach as interpreted by Wendy Carlos. I also find her interpretations dogged by a certain academic overzealousness; as if in the modern age the best we can do is bow down in front of the masters of the past. Of course procedurally, my guess is that Wendy Carlos was freeing her her work on developing synthesizer timbres and techniques from the need to confuse it with the notion of 'this is what the music does because this is what the synthesizer tells me it does' and, of course, she goes on to expand the exercise into novel musical compositions too, none of which are pastiches of Bach.
    But with the exception of the third piece posted here, the first image that leaps into my mind is of another composer born in the same year as JS Bach: Domenico Scarlatti. In the finely-nuanced articulation of episodic emotion on a chamber-music scale, these pieces could be from Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonatas some two-and-three-quarter centuries later. Not as in ‘interpretation of’ but as in ‘weirdly parallel to’… and there’s nothing remotely superficial about that.
    In terms of sheer musical quality, the pieces posted above are very good indeed, regardless of contemporaneity or specific technical vehicles employed. And this is what makes Mr.Davidson’s ‘modular synthesizer explorations’ unusual and exciting.

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