Ambient Music On A Eurorack Modular Synthesizer

Sunday Synth Jam: This video, via Björn Bommersheim, captures a live ambient performance on Eurorack modular synth.

Here’s what Bommersheim has to say about the technical details:

The patch is based around the idea to go for chords and the use of the music thing radio (in my “case” the klangbauköln version) as a yet simple sample/chord player. So i rendered four different 10min DbMinor chords (basically the chord plus three inversions) with ni absynth. For changing the samples/chords i used make noise pressure points which is quite fun and an useful approach.

The interesting stereo filter effect by the middle of the recording is the Mutable Instruments Rings into the Uoki Toki Dual Polivocs filter which somehow blew me away …

Feel free to leave your thoughts or comments.

Here are some patch notes / modules i used:

Mutable Instruments Rings to Polivoks Dual Filter
Expert Sleepers Disting MK3 to A-149
Doepfer A-149 to Polivoks Dual Filter
EoWave Poles to Disting MK3
Mutable Instruments Clouds to Desk
Doepfer A-199 to Desk
Synthrotek Eko to A-199
Erica Synths Wogglebug to Rings and Math Ch4
Make Noise Maths Ch1 to KlangbauKölm state qVCF Filter CV, Ch2 to Disting MK3, Ch4 to System X Filter
KlangbauKöln Ramp Out to System X Filter In
Make Noise LxD Ch2 Out to Eko In
Klangbau state qVCF to Clouds In
Tiptop Audio z2040 to LxD in
Frequency Central System X Filter 24db out to Desk
Toki Uoki Dual Polivoks Filter out 1&2 to Desk (heavy modulated Rings)
EoWave Zone B.F. Ch1 to XR VCO PWM mod, Ch 2 to z2040 Mod
Doepfer A-118 Out to 4ms qcd Ch4 Div/Mult in
Malekko Anti Oscillator to z2040 In
Make Noise Pressure Points to Radio Music gate/cv in, Anti Oscillator CV in
4MS Quad Clock Distributor to A-149 clock in
MFB Dual ADSR to z2040 cv in and LxD CV in

21 thoughts on “Ambient Music On A Eurorack Modular Synthesizer

  1. Great. But to create such music one does not need all that equipment. I see these days tools matter more then output though.

    1. You’re so right ! Most of the gear reviews seem to revolve around the modular stuff nowadays and I don’t understand why.
      1- this is highly inconvenient to have to patch stuff manually to get to a specific result. Synths like the Minimoog were developed exactly to get rid of the spaghetti for musicians to have a portable synth with great musical possibilities without patching. Why on earth would you go back to that mess if it isn’t some nostalgic nerd phase ?
      2- if you actually look closely at the components in such modular equipments, You would be surprised to see that the quality isn’t necessarily better than desktop/keyboard synth and in some cases, worse. Unless you buy the mythic brands of modular synth which might be too expensive for the average musician.

      Marketing is doing its job among people thinking that because it’s analog, it must be awesome. But give it 20 years and people will look back at the modular stuff and think the market was flooded with too much average equipment. Just like the synths in the 80′ some were great and still are, but a huge amount of crap was released as well.

      1. You don’t know what you’re talking about, but keep talking. In 20 years, you should look back at the uninformed comments you’ve made…

        1. Daniel, I wished your comment was supported by arguments and tangible evidences. You are as relevant as a child saying “no, my dad kicks your dad’s ass”. Please explain me thoroughly why you think I am wrong, or I won’t give a damn about your rant.

          1. The modular format surpasses limitations that you find in hardwired synths. Not necessarily saying one is better than the other, but there is definitely another layer of possibility with modular. Personally I like using both styles in tandem!

          2. Caelan, I’m honestly not sure where to begin. It sounds as though you’re stuck in the false paradigm of “modulars are for analog purist snobs”. There’s a large amount of digital modules to enjoy. It also sounds like you have little to no experience with actually using modular synths. Like Seebullski said, it isn’t about one or the other. These are all tools. An orchestra isn’t very convinient, but it certainly has its place. Lighten up, it’s music and the enjoyment of making and sharing it.

            1. You assume people’s experiences without knowing anything dear Daniel. I am not saying the modulais are for snobs. They are currently very popular, especially here on Synthtopia, but this video, even though it’s smooth and properly recorded, shows nothing you couldn’t do with a semi-modular or modern synth, or even a virtual one. And the sonic possibilities would actually be expanded with modern synths.
              Which leads me to my second point : the modular trend brings equipment in which the components aren’t as good as their equivalent in semi modular. A friend of mine works for a well established synthesisers distributor in the technical service team so he has the chance to look into those equipments on a daily basis and has knowledge about what components are used. The sad truth is that among the massive modular offer, we now encounter modules with poorer signal/noise ratio, oscillators with lower outputs and cheap knobs that tend to scratch over time. When it comes to recording (and I mean professional recording) and dynamics, those cheap modules don’t stand a chance compared to brands like Moog and Buchla.
              Of course their are others very good brands. But a music instrument is meant to perform music. There is a thin line, in the modular field, between being a musician or a technician. As for that video, when I watch it I just think it’s nice but I don’t get entertained or inspired either because all those knobs adjustments for so little change seem to get the performer “stuck” with the technical side of his instrument when he could convey something more emotional. That’s my opinion.

          3. Why don’t you tell us specifically the “crap” in this modular system to start any discussion. And since when is music about the cost of the equipment?

            1. I used the analogy of the synth from the 80′ to describe the current trend for the modular equipments. There are awesome vintage synths and there are cheap crappy ones. Just like with the modular synths. i don’t blame that video especially, but it sounds more like a product review than a music performance. That’s great to get rid of scales, keyboards or any “western music” influence in the modular domain, but then I expect it to convey something, which is not the case here.

              1. Fair enough on the music, but I think you went a little overboard attacking those who choose to build modular systems vs. using non-modular synths. I enjoy both although I can only afford so much….

                1. That’s probably where many people got me wrong: I never attacked the modular users but rather the marketers. Then I understand why it’s enjoyable to patch stuff but it’s important not to lose the artistic side of your music and in many situations modular is a trap where we tend to focus on gear rather than music. It’s the same with guitarists and their pedalboard and I know what I am talking about 😉

      2. Caelan, nothing you say is wrong, per se, but there are other points of view. For some of us, manual patching is a JOY. Modular is about PROCESS, and it’s inherently different from what you have with semi-modular, non-modular equipment and software. It’s not whether you could create what Bommersheim created by other means than modular, but whether you would in the first place. And for some of us, whether you’d actually enjoy doing so.

  2. Well, first we got that modular synths only do blips, farts, etc… Now we hear that you could have done that with a non-modular system. I can tell you one thing, the modular system is a great way to create your own instrument designed for your style and compositions, which sometimes involves interplay with Minimoogs and the like and sometimes does not… You should take some time to see the immense variety of stuff available (try Modulargrid), its really amazing and inspirational.

  3. I thought the music was beautiful. I don’t care which tools were used or what they cost. That’s between the artist and the manufacturers. Why the hate? Was your music ridiculed as a child, Caesar?

    1. If you felt hurt by my attempt to share and discuss an opinion, you are probably more self conscious about your stuff than me Cole. Read again, I am not hating. In some situations I just think that modulars are a bit overrated given what is performed with it. Blame the player, or the recording or whatnot, I just don’t think that video is showing the real interest of a modular synth. If you really used one, I am sure you would agree.

      1. Not quite following the logic of your first sentence, but no you didn’t hurt me 🙂 I use modular all the time. I enjoy it immensely. Also use keyboard synths, acoustic piano and soft synths and samplers. Whatever it takes and hits the moment. I get truly different moods, experiences and (I think) outputs out of each due to the type of physical interactions, capabilities and ease of experimentation. I have both digital and analog modules and synths. I don’t measure the quality of output by whether I could’ve achieved it on different gear … the FACT is, I didn’t. I think your criticisms, to the extent valid, apply to all types of gear not just modulars. I’m reacting to you singling out modulars as categorically inferior. Just because that’s your experience doesn’t make it universally true

  4. I like the modular because I am able to build modules from kits and from scratch. I don’t have enough knowledge to design a full fledged synth, but individual pieces are a breeze. As far as low quality goes, I prefer to have a variety of high quality “fancy” stuff, as well as low quality “dirty” synth shit. They both serve different purposes. Scratchy knobs do suck though, to whoever said that above. The good thing about that is they are easily cleaned in most cases, or replaced.

    1. I agree that the DIY aspect of modular is really overlooked as one of the great benefits it has brought, along with all the interesting pedal designs now possible. If I had more time and was younger, I would have gone to school to study electronics! Can modular be a rabbit hole, absolutely, but I would argue that is because of its immense possibilities and features. Now that the major companies can no longer control the designs/products as is the case in so many industries, we can enjoy the being part of the design process, not just artists!

  5. Do people understand that examples like this are not examples of the stereotypical “modular synth “sound? This is nothing more than a bunch of soft synths and samples ported over to 3u format. That’s cool if that’s your sound I guess but that’s not really what people are talking about when they talk about modular synths. What’s typically implied is analog synthesis. This has nothing to do with the world of analog sound synthesis and I believe the terms have been confused over the past few years by the general public.

    1. Not sure where to start with your comments – just about everything is wrong.

      I know a lot of people that have modular synths, and literally ALL of them have digital modules in their rigs – they’re not luddites and the want to explore the capabilities that a mix of modules allows them.

      You mention that this is not an example of the stereotypical “modular synth” sound – whatever that is. Are you waiting for a Keith Emerson solo or something?

      The modular synth scene is huge and active. This jam is a great example of what people are doing – expanding the range of modular synth music.

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