Robert Rich On Live Modular Synthesizer Performance John L Rice recorded this discussion by Robert Rich on his approach to live performance of electronic music with modular synthesizers.

This is a deep, multi-part discussion that looks at how Rich performs his pieces and at some key elements of his touring modular synth.

Along the way, Rich argues that modular synths make great stage props, offers his take on Berlin School synth music, reveals the dangers of having too much gear and explains why he’s not going to do a Lady Gaga cover.

via JohnLRice

13 thoughts on “Robert Rich On Live Modular Synthesizer Performance

  1. one best interview about electronic music from one perspective ive seen in awhile or that was made recently not just about modular's :p

  2. Modulars are fine for the tinker…I have been creating sounds on synthesizers for
    25 years now, and never have used a modular, I don't understand them and never will.
    I don't understand how the modular can be applied in a live setting, how you can use it in the studio. Do you create a sound, put in down in a track and then grab a tablet and a pencil
    and write down every parameter, cable, and knob setting ? So for live, if you use a modular
    for one song, then need to use that same modular for another song you have to pull out the
    notes and then manually tweak the knobs and cables ? It's nothing more than window dressing for the casual synthesist….not the serious composer.

  3. O.k., so I must assume that you do…care to clear it all up for me ?

    In what manner do you use your modular set up ? how do you
    save the sounds that you create ? Do you draw out a diagram
    of every knob and cable placement on a piece of paper in case you
    want to use the sound in a track ? or do you just fiddle untill you
    get this really cool sound, record it in a track, then it's lost forever ?

    maybe if you can clear all that up for me, I just might be sold on
    the idea of modular synthesis, personally, it all seems like a overly
    convoluted process of making a sound.

  4. Every video I have ever watch ( cos I am trying to understand modular synthesis )
    of someone fiddling with a modular set up, it just seems like they are somewhat
    lost and confused, like they aren't quite getting what they are after. they turn a knob
    then turn it another way, then another way, reach over to another knob, thurn that
    back and forth a few times, insert a cable in one input, and then pull it out and insert
    it in another input etc…then back to fiddling with some random knob…it's like
    they can't make up their mind.

    then the comments are like " That was awesome !!! "
    or " Piece of art "

    you get the picture….

    so enlighten me !

  5. children are often dismissive of the technology of the past

    the problem isnt in the technology, its in your own mind. you have the problem – not the modular synths..

    if you dont like something or have no use for it, move on – no need to whine endlessly about your failure to comprehend it, as if its not your own fault but something inherently "wrong" with it instead

    its ok – modulars are just too complicated for you – we get it

    btw its hilarious to me that someone who claims to have used synths for 25 years never figured out where the word "patch" came from

  6. Booji boy, you have not contributed anything to the conversation
    except to insult me…which tells me alot about who you are what your character is.

    Have a nice day.

  7. I’m not sure what a ‘serious composer’ would do with a modular, (let alone a synthesizer), but probably, like an amateur, or moderate, or anyone who uses any kind of instrument at all, they would compose. However, i do understand Element115’s uninitiated apprehension to the modular demos that litter the blogs, and forums. Unless you really understand the concept of gating, or slopes, or even clock divisions, it might seem daunting, and even repugnant to the musically trained. I mean, none of these have application, (or not by those names anyhow), in musical theory.

    But, as was touched on by this very interview, it’s not the best vehicle for popular, structured composition. Modular is more of an audio experiment, that builds itself. Voltages being thrown around, usually quite deliberately by the musician, to create an organic pattern or structure. It’s not going to be the disco hit of the summer, but it could certainly sound more in place as the soundtrack to an iguana’s cardiovascular system. but even the disco hits are cashing in of late, as more and more strange electronic samples make their way into the popular media. And modulars are just about the best for that; unusual rhythms and sound effects.

    Great interview, btw. Be sure to watch them all. It’s a nice showcase for modules as well.

  8. For a lot of people, presets are a lot more important than synthesis options.

    But don't dismiss those options just because you don't need them or understand them! It's clear that Rich is doing some creative stuff with his modest system.

  9. Well, I can only speak for myself. And what do I know… I frequently will sample the
    output of the modular, and then make that into a sample-based instrument with EXS24 (Logic)
    AutoSampler is great for that.
    But in general, what you do with a modular is not magic, you are starting with some known stuff and doing things to it. So it's a little like remembering the drawbars on a Hammond B3.
    For example, you start with a sawtooth wave, run it through a filter, then an ADSR. You don't have to write down every single knob to reproduce the sound, you do it by knowledge and ear.
    You don't have to remember exactly how you set the filter, if you know how the filter works it's
    easy enough to get the same sound a second time. Now Back in the Day, when people toured with these things, I think they did actually write all the stuff down.

  10. Also should note. In the 1980's when keyboards with memories (like the DX7) appeared, many musician did abandon modular synths, in part for all the reasons you cite above. Saving a preset really does beat writing everything down. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *