In search of… SKONlab!

I loved “In Search Of…” when I was a kid! I wasn’t even particularly a Trekkie – I just loved the creaky reenactments (which these days hold more nostalgic than thrill value).

If you read the previous posts you will know i’ve been working on putting together a modular hardware instrument that I can be happy to sit with and learn how to program it to an expert level.  While the Nord Modular became the object of interest it’s about more than just the synthesis engine.  It is equally about the affordances of setup as it is about the flexibility of DSP architecture.

Behold (after the jump) SKONlab!


SKONlab is:

1 x Nord Modular G1 Rack

1 x Phonics 6 Channel mixer with mono to stereo Aux Return

1 x Korg AM8000R Effects Unit (temporarily swapped this for my Kaoss Pad with Abres Ojos)

1 x Acer Iconia W510 1.8ghz Windows 8 Tablet running a variety of programs including

1 x USB HUB featuring

  • Roland UM-ONE MK 2 USB to Serial MIDI running FULL RATE to the G1 for the editor
  • Generic USB to Serial running HALF ARSED RATE to the G1 for control MIDI (soon to be replaced with another UM-ONE MK 2)
  • Behringer UCA202 portable audio interface with 2 IN / 2 OUT RCA connections

1 x 4-point powerpack

All packaged in a Gator GRC-10×2 Molded PE Slant Top Console Rack.  Here it is all closed up.

photo (5)

The mixer and tablet are attached with velcro to a 4U panel and can be removed for transportation.

The Nord sends channels 1/2 and 3/4 to mixer channels 1,2,3,4 respectively.  5+6 is for the tablet which also receives sound from the headphone out of the Nord. Send goes to Korg AM8000R in Mono returning Stereo.

There is a regular stereo out plus an RCA tape connection on the mixer to run into the Zoom H4N for 96k recordings!

I decided not to completely forsake computers (since I need them for Nord editing anyway) but this 10″ tablet suits my need for portability and is fast enough to run a few things with out going overboard. PSPaudioware N2O sadly doesn’t like it and i’m thinking Spectrumworx maybe a no-go as the GUI isn’t very touch responsive.  This is perhaps the major failing of the Windows tablets – all the useful stuff is in desktop mode which is nowhere near as touch responsive as something like an iPad.  Then again – iPad doesn’t run these programs so…

Main thing that impressed me is that it runs the Nord Modular editor quite nicely.  Live patching is an option however stylus sensitivity isn’t great so better to fiddle with a pre-existing patch than build one from scratch.

Aside from that i’ve been playing around with the ever useful Bidule – it’s Stochastic Midi plays quite nicely with the NMs sequencers.  If i’m in a processing / sampling mood i’d probably choose Audiomulch at the moment though as it is less fiddly and more elegant as a touch based system particularly as the modules can lock together without needing to play hunt the pixel.

Usine Hollyhock came out for Platinum Members the other day though… so I may transition over to that for everything assuming it continues in the footsteps of its predecessors, offering a nice balance between Audiomulch elegance and Max/MSP patching depth.  In it I would like to build something similar to the Max/MSP Performer patch from last year but with more interesting Touch based control.

So it’s actually a pretty useful tablet – I’ve even managed to get the Arduino running off the tablet though sadly it looks like it needs a USB port of its own so it isn’t very useful with this setup.

All of this should offer me a musical altar to which I can pray nightly!

The Makrotulpa collection (below) has been growing but it’s now time to move beyond test tracks and start work on two collaborations I promised this year.

The Micro-Modular isn’t going to gather cobwebs and dust in the corner either.  One of the problems with SKONlab is that it sadly is not all that portable (not a public transport possibility).  I’ve been inspired by the video below to focus on building a minimalist setup as well.  My version will be controlled by Arduino and/or iPad Lemur software.

MIcro Modular Patches from Rastko Lazic on Vimeo.

Any comments, questions or suggestions let me know.



1 thought on “In search of… SKONlab!”

  1. Beautifully planned and executed! Limited but with a huge amount of flexibility and having the option for a micro “on-the-road” set up is an exciting prospect. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to more sounds from it all!

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