Authenticity and something

A little improvisation with my new synth toy – the Shbobo Shnth.

Here it is…

Shbobo Shnth

It’s going to provide some indetermination into my setup.  Let me explain…

I’ve had a full length album / composition planned out since the start of the year and have been increasingly frustrated by the lack of time I have to get to this.  Between sessional academic workload and the needs of family there is rarely time for me to sit down in front of a DAW and start plotting.  Due in no small part to my educational work – i’m finding my artistic endeavours are increasingly focused towards making short demonstrative videos or little aimless jams for Soundcloud… like the one above.  The multifarious threads and tangents I follow are unravelling as i’m increasingly being forced to focus on only a few small things if I want any depth of engagement and any hope of returning my practice to one with a level of authenticity.


Jamming with others is easy… and mixing is always something I can find time for.  For that matter jamming solo has always been the least time-consuming option so I’ve been looking for a way to make the workflow more dynamic and force my hand away from the same old drones and bleeps.  To that end the Shbobo Shnth is akin to the Lament Configuration from Hellraiser.

Designed by Peter Blasser (Ciat-Lonbarde) it is a digital synth not far removed from the Nord MicroModular.  Patches are built using SHLisp which looks like this:

{(left (wave (smoke (mountb 12 12 ))-95 (mountc 11 -33 )))
(jump (tar 1 ))
(right (waveb (smokeb (mountd 13 12 ))-95 (mountf 14 -33 )))
{(left (arab (fogb (dustb 1 )8 84 (smokeb 3 22 )5 ))(wave (smoke (mountb 12 12 ))-95 (mountc 11 -33 )))
(jump (tar 1 ))(srate 18 )
(right (arab (fog (dust 1 )8 84 (smokeb 3 33 )5 ))(waveb (smokeb (mountd 13 12 ))-95 (mountf 14 -33 )))

Although there is a visual editor called Fish – that same patch looks like:

Fish editor

This example patch sounds like waves lapping a beach and the slow tinkling of a windchime.

Very few of the patches are what you would consider “normal” for synth presets – for starters it works with ratio-based tuning so everything is numerators and denominators.  Though it has oscillators and filters like any synth it seems easier to produce experimental granular weirdness and the syntax and naming conventions aren’t of the normal kind – though most so far seem to make sense to me.

What makes it such a superb instrument is how it is played.  Aside from the obvious buttons, the 4 bars of wood send data when tapped, pressed or stroked and the bottom of the device features left and right antennae sensing skin contact.  There is also a microphone / wind controller built into it.  In practice it’s rather zen to operate – yet the patching system seems like it has a depth and variety comparable to my favourite digital modulars.  So far i’ve managed a fair amount of crazy from it but alongside the Nord Modular, LoopStation and iPad I hope to channel some beauty from the chaos – something I used to do quite effectively.  The other interesting thing about the Shnth is that it can be sensed as an HID peripheral in environments like Max/MSP and Pure Data.  The ability to make noise and control visuals is very much a possibility and this could quite convincingly bring me back to AV performance.

Anyway – please enjoy the quiet / forgive my lack of product – there are plenty of things on the backburner and soon there will be time to get to them (especially the recent recordings I’ve made with Paul Forbes Mitchell and Joe Musgrove).   Very soon my yearly Soundcloud subscription will lapse and my plan is to drop back to a max of 4hrs – I will still post the odd experiment but I think the endless oversharing is getting tiresome.  To conclude: here is a great video from a Shnth workshop in the UK.

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