Directions in 2015: Flowjamz… and how to get them!


This is my current setup – nicely symmetrical – my intention is to maintain this all year, adding nothing more.  This is both a financial and epistemological consideration.
Not pictured is the MacMini, audio interfaces and monitors used for recording and mixing.
For those with a preference for signal flow diagrams…


So to explain…

Mac Mini is connected to the Sapphire 18i1 audio interface and is running Numerology 4 (or Ableton Live) which is controlled by the LaunchPad and LaunchControl XL.

Numerology has 3 Poly-sequencers setup sending two MIDI channels to the Nord Modular and one to the MicroBrute which return audio to the same channel stacks.  It also sends and receives digital audio input from the Ultralite Mk3 and analog input to and from the LoopStation.  Numerology sends MIDI sync to the Loopstation which in turn sends sync to the Ultralite.

The QuNexus is connected to the MacMini and I can toggle between it and the sequencers allowing for live playing and latch drones.

Nord runs two separate stereo outs – one through the Lexicon MPX100 which adds mostly slight body to the Nord sound and the other through the iPad running more destructive effects (like Flux:FX which barely runs on the iPad 2 but is better than Turnado or a Kaos Pad for mangling purposes.)

The Nord, MBrute and Ultralite channels all run through an instance of CrusherX – one of the most versatile and deep granular effect synths i’ve ever used.  Each of these stacks can be routed to the Ultralite or Loopstation (including the Ultralite channel = feedback!)

5 stereo 44/24 channels can be recorded direct to an external FW drive whenever I jam – Numerology is superb at this though I need to run the patch off the external for it to record there.  (No Big Deal!)

The Ultralite is connected to the Macbook Air which runs the Nord Editor in Wine, a recent fix allowing this to work on OSX Mavericks with seemingly less issues than virtualisation.  I’m also currently running another instance of Numerology with space for two soft-synths sent through the digi-out to the Sapphire, and two CV stacks (dual LFO and dual envelope generators) out through the DC coupled audio jacks of the MOTU to the MicroBrute.  It also routes audio through the Nord Modular input (which I haven’t really capitalised on yet).

Soft-synths will vary but i’m currently favouring Melda MPower synth for flexibility, Xfer Serum for drifty stuff and Plogue Chipspeech for experimental vocals.  As an aside… the first electronic sequences I ever programmed were using S.A.M. on a Commodore 64!

As mentioned above the Ultralite is slaved off the Loopstation (slaved off the Sapphire) and it, and the iPad, receive MIDI from the Beatstep which I’ve setup as a kind of keyboard controller.

Future plan is to make a Max7 patch that takes over what Num4 is doing on the Air utilising BEAP modules for CV and Hyakken Max4Live modules for step sequencing but the process is slightly convoluted.  Offering a lot more flexibility I still find the stability of Max7 questionable and the lack of documentation for BEAP modules and many of these new flexibilities disappointing.

Casio CZ-101 has not been mothballed… it merely gets brought in and out (as with the Graphite MIDI controller) when needed.

The ultimate aim is to find a concise framework for long-form improvised soundscaping that could also be used for composed projects (hence its ability to also function with Ableton Live.)  The setup also utilises the somewhat forgotten principle of  spreading the CPU load over various computers – therefore allowing me to make complex stuff in real-time without requiring the faster computer I cannot afford.  If I could get (and afford) this kind of flexibility in a more concise modular I would consider it.  This is a functional improvisation with the setup – not what i’d call inspired but… earlyish days.

There are a couple of collaborations near completion but my primary goal this year is really to focus on exploring this combination and maybe getting out there more.  I’ve no idea how it will work yet but I would like to return to live performance in some capacity… certainly not dingy bars hostile to weird ambient music.

My other main project I will write about in the next blogpost.

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